But for you who fear my name, the sun of righteousness shall rise with healing in its wings. You shall go out leaping like calves from the stall.
One of the underlying themes of Malachi is contrast between God’s disobedient people and God’s obedient people. This chapter provides the final picture of that contrast in the future “day of the Lord”. God’s picture in strong. In Malachi 4:1 the disobedient are set ablaze like stubble in a field, burning in the oven of God’s judgment. Malachi 4:3 sees them as nothing but ashes under the soles of the righteous. Pretty rough language.
Those who fear God’s name are encouraged to see that future time as a new refreshing day. Righteousness rises with a new sun and healing comes to those who have suffered for doing right. They are giddy and playful like calves set free from overnight stabling in a barn stall. God longs for joy to mark the lives of His people, and judgment alone is not the vision God has for Israel. He also wants them to know unspeakable joy in His work and presence.
The prophet ends with a call for Israel to return to obedience to the law of Moses. They were showing horrible contempt for it, mixing the outward forms of it with inward disdain. God wants His people to love His Word and His decrees again. That is how they will love Him. He is after their hearts, and the final admonition of Malachi shows this. God would capture their hearts by sending “Elijah” with a generationally stirring message to them (Malachi 4:5-6). He will turn families toward each other, and toward God. This is promised before the day of reckoning to God is at hand. Of course, this was clearly answered in the first advent in the ministry of John the Baptist. I believe it will be strongly shown before Christ’s second advent, possibly with the direct ministry of Elijah in Israel again. God will keep His Word.
This little prophet of Malachi has had a lot to say about the heart that truly should turn to God. I have been surprised at its relevance to my own. God always is concerned for the heart, and I should not be surprised that my heart is the target of His word and His Spirit’s work. It is where He does His most important work. And better days are coming when a final move of God in calling people to Him and judging those who reject His work will make a world where the best work of His in all hearts will mark everything everyone does.