Week Fifty-One: Malachi
Life has its peaks and valleys. We experience times when all is going well and other times when life is not. C. S. Lewis described this as the Law of Undulation or the peaks and valleys of mortality. In the Screwtape Letters, the senior devil, Wormwood, taught his apprentice about this fact: “Humans are amphibians – half spirit and half animal. …As spirits they belong to the eternal world, but as animals they inhabit time. This means that while their spirit can be directed to an eternal object, their bodies, passions, and imaginations are in continual change, for to be in time means to change. Their nearest approach to constancy, therefore, is undulation – the repeated return to a level from which they repeatedly fall back, a series of troughs and peaks.”[i] Many of the lesser prophets of the Old Testament prophesy of our day and detail the troughs and peaks that we will experience as we look forward to the Savior’s Second Coming.
Malachi is the final book of the Old Testament, but it is not the last in terms of sequence. Historians place the book as being written before the reconstructed temple dedication of 516 BCE. The actual author is unknown for Malachi is a transliteration of a Hebrew word meaning “my messenger.”[ii] For Latter-day Saints, Malachi is a special book of scripture expressing powerful messages from the Lord. Chapters 3 and 4 of Malachi were quoted by the Savior to the Nephites in Third Nephi Chapters 24 and 25. These same chapters of Malachi were repeated to the prophet Joseph by the Angel Moroni when the angel first appeared to Joseph on September 21, 1823.
My focus today is on the first five verses of Malachi Chapter 3. There is so much packed into these five verses. We could probably sing the first three verses since they comprise some of the most beautiful solos and choruses of Handel’s Messiah. Handel used these verses of scripture to celebrate the Coming of the Savior, as a babe, and in His glory. Jesus Christ is the messenger of the covenant whom the righteous delight in and He will suddenly come to His temple.
In latter-day scripture, the Lord said:
“I am Jesus Christ, the son of God, wherefore gird up your loins and I will suddenly come to my temple.”[iii]
“That my covenant people may be gathered in one in that day when I shall come to my temple. And this I do for the salvation of my people.”[iv]
Who is the messenger whom Christ will send to prepare the way before him?
For the Lord’s first coming, John the Baptist was this messenger to prepare for the Lords earthly ministry. In Matthew 11, the Savior himself quotes Malachi 3:1 as describing John the Baptism: “…Jesus began to say unto the multitudes concerning John, What went ye out unto the wilderness to see? A reed shaken with the wind?…For this is he, of whom it is written, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee. Verily I say unto you, Among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist….”[v]
For His Second Coming, the Lord told Joseph Smith that Jospeh, as the prophet of the restoration, would be the one to prepare the way for the Savior: “Thou art blessed, for thou shalt do great things. Behold thou wast sent forth, even as John, to prepare the way before me, and before Elijah which should come, and thou knewest it not.”[vi]
The Prophet Joseph Smith was the messenger sent to prepare the way, but we must help in this work of preparation. As members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we are the messengers of Christ’s covenant and restored gospel to the world in preparation for the Second Coming. “And even so I have sent mine everlasting covenant into the world, to be a light to the world, and to be a standard for my people, and for the Gentiles to seek to it, and to be a messenger before my face to prepare the way before me.”[vii]
Malachi, the messenger, asked the questions: “But who may abide the day of His Coming? Who shall stand when he appeareth?”[viii]
The Lord is characterized as being both a refiner’s fire and a fuller’s soap when He comes in judgement.
A fuller’s work was to cleanse and whiten garments. The work used harsh substances and was physically demanding because of the scrubbing. The soap they used was made of salts mixed with alkali which was obtained from the ashes of certain plants. Just as the fuller made clothes white, Jesus is coming to purify and cleanse people from sin. After the cleansing, “when the Lord shall have washed away the filth of the daughters of Zion, and shall have purged the blood of Jerusalem from the midst thereof by the spirit of judgment and by the spirit of burning,”[ix] then those who are “left in Zion and [those] that remaineth in Jerusalem, shall be called holy….”[x]
The refiner is one who separates precious metals, such as gold and silver from impurities or dross. The process requires intense heat in order for the solid metal to become a liquid. Then, impurities are separated, and the dross destroyed or thrown away.[xi]
The Lord said, “Therefore, thus saith the Lord of hosts, Behold, I will melt them, and try them: for how shall I do for the daughter of my people?… Shall I not visit them for these things? Saith the Lord: shall not my soul be avenged on such a nation as this?”[xii]
Malachi described those who are considered dross by the Lord: “I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers, and against the adulterers, and against false swearers, and against those that oppress the hireling in his wages, the widow, and the fatherless, and that turn aside the stranger from his right, and fear not me, saith the Lord of hosts.[xiii]” These are those who will not abide the day of His Coming.
The judgement that will happen when the Savior comes again is described through the act of washing, which includes water, and the act of refining precious metal, which includes fire. The water of baptism and the fire of the Spirit also cleanses and purifies us through baptism and the gift of the Holy Ghost. We should want to experience this water and fire before His judgment comes upon us.
Malachi warned us of the peaks and troughs we have to look forward to as we prepare for the Second Coming. As we become messengers of the covenant and spiritually prepare ourselves and others, the day of His Coming will be great for us, rather than terrible.
Pres. Nelson counseled us: “Our Savior and Redeemer, Jesus Christ, will perform some of His mightiest works between now and when He comes again. We will see miraculous indications that God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, preside over this Church in majesty and glory. But in coming days, it will not be possible to survive spiritually without the guiding, directing, comforting, and constant influence of the Holy Ghost.”[xiv]
May we find joy in the Lord this week as we prepare for the Second Coming of our Savior.
[i] C. S. Lewis, Screwtape Letters, Letter VIII, (1942).
[ii] Bible Dictionary, Malachi, p. 728.
[iii] D&C 36:8
[iv] D&C 42:36
[v] Matthew 11:7, 10 – 11.
[vi] D&C 35:4
[vii] D&C 45:9
[viii] Malachi 3:2
[ix] Isaiah 4:4
[x] Isaiah 4:3
[xi] Bible Dictionary, p. 760.
[xii] Jeremiah 9:7
[xiii] Malachi 3:5
[xiv] Russell M. Nelson, Revelation for the Church, Revelation for Our Lives, April 2018.