The Unchanging, Purifying God
Malachi 2:17-3:6
The LORD does not change and is faithful to keep all of His promises.
Published May 28th, 2021
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Main point summary
Main point summary
The LORD is wearied by accusations of injustice. He explains that He will send messengers that will bring justice by purification or judgment and that he will keep His promises because He is a God that does not change.
Malachi 2:17-3:6
d You have wearied the Lord with your words.
x But you say, “How have we wearied him?”
e By saying,
“Everyone who does evil is good in the sight of the Lord ,
and he delights in them.”
Or by asking,
f “Where is the God of justice?”
g “Behold, I send h my messenger,
and i he will prepare the way before me.
And the Lord j whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple;
and k the messenger of the covenant in whom you delight, behold, he is coming,
says the Lord of hosts.
But l who can endure the day of his coming,
and who can stand when he appears?
For m he is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap.
He will sit n as a refiner and purifier of silver,
and he will purify the sons of Levi
and refine them like gold and silver,
and they will bring o offerings in righteousness to the Lord . 1
p Then the offering of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to the Lord
as in the days of old and as in former years.
“Then I will draw near to you for judgment.
I will be q a swift witness against the sorcerers,
against the adulterers,
against those who swear falsely,
against those r who oppress the hired worker in his wages,
s the widow and the fatherless,
against those who thrust aside the sojourner,
and do not fear me,
says the Lord of hosts.
“For t I the Lord do not change;
u therefore you, O children of Jacob, are not consumed.
The issue of justice is front and center in our society today as it has been for some time. But as we observe our culture and those who claim to be fighting for just causes, you really wonder sometimes how people define justice. What is the standard by which one can tell if one has received or been denied justice? And when a standard is established or at least communicated doesn’t it seem like the it is always changing? Or that it is different for different groups of people? Thankfully, God never changes. And because He does not change there are certain things that are true and always will be true. But when we live in a sin cursed world you don’t know all that God is doing and all that He has planned, we can observe grave injustices and really wonder what God is doing. Israel had some of these same questions. Of course, they were off-base in the way they were perceiving their circumstances, but we are often guilty of the same, are we not? So, Malachi will deal with Israel’s false perceptions and give them reassurance through God's great and precious promises. MAIN IDEA: The unchanging God has promised to bring justice through a Messenger who will purify the righteous and judge the wicked. The LORD’s is weary when His patience is confused with injustice (2:17). Of course, the omnipotent, self-sufficient God cannot actually be weary; so, this is a way that God has chosen to express His displeasure with the accusations against Him using terms that humans can relate to. Specifically, the Lord is weary at Israel's claims that He is not just. They seem to perceive God's patience with sinners as injustice. If we're not careful we can be guilty of the same attitude when we see injustices like rampant abortion, domestic abuse, sex-trafficking, China's genocide of the Uighur people, and the persecution of Christians around the world. Psalm 73 is helpful in these times. Asaph was discouraged by injustice also, but when unlighted by the law, he perceived the end of evil doers and saw that it was good to be near God. "Where is the God of justice?" is the wrong question. The right question is "How long, O Lord, will you delay before you bring injustice to an end?" God delays judgment for His sovereign purposes, which can be many. The LORD will send his purifying messengers in His time (3:1). I understand this passage to refer to two messengers: one who will prepare the way and one who IS the way! This passage looks forward to the preparing ministry of John the Baptist and the purifying ministry of Jesus Christ who will inaugurate a new covenant when He comes. Through the ratification of this covenant He will purify his people once and for all. This is a near fulfillment of the prophecy in Jesus first coming. No one will escape the LORD's Messenger whether for purification or for judgment (3:2-5). Malachi uses purification imagery to illustrate what this messenger will do. Refiner's fire and fuller's soap are both illustrations of things that remove impurities. This is further in the future fulfillment of the prophecy to be fully fulfilled at Jesus' second coming. On that day no one will escape the LORD's scrutiny. For the believer, Jesus will sit like a master artisan and purify his people by removing corruption and making them more valuable. For the unbeliever, they will bear the wrath of God for their sins--their failure to fear God. The LORD does not change (3:6). I think verse 6 belongs with this section because it serves as a resounding doubt-crushing answer to the objections in 2:17. The LORD does not change; therefore, evil is still evil, good is still good, and God will surely keep all of His promises. Salvation is coming. Keep trusting in God and all of His promises.
Brent Karding
“For I the Lord do not change;
I like having this as a Ground, but not of the whole passage. God will judge the sinners because he doesn't change (v. 1-5). But 6 isn't grounding the Q-A in 17: "You have wearied the Lord because I don't change."
Brent Karding
But who can endure the day of his coming,
I would say that not all of 2-5 is a contrast with 1. "But" does often show contrast, but God's coming to purify them (2-4) and his drawing near to them for judgment (5) is what he will do when he comes (1). So 2-5 could be an Explanation of 1, or even a Result.
Brent Karding
For he is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap.
It looks to me more like Malachi is grounding his statement in 2a-b ("I ask who can endure his coming because he is like fire"), rather than unpacking a word or concept from 2a-b.
Brent Karding
But you say, “How have we wearied him?”
Making 17 a Concessive, with the label going in 17a, would be better. These aren't two possible options, which is what Alternative shows. There's a contrast here.
Disclaimer: The opinions and conclusions expressed on this page are those of the author and may or may not accord with the positions of Biblearc or Bethlehem College & Seminary.