You will go out and frolic like well-fed calves. Malachi 4:2
A third-generation farmer, Jim was so moved when he read “You who revere my name . . . will go out and frolic like well-fed calves” (Malachi 4:2) that he prayed to receive Jesus’ offer of eternal life. Vividly recalling his own calves’ leaps of excitement after exiting their confined stalls at high speed, Jim finally understood God’s promise of true freedom.
Jim’s daughter told me this story because we’d been discussing the imagery in Malachi 4, where the prophet made a distinction between those who revered God’s name, or remained faithful to Him, and those who only trusted in themselves (4:1–2). The prophet was encouraging the Israelites to follow God at a time when so many, including the religious leaders, disregarded God and His standards for faithful living (1:12–14; 3:5–9). Malachi called the people to live faithfully because of a coming time when God would make the final distinction between these two groups. In this context, Malachi used the unexpected imagery of a frolicking calf to describe the unspeakable joy that the faithful group will experience when “the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its rays” (4:2).
Jesus is the ultimate fulfillment of this promise, bringing the good news that true freedom is available to all people (Luke 4:16–21). And one day, in God’s renewed and restored creation, we’ll experience this freedom fully. What indescribable joy it will be to frolic there!
How have you experienced freedom in Jesus? What other images help you to visualize joy?
Jesus, help me to live joyfully as I remember the freedom only You provide.
The two word pictures used in Malachi 4:2—“the sun of righteousness” and “healing in its rays—”stand in contrast with the verses on either side. Judgment comes into focus in verse 1, “[the day] will burn like a furnace,” and in verse 3, the prophet says the wicked “will be ashes under the soles of your feet.” On the other hand, how exhilarating it is to think of “healing rays” from the “sun of righteousness” (referring to the manifestations of God’s kindness; see Luke 1:78–79). Then there’s the lively activity pictured in the words, “And you will go out and frolic like well-fed calves” (Malachi 4:2). The blessed well-being vividly portrayed in this verse is the portion of those “who revere my name.” Revere is the translation of the Hebrew word yaw-ray’. This word is also used in 2:5 and 3:5 to remind God’s people to revere and fear Him in their worship.