“For behold, the day is coming, burning like an oven, when all the arrogant and all evildoers will be stubble. The day that is coming shall set them ablaze, says the Lord of hosts, so that it will leave them neither root nor branch. But for you who fear my name, the sun of righteousness shall rise with healing in its wings.” (Malachi 4:1-2a)

When we consider the writings of the Old Testament prophet Malachi, we find that he addresses issues that are quite similar to those of contemporary society. The Jews of Malachi’s day, like millions of modern westerners were quite cynical. They showed great disrespect to the Lord by questioning and rejecting His Word. In our modern era, the Word of God is no longer considered as divine or even authoritative even though the Bible is the foundation and basis for moral ethics, charity, civility, and human respect. People forget this as they cite self as their sole authority for life and ethics.

Malachi’s response to such cynicism was a prophecy of the future, of the coming of God’s messenger whom Jesus identified as John the Baptist (Matt. 11:10). He would prepare the hearts of God’s children for the Messiah. Though we have so modern prophets, the church still proclaims the message of the prophetic truth: the Lord is watching and He is acting. This is good news and it is also bad news.

The good news is that the Lord is continuously cleansing the hearts of all men from their sin and wickedness. Purification is necessary for the Lord desires to rid His people of all their idols so that He may rule over their hearts and enable them to walk in obedience to His will. Yet this is bad news as well. Those who endure the Lord’s purification find it a painful process which crushes the self and the ego. It is even much more painful for those who reject the Lord Jesus and His Word, for they refuse to surrender their will to Him. They will endure great tribulation in this world as well as the next with no hope of relief.

The message of the divine word, then as now, is that now is the time for getting right with God. The Lord will surely carry out all He has promised just as He has done in the past. This is a warning for us not to get complacent in the midst of material prosperity. We may, like the ancient Jews, turn from God because we think we have it all: money, clothes, material possessions, electronic and scientific advancements. The Lord’s refining fire will burn such presumption out of our hearts. The very social hardships and chaos we are now enduring are designed by the Lord to bring us, His people, as well as the lost, to Him.