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deconstructing justice (malachi 2:17-4:6)

I think we all tend to ignore evil until it hits us in the face. And then we are surprised when it does. Like the people in Malachi’s day, we ask, “Where is the God of justice?” while at the same time cringing at the thought of divine judgment (Mal 2:17).

“If only it were all so simple!” wrote Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, “If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?” The line between good and evil runs through each one of us.

If you’re going to deconstruct justice, you might want to ask, “whose judgment will be true, fair, impartial, merciful, and righteous?” Congress? The FBI? The United Nations? The World Economic Forum?

“I will send my messenger,” says the Lord, “who will prepare the way before me. Then suddenly the Lord you are seeking will come to his temple; the messenger of the covenant, whom you desire, will come” (Mal 3:1). Sounds like a GREAT idea!

Although God is not culpable for the evil in the world, he takes on the full weight of evil on his own very Self and overcomes it on the cross. Whew, right?

If you’re going to deconstruct justice, you might want to ask, “what more can the Lord do?” “He will be like a refiner’s fire or a launderer’s soap” (Mal 3:2; cf. 4:1). A refiner’s fire does not destroy indiscriminately like an incinerator. A refiner’s fire purifies by melting down the silver or gold and separating the impurities that ruin its value, leaving the silver and gold intact. God’s refining discipline frees us without destroying us (Mal 3:1-3).

If you’re going to deconstruct justice, you might want to ask, “What does Christ’s refining fire do to someone like me?” Malachi gives us four hints.

1) We’ll become bigger-hearted (generous). “Test me in this,” says the Lord, “and see if I don’t open up heaven itself to you and pour out blessings beyond your wildest dreams” (Mal 3:10-12, MSG).

2) We’ll get God’s ear. To “those whose lives honored God … God saw what they were doing and listened in … They will be my own special treasure” (Mal 3:16-17).

3) We’ll be free to dance. “For you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its rays. And you will go out and frolic like well-fed calves” (Mal 4:2).

4) We’ll experience relational healing. “He will turn the hearts of the parents to their children, and the hearts of the children to their parents” (Mal 4:6).

It is difficult to understand God’s ways. But we know that “the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and … disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it” (Heb 12:5-11).