Malachi 4:1-6 – The Hearts of Fathers & Children (Sermon Notes)


Text: Malachi 4:1-6
Title: The Hearts of Fathers and Children
Date: July 10th, 2022
Location: The King’s Congregation – Boise, Idaho


What is the last word of the Old Testament?
What is the last word that God gives to His people before 400+ years of prophetic silence?
The answer is the text I just read to you: Malachi 4:6 is how the Old Testament ends. And it ends with the word curse. Curse. How’s that for an ending?

  • It began with “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Gen. 1:1). And it ends with a threat that God will come and smite that same earth with a curse. This is God’s last word before a long silence.
  • In Hebrew this word curse is חֵרֶם (herem), and it is a important term that refers to something that is devoted or dedicated completely to God.
    • For example: In Leviticus 27 we read that in the year of Jubilee a field could be herem, and that meant it was most holy and could belong to the priest (who was also holy).
      • God says to the priests in Num. 18:14, “Every devoted thing (herem) in Israel shall be yours.”
    • But more frequently what we see is that herem refers to things that are utterly destroyed, totally burned up, completely consumed by fire.
      • The Amalekites were herem, which meant take no prisoners, kill everybody. There were special laws in Deuteronomy 20 that distinguished between fighting against nations that were herem (Hittites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites), and nations that were not.
      • When Samuel says to King Saul, “God has more delight in obedience than sacrifice,” it was because Saul had not obeyed these laws of warfare, he had not treated as herem, what God had commanded to be destroyed (1 Sam. 15).
    • We read in Joshua 6 that the entire city of Jericho was herem,and so when Achan took gold, silver, and a beautiful Babylonian garment, and hid it under his tent, what happened to him? The herem curse that fell upon Jericho, fell upon him as well. Achan was stoned and burned with fire(Joshua 7:25).
  • So you can think of herem as something that God has specially claimed for Himself, and if that thing is holy it will survive, it can belong to the priests, it can be redeemed, but if that thing or person or city or nation is unholy, they are like an ice cube flying into the sun, you’re not gonna make it.
  • This is the threat that God gives to His people, before 400 years of silence: The day of the lord is coming, burning like an oven; and the condition of the curse is that if the hearts of the fathers are not turned to the children, and if the hearts of the children are not turned to the fathers, God says, “I will come and strike the earth with a curse” (herem).

And so this morning I what I want to do is look at three questions that arise from this text, from these last words of Malachi, and they are these:

  1. What does the father/child relationship have to do with whether God blesses or curses the land? How are those two things connected?
  2. How does the ministry of John the Baptist, who comes in the Spirit of Elijah, fulfill this prophecy?
  3. How does Christ transform the relationship between fathers and children?

Question #1: What does the father/child relationship have to do with whether God blesses or curses the land?

To answer this question, we need to look at the rest of Malachi and the context in which he ministered.

