Agonizomai: Malachi 4:1 - Judgment on Disobedience

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Malachi 4:1 - Judgment on Disobedience

Malachi 4:1 - Judgment and Disobedience

Malachi 4:1 "For behold, the day is coming, burning like an oven, when all the arrogant and all evildoers will be stubble. The day that is coming shall set them ablaze, says the LORD of hosts, so that it will leave them neither root nor branch..."

In some ways a continuation of the thoughts expressed in the last few verses, this is also the beginning of a summary of things to come, and an exhortation to be faithful - to look forward and to hold fast.

The primary clue to this verse’s connection is that it starts with the word "for," which inevitably links to the prior idea. It seems to me to be a frequent device in the scripture for one expression of prophesy or promise to encompass somehow more than one event in history. Undoubtedly these passages do refer to a specific event or series of events, but they so often contain figures or echoes of other times and events. The judgement of the nation of Israel at their rejection of their incarnate Messiah is given in the most graphic terms, worthy of a description of hell itself. But it also has application on the personal level to the day of ultimate judgement when a similar and eternal fate awaits all the wicked.

Most commentators rightly take this verse to be speaking specifically of national Israel, since it is addressed to them. Their unfaithfulness will be brought into the light of the Truth, when He comes. He will come unto His own and His own will not receive Him. He will shine as light in the darkness and the darkness that is Israel will not understand Him. This is not simply a condemnation of Israel, but also a clarion call to see the condition of all humankind. If this people who had all the advantages, the promises, the covenants, the law, the lovingkindness, the prophets - if these privileged people came to destruction what can be hoped for any of humankind? The Gentiles were in the outer darkness and had not received any of these graces.

All mankind is corrupt and altogether gone astray, including Israel. The external application of covenants and promises and shepherding and mercies and laws was demonstrated in God’s dealings with Israel to be of no avail in correcting man’s most basic problem - sin arising from the sin nature. Man can only sin. It is all he can do, unless God intervenes to give Him a new heart while he is still an enemy.

And this is why true Israel all along looked forward to the provision that God Himself would make to deal with the most fundamental reason why they sinned. God would deal with past sins that He had temporarily overlooked; {Ro 3:21-25} He would deal with the sin nature from which sin inevitably arose; He would deal with ongoing tendencies to sin through the process of sanctifying grace; He would ultimately remove all traces and tendencies towards sin by glorifying His people. And all of this was both contemplated and planned in Christ before the world began.

There would be a time in history when Christ, the focus of all history, would truly come in the flesh and would actually walk in path of perfect obedience, as had been ordained - and would suffer and die at the hands of sinful men - enduring on the cross the wrath of Almighty God upon their sin in place of His people.

But most of Israel would miss this. They would reject the true light despite the light they had been given. And God would judge them severely and justly for their wickedness. As a nation they were all but annihilated within 40 years (one generation) of rejecting their God. They were killed and enslaved and ultimately banned from Palestine altogether by the Romans. Under the administrative judgement of God they no longer had access to the promised land.

This all relates to Israel as a nation. Of course many Israelites believed both before and after the coming of their Messiah. But these were individuals. God saves people, not nations per se. In His dealings with the nation of Israel God brought the promised day which included burning like an oven when God judged the stiff-necked nation’s rebellion against Him, using that same attitude that they had towards Him in opposition to the ruling earthy power, making the Romans instruments of His judgement, in their ruthless and pitiless cruelty.

Since that time, and until 1948, the Jews were outside the land that they had been promised in the covenant - a nation without root or branch geographically and literally. But the symbolism is inescapable. The had rejected their true Root and the true Branch, which was Christ the Lord. So the prophesy was true not only on an historical but also on a spiritual level. The loss of the promised land exactly parallels the loss of the kingdom inheritance for national Israel.

And it is this parallelism that makes Israel’s history so relevant to the lives of the saints in the church of the gospel age - and to all men. For just as there was a flood in Noah’s day bringing God’s judgement on ancient mankind - and just as there was the destruction of Israel and the loss of the homeland in a judgement by fire - so also there is coming a final judgement by fire, for which the present world is stored up. {2Pe 3:10-12} And not only this, but there is also a lake of fire into which death and hell and the devil and his angels, along with all the wicked will be cast forever to suffer eternal conscious torment. {Mt 10:28 Mr 9:43-48 Re 20:9-15}


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