Malachi ends the Old Testament on a bad note. He highlights the sins of the people – a people not far removed from the exile to Babylon due to sin. Rather than turning to God by living righteously, the post-exilic people of Malachi turned to sin: they intermarried with foreigners, they didn’t pay the tithe, they didn’t rest on the Sabbath, they offered lame sacrifices to God. God was not pleased.
So the punishment of the exile did little to curb the sin of the people. In one sense, this ought to have been expected, for the words of the Mosaic Covenant, which promised blessing if the people were obedient, never inspired Israel to obedience. And the words of the covenant, which promised cursing if the people were disobedient, never caused Israel to fear sinning against God. The people always did what was right in their own eyes. In the days of Moses, they did what they wanted. In the days of the judges, they did what they wanted. In the days leading up to the exile, they did what they wanted. And now, after the exile and in the days of Malachi, they did what they wanted.
So the Old Testament ends on a bad note, in that the sin of the people is still raging and God is not pleased. The ineffectiveness of the Law to change people’s hearts is on full display. The inability to live up to God’s standard is evident. Yet despite all this, there is hope. God grants the prophet Malachi words that relate to the coming of the Messiah. He grants him words that discuss a great figure that will arise before the day of the Lord – a forerunner to Messiah.
This great figure prophesied by Malachi is John the Baptist. Only by God’s providence could it be that the last verses of the last chapter of the last book of the Old Testament prepare the way for the New Testament. Now how do we know that Malachi speaks of John, since he used the name Elijah? Because Luke tells us:
Jesus Himself confirms that John is the Elijah of whom Malachi spoke.
If the Bible stopped at Malachi, the story would be incomplete. We would be left with the sin of the people and the mysterious Elijah who was to come before the day of the Lord. We would also be left to wonder about how that mysterious figure fit in with the Messiah, the son of David, the one of whom the prophets continually spoke.
But thankfully we have the New Testament. We have the completion to the story. We can read how John prepared the way for the ministry of Jesus, and how Jesus is the Messiah that the prophets spoke of and wrote about. We can read how the New Covenant established by Christ is better than the Old Covenant given through Moses. We can read how hearts are transformed, not by the Law, but by the very Spirit of God. We can read how the Messiah, the great coming king, had to die. We can read about Him rising from the dead on the third day. And we can read the sweet words of John the Baptist, recorded by John the apostle, concerning this Christ, Jesus of Nazareth, of whom the whole of the Old Testament, including Malachi, points to:
The Father loves the Son and has given all things into His hand. He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him. John 3: 35 – 36