  • We are not told exactly when Malachi prophesied, but we can infer from the contents of the book that it was probably after the events of Ezra and Nehemiah, and we know this because Malachi makes reference to the sacrificial offerings at the temple.
    • If you remember, the Jews had been in exile for 70 years after Babylon destroyed the temple, eventually Cyrus sends them back to rebuild it. Despite the adversity and some setbacks, they eventually complete this building project. And so this would place Malachi sometime around/roughly 480 BC.
  • Now if you were to read Ezra and Nehemiah, you would see that the sins that the Jews were committing then, are essentially the same sins that Malachi is prophesying against now. The primary ones being:
    • Intermarriage with unbelievers (marrying foreign women)
    • Unlawful divorces
    • Breaking the sabbath
    • All kinds of financial and economic corruption (offering lame sacrifices, polluted bread, not tithing, etc.)
    • And altogether playing the victim, living in unbelief, blaming God for their misfortune.
  • These are the sins that Malachi addresses in the first 3 chapters of the book, and the thing that all of these sins have in common is that they are uniquely religious sins, in a certain sense, they are sins that only Jews can commit because only Jews had this special covenant with God. Of course, all sin is ultimately religious, but these are the sins of apostasy, of covenant breaking, of violating a specific oath they swore back in Nehemiah 9-10.
    • This is why Malachi says in verse 4, “Remember ye the law of Moses my servant, Which I commanded unto him in Horeb for all Israel, With the statutes and judgments.” Notice he doesn’t say, remember the natural law, or remember the moral law, He says remember the law of Moses.
  • So what these sins have in common is that they are a violation of their covenant with God. I’ll read to you just a few of the things they swore to do in Nehemiah 10.
    • “Now the rest of the people…joined with their brethren, their nobles, and entered into a curse and an oath to walk in God’s Law, which was given by Moses the servant of God, and to observe and do all the commandments of the Lord our Lord, and His ordinances and His statutes: 30 We would not give our daughters as wives to the peoples of the land, nor take their daughters for our sons; 31 if the peoples of the land brought wares or any grain to sell on the Sabbath day, we would not buy it from them on the Sabbath, or on a holy day; and we would forego the seventh year’s produce and the exacting of every debt…35 And we made ordinances…to bring the firstfruits of our dough, our offerings, the fruit from all kinds of trees, the new wine and oil, to the priests, to the storerooms of the house of our God; and to bring the tithes of our land to the Levites…and we will not neglect the house of our God.”
  • Now maybe you are wondering, why do this? Why enter into a curse and an oath to keep God’s law in the first place?
    • Well aside from the fact that it’s the right thing to do because this is the one true religion, if you were to read Deuteronomy 28, or Leviticus 26, you would see that when you enter into a covenant with God, you immediately gain access to His special favor.
      • Yes there are curses if you disobey, but there are blessings for obedience: God promises to give you peace and prosperity, to make you the head and not the tail, to give you the rain in its season, to bless your crops and livestock, to give you health and abundance, to remove plague and disease from the land, no woman would be barren, there would no miscarriages or children dying in infancy (Ex. 23:26). These are the promised blessings on a nation that keeps covenant with God.
  • And so to return to our question, “How does the relationship between fathers and children affect whether God blesses or curses a land?”
    • The answer is that when fathers and children keep covenant with God, the land is blessed. And when there is enmity between fathers and children, all kinds of other sins manifest themselves. The relationship between fathers and children is a microcosm (a litmus test) for the spiritual state of the nation.
      • Almost all of the sins Malachi addresses you can trace back to the breakdown in the father/child relationship.
        • Children imitating the sins of their fathers, fathers setting a sinful example for their children.
        • So there is a connection here between the spiritual state of our families, and whether God blesses or curses a land.
        • How many school shootings are perpetrated by sons who have loving and godly fathers? Not many.
        • How many children are attempting to mutilate their bodies or change their gender who have loving and godly fathers? Not many.
        • Even secular research shows that fathers play the most significant role in whether vice or virtue is passed on to the children.
          • Fathers play the most significant role in whether children keep or abandon the faith.
      • When God proclaimed his name on Mount Sinai, he identifies himself this way, “The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth,keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children and the children’s children to the third and the fourth generation.” (Ex. 34:6-7).
      • Embedded in God’s name is that he forgives sin, but He also visits unrepentant sin–the iniquity of the fathers, upon the children and grandchildren to the 3rd and 4th generation.
  • So you can see why Malachi 4:6 is God’s last word to His people. Because generations are going to go by before the Messiah comes. And if the baton is not passed on, if the faith is not handed down from fathers to children, they won’t be ready when He comes, and if He shows up and finds iniquity in them, the day of the Lord is going to burn them up.
    • On the other hand, if they are ready, if fathers and sons and daughters are walking in the fear of the Lord, then Malachi 4:2-3 says, Unto you that fear my name shall the Sun of righteousness arise With healing in his wings; And ye shall go forth, and grow up as calves of the stall. And ye shall tread down the wicked; For they shall be ashes under the soles of your feet In the day that I shall do this, saith the Lord of hosts.”
    • Judgment is coming, and this means rewards/blessings for the righteous, and punishment/curses for the wicked. So which side are you on? Fathers, are you keeping covenant? Sons and daughters, are you keeping covenant? Or is there unrepentant sin and iniquity in your life? God’s blessing or curse, depends upon this.

