I’m still thinking about Malachi 3 today. There are some who question, with ancient Israel, whether God is just. There are some who claim they know how God should act if he really is a God of justice. They look at the world and the bad things that happen in it, and they ask, “Where is the God of justice?”
We live in a country today of rioting and of people demanding justice from their government. The government can provide a form of justice, but it’s nothing like what the Bible says about God’s justice.
The major problem with asking for the “God of justice” to show up is that God is perfectly just and perfectly thorough in handing out his justice. This means the God of all holiness tolerates no unholiness – and he will provide justice to anyone who harbors unholiness in his or her life.
So be careful if you ask for the God of justice to make an appearance! Be prepared for the consequences of God’s justice in your own life. None of us is holy. All of us, when faced with the fullness of God’s justice, would be condemned. If we were to stand under God’s justice on our own, without any help, we would be lost. There would be no hope. We all would fall short. We call this The End.
We see this in Malachi 4. Look at how thorough and unyielding God’s justice is. The wicked will burn. There won’t be a single branch left. There won’t even be a root. Imagine a forest fire so hot it scorches not just the trees but also the entire root systems of those trees.
That’s what God’s justice looks like.
Fortunately, those who turn to God in repentance and who fear his name have hope. All we know from Malachi is that these people will experience some sort of healing. They shall be freed into the fields like calves for the first time. Something like this.
That’s a picture of freedom and joy. There’s room to run. There’s so much room to run that it’s tempting to try to run in all of it at the same time. It’s exhilarating.
As disciples of Jesus Christ, we know the full story. The “sun of righteousness” is Jesus himself, bringing light to a dark world, freeing those who had been bound by sin and death.
This is what the life of discipleship is like. This is our hope. This is our promise. This is the steadying force that enables us to go on from day to day, regardless of what may happen. We know at the end of the Last Day, we are going to leap out of the barn and into the fullness of freedom.
The reality for us as disciples of Jesus Christ is that we’ve been freed from certain death. We’ve been liberated from the severe justice of God.
Malachi urged ancient Israel – the ones who had returned to the Promised Land but still found themselves living in a sort of exile – to do two things.
First, they were to look backward and gather up the Law of Moses. They were to follow God’s way of living. They were to obey the Ten Commandments and the other rules of living laid out by the One True God.
Second, they were to look forward to the day of Elijah (John the Baptist) and the day when the Lord (Jesus Christ) comes. As disciples, we also look backward and forward. We take the bread and the cup and remember the death of Jesus Christ on the cross. And we proclaim that death until he comes again (1 Corinthians 11:23-26).
These are important reminders for our lives of disciples of Jesus Christ in these days of coronavirus and chaos. We live differently. We live with an undying hope. And we live firmly as people of peace.