Whatever situation you are in, no matter how unfair it seems, don’t ask where the God of justice is. Do justice.
Malachi 2:17-3:6: You have wearied the Lord with your words. But you say, “How have we wearied him?” By saying, “Everyone who does evil is good in the sight of the Lord, and he delights in them.” Or by asking, “Where is the God of justice?” “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 in whom you delight, behold, he is coming, says the Lord of hosts. But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears? For he is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap. He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, and they will bring offerings in righteousness to the Lord. Then the offering of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to the Lord as in the days of old and as in former years.
“Then I will draw near to you for judgment. I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers, against the adulterers, against those who swear falsely, against those who oppress the hired worker in his wages, the widow and the fatherless, against those who thrust aside the sojourner, and do not fear me, says the Lord of hosts.
“For I the Lord do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, are not consumed. (ESV)
Growing up in Pakistan, I watched the Muslim community all around us prospering while our Christian community struggled to provide food for their children despite being attacked and killed for their faith. I often wondered, “Where is the God of justice?” In my desperation, my daily prayer was “Lord come quickly.” Why? Because at the sudden coming of the Lord, God has promised to punish the unjust and end our pain and suffering.
I know that some of you are in situations that seem unjust because, while your situation is deteriorating, others who do not even believe in God are doing really well. As a result, you are wondering, “Where is the God of justice?” I want you to know that at the sudden coming of the Lord, God will punish the unjust and end your pain and suffering.
In Malachi 2:17-3:6, God’s people were looking for the coming of the Lord because that meant a glorious future to the post-exilic Israelites and punishment of the wicked. When God delayed, they asked, “Where is the God of justice?”
Over 100 years had passed since their return from captivity, and still He had not come. God’s message was clear, they wanted a God of justice, and a God of justice they would get at the sudden coming of the Lord. The question was, would they endure, would they be ready for the sudden coming of the Lord?
Neither the people in Malachi’s time knew what they were asking for, nor do we. They were not ready for it, nor are most of us. Why? Because on that day people will find out three truths that they will not be ready to face.
This first thing people will find out that they will not be ready to face is a just God. Verses 2:17-3:1-2 say, “You have wearied the Lord with your words. But you say, “How have we wearied him?” By saying, “Everyone who does evil is good in the sight of the Lord, and he delights in them.” Or by asking, “Where is the God of justice?”
Here, there are three issues.
First, does God grow weary? No, He does not. Isaiah 40:28 says, “Have you not known? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable.”
Second, if God does not grow weary, then why does Malachi say they have wearied God? Let me ask you, how do you feel when you listen to someone whining all day long? I have four children, I hear whining all day, and sometimes it wears me down. The Israelites’ ongoing skepticism, accusations, entitlements, and lack of respect, honor, love, and trust are wearing down God’s patience. The LORD is tired of their whining, faithlessness, and disobedience.
Third, they are attacking God’s character of being love and just. In Malachi 1 they questioned Him being love, here they questioned Him being just. Notice in 2:17, they said “Where is the God of justice?” because they thought that the one they had was not just. Their flawed rationale was that since God is not punishing the evildoers, He must be delighted in them, therefore evil must be good.
It is one thing to call God’s actions unjust because we do not like them, but it is totally another thing to call Him unjust.
If I found my son playing an R-rated game, he would face consequences because he knows that is not allowed. If he told me that since other kids in his class play the R-rated game, thus either he should be allowed or the others should be reprimanded, I would tell him that he is my son, and his classmates are not my children.
The Israelites were expected to live by certain rules, and they considered it unjust that others didn’t have to live by the same rules. They do not have to like God’s demands on them, but they cannot call Him unjust for holding them accountable to the covenant He made with them. Nevertheless, God did say that He will punish the evildoers at the coming of the Lord, so they demanded that.
Notice what God says in vv. 3:1-2: “Behold, I send my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me. [God Himself was coming] And the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple; and the messenger of the covenant in whom you delight, behold, he is coming, says the Lord of hosts. But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears? For he is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap.”
The Lord whom they were seeking is God the Son, Jesus Christ, and the messenger of the covenant that God said He would send to prepare the way before Him (see also Isaiah 40:3-5) was John the Baptist who came in the Spirit and power of Elijah (Luke 1:7). Jesus explains that in Matthew 11:14. He came before the first coming of the Lord to prepare people for Jesus’ word and work of atonement to call people to repent.
However, Revelation 11 tells us Elijah will come again before the second coming of the Lord to restore all things (Matt. 17:11) to prepare for the coming of the Lord. The word “suddenly” here does not mean a pleasant surprise but an unwelcome shock. It’s like the feeling of getting caught in the act of doing something bad.
People in Malachi’s time wanted the God of vengeance to punish the wicked, but they did not know that the coming of the Lord was going to be unpleasant for them also because they too were being shady, and He is a just God. Are you ready to face the just God that judges without partiality?
What is the application? If your life is a mess, and your families are not walking with the Lord, then the day of the coming of the Lord is a dreadful day, for God is Holy and just, and He judges without partiality. Get yourself ready. He is coming soon.
This second thing people will not be ready to face is God’s justice.
Verses 3-4 describe the objective of the coming of the Lord to judge wickedness and purify His people. We read in verse 3, “He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, and they will bring offerings in righteousness to the Lord. Then the offering of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to the Lord as in the days of old and as in former years.”