Question #2: How does the ministry of John the Baptist, who comes in the Spirit of Elijah, fulfill this prophecy?

We read in Luke 1, that John’s parents were Zacharias and Elizabeth, and it says in verse 6 that, “they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless.” Here is an old married couple who have kept covenant with God. And yet, verse 7 says, “But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and they were both well advanced in years.”

  • Now a few verses later an angel is going to appear to Zacharias in the temple and tell him that his son is to be named John, and that he is going to fulfill Malachi 4:6.
    • Luke 1:13-17 says, But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zacharias, for your prayer is heard; and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John. 14 And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth. 15 For he will be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink. He will also be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb. 16 And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God. 17 He will also go before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, ‘to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children,’ and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”
  • So here we get an angelic explanation of Malachi 4:6 which fills out what John’s ministry is going to look like:
    • He is going to come in the spirit and power of Elijah
    • He will be full of the Holy Spirit even from the womb
    • He will turn the hearts of the fathers to the children
    • He will turn the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous
    • And all of this is to make them ready and prepared for Jesus.
  • So that is WHAT John is going to do, but we want to know HOW he does this. How does God through John turn the hearts of fathers to the children, and children to the fathers?
  • We are given a portrait of John’s ministry in all four gospels, and if we were to read all of that and summarize his ministry, we could say that John did 2 things:
    • 1. Preached repentance
    • 2. Baptized with water
  • He preached the necessity of repentance and confession of sin, and he baptized people as sign of cleansing from those sins.
    • In Luke 3 we get a sense of what this preaching was like, Then he said to the multitudes that came out to be baptized by him, “Brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Therefore bear fruits worthy of repentance, and do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I say to you that God is able to raise up children to Abraham from these stones.”
    • Notice that the sin of these people was to boast in having Abraham as their father, while not having the faith or fruit of Abraham’s life.
      • They pay lip service to Father Abraham, but John says, “I’m not seeing the family resemblance. You claim to be sons of Abraham, but you are sons of the serpent, you are a brood of vipers.”
      • The people respond and say, “what shall we do then?” (Luke 3:10).
      • John says in verse 11, “He who has two tunics, let him give to him who has none; and he who has food, let him do likewise.” 12 Then tax collectors also came to be baptized, and said to him, “Teacher, what shall we do?” 13 And he said to them, “Collect no more than what is appointed for you.” 14 Likewise the soldiers asked him, saying, “And what shall we do?” So he said to them, “Do not intimidate anyone or accuse falsely, and be content with your wages… (verse 18) And with many other exhortations he preached to the people.”
      • So think: What would John’s exhortation be to you? If John was here right now, wow would he call you in whatever vocation you are in to repentance?
      • Because that would be how he turns your heart as a father, to your children. And how he turns your heart as a son or daughter, back to your father, by first dealing with your own sins.
  • Here in Luke we notice the emphasis John places on justice and mercy, on generosity (sharing your food and clothing), on contentment with your wages, on not intimidating others or making false accusations.
    • Because if you are doing justice and mercy when you are outside the home, when you are away at your job, how much more should you show mercy and love to those in your own home, to your own flesh and blood?

Summary: What we see in John’s ministry is that the first step in bringing fathers and children back into fellowship, is to honestly confess your sins, to turn from them, and to follow that up with fruits keeping with repentance. “To love not in word and tongue only, but in deed and in truth” (1 John 3:18).

