In John 1 that we read on Thursday last week, we see how the Pharisees asked John the Baptist if he was Elijah. This is in linking back to Malachi 3 and 4. The Pharisees and Teachers of the Law would have studied the scriptures all their life. They had to memorise them and know all the additional rules that had become tradition in the Jewish religion. They would know at the time of Jesus being born and then later baptised that there had been 400 years since God had spoken to the Israelites through the Prophet Malachi. God promised to send a messenger of the covenant, one who was going to come and refine Israel and bring them back to Him once and for all.
However this will not come easy to them. We see how it is described that they will be refined with fire, just as gold or silver are, melted down and the pure separated from the impure. God says how he has heard the words of those in Israel who still love him and he has written them on a scroll ready for that day.
God tells them that he is doing this because for centuries Israel have moved away from Him, then been oppressed, called out to God, been saved, then moved away again, and this is a warning and a promise that the time for going around in circles again is to stop.
So we land at the point where the Pharisees were standing on the shores of the Jordan hearing John shout about the day of the LORD coming. Then they remember this final warning “I will send my messenger, 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,” says the Lord Almighty. I would imagine it was met with mixed feelings; those who had hearts that were for God would have been filled with joy and ready for his coming. However, those who were just paying lip service to God may have felt dread and despair, knowing that God was fulfilling his promise.
They didn’t need to despair though, as God this time wasn’t coming to fulfil the judgement part of His warning. This was the last chance for them to change, and to turn to Him. Jesus gives us that chance to change our hearts so that when it does come to the day of judgment, we will be refined, but come out pure and not impure if we turn to him now, repent, and live a life that honours Him.