The Lord to Israel, through his prophet, Malachi (the last of the OT prophets): “I have loved you” (1:2). The priests’ and the peoples’ response to that great love? They despised the Lord’s name. They offered polluted offerings and sacrificed blind animals to the Lord. Or they offered that which was taken by violence. The Lord asked, “Shall I accept that from your hand?” (1:13) No, the Lord “no longer accepts it with favor from your hand” (2:13). Malachi's counsel to the people is counsel that is universal and timeless: “So guard yourselves in your spirit, and do not be faithless” (2:16).
Chapter 3 begins, “Behold, I send my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me” (3:1). Mark begins his Gospel by quoting both Isaiah and Malachi and declaring John the Baptist as the messenger who prepared the way for Messiah. Quickly, in the following verses, Malachi called Israel to account for her faithlessness to the Lord and her insincere offerings. Just as quickly, though, he returns to a theme that runs throughout the Scriptures and offers hope, the only hope, for a people who are so inclined toward unfaithfulness. Of those “who feared the Lord and esteemed his name” (3:16), the Lord promised, “They shall be mine . . . in the day when I make up my treasured possession, and I will spare them as a man spares his son who serves him” (3:17). Malachi looked forward to Messiah and the hope he would bring; at Christmas, we get to sing (Christmas in July, anyone?):
Born thy people to deliver, born a child and yet a King, born to reign in us forever, now thy gracious kingdom bring. By thine own eternal spirit rule in all our hearts alone; by thine all sufficient merit, raise us to thy glorious throne. –Charles Wesley