The Old Testament Lesson for this Sunday is from the book of the prophet Malachi as contained in the Book of the Twelve (The Twelve Minor Prophets). The text is Malachi 4:1-6 in the English versions, but in the Hebrew Masoretic Text it is 3:19-24. In the English translation this pericope forms the last 6 verses of the Old Testament. As we near the end of the Church Year and the beginning of the season of Advent these verses seem good and proper.

“The Day” which is coming will obviously be an emotional roller coaster for our world. The unbelievers will be terrified by the fire and heat—the punishment and judgement to Hell—but the believer who is waiting and looking for this Day will leap for joy at the coming of the LORD. This is not an uncommon theme in the prophets and it helps inform our own waiting and watching for the return of the LORD. The question: “How does one wait and prepare for the second coming?”

It is very interesting to note the appearance of Moses and Elijah in this pericope. Since Jesus is known to us as the “New Moses,” as mentioned in Deuteronomy, and John the Baptist is the “New Elijah,” the voice of one calling in the wilderness of Isaiah (also Matthew 17:11-13), it brings to mind not only the questions of the Jews, “Who are you?” but also the events of the Mount of Transfiguration and the appearance of Moses and Elijah.

It is important to be careful in how one translates תּוֹרַת מֹשֶׁהi (to-Rat mo-Sheh) in verse four (3:22 in Hebrew). Translating simply as “the law of Moses” can lead to a misidentification of Torah with the Law, as in the 10 commandments, etc. The meaning is actually much broader and is the most prominent way to translate Torah. The best understanding for this term here is the complete teaching/revelation of the LORD. In other words, the statutes and rules, and the promises and instructions. When Moses and Elijah stand with Christ on the Mount of Transfiguration, they represent the work of the Law and the Prophets—all of it, both Law and Gospel. Thus, these last words of the Old Testament Scriptures prepare us for the incarnation and beyond.

4:1 (Hebrew 3:19)

בֹּעֵר (bo-Er) Qal, participle: “to burn”

כַּתַּנּוּר; (kat-tan-Nur) “oven; fire pot”

זֵדִים (ze-Dim) from: זד (zade) “arrogant; insolent; presumptuous”

רִשְׁעָה (rish-Ah) “evil; wickedness; offence”

קַשׁ; (Kash) “straw; stubble; chaff”

וְלִהַט (ve-li-Hat) root: להט (law-hat) Piel: “to set ablaze; to burn; to scorch; to devour; to burn up”

יַעֲזֹב; (ya-a-Zo) root: עזב (aw-zab) Qal: “to leave; to be left”

שֹׁרֶשׁ (Sho-resh) “root”

וְעָנָף (ve-a-Naf) “branch; twig; bough” It is no accident the prophet uses the Messianic terms “root and branch.” For the unbeliever there is no salvation like that which comes through the “Root and Branch” of Isaiah 11:1 and Jeremiah.

4:2 (Hebrew 3:20)

וְזָרְחָה (ve-za-re-Chah) root: זרח (zaw-rakh) Qal: “to rise; to shine”

יִרְאֵי (yir-Ei) root: ירא (yaw-ray) Qal, participle: “to fear; to honor; to reverence” “the ones who fear…”

וּמַרְפֵּא (u-mar-Pe) “healing; health”

וּפִשְׁתֶּם (u-fish-Tem) root: פושׁ (poosh) Qal, participle: “to leap; to frisk about; to spring about; grow fat”

כְּעֶגְלֵי (ke-eg-Lei) from: עגלe (ay-ghel) “calf; young bull”

מַרְבֵּק (mar-Bek) “fattening stall; stall”

4:3 (Hebrew 3:21)

וְעַסּוֹתֶם (ve-as-so-Tem) root: עסס (aw-sas) Qal: “to crush with foot; to tread down; to press”

אֵפֶר (E-fer) “dust; ashes”

כַּפּוֹת; (kap-Pot) “sole (of foot)”

עֹשֶׂה (o-Seh) Qal, participle: “to do; to act”

4:4 (Hebrew 3:22)

זִכְרוּ (zich-Ru) Qal, imperative: “to remember”

צִוִּיתִי (tziv-Vi-ti) root: צוה (tsaw-vaw) Piel: “to command”

4:5 (Hebrew 3:23)

שֹׁלֵחַ (sho-Le-ach) Qal, participle: “to send; to stretch out”

וְהַנּוֹרָא> (ve-han-no-Ra) “awesome; fearsome”

4:6 (Hebrew 3:24)

וְהֵשִׁיב (ve-he-Shiv) root: שׁוב (shoob) Hiphil: “to turn; to repent; to return”

*Note the causative nature; “He will cause the hearts of the fathers to turn…

חֵרֶם (Che-rem) “ban; curse” An interesting “last word” to prepare for the coming of the LORD!

Additional Resources:

Concordia Theology-Various helps from Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, MO to assist you in preaching Malachi 4:1-6.

Text Week-A treasury of resources from various traditions to help you preach Malachi 4:1-6.