4:1-6 GOD’S CARE IN THE DAY OF JUDGMENT
God’s action in destroying the wicked in the day of judgment is pictured in the illustration of a farmer burning off his field after he has harvested his grain. The righteous are likened to the farmer’s calves, which were previously tied up in the dark stalls but are now set free. They burst forth to go leaping and skipping over the recently burnt-off fields. As the sun shines down upon them it brings healing and vigour into their lives of newfound joy and freedom (4:1-3).
In view of their coming salvation, the righteous should remain faithful to God’s law. In addition they should look expectantly for the appearing of the Messiah’s forerunner, symbolized here under the name ‘Elijah’. If the people respond to the preaching of this Elijah, they will be united in one spirit with their believing forefathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. But if they refuse to repent, they will meet divine judgment (4-6).
The symbolic Elijah was John the Baptist (Matt 11:10-15; 17:10-13; Luke 1:13-17). After Malachi, John was the next prophet whose voice was heard in Scripture. The time of the Messiah’s appearing had arrived, and John’s voice announced, ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight’ (Mark 1:3; John 1:19-28; 3:26-30).