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.

“ ‘A son honors his father, and a servant his master. Then if I am a father, where is My honor? And if I am a master, where is My respect?’ says the LORD of hosts to you, O priests who despise My name. But you say, ‘How have we despised Your name?’ You are presenting defiled food upon My altar. But you say, ‘How have we defiled You?’ In that you say, ‘The table of the LORD is to be despised.’ But when you present the blind for sacrifice, is it not evil? And when you present the lame and sick, is it not evil? Why not offer it to your governor? Would he be pleased with you? Or would he receive you kindly?” says the LORD of hosts. Malachi 1: 6 – 8

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.

Behold, I am going to send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and terrible day of the LORD. He will restore the hearts of the fathers to their children and the hearts of the children to their fathers, so that I will not come and smite the land with a curse. Malachi 4: 5 – 6

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:

In the days of Herod, king of Judea, there was a priest named Zacharias, of the division of Abijah; and he had a wife from the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. They were both righteous in the sight of God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and requirements of the Lord. But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and they were both advanced in years. Now it happened that while he was performing his priestly service before God in the appointed order of his division, according to the custom of the priestly office, he was chosen by lot to enter the temple of the Lord and burn incense. And the whole multitude of the people were in prayer outside at the hour of the incense offering. And an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing to the right of the altar of incense. Zacharias was troubled when he saw the angel, and fear gripped him. But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zacharias, for your petition has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you will give him the name John. You will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth. For he will be great in the sight of the Lord; and he will drink no wine or liquor, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit while yet in his mother’s womb. And he will turn many of the sons of Israel back to the Lord their God. It is he who will go as a forerunner before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers back to the children, and the disobedient to the attitude of the righteous, so as to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” Luke 1: 5 – 17

Jesus Himself confirms that John is the Elijah of whom Malachi spoke.

For all the prophets and the Law prophesied until John. And if you are willing to accept it, John himself is Elijah who was to come. He who has ears to hear, let him hear. Matthew 11: 13 – 15

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:

Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! This is He on behalf of whom I said, ‘After me comes a Man who has a higher rank than I, for He existed before me.’ John 1: 29 – 30

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


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