Malachi is the last Old Testament prophet, with the exception of St John the Forerunner. His prophetic ministry unfolds after the restoration of the Temple, and coincides with the “traditional crisis of faith” among the chosen people. Speaking with Orthodox Christians about some events of the Old Testament history, I often hear phrases like, “What a multitude of miracles God showed to the Jews, and every time they betrayed Him!” or, “It would seem that nothing would testify to God’s love and care for His people better than the miracles described, and yet they were not good enough for them!” I think you get the idea. Interestingly, we are surprised with the ancient Jews but not with ourselves. We consider a column of light, the sea opening wide, as well as other well-known events, sufficient for strengthening faith, while the incarnation of God, the Resurrection of Christ and His redemptive Atonement appears insufficient for us to remain faithful to our Savior.
This happens because faith and fidelity are related and interconnected things. The loss of faith leads to a cooling of relations both with God and between people, as the prophet Malachi describes covertly, “Judah has been faithless, and abomination has been committed in Israel and in Jerusalem; for Judah has profaned the sanctuary of the Lord, which he loves, and has married the daughter of a foreign god” (Mal. 2, 11). In his time (let alone ours) divorces were considered a fairly easy matter, and no one really bothered about this. When we lack faith, we deviate from God. The miracles described in the Holy Scriptures are not enough for us, and we believe that personally seeing “the column of light” would strengthen our faith. But in our pursuit of miracles, are we not like the scribes and Pharisees who said to Christ, “He is the King of Israel; let him come down from the cross now, and we will believe in him” (Matthew 27:42)? Holy Scripture itself is a miracle that we can literally touch, strengthening our faith, as well as our fidelity.
The sacrament of the Eucharist is another miracle, both in its inner content and in the way it was foretold by the prophet Malachi, speaking of the Last Supper, as of a “pure offering” four hundred years before it actually took place. “For from the rising of the sun to its setting my name is great among the nations, and in every place incense is offered to my name, and a pure offering; for my name is great among the nations, says the Lord of hosts” (Mal. 1:11).
We are only one remove from Jews also because sometimes we murmur even against God. Seeing the injustice of this world and admitting the thought, “Where is His justice?” we begin to perceive God’s mercy and longsuffering as connivance, i.e. in fact, we accuse the Lord of the universe of being untrue. “You have wearied the Lord with your words. Yet you say, “How have we wearied him?” By saying, “All who do evil are good in the sight of the Lord, and he delights in them.” Or by asking, “Where is the God of justice?” (Mal. 2, 17). We forget that the Heavenly Father is long-suffering not only to some “extreme” evil-doers, but also to you and me. If it were not for His long-suffering, this earth and everything on it would be long gone. The severity of our transgressions is absolutely unimportant here, since we all deserve “capital punishment”. There are cases in criminal law when a person is sentenced to a prison term that significantly exceeds the duration of his life. In this case, it makes absolutely no difference if the sentence is a hundred or a thousand years. It doesn’t necessarily take committing a murder to destroy your soul. Sometimes adultery or simply condemning your neighbor is more than enough. Therefore, when we are faced with the injustice of this world, we should not be like the ancient Jew; it is better to adhere to the lion Aslan from the Chronicles of Narnia, once saying that “Before you can overcome the evil in the world, you must first overcome it in yourself”.
With the Feast of the Epiphany drawing near, I would like to finish this article with Malachi’s prophecies about the Messiah and his Forerunner. There is nothing complicated here, especially considering that all the synoptic Gospels refer to the words of the prophet Malachi (Matthew 11:10; Mark 1:2; Luke 7:27). In the beginning of the third chapter we read, “See, I am sending my messenger to prepare the way before me, and the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple. The messenger of the covenant in whom you delight—indeed, he is coming, says the Lord of hosts” (Mal. 3:1). A little further, the prophet once again predicts the coming of John the Baptist: “Lo, I will send you the prophet Elijah before the great and terrible day of the Lord comes. He will turn the hearts of parents to their children and the hearts of children to their parents, so that I will not come and strike the land with a curse” (Mal. 4:5-6). Based on the gospel texts, it is easy to conclude that by Elijah the Lord’s the Forerunner is meant. Christ Himself indicates that “Elijah is indeed coming first to restore all things…” (Mark 9:12) and that “With the spirit and power of Elijah,” John “will go before Him” (Luke 1:17). The obviousness and clarity of these revelations is another miracle serving to strengthen our faith.
The topics touched upon today only begin to describe the ones covered in the four small chapters of the book of the prophet Malachi. This is why studying the Holy Scriptures is a matter of a Christian’s entire life. A little effort is enough to discover a bottomless world of wisdom, blessings and miracles. Let’s not neglect the opportunity to learn something new today, strengthening our faith and thanking the prophet Malachi, the Messiah coming to Jordan, and His Forerunner and Baptist John.
Translated by The Catalogue of Good Deeds