With these words the books of Zechariah and Malachi both introduce prophetic verses directed toward the people of Israel with words of hope and promises of future glory, but there is something different in these prophecies then those who had prophesied before. These were prophets who were living in a post-exile Israel. They had seen the promises of return fulfilled but life wasn't quite up to the standards promised. People wondered what the God they were serving was up to. Was THIS the best he could do?
- In Malachi 1 these words begin a dialog between יהוה and those still learning to live in a new context as children of Israel in a world after the exile and the return. THE LORD says he has loved the people, and they respond by questioning THE LORD's words. It's like they are declaring, "if you REALLY loved us things wouldn't be so bad." Malachi itself is different in allowing this voice to be heard. He has moved away from the structured poetry and the prophecy itself seems more disjointed.
- In Zechariah 9 the word of THE LORD goes out against the enemies of Israel. The word presents an image of victory over the enemies of Israel through direct, almost apocalyptic literature. There isn't the kind of militaristic victory presented as in years past. Now victory is seen more mystically.
- In Zechariah 12 the word of THE LORD goes out proclaiming an new kingdom of Israel in eschatological terms. In fact the entire spiritual life of the people seems to have become more eschatological. Instead of prophecy being tangible, with the physical stunts and signs used to communicate the power of the message, now there are angelic figures used to validate the message. (1:9; 5:12; 6:5)
Heaven would NEED to break open and God's furry would need to reign down. Hope is found in the eschaton more and more. Only a DIVINE action would be able to bring about the reign of God
This is why I think it's pretty amazing Zechariah and Malachi finish off the Old Testament in protestant Bibles.
If you are reading through a Bible cover to cover you go from an expectation of a divine action of POWER unseen in all of history to the divine action of the incarnation in JESUS who begins his teaching ministry in the New testament with Matthew 5 which tells us that it is not through great POWER that the kingdom will come but through the POOR IN SPIRIT. It is not the might of Angels that will conquer the world but THE MEEK will inheret the earth.
Zechariah and Malachi recognize that there is a great need for a great move of God but no one could have guessed that the great power that would change the world would come through a lamb that was slain. THIS is the Lion of Judah that prevailed (Revelation 5:5-6) this is the great power of God that they looked for.
God vindicates His name by showing that even in poverty he can have the victory, and that through humility there is an eschatological hope greater then that offered by any empire.