These small group studies of Malachi contain outlines, cross-references, Bible study discussion questions, and applications. Visit our library of inductive Bible studies for more in depth inductive studies on this and other books of the Bible you can use in your small group.
Malachi 3:1-7 Inductive Bible Study
I. John the Baptist’s coming (1-7)
Who does “My messenger” refer to?
What was he going to do?
Who is the Lord? What does this tell us about the Messiah?
Who is the messenger of the covenant? What is the covenant He would be a messenger of?
What would the Messiah do when He appears? Do you think this refers to the first or second coming or both?
What is a refiner’s fire?
What did the Messiah desire to do with His people and His leaders?
How can we let Him refine us?
What kind of offering may be pleasing to Him?
What else do we see the Messiah is going to do (verse 5?) Is this the first or second coming? How do you know?
What does verse 6 mean? How can this verse comfort or reassure us?
John 3:17, 12:47 – I did not come to judge the world.
Matthew 3:3, John 1:23 – John the Baptist fulfills OT prophecy.
Zechariah 13:9 – God’s people will be refined as in a fire.
Isaiah 48:10 – I have refined you in the furnace of affliction.
Job 23:10 – When He has tried me I shall come out as gold.
Psalm 66:10 – You have tried us as silver is tried.
1 Peter 1:7 – God tests the genuineness of our faith.
1. My messenger – This most likely refers to John the Baptist. John even recites a similar OT passage from Isaiah 40:3 in John 1:23 and claims to have fulfilled it. John was a little bit older than Jesus and started his ministry several years before Jesus did. The main thrust of his ministry was to encourage people to repent and prepare themselves for the coming Messiah. In John 1:29 John, as God’s messenger, declares that Jesus is that Savior who will take away the sins of the world. Finally John laid down his life as a martyr.
The lesson from John’s life is the same as in Malachi. We have been learning in the first two chapters that we should give God the honor He deserves. He is worthy of glory and honor. Our offerings and our very lives should reflect that truth. John lived this out. He said that Jesus’ ministry must increase while his own must decrease. He wasn’t seeking the glory for himself, but freely pointed people to Christ. While we are not THE messenger coming before the Messiah, we are still His messengers to the world. And our job is ultimately the same as John’s, to point people to Christ. Are you pointing people to Christ or to yourself?
2. The Lord will suddenly come to His temple – The Messiah is who they had been waiting for. It was believed that He would make everything better. He would bring prosperity and save them from whatever troubles they faced. In verse 2 we will see that His coming is not all as rosy as they thought. It would be sudden, which shows that it would be somewhat unexpected. These verses (especially verse 2) seem to refer to Jesus’ second coming rather than His first coming. But he did fulfill the part about being a “messenger of the covenant” already. Jesus was a messenger of the New Covenant. See for example Matthew 26:28.
3. Who can endure the day of His coming – Malachi makes it clear that the Messiah was coming as a judge. It was a warning to the Jews to get their act together. Of course we know that by our own merit no one can stand before Him. But thanks to Christ’s sacrifice for us, we can stand. It is because of what He has done for us, not by our own merit.
4. He is like a refiner’s soap – Ever heard of the song “refiner’s fire?” This song is based on passages like this. In the time of Malachi the Levi’s were corrupted. Their hearts were not sincere. They were selfish and dishonored God. God wanted to purify them. Even here in the Old Testament we see that we must rely on God’s grace (to purify us) and not on our own abilities. Many believe that the seven year tribulation period will be a time when the Jews’ hearts are purified through intense persecution and affliction and as a nation (though not every single person) largely turn to Jesus.
Though being refined as a fire would not be comfortable, they should take this promise as a comfort. God did not abandon them when they became dirty and corrupted. He didn’t reject them. Instead He keeps working with them. He uses events and persecution to clean them until their hearts return to Him once again. Throughout this process He shows His patience, compassion, and grace. After all, He had made a covenant with them. Even though they didn’t fulfill their part of it, He would still fulfill His part. When they are faithless He remained faithful.
Application: One application from this passage can be applied to marriage which we have been studying in chapter two. This is also a covenant relationship. Even if our spouse is not faithful to the promises they have made, we should continue to be faithful. We should not use their faithlessness to go back on our word. Instead we should be patient, merciful, and gracious to do everything we can to restore the relationship.
In this passage we see that God will purify the sons of Levi. How about you? Will God refine you like this? Can you give any examples?
We also need refining. The good news for us is that just like God didn’t abandon the Jews when they sinned, He will not abandon us either. He wants to purify us. He wants to cleanse us. He may also use the trials and difficulties in our lives to teach us about His character and to shape our character. What event or person in your life do you think God is using to shape your character? A fire is hot. It will not be comfortable for us. But it will be good for us. Logic would tell us that sooner we allow those impurities to be sifted out, the sooner we can be taken out of the fire.
5. Verse 4- Here we see Malachi return back to the problem we saw in chapter 1. In chapter 1 we learned that their offerings were an insult to God. They were giving the lame and the blind to Him, showing that their hearts were not in it. But when their hearts were purified, their motivations were then pure and God was pleased.
6. Verse 5 – When the Messiah comes some people will have been purified, but some will be judged. What is the difference? The people who are purified were willing to be changed. They allowed those impurities to be taken away. They allowed themselves to be cleansed. They listened to the message of the new covenant and accepted it. But in verse 5 we see not everyone does. Many will not listen or repent. Instead they will continue stubbornly and pridefully in their sin. What is the result? Those who have not repented will be judged. We see in their actions that they don’t fear God. If they feared God, what would they have done? Those who fear God will listen to His message and repent if necessary. The person who doesn’t fear God continues sinning believing they will never be punished for it. But God has the last Word. He sees all and knows all. Will you be one of the people in verse 5 who is judged for their rebellion and lack of fear to God? Or will you be one of the people in verses 3-4 who are purified by Him?
7. I do not change – Here is the reason that God did not reject them. He had made a covenant with them. He had chosen them as His special people. This choice was made when they didn’t deserve it. It was made with full knowledge that they were sinners and that they would rebel against Him many times. He made this choice by the act of His own will. Because this choice did not originally depend on them, even when they rebelled against Him later He would not reject them and completely destroy them.
Application: This is the same reason we have eternal security. God chose to save us in spite of our sin even when we did not deserve it (Romans 5:8). He knew who we were and still offered His grace and forgiveness. Even if after believing in Christ you stumble and fall in to sin, God will not cast you out because He doesn’t change. His Word doesn’t fail. His promises are sure.
8. Verse 7 – For much of Israel’s history they did not have a good relationship with God. Far from God, they were often recipients of His discipline. But here we see that this was not God’s choice. He did not leave them. It was they who left Him. We see God’s grace, patience, and faithfulness. He is like the prodigal son’s father, always waiting to joyfully welcome His son to return again. See 2 Timothy 2:13.
Application: Is your relationship with God suffering? Do you feel that He is distant? If so, it is not because He left you, but it is because of sin in your life. The choice before you is simple. Return to Him and He will return to you. That requires confession of sin and repentance. Notice that the following verses detail some of the ways they had turned away from God. They could always come back to God, but that would require admitting their sin and changing their ways.