4. The Messenger
At the time of Malachi, the priests were living under a moral code that didn't centre on God. This led to them determining what was right based on different values. They justified the values, and the values in term justified them. However, in doing this, their justification of self was condemning God.
Malachi 2:8.: But you have departed from the way; You have caused many to stumble at the law. You have corrupted the covenant of Levi," Says the LORD of hosts. NKJV
However, the following chapter in Malachi, we see a change,
Malachi 3:1.: "Behold, I send My messenger, And he will prepare the way before Me. And the Lord, whom you seek, Will suddenly come to His temple, Even the Messenger of the covenant, In whom you delight. Behold, He is coming," Says the LORD of hosts. 2. "But who can endure the day of His coming? And who can stand when He appears? For He is like a refiner's fire And like launderer's soap. 3. He will sit as a refiner and a purifier of silver; He will purify the sons of Levi, And purge them as gold and silver, That they may offer to the LORD An offering in righteousness. NKJV
From the Gospels, the messenger can be identified with John the Baptist:
Matt 11:7.: As they departed, Jesus began to say to the multitudes concerning John: 10. "For this is he of whom it is written: 'Behold, I send My messenger before Your face, Who will prepare Your way before You.' NKJV
After the messenger, the Lord who the people sought appeared, the messenger of the covenant. From the New Testament, this quite obviously refers to Jesus.
In Verse 2, we see the question, “But who can endure the day of His coming?” Although he was the messiah that the Jews were looking for, it was questionable whether the people could endure his coming. Certainly, in his first appearance on earth, he was generally rejected by the Jewish people.
The question of endurance is based on him being like a refiner's fire, or a launderer's soap. The people were to be purified, but this process of purification was to be a difficult one for the person being purified. This process of purification is an ongoing one. It started with the first advent of Jesus, but isn't concluded until after the second advent.
Although there is the promise of a purification of the world at the second coming of Jesus, with the establishment of the kingdom, the believer is still subject to the purification process in this life. It's not that we will necessarily feel more pure, but more that we will feel the heat of the refiner's fire, and the strength of the launderer's soap as we are shaped to God's ways.
The refining process requires a separation, a separation of God's ways from the ways of sin. It becomes a bifurcation process, eventually forcing people one way or the other. There is the parable of the sheep and the goats, showing that eventually people will be cast one way or the other. In 1 Corinthians, we see how the crucifixion of Jesus causes a separation:
1 Cor 1: 22.: For Jews request a sign, and Greeks seek after wisdom; 23. but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness, 24. but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. NKJV
Our society is in the position of the Greeks in this passage. The sacrifice of Jesus, and indeed the whole worship of God, is becoming foolish to it.
Because of the pervasive nature of the society, we will naturally fall into that society, unless we make a specific to guide our passage. We have the choice of whether we accept Jesus and all that he stands for, as Son of God, or to let the current wisdom of society guide us.
We need to remember though, that by nature we follow what the Bible calls the “flesh”, and it takes a conscious effort to follow after the spirit of God,
Gal 6:7.: Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. 8. For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life. NKJV
So it is a question of what we really give authority to. Whether to justify ourselves that God be condemned, or justify God, that me might be justified with him.