Sunday, December 24: Malachi Looks for the Covenant Messenger

Exodus 23:20-21

“See, I am sending an angel ahead of you to guard you along the way and to bring you to the place I have prepared.  Pay attention to him and listen to what he says. Do not rebel against him; he will not forgive your rebellion, since my Name is in him.”

Isaiah 40:3-5

A voice of one calling:
“In the wilderness prepare
    the way for the LORD;
make straight in the desert
    a highway for our God.
 Every valley shall be raised up,
    every mountain and hill made low;
the rough ground shall become level,
    the rugged places a plain.
 And the glory of the LORD will be revealed,
    and all people will see it together.
For the mouth of the LORD has spoken.”

Malachi 3:1

“I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me. Then suddenly the Lord you are seeking will come to his temple; the messenger of the covenant, whom you desire, will come,” says the LORD Almighty.

Malachi prophesied about 80 years after Zechariah, during the time of Nehemiah, when the externals of blessing (Jerusalem and temple rebuilt) were there, but not the internals (descendant of David not on the throne, people guilty of mixed marriages, empty religious practices, neglect of tithe).  And yet, here at the end of the Old Testament, there was hope.  T.V. Moore says of Malachi “It is the transition-link between the two great dispensations of redemption—the last note of the magnificent oratorio of revelation, whose wailings of sorrow and breathings of hope were soon to give place to that richer song, which should be not only of Moses, but also of the Lamb; and tell not only of Eden and Sinai, but also of Calvary and Heaven.”

Through Malachi, God says he will send one more messenger (“Malachi” means “my messenger”).  But God had been sending messengers—prophets—to his people for thousands of years, beginning with Moses, Samuel, then Elijah and Elisha, down through all the writing prophets.  What would be different about this coming messenger?

This messenger will prepare the way for the Lord.  The Jews should have remembered Isaiah’s similar prophecy.  The New Testament identifies this messenger as John the Baptist (Matthew 11:10; Mark 1:3; Luke 1:17; John 1:23).  To all those who asked, John consistently said he was simply the messenger preparing for and pointing to the Messiah, Jesus, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29).

Then Malachi said that the Lord himself, the messenger of the covenant, would appear.  After centuries of sending a stream of messengers, the Lord himself would come to his people.  Notice how the angel (another term for messenger) is described in Exodus 23: he has the power to forgive, and God’s name is in him.  He himself is God, although sent by God.  In the same way, “this messenger of the covenant is the Lord.  Though sent by the Lord, he is the Lord” (O. Palmer Robertson).  As John said of Jesus, “I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God” (John 1:34 ESV).

People, get ready!  The Messiah you have been seeking, the one for whom you have been longing, will come, Malachi was saying.  Soon his messenger will arrive to prepare the way before him.  So, prepare your hearts; make ready to receive him.  

Is your heart prepared?  Have you received Jesus as Savior and Lord?  Have you come to him in repentance and faith?  If not, I pray that on this day, this very Christmas Eve, you will seek the Lord.  If you are serving Jesus as Lord, may you worship him with joy this day!

For the herald’s voice is crying
in the desert far and near,
bidding all men to repentance
since the kingdom now is here.
O that warning cry obey!
Now prepare for God a way;
let the valleys rise to meet him
and the hills bow down to greet him.

(Johannes Olearius)

© 2023 Stephen A. Hoogerhyde.