Call from the wild, messenger from Malachi

We’ve come now to the next in prophecy of this little prophecy series, the last of which was seen here. This is indirectly concerned with Jesus since it is actually claimed to be a prophecy for John the Baptist. Mark also uses this one, but adds a little something. We’ll take a gander at that also. It is interesting in that the person involved apparently was an actual historic person for a change, at least according to Josephus. Let’s jump right in.

Read on then!

Matthew 3:1-3

In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judea, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”. For this is he who was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah when he said,
“The voice of one crying in the wilderness:
Prepare the way of the Lord,
makes his paths straight.”

What does Isaiah say? The relevant part is Isaiah Chapter 40:3. In the previous chapter, envoys are sent from Bablyon to King Hezekiah and he shows them all his stuff. Ever the inquiring mind, Isaiah asks what’s up. Hezekiah tells him and Isaiah responds that all his stuff is going to be captured and taken to Bablyon along with some of Hezekiah’s sons. That clever rascal Hezekiah says, “Great!”, thinking that hey, “There will be peace and security in my days.” That ends chapter 39 and in an abrupt non sequitor we get to chapter 40.
Isaiah 40: 1-5

Comfort, comfort my poeple,
says your God.
Speak tenderly to Jerusalem,
and cry to her that her warfare is ended,
that her iniquity is pardoned,
that she has received from the
Lord’s hand
double for all her sins.

A void cries:
“In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord,
make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
Every valley shall be lifted up,
and every mountain and hill be made low;
the uneven ground shall become level,
and the rough places a plain.
And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed
and all flesh shall see it together,
for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”

A voice says “Cry!”
and I said, “What shall I cry?”
All flesh is grass
and all beauty is like the flower of the field

…and goes about the impermanence of earthly things but God’s word is forever, etc.

Mark says (Mark 1:2-3):

As it is written in Isaiah the prophet,
“Behold, I send my messenger before thy face,
who shall prepare thy way;
the voice of one crying in the wilderness:
Prepare the way of the Lord,
make his paths straight–”

Mark mixes in a little Malachi. That is in Malachi 3:1.

“Behold, I send my messenger to prepare the way before me, and the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple; the messenger of the convenant in whom you delight, behold, he is coming, says the Lord of hosts….”

O.K. I’m convinced. Sure. Alex, I’ll go with “What is vague and doesn’t predict anything specifically?”. First on the prophecy from Isaiah. It says, “A voice cries. ‘In the wilderness prepare…”. Just a general voice, crying to prepare things in the wilderness for God because, well, stuff is getting better and God’s word is forever, the great composer Handel, notwithstanding. There’s nothing here relevant to a messenger in the wilderness telling people to get ready for an incarnation of God. The glory of God being revealed could mean anything and often does.

Now the Malachi verse, on the the face of, seems like it could be more relevant to the New Testament writers. It is actually the first prophecy we’ve encountered that could be plausibly taken to be a messianic type of prophecy. It is not at all clear to me how the way was prepared for Jesus and of course, we hear about John the Baptist from Josephus, but no similar corroboration of Jesus, for whom, supposedly John was preparing the way. Even then, in John 1:25-34, we have John explicitly recognizing Jesus as the messiah and in Matthew 11:2-3 and Luke 7:18-22, he did seem to have some doubts. Of course, he was in prison, so I guess we could cut him some slack.

But, here’s the fun part. What is the bigger context? If we check out Malachi Chapter 2, we have this (borrowing from here as I am too lazy to type everything straight from the Bible again:

Judah hath dealt treacherously, and an abomination is committed in Israel and in Jerusalem; for Judah hath profaned the holiness of the LORD which he loved, and hath married the daughter of a strange god.
2:12 The LORD will cut off the man that doeth this, the master and the scholar, out of the tabernacles of Jacob, and him that offereth an offering unto the LORD of hosts.
2:13 And this have ye done again, covering the altar of the LORD with tears, with weeping, and with crying out, insomuch that he regardeth not the offering any more, or receiveth it with good will at your hand.
2:14 Yet ye say, Wherefore? Because the LORD hath been witness between thee and the wife of thy youth, against whom thou hast dealt treacherously: yet is she thy companion, and the wife of thy covenant.
2:15 And did not he make one? Yet had he the residue of the spirit. And wherefore one? That he might seek a godly seed. Therefore take heed to your spirit, and let none deal treacherously against the wife of his youth. “Let none deal treacherously against the wife of his youth.”
2:16 For the LORD, the God of Israel, saith that he hateth putting away: for one covereth violence with his garment, saith the LORD of hosts: therefore take heed to your spirit, that ye deal not treacherously.
2:17 Ye have wearied the LORD with your words. Yet ye say, Wherein have we wearied him? When ye say, Every one that doeth evil is good in the sight of the LORD, and he delighteth in them; or, Where is the God of judgment?

Then we come to the messenger preparing the way verse, but God is coming so you better watch out (and you better not cry)!

Behold, I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me: and the LORD, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to his temple, even the messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in: behold, he shall come, saith the LORD of hosts.
3:2 But who may abide the day of his coming? and who shall stand when he appeareth? for he is like a refiner’s fire, and like fullers’ soap:
3:3 And he shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver: and he shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer unto the LORD an offering in righteousness.
3:4 Then shall the offering of Judah and Jerusalem be pleasant unto the LORD, as in the days of old, and as in former years.
3:5 And I will come near to you to judgment; and I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers, and against the adulterers, and against false swearers, and against those that oppress the hireling in his wages, the widow, and the fatherless, and that turn aside the stranger from his right, and fear not me, saith the LORD of hosts.

Now, this doesn’t sound like Jesus as at all! This is the Old Testament Judgment and Wrath God. According to the New Testament, he didn’t purify the sons of Levi. Offerings of Judah and Jerusalem actually stopped shortly after Jesus’ alleged death with the destruction of the temple. He was not a swift witness against sorcerers and adulterers. In fact, he said in an adultery case, “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone”. In the full context of Malachi, this doesn’t fit.

Let’s think about this. Malachi, probably in response to skeptics saying, “Where is this God of Judgement?”, says that a messenger is going to come before God who will prepare the way. Then God is going to come and everything in Israel/Judah is going to be like the old days, with proper pleasing sacrifices and everything. Then he’s going to judge those evil doers. What he does not say is that after the messenger, he’s going to come in incarnate form, speak in cryptic parables, bless the meek, whip some money changers in a temple and then die for our sins to be resurrected later and then come back yet again over 2000 years later to do the judging. What the gospel writers want to be the predicted story line doesn’t match what they say is the story. It is simply a verse pulled out of context to write a Jesus story so it looks like it matches.

Prophecy status: Busted.

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