  • In Moscow, a lot of my work is discipling young men and talking with them about their relationship with their father, and it continues to amaze me how much good a godly father can do for his son (it’s encouraging to see), and on the flipside, it is frightening and sad how much damage a wicked father can do.
    • Whether we like it or not, we are all marked by our fathers, for good or ill (and usually both). And it is one of the most glorious things in the world to see the relationship between fathers and children healed, restored, made whole again.
  • So much of the enmity and breaches of fellowship come from not keeping short accounts; from fathers who never apologize or seek forgiveness from their children, who are harsh and overbearing, and from children who never confess the ways they have been ungrateful and disrespectful, disobedient to their parents.
    • We think that just because they sinned against us first, or their sins were more serious than ours, that we are somehow excused from needing to confess our sins. But that is not the Christian doctrine of repentance.
    • It says in 1 John 1:8-9, “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness…If we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.”
    • The only way to restore fellowship between fathers and children, is to first restore our fellowship with God. And this means: no excuses, no blaming the other person, and taking full responsibility for your sins, and giving them to God. If you do this, He will wash you, and then go and bear fruits keeping with repentance.
    • This is how John turns the hearts of fathers and children back to one another.

Question #3: How does Christ transform the relationship between fathers and children?

Now remember that all of John’s preaching and baptizing and reconciling fathers and children is to prepare them for the coming of Christ. Because Jesus is going to say even more provocative and radical things to them than John did.

  • For example, Jesus says, “If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple.” (Luke 14:26)
  • It says Luke 8:19-21, “Then His mother and brothers came to Him, and could not approach Him because of the crowd. 20 And it was told Him by some, who said, “Your mother and Your brothers are standing outside, desiring to see You.” 21 But He answered and said to them, “My mother and My brothers are these who hear the word of God and do it.”
    • Did that offend Mary?
  • Or Luke 12:51,53, “Do you suppose that I came to give peace on earth? I tell you, not at all, but rather division… 53 Father will be divided against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother…”
  • So Jesus comes after John has brought families back together and says, “Whatever love or loyalty you have for one another, you must give all of it to Me. I (Jesus) must first and foremost be the one you love, such that you hate all others and even your own life in comparison.” No one spoke like this man!
  • How can Jesus say this?
    • Well Jesus can say this because He is God. He is the Lord of the covenant. He is the one who baptizes every earthly relationship in fire. Meaning, the only way you can have real fellowship in your earthly, natural, familial relationships, is by first dying to them, by setting them on the altar, by placing them at Jesus feet.
    • Christ transforms every relationship.
  • And so the progression that Malachi sets in motion is that John will come and bring us to Jesus, and then Jesus will come and He will bring us to the Father. That is what all this preparation is for: the revelation of who God is as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
    • Jesus is the perfect son who reveals to us the perfect Father.
    • Jesus is the eternally begotten Son upon whom the love of the Spirit descends.
    • And the reason He calls you to die and follow him, is so that He can:
      • Bring you to The Father’s House.
      • So that he can heal your father wounds.
      • To give you the Father’s comfort.
      • To forgive you for all the ways you have been a rebellious child or a wicked father.
      • And to give you the possibility of eternal fellowship with your natural family if they also will follow Christ.
      • Jesus says, “If you’ve seen me, you’ve seen the Father.” And if God is your Father, and you are his son, then the words He declares at Jesus’ baptism are true for you in Christ, “You are my beloved son, and in You I am well pleased.” These are your Father’s words to you.


Do you know the love of the Father? Has your heart been turned to Him?

It says in Psalm 103:11-14

11  For as the heavens are high above the earth,

So great is His mercy toward those who fear Him;

12  As far as the east is from the west,

So far has He removed our transgressions from us.

13  As a father pities his children,

So the Lord pities those who fear Him.

14  For He knows our frame;

He remembers that we are dust.

  • God knows you. He does not ask from you more than you can give, and what He asks for is everything. And if you will hate your life and follow Jesus, He will lead you Home, “He will wipe away every tear from your eyes; there will be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things will have passed away” (Rev. 21:4).
  • The Old Testament ends with the word curse, but the New Testament ends with a blessing, “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.”