"Where is the God of Justice?"

17You have wearied the Lord with your words.

"How have we wearied Him?" you ask.

By saying, "All who do evil are good in the eyes of the Lord, and He is pleased with them" or "Where is the God of justice?"

1"See, 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.

2But who can endure the day of His coming? Who can stand when He appears? For He will be like a refinerís fire or a laundererís soap. 3He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver; He will purify the Levites and refine them like gold and silver. Then the Lord will have men who will bring offerings in righteousness, 4and the offerings of Judah and Jerusalem will be acceptable to the Lord, as in days gone by, as in former years.

5"So I will come near to you for judgment. I will be quick to testify against sorcerers, adulterers and perjurers, against those who defraud laborers of their wages, who oppress the widows and the fatherless, and deprive aliens of justice, but do not fear me," says the Lord Almighty.

The Lord next rebukes the people for a complaint that they had: "You have wearied the Lord with your words. ĎHow have we wearied Him?í you ask. By saying, ĎAll who do evil are good in the eyes of the Lord, and He is pleased with themí or ĎWhere is the God of justice?í" (vs. 2:17). This complaint of the children of Israel was one that many through the ages have expressed (and, indeed, still do): If God is a God of justice, why is there evil in the world? And moreover, why do many who are evil prosper? Jeremiah complained to God about this: "You are always righteous, O Lord, when I bring a case before you. Yet I would speak with you about your justice: Why does the way of the wicked prosper? Why do all the faithless live at ease?" (Jer. 12:1). Habakkuk also brings this to Godís attention: "How long, O Lord, must I call for help, but you do not listen? Or cry out to you, ĎViolence!í, but you do not save? Why do you make me look at injustice? Why do you tolerate wrong?" (Hab. 1:2-3).

So, you may ask, if these prophets, these men of God, made similar complaints to God, why did God get mad at the children of Israel in Malachiís time for their complaint? He was mad because of their attitude. "The age-old problem raised by the apparent prosperity of the evil man was a live issue in Malachiís day. It appeared that God favoured the wicked, and both Jeremiah (Jer. 12:1) and Habbakuk (Hab. 1:2-4) had questioned Godís just ordering of providence, while at the same time maintaining their faith in Godís ultimate righteousness. Malachiís contemporaries, by contrast, had become cynical and unbelieving, and because they had given up all intention of taking right and wrong seriously Malachi faces them with coming judgment" [Baldwin, 241]. Note the difference between Jeremiahís and Habakkukís attitudes, with the attitude the children of Israel present. Jeremiah acknowledges Godís righteousness, and presents the complaints as a conundrum that he does not understand. In contrast, Malachiís contemporaries reject Godís righteousness, saying, "All who do evil are good in the eyes of the Lord, and He is pleased with them." Habukkuk, though more critical of God than Jeremiah, makes a plea to God in prayer. In contrast, Malachiís contemporaries doubt Godís presence, saying, "Where is the God of justice?"

God answers their complaint by speaking of the time when He Himself will come to the earth to make everything right: "ĎSee, 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,í says the Lord Almighty" (vs. 3:1). So, yes, the justice of God will come, but it will come in His time, not theirs. The execution of Godís justice is intertwined with the execution of His plan of salvation. God graciously delayed the execution of His justice until after the time when He sent His Son to die for us, so that He could be just, and that we sinners could be spared the judgment that we deserve.

I donít think Malachiís contemporaries who were complaining realized the consequences of what they were asking. Those who ask for Godís justice to be executed immediately had better be sure that they themselves can withstand His judgment. Malachi tries to get them to realize the seriousness of what they were asking: "But who can endure the day of His coming? Who can stand when He appears?" (vss. 2-3). The implication here is that no one could, at that time, "endure the day of His coming." Godís plan of salvation had not been fully executed. The children of Israel performed, at times, the ritualistic sacrifices of atonement as prescribed in the Law, but these were just a foreshadow, symbolically pointing to the perfect sacrifice of atonement that would be made by Godís Son, Jesus Christ. Malachi continues: "For He will be like a refinerís fire or a laundererís soap. He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver; He will purify the Levites and refine them like gold and silver." A "refiner" takes raw materials, and separates the impure from the pure, keeping the pure and discarding the impure. Were those who were complaining ready for such a refining process? After such a refining process, would they find themselves gathered with the pure, or discarded with the impure?

By His grace, God delayed His day of judgment until after His Son died for our sins, so that, by Jesusí blood, we can be cleansed, and purified. Through Christ, we can "endure the day of His coming", and we can "stand when He appears." Those who have been purified can serve the Lord effectively: "Then the Lord will have men who will bring offerings in righteousness, and the offerings of Judah and Jerusalem will be acceptable to the Lord, as in days gone by, as in former years" (vss. 3-4).

To conclude, the Lord assures them that the injustice they see perpetrated by men against men will be punished: "ĎSo I will come near to you for judgment. I will be quick to testify against sorcerers, adulterers and perjurers, against those who defraud laborers of their wages, who oppress the widows and the fatherless, and deprive aliens of justice, but do not fear me,í says the Lord Almighty" (vs. 5). When it comes, Godís justice will be "quick". There will be no long, drawn out trials. God is all-knowing, and will execute His justice with no mistakes.

Oh, Father, we, who cannot "endure the day of His coming", thank You that You have delayed Your righteous judgment, so that we may have an opportunity to accept the gracious gift of salvation that You have offered to us. By Your Spirit, purify us and refine us so that we may live lives worthy of those who are Godís people. In the name of Your Son, who died so that we may live, we pray these things, Amen.

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