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The book of Malachi brings up four messengers, each with a word from God. The messages are from the true prophets (represented by Malachi himself), the obedient priests who “preserve knowledge” (2:7), the “Elijah” forerunner of the Messiah (3:1a), and the Messiah Himself (3:1b) who, like Moses, is the mediator of a covenant.
The people would have to believe all four messengers in order to be fully prepared to receive the Messiah at the end of Daniel’s seventy weeks. The prophecies of Malachi were the final revelations under the Old Covenant which, if believed and enacted upon, would have resulted in the acceptance of Jesus as Messiah and the establishment of His Kingdom.
While this was certainly the will of God, it was not in the divine plan, for we know that He had to be rejected in order to die as a Sacrifice for the sin of the world. The law had already revealed this in the laws of sacrifice and in its prophecies of two comings of Christ. It took two doves to cleanse lepers (mortals) and two goats to atone for sin and to reconcile all things, as revealed in Leviticus 14 and 16.
Centuries earlier, in fact, Jacob-Israel had prepared the way for two works of Christ when he divided the birthright among his sons, as stated in 1 Chron. 5:1, 2.
So it was a foregone conclusion from the beginning that Malachi’s word would be disregarded, misinterpreted, or misunderstood. Even so, the word remains for those with eyes to see and ears to hear. It stands as a witness, pointing the way to the Messiah for any who may truly hear the word.
Malachi’s message, as distinct from the other messengers, is that God loved Jacob and “hated” Esau (1:2). Therefore, God calls the people to honor Him as their Father (1:6). They were not to act like Esau, who dishonored his father and mother.
If the nation had honored God, they would have offered healthy, animals as sacrifices, which would have proven that their hearts were right before God. But Malachi laments that they did not do so (1:13).
The priestly messenger (2:1) was under a divine covenant to teach the ways of God to the people. Fulfilling this responsibility was necessary “that My covenant may continue with Levi” (2:4). There would always be true priests among them, of course, but in the end the majority of the priests—and especially their leaders—brought a curse upon themselves (2:2).
The result was that the covenant did NOT continue with Levi, but was given instead to the Order of Melchizedek, led by its high priest, Jesus Christ, who was of Judah (Heb. 7:14, 15).
The third messenger (3:1a) was to “clear the way before Me,” that is, before the Messiah. He is identified as “Elijah” (4:5), called to restore all things (Mal. 4:6; Matt. 17:11). This shows that a certain work must be done before Christ can come to rule His Kingdom. We understand that while John the Baptist came in the spirit and power of Elijah (Luke 1:17), we who prepare the way for Christ’s second coming are called to complete the work as the Elisha company.
Elijah and Elisha represent two halves of the same calling, and this calling, says Malachi, has to do with preparing the people for the Messiah’s refining fire (3:3). This alone makes it possible for (true) priests to offer “offerings in righteousness.”
John the Baptist understood this to refer to the baptism of “the Holy Spirit and fire” (Luke 3:16), which came later on the day of Pentecost. Apart from receiving this baptism of fire, no refining could take place in the hearts of the priests that would qualify them to make righteous offerings to God.
The first three messengers lead to the fourth and final one, the Messiah Himself, “the messenger of the covenant” (3:1b). He is the One who actually sits “as a smelter and purifier of silver” (3:3). This is the work of the Mediator of the New Covenant (1 Tim. 2:5) in His role as Messiah and High Priest.
The Messiah is comparable to Moses, who was the mediator of the first covenant (Gal. 3:19, 20). That first covenant, however, was man’s vow to God, which was impossible to fulfill and resulted in disaster for both Israel and Judah—and, indeed, for the whole world. Jesus came as the Mediator of the New Covenant, however, which is God’s promise, oath, and vow to man (Gal. 3:18, 21). This was God’s oath to work within the hearts of men in order to turn their hearts, so that all men could be restored to Himself.
As God fulfills His promise to the fathers, “all the nations will call you blessed” (Mal. 3:12; Gen. 12:2, 3). Those prophets and priests who are refined and purified by the fire of God are qualified to fulfill the calling of Abraham to be a blessing to all families (nations) of the earth.
These are the ones written about in God’s “book of remembrance” (3:16). They are the ones who are God’s own “possession” (3:17). They are the ones through whom the blessings of Abraham will be spread throughout the whole world, until the day comes when all have been reconciled and restored to their heavenly Father.
So Malachi admonishes us to remember God’s Old Covenant messengers, Moses and Elijah, to which we may add Joshua and Elisha, who represent the New Covenant messengers. Though we honor both Moses and Elijah, we recognize that both of them failed in the end to complete their calling. Moses died in the wilderness, and Elijah ran from Jezebel. This was all part of the divine plan, for success could only be obtained through the New Covenant and its messengers. Hence, Joshua led Israel into the Promised Land, and Elisha completed the work of Elijah with the double portion of the anointing reserved for the birthright holder.
If we take heed to the words of God through Malachi, we will have the privilege of participating in the final work that will bring us into the Promised Land, establish the throne of Christ, and become a blessing to all nations in the earth.