We serve a “now and not yet” God. He is hope for today and the promise of hope tomorrow and forevermore. The fourth chapter opens with “Behold!” (a word sometimes translated as “Look!”), there is coming a day when the people that thought they could do it on their own will realize their mistake. There is coming a day when the oppressors are punished. There is coming a day when those who feel like they are defeated by the world because they honored God will “leap like calves out of a stall” and high-tail it into the Kingdom of God. There is hope today because Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life. Not you, and not me.
If you grew up in an average American church, you may know only one verse from the small, Old Testament book of Malachi. Malachi 3:10 is the stuff of church building campaign legend: “Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. And thereby put me to the test, says the Lord of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need” (ESV). This is often interpreted as a clear-cut transaction between the faithful parishioner and God. Money donated would equal a blessing. Rightfully, faithful people realized that giving with the right motivation was meant as a test of faith in God’s sovereign provision and was not an effort to earn God’s grace. Yet, in isolation, the verse lost its rich contextual meaning, and over time, the value of the whole book has continued to evade most Bible readers.
Like all self-serving humans, Christians are apt to use particular Scriptures to further their own causes, and Malachi has become sadly typecast as a result. However, the book is so much more than this one liner. God wasn’t needing money and calling His prophet Malachi to start a capital campaign when He revealed what became the final book before the long, dark night of the souls waiting on redemption.
Malachi is a book about corruption and justice. It begins with the people’s hopeless state of sin and the consequences of it. By the time we get to the famous verse about bringing all the tithes into the storehouse of God, we realize that giving was only one of the things they had forgotten. Godly institutions like marriage and sacrifice had become shams of their former redemption.
We hear similar calls to end corruption all the time today whether in a government or in corporate settings. Malachi makes it personal. He calls on God’s people to end corruption in their own lives. Reformer John Calvin uses Malachi 2:4 as backing to purge and purify the clergy of this same cancer of corruption in the sixteenth century.