To the people of Malachi’s day, there seemed to be no difference between what happened to those who served the Lord and those who rejected him. So what is the point in serving him? God’s answer opens up for them a bigger perspective. He promises them that ultimately it is indeed worth serving him, and that when he comes in judgment, the differences between what happens to those who serve him and those who reject him will be only too clear.
The harshness of their words is all the more apparent in the light of what God has promised in the previous few verses. Yet their complaint is one that can so easily be found in our hearts if not on our lips, for christians have no immunity from disease or heartache or disappointment, and may even find their lot harder. Is it worth it? That is one response.
Here is a very different response. Those who feared the Lord “talked with each other”, encouraging one another, and whilst they did so God “listened and heard”.
The scroll might refer to a scroll written in heaven, bearing their names, but more likely was a scroll they wrote, perhaps similar to what we find in Neh.9,10. They put in writing before the Lord their determination to remain faithful and live for him.
There may seem little distinction now between those who serve the Lord and those who do not, but a day is coming when a very stark distinction will be made. Those who fear him will be treated very differently, treated as a treasured possession and as a son. Prized, spared, shown compassion.
“Surely the day is coming”, and it is that day that makes it worthwhile to serve the Lord. Now evildoers might seem to prosper (3:15), but on that day evildoers will be as stubble to be thrown in the furnace. Such judgment will be final and total (root and branch).
In contrast, those “who revere my name” (cf.3:16) will experience the Lord’s presence as a healing, warming light. He is the “sun of righteousness” (cf. Psalm 84:1, Isaiah 60:2, Luke 1:78,79), come to restore and vindicate his people. It will be a day of exuberant joy and liberation (v.2b), when wicked oppressors are no more (v.3).
Such language can’t be dismissed as just OT language – compare Matt.3:10, 13:41-43 etc.
If people are to experience the day of the Lord’s coming as a day of salvation not a day of destruction then they need to do two things –
i) Remember the law of Moses, ie. keep the covenant. Or keep going back to Scripture we might say, not just to read it but to obey it.
ii) Receive the ministry of Elijah, that is John the Baptist (Matt.11:14), who called people to repent and pointed people to the coming ministry of Jesus.
On verse 6, compare Luke 1:17. Essentially this seems to relate to the fact that “Elijah’s” ministry would be one of calling people to repentance, this being one crucial aspect of that repentance. The breakdown of family life, mentioned in 2:10-16, was a crucial indication of their covenant unfaithfulness, and a restoration of family unity would be a clear indication of repentance. A failure to repent would bring judgment.