First Reading: Malachi 3:1-4

Taking God Seriously

1 “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, whom you desire, behold, he comes!” says YHWH of Armies. 2 “But who can endure the day of his coming? And who will stand when he appears? For he is like a refiner’s fire, and like launderer’s soap; 3 and he will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the sons of Levi, and refine them as gold and silver; and they shall offer to YHWH offerings in righteousness. 4 Then the offering of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasant to YHWH, as in the days of old, and as in ancient years.”

World English Bible

The book titled "Malachi" was written by an anonymous writer in the fifth century B.C. Two generations after Exile, the populace in Jerusalem had become lax in their worship and their sense of kosher. They treated religion as a cultural reference point for their identity. Worship was not ritual, but rote. A marriage that might not be religiously acceptable was socially acceptable.

At this point, the unknown author presented a messenger from God (Malachi was Hebrew for "messenger;" the author's image explained the title of the book). The messenger preached a diatribe against the populace and the established priesthood: "Return to the purity of the Law!" Sacrifice at the Temple required the worshiper's best, not diseased or lame animals. To maintain the strength and identity of the community, Jews should only marry other Jews. Worship and duty to the Law were the bed rocks of Judaism. Both needed to be taken seriously!

The author implied an "or-else" to the message. Return to the purity of the Law, or face the wrath of God's judgment. If the people won't change for God, God will change the people. The experience of the Exile still rang in the ears of the populace, so the words of the author must have stung deeply.

In these verses from Malachi, the author saw the messenger as an instrument of God's justice. He would reform the Levitical priesthood until they presented pure worship, like their ancestors did. The implication of violence was evident ("the terrible Day of the YHWH"); he would act just like a blacksmith refining precious metal. Beneath the task of the messenger and the threat of the God's wrath lay the power of the messenger. His might would come directly from God. For the author, the power of the messenger was the power of God. They were synonymous.

When should we take the message and power of the Lord seriously? Of course, we should never ask this question. But, when we take our faith for granted, we slide into a lax spirituality that begs this question. If someone were to ask us "How is your relationship with God?" and the reply was "Alright, I guess," then there is something wrong. For the author of Malachi, "alright" was not good enough. The answer should not satisfy us, either.

How is your relationship with God this week? Be honest with yourself. Honesty is the first step in taking God seriously.