Return from Exile: Malachi 3 (7)
Pray Psalm 141.1, 2, 8-10.
LORD, I cry out to You;
Make haste to me!
Give ear to my voice when I cry out to You.
Let my prayer be set before You as incense,
The lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice…
But my eyes are upon You, O GOD the Lord;
In You I take refuge;
Do not leave my soul destitute.
Keep me from the snares they have laid for me,
And from the traps of the workers of iniquity.
Let the wicked fall into their own nets,
While I escape safely.
Sing Psalm 141.1, 2, 8-10.
(Truro: Shout, for the Blessed Jesus Reigns)
O LORD, we call to You in prayer! To us come quickly; hear our cry!
Receive our prayer as incense sweet, our lifted hands as a sacrifice!
We lift our eyes to You, O LORD, and refuge seek; LORD, save our soul!
From every trap and snare redeem; deliver us and make us whole.
Review Malachi 3; meditate on verses 6, 7.
1. What does God call His people to do?
2. What does He promise if they will?
Malachi 3 represents a decided turn, not just in the book of Malachi but in our entire study of the post-exilic period. Throughout our study of Israel’s return from exile, we have been reminded that, while they were no longer captive to Babylonians or Persians, the people of God remained captive to self-interest and the allure of the surrounding culture. Progress was realized: the temple and wall were rebuilt, the people were renewed in God’s covenant, and glorious celebrations of God’s goodness were held.
But none of this had any permanence, except for a small remnant of true believers who feared God, kept His Word, and encouraged one another (Mal. 3.16-18). For most of the people, judgment and rejection came from the mouth of God against their shallow faith and hypocritical ways (vv. 8-15).
But in Malachi 3 God points the people away from themselves and their present moment. God is coming to them with a message of forgiveness, hope, and life (vv. 1, 2). And though He comes in judgment against all who reject His covenant and Law (vv. 2, 3), He will provide the sacrifice His people need to realize the fullness of all He has promised (vv. 4-6). God called His people to return to Him (v. 7) and promised that, if they would, He would return to them. The faithful remnant who yet feared the LORD got His ear and heard His promise that He would treasure them—and all those like them who fear the LORD —and they would know the truth that sets them free from deception and lies (vv. 16-18).
And the LORD will further solidify this turn to the future and hope (Jer. 29.11) in chapter 4.
Treasures Old and New: Matthew 13.52; Psalm 119.162
As we have all, no doubt, had disciplinary talks with our children at one time or another, this passage reminds me of one of those. We waxed eloquent about the need, let’s say, for cleanliness in one’s room. We talked about how straightening up the mess will free their minds to think more clearly. We maybe delved into the health benefits of cleanliness. We told our dear children that we love them and long for them to be solid and upstanding people, and that furthermore, we will come and help them clean their rooms as soon as they are ready to buckle down and do the work with us. And they say, “In what way shall we clean?” What?
Wait. What? That’s their response to my love and wisdom? Maybe the response was just the tiniest bit off point?
Here God has said to His children, “My love for you never changes. I have not consumed you in My wrath for your sins and shortcomings—since the days of your fathers you have not kept My laws. But you can change. You can obey Me. You can return to Me, and when you do, I will return to you.” Wow. That’s a whole lot of love and forgiveness wrapped up in those statements from God. And their response was, “In what way shall we return?” (Mal. 3.6, 7). Huh? As if the problem lacked in gravitas? Again, off point.
God is forever giving us ways out of our dilemma of sin and captivity to self.
He does not destroy us when we stray. We are not consumed.
“‘This I recall to my mind, therefore I have hope.
Through the LORD’s mercies we are not consumed,
because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning;
Great is Your faithfulness. The LORD is my portion,’ says my soul,
‘Therefore I have hope in Him!’” (Lam. 3.21-24)
But we must be serious about His Law. On point. Focusing on Him and what He is truly saying to us. Their response should have been, and ours should be, one of agreement about our drift from Him and extreme thankfulness for His grace and mercy to us. This One Who gave His Son to cover our sin has said, “Return to Me, and I will return to you.” Oh, how our hearts should swell with appreciation and contrition. Every day is a new day with Him. As Jeremiah said, “His compassions are new every morning.”
Each day begins a new opportunity to serve Him as we ought. To love Him as we should. To thank Him as we must. And to live for Him with joy. We experience a Turning Point opportunity every morning, meeting with Him over His Word and in prayer. To confess our sins, to turn from them, and seek to return to Him with thankfulness. What a blessed life we live in Him!
As Peter wrote about Jesus and our proper response to His love, “…who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we having died to sins, might live for righteousness—by whose stripes we are healed. For you were like sheep going astray, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls” (1 Pet. 2.24, 25). “I have gone astray like a lost sheep; seek Your servant, for I do not forget Your commandments” (Ps. 119.176).
Returned to Him, and He to us. Thank You, God!
1. How can you experience each new day as a turning point in your relationship with God?
2. What does it mean for God to “return” to you? How will you know when He has returned?
3. How would you explain the future and hope God holds out for you?
Christ, by his gospel, shall purify and reform his church, and by his Spirit working with it, shall regenerate and cleanse souls. He will take away the dross found in them. He will separate their corruptions, which render their faculties worthless and useless. The believer needs not fear the fiery trial of afflictions and temptations, by which the Savior refines his gold. He will take care it is not more intense or longer than is needful for his good; and this trial will end far otherwise than that of the wicked. Christ will, by interceding for them, make them accepted. Matthew Henry (1662-1714), Commentary on Malachi 3.1-6
Pray Psalm 141.3-7.
Pray that God will guard not only your mouth but all your ways, that He may strengthen you against all temptation and grant you the company of righteous friends to encourage you on your way.
Sing Psalm 141.3-7.
(Truro: Shout, for the Blessed Jesus Reigns)
LORD, set a guard upon my mouth; let not my heart to evil bend,
nor let me work iniquity in company with wicked men.
LORD, let a righteous man rebuke—a kindness this shall surely be.
Like healing oil upon my head, Your sweet rebuke shall be to me.
When to the judgment wicked men by God are cast, our words shall tell:
Like broken sod or fresh plowed ground, so shall their bones be cast to hell!
T. M. and Susie Moore
Two books can help us understand our own captivity and lead us to seek revival and renewal in the Lord. The Church Captive asks us to consider the ways the Church today has become captive to the world. And Revived! can help us find the way to renewal. Learn more and order your free copies by clicking here and here.
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Except as indicated, all Scriptures are taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. For sources of all quotations, see the weekly PDF of this study. All psalms for singing are from The Ailbe Psalter, available free by clicking here.
- T.M. Moore
- December 3, 2023
Toward a future and a hope. Malachi 3
Return from Exile: Malachi 3 (7)
T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in the Champlain Valley of Vermont.
Books by T. M. Moore