Here God addresses the priesthood again. God’s recompense, His justice, will be for both believers and non-believers, but it would start in the house of God, and from the priesthood. Why? Because when those who are responsible to teach neglect their responsibility, they cause others to dishonor and disrespect God, but when they follow God, others follow too.
Only a purged priesthood will be able to offer sacrifices from a pure heart during the millennial kingdom of Christ on earth similar to the sacrifices offered when the Temple of Solomon was first built.
The reference to the Lord as a refiner shows the nature of His work as the cleansing agent during His second coming.
When I was young, our family could not afford a washing machine, so my mom washed our clothes with her hands. She had this bat that she only used for clothes. Once she had rubbed soap on the dirty clothes, she would hit them with the bat until the dirt had bled out with the soap leaving the clothes clean.
This is what Christ will do on His second coming. He will purge His people of impurities and imperfections. He will scrub away every stain of sin, and He will start with the priesthood. Are you executing your responsibility as His royal priesthood? If not, then get ready, God’s justice is coming for you too.
The application for us is to take our responsibility as the royal priesthood of believers to proclaim his excellencies seriously. Share about the first coming of the Lord and invite others to receive Him and be saved.
The third and final thing that people will not be ready to face is God’s judgment. Verses 5-6 say, “Then I will draw near to you for judgment I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers, against the adulterers, against those who swear falsely, against those who oppress the hired worker in his wages, the widow and the fatherless, against those who thrust aside the sojourner, and do not fear me, says the Lord of hosts. “For I the Lord do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, are not consumed.”
Their question “where is the God of justice?” is answered here in verse 5 in His judgment. In Hebrew, the word for “justice” in 2:17 and “judgment” in 3:5 is mishpat, which has a much deeper understanding.
Mishpat is not something that God does, it is who God is and what He intends to establish on earth as it is in heaven. Mishpat gives people what they are due whether punishment or protection, thus in verse 5 mishpat is bad news of punishment for those involved in sorcery, adultery, and those who swear falsely. It is good news for their victims: the hired workers, the widows, the fatherless, and the sojourners.
In the Bible mishpat is a communal duty. People in Malachi’s time were expecting mishpat, God’s justice, against those who were unjust to them while they were completely ignoring that they were unjust to others. They were selfish and self-centered.
A few weeks ago, we were at the Mickey Mouse play area at the mall with our children. Asher allowed other children in the mall to play with some of the toy cars that he brought with him. One of the boys got sick of playing with those cars and insisted Asher should give him the car he was playing with. When Asher refused, the kid got very upset and came straight to us. He said that it is not fair that our son is not giving his car to him. When we tried to tell him that he should wait for his turn, he got upset with us, too. The kid was seeking justice that would benefit him even though it was unjust for Asher.
When we do not get what we think is fair and what we consider equality, we call it an injustice and refuse to listen to others. Justice is good, and injustice is evil but when the perception of what we consider justice and injustice is wrong we can convince ourselves that we are in the right and everyone else is in the wrong, including God.
Here is the application. Offer the justice that you expect should be offered to you, but when we are more interested in what we want, we do not see how we are being unjust toward others. To Malachi’s people, God was offering time to repent and do justice or enter into his judgment.
A young man wanted to get His life straight with God before Christ returns, so he asked a pastor how long before Jesus returns. The pastor said soon, very soon. The young man in frustration replied but he had already said that many times before.
The pastor returned that it is most certainly sooner than when he first told him. Church, no one knows the time and the hour, but when He returns, He will judge justly and swiftly. The God we need and the God we seek 2000 years ago became man and came into this sinful world to be sacrificed as a lamb to secure our salvation. But now He is coming as the lion of Judah, as the just judge, to judge every evildoer irrespective of the nature of their sin and their background.
Verse 6 reminds us again that God does not change, which means God’s master plan of justice for all has not changed and will not change. He will right every wrong and punish all evildoers at the sudden coming of the Lord, and He will not spare even His own. Therefore, the question should not be when he is coming, rather are we ready to face a just God, His justice, and His judgment.
This passage says that no one can endure that day and stand when Christ appears. Why? Because we all have fallen short of the glory of God, but because God is just, therefore He Himself came to proclaim the Good News of salvation and to die for the sins of the world.
In our Revelation series in the fall, we will learn that the second coming of the Lord will be personal, visible, and glorious but it has different implications for believers. The Bible teaches before Christ establishes His kingdom on earth, there will be the rapture of all true believers in Jesus. Do you believe you will be among them?
The Bible teaches, at the Rapture, the dead in Christ will be raised, and living Christians will be caught up to meet the Lord in the air and be with Him forever. Will you be there with the Lord? Because on earth, the Rapture will be the beginning of the period that the Bible describes as the “great day of His wrath,” “the great tribulation,” and the “time of Jacob’s trouble.” You definitely don’t want to be here on Earth during that time.
At the end of the Tribulation, the Bible teaches Jesus Christ will return with the heavenly hosts and the Church to establish the Messianic Kingdom on earth.
This is my appeal to you: whatever situation you are in, no matter how unfair it seems, don’t ask where the God of justice is, do justice. Don’t ask when He is coming, ask what you need to do to get ready for the sudden coming of the Lord.
And take one of two action steps right now and right here. If you are not saved: repent, believe, and be saved, for that is the only way you will endure the coming of the Lord. If you are already saved, then confess, connect, and contribute to the Kingdom of God by sharing the Gospel and serving God.
For the full sermon, click here.