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Final Prophecies and the Future of the Family

by Stephen Davey Scripture Reference: Malachi 2:10–17; 3; 4

The book of Malachi gives us some good guidelines for living for the Lord in this world. We need to judge our attitudes and actions in light of God’s character, commit ourselves to obeying His Word, and look forward to the return of Jesus Christ, our Lord.


Final Prophecies and the Future of the Family

Malachi 2:10–4:6


There is an old saying that goes like this: Everything rises and falls on leadership. In other words, people seldom rise above their leaders in terms of character and ethics and values. I often say that here in my country, we elect the leaders we deserve.

Frankly, this is not a new issue. The lack of godly leaders is an age-old problem. In the days of the prophet Malachi, Israel had no earthly king, but they certainly had leaders—and their primary leaders were the priests. From the outset, God called Israel to be a holy nation (Exodus 19:6), and the priests were to set an example of holiness and teach and counsel God’s people (Leviticus 21:1-8; Deuteronomy 21:5).

The problem was their priests had failed miserably. They viewed their duties as a boring, tiring burden. They did not care at all about the people they were supposed to lead; in fact, they had caused many people to go astray.

In our last study, we saw the Lord confront the priests for their rebellion against Him. Here in Malachi 2, God is going to confront the nation as a whole, reminding them of who He is and how they have dishonored Him.

Malachi himself addresses the people in verse 10:

Have we not all one Father? Has not one God created us? Why then are we faithless to one another, profaning the covenant of our fathers?

To paraphrase, the prophet is asking, “Will you defy your heavenly Father, your creator God, the Lord who graciously established a covenant with your forefathers? Are you really going to disregard that covenant?”

I find it interesting that Malachi shows them their sin by going inside their homes. Their marriage relationships and their parenting give evidence of their rebellion against God.

Malachi makes a threefold charge against them. First, they have broken their marriage vows. Malachi levels this charge in verse 14:

The Lord was witness between you and the wife of your youth, to whom you have been faithless, though she is your companion and your wife by covenant.

They no longer consider their marriage vows as sacred and binding.

Second, they have married women who are not believers in the Lord, as verse 11 indicates. These are foreign women who do not really want anything to do with the true God—and this has opened the door to idolatry.

Third, they have ignored a key purpose of God for marriage and family—to raise up children who will understand what it means to follow the Lord (verse 15). That will not happen by marrying unbelievers. The same warning is essentially repeated in 2 Corinthians 6:14, where the unequal yoke of a believer marrying an unbeliever is prohibited.

Over my years of pastoring, I have seen the anguish and heartache in the lives of many women, especially, who married men who said they believed in God but didn’t really have a heart for God. And now they came to church alone, while their husbands mowed the lawn or played golf; they attempted to raise children to follow God without a godly father serving as an example. I think of these women as spiritual widows, and my heart goes out to them.

The Lord hints at a promise of restoration for His people in Malachi 3:1: “Behold, I send my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me.” This looks ahead to the coming of John the Baptist, whom Jesus identifies in Matthew’s Gospel as the messenger who prepared the way for the Messiah’s arrival (Matthew 11:7-10; see also Isaiah 40:3-5).

Here in verse 1 both “me” and “the messenger of the covenant” refer to the Messiah, Jesus. The statement, “The Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple,” is a reference to the Lord’s second coming. As we often see in the Old Testament, the two comings of Christ are blended together. The prophets were not told the Messiah would come first to die and then later to reign as King. So, their writings simply speak of His coming, without differentiating between the two. That will be explained later in the New Testament.

But what Malachi’s readers need to understand now is that God’s justice is going to be revealed when the Messiah appears.

Is God going to keep His word? Is the Messiah going to return? The Lord says in verse 6, “I the Lord do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, are not consumed.” God’s judgment on the nation will not annihilate Israel—God will keep His covenant promise and the Messiah will return and set up His kingdom.

Now this promise does not give any comfort to the hypocrites who are defying the Lord in Malachi’s day. In verse 7 God charges the people with turning from His law, and He urges them to repent.

He highlights another specific sin in verse 8, where He asks, “Will man rob God? Yet you are robbing me. But you say, ‘How have we robbed you?’ In your tithes and contributions.” They have stopped bringing grain and food and animals, as required to support the Lord’s temple.

By the way, this word for tithes is plural. The people are holding back on what would have been around 25 percent of their annual produce and livestock. The Old Testament tithes were synonymous with taxes. The people were to pay these taxes—these tithes—to the Lord to support the priesthood, the community, and the temple system during these days.

They are not paying the taxes required by their heavenly King. Because they are disobeying the Lord, He promises to shut up the heavens so that is does not rain. Their crops will fail until they repent. Only when they turn to Him in obedience and fulfill their duties will they prosper materially in their land.

Malachi 4 begins with God’s affirmation that a day of judgment is coming. It’s going to have two effects. First, when God’s judgment arrives, the righteous will joyfully “go out leaping like calves from their stall” (verse 2). Second, the wicked will be like ashes trampled under the feet of the godly (verse 3).

And with that, the Lord closes this book of prophecy by urging the believer to do two things: first, obey God’s Word. And second, look for Elijah the prophet, who will arrive just prior to the return of the Messiah.

Interestingly, Jesus refers to John the Baptist as Elijah (Matthew 17:9-13). However, Jesus probably means this in the sense that John came in the spirit and power of Elijah (Luke 1:17), because He also anticipates a future Elijah.

Will the Old Testament prophet Elijah literally come prior to Jesus’ second coming? That’s debatable, but we know a witness will arrive—with the power of Elijah—to prepare Israel for their Messiah. But notice what he does.

Verse 6 tells us that he will “turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers.” The problems Malachi dealt with earlier are going to be resolved; people are going to be reconciled to God and to their families. Fathers will care about their children, and marriages will be restored. This all relates to the restoration and revival in the nation of Israel prior to the return of Jesus, the Messiah.

With this final, encouraging prophecy, the Old Testament comes to a close. And with this prophecy, God’s revelation ceases for four hundred years. Judgment upon Israel is coming, but so is the Messiah. The nation is encouraged to look forward to the coming of the Lamb of God who will die to pay the penalty of sin.

Today, we who stand on the other side of the cross looking backward really need to do the same thing: obey God’s Word and watch for the return of our King—our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.

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