Advent Reading for December 16, 2021
by Sally Seeger 

Malachi 3:2b-3
But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears? For he is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap; he will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the descendants of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, until they present offerings to the Lord in righteousness. 

Who is Malachi and why are we discussing him during Advent? Certain traditions ascribe the book to Zerubbabel or Nehemiah; others to Malachi who was designated as a Levite and a member of the Great Assembly. G. G. Cameron suggests that Malachi is a description and the equivalent to the Latin “angelicus” – one charged with a message or mission. It could be an official title and the thought would not be unsuitable to one whose message closed the prophetical canon of the Old Testament.

The editors of the 1906 Jewish Encyclopedia implied that Malachi prophesied after Haggai and Zechariah and speculated that he delivered his prophecies about 420 B.C. after the second return of Nehemiah from Persia or possibly before his return. No mention is made to him by Ezra. Malachi is usually dated to the Persian period since it assumes a functioning Temple and mentions a governor. The book’s insistence on proper sacrifices and a high regard for the Levites fits it into the post exilic period when the Temple took on a new importance in the community.

A majority of scholars consider the book to be made up of six distinct oracles in a series of disputes between Yahweh and various groups within the Jewish communities. Scholars suggest that the book is structured along the lines of a judicial trial; a suzerain treaty or a covenant. Yahweh is vindicated while those who do not adhere to the Law of Moses are condemned.

In the passage Chapter 3:2b-3, Malachi is referring to the messenger of the covenant who will purify the descendants of Levi (priests), refine them like gold until they are purified and can then present offerings to the Lord in righteousness . In later Christian tradition this passage is read messianically. Mark, Malachi and Isaiah identifies John the Baptist as this messenger of the covenant. Handel’s “Messiah” equates the coming messenger with Jesus. In context the messenger seems less a messianic figure than one who will purify and restore the priesthood to its rightful role and dignity.

The entirety of Chapter 3 could have been directed to us during the many days of pandemic and quarantine. How many months were we not allowed to worship in person? How many of us were perhaps less than diligent in our faith keeping? I found it was harder to be fully present during virtual worship when our church was closed.

When many lost their jobs, tithing and worship may have been the last thing to worry about when it was difficult to put food on the table, pay the bills and keep a roof over one’s head. However, God through Malachi states that if we return to our faithful ways, He will promise abundance.

Question: What is it that I need to do, so that my tithes, gifts and offerings will be pleasing to the Lord?

Prayer: Dear Lord, may I be refined like gold so that my tithes, gifts and offerings will be pleasing to you.