Malachi 3:1, 2
“Behold, I send my messenger and he will prepare the way before me. And the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple; and the messenger of the covenant in whom you delight, behold, he is coming, says the Lord of hosts. 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.
Malachi by the Spirit of the Lord is predicting the coming of John the Baptist and our Lord Jesus Christ. The Lord sends the Baptist ahead of him to prepare the way before the Lord. It is interesting that the Baptist prepares the way before ‘me.’ Who is ‘me’? Me is the YHWH. That is who is speaking here. He is preparing for YHWH to come. And then the Spirit switches to Lord, adonai, whom the Jews are seeking. But more of that in a minute.
The Lord predicts John the Baptist advent. The Baptist prepares God’s people by preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. He preaches to the people to be repentant of their lives. If they have been immoral they are to turn from that. If they have been stealing to quit stealing. If they been extorting people to be happy with their wages. Whatever the sinful lives they have been living John calls to be repentant of that life and enter a new life with God through baptism so they may have their sins forgiven.
And John proclaimed a coming messiah, a person who would be the Lamb of God who would take the sins of the world away. We know Jesus is that messiah John the Baptist pointed them and us to believe in. In the midst of John’s ministry Jesus suddenly appears on the scene in the temple. Jesus is the Lord the people have been seeking and he is the messenger of the covenant in whom the people delighted. Jesus is the Adonai (Lord they were seeking) and he is YHWH (The LORD) who is ‘me’ the one whose way is prepared by John.
The covenant they, the Jews, delight in is not the Mosaic covenant. That was a burdensome covenant that was to teach the Israelites to fear the Lord and to prepare his eventual coming in the flesh to take away their sins and not only their sins but the sin of the world. No, the covenant the Israelites, the Jews would delight in is the new covenant Jeremiah prophesied by the Spirit of the Lord. A covenant not like the old one in which they would know the Lord. In this covenant the Lord would take away their sins and remember them no more. He would put his law upon their hearts by giving them the Holy Spirit.
Who could stand the day of Jesus’ appearing? They could not, so they crucified him. Yet Jesus is risen from the dead so their sin would be forgiven. Jesus, YHWH, calls them and all people everywhere to repent and to be baptized for the forgiveness of sins. To repent and be baptized is to die with Christ on the cross. Having died we are raised to newness of life in Jesus’ resurrection. Like a fuller’s soap we are cleansed by Jesus’ blood in baptism. We become his people and receive his Spirit.
Almighty God and Father, grant us faith to repent of our sins, be baptized into Christ Jesus’ death and rise to newness of life every day that we may walk in Jesus’ will and life with our every breath. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.