The last book of the Old Testament comes 100 years after the end of the Babylonian captivity. The new temple has been built, but the promises God made to earlier prophets have not materialized. There has been no sign of the glory of God coming down on the temple, no nations are flooding into Jerusalem, and the age of miracles seems to be a thing of the past. Instead, God’s people are a smaller nation with a smaller temple, under the authority of the Persians and harassed by their closest neighbours.
They blamed God. Instead of open idolatry, they chose the path of quiet compromise. Instead of a burning faith, they merely maintained the externals. Orthodox without fire, dutiful without heart, worship without deep moral change—God’s people had abandoned their single-minded devotion to God, and it showed in moral compromise, parsimonious giving, and half-hearted worship.
Yet before God rebukes his people, he affirms his everlasting electing love for them. This is the only hope for spiritual apathy. Entering into this love can turn the refiner’s fire into the healing sun of righteousness which shines upon us. We are directed to Christ, who not only came to the temple with God’s glory but gave the temple of his body that we might become the temple of the living God.