We have seen that this prophetic book is largely a collection of interactions between the Lord and the Israelites. They have complained against his providences, although as Malachi points out, these troubles came because they were not honouring the Lord as they should have done with their sacrifices and tithing. In verses 13 to 15, we see a repeated complaint that the people had. They accused the Lord of failing to bless his people, despite their perceived outward adherence to his commandments. Their eyes looked only on external matters, and therefore they noticed that they were worse off than those who did not acknowledge God.
Thankfully, there were those among the Israelites who were different from the formalists, and they are described in verses 16 to 18. They feared the Lord and had fellowship together. Of them, the Lord had no complaint, indeed he took great delight in them and made great promises to them.
Two details are mentioned about these people. One concerns their inner life and the other their outward conduct. Their inner quality was that they feared God and thought about his name. To fear God is to reverence him out of love to his unique and exalted character. A person that fears God obeys his commandments and confesses his faults unto the Lord.
These believers also meditate on the name of the Lord. ‘Name’ was often used as a substitute for ‘character’. When we apply it to the Lord, it refers to his attributes, abilities and aims. True believers love to talk about the Lord and his purposes and promises, whether to them personally or to the people of God in general. Circumstances are viewed from the point of view of his providence, they see his hand in all that takes place. Disappointments are his appointments. In Malachi’s day, the remnant was totally different from other religious people: the devout considered what was happening and thoughtfully considered why they were being chastised as a people, unlike the merely religious who accused God of being against them.
The outward feature that is recommended is their practice of meeting to speak with one another. No doubt these times of fellowship were like coals in a fire: each coal retained its heat because it was found among other burning coals. Their fellowship was edifying, encouraging and energising. It was edifying because they thought of God, it was encouraging because they applied what they knew of God to the current situation, and it was energising because it gave them strength to continue serving him. These three features are reasons why we must have fellowship with one another in our day as well.
It is also important to note that they met often with one another. The frequency gives insight into their desire for fellowship as well as their awareness of the duty of engaging in it. Duty would cause them to meet regularly, desire would lead them to meet often. This is the secret of Christian bonding and Christian love. It is impossible to grow in brotherly love if we do not meet together often.