1 "For behold, the day comes that shall burn as an oven, and all the proud and all who do wickedly shall be stubble. And the day that comes shall burn them up," says the LORD of hosts, "so that it shall leave them neither root nor branch. 2 But to you who fear my name, the Sun of righteousness shall arise with healing in his wings, and you shall go forth and grow up as calves of the stall. 3 And you shall tread down the wicked, for they shall be ashes under the soles of your feet in the day which I am preparing," says the LORD of hosts.
4 "Remember the law of Moses my servant, which I commanded to him in Horeb for all Israel, with the statutes and judgments.
5 "Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD. 6 And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse."
This chapter contains an account of the destruction of the wicked Jews, and the happiness of the righteous by the coming of the Messiah; an exhortation to regard the law of Moses; and a description of John the Baptist and his work. The day of Christ's coming, reaching to Jerusalem's destruction, is compared to a burning oven; the wicked Jews to stubble, whose ruin would be utter and complete (verse 1), the appearance of Christ is signified by the arising of him, the Sun of righteousness; the manner, with healing in his wings; the effects of which are, going forth in the exercise of grace, and the discharge of duty, and spiritual growth and triumph over their enemies, in which will lie the happiness of those who fear God (verses 2-3), who are put in mind of the law of Moses on Horeb (verse 4), the sending of John the Baptist under the name of Elijah, before the coming of Christ is prophesied of (verse 5), and his work pointed out, with the end of it (verse 6).John Calvin's Prayer for verses 3:18-4:2:
Grant, Almighty God, that as you have appointed your only-begotten Son to be like a sun to us, we may not be blind, so as not to see his brightness; and that since he is pleased to guide us daily into the way of salvation, may we follow him and never be detained by any of the impediments of this world, so as not to pursue after that celestial life to which you invite us; and that as you have promised that he is to come and gather us into the eternal inheritance, may we not in the meantime grow wanton, but on the contrary watch with diligence and be ever attentively looking for him; and my we not reject the favor which you have been pleased to offer us in him, and thus grow torpid in our dregs, but on the contrary be stimulated to fear your name and truly to worship you, until we shall at length obtain the fruit of our faith and piety, when he shall appear again for our final redemption, even that sun which has already appeared to us, in order that we might not remain involved in darkness, but hold on our way in the midst of darkness, even the way which leads us to heaven.— Amen.
[v.3] - Reference, Genesis 3:15; Job 40:12; Psalm 91:13; Daniel 7:18, 27; Zechariah 10:5; Romans 16:20; Revelation 11:15.
[v.6] - Quoted in Luke 1:17.John Calvin's Prayer for verses 3-6:
Grant, Almighty God, that as nothing is omitted by you to help us onward in the course of our faith, and as our sloth is such that we hardly advance one step though stimulated by you,— O grant, that we may strive to profit more by the various helps which you have provided for us, so that the Law, the Prophets, the voice of John the Baptist, and especially the doctrine of your only-begotten Son, may more fully awaken us, that we may not only hasten to him, but also proceed constantly in our course, and persevere in it until we shall at length obtain the victory and the crown of our calling, as you have promised an eternal inheritence in heaven to all who do not faint but wait for the coming of the great Redeemer.— Amen.