As you come to the end of chapter two and then into chapter three, put yourself in the place of the Jews.
Before the days of Babylonian captivity, God, though pointed in his condemnation of Judah, had promised a period of restoration: “I will restore the fortunes of Jacob’s tents and have compassion on his dwellings; the city will be rebuilt on her ruins, and the palace will stand in its proper place. From them will come songs of thanksgiving and the sound of rejoicing. I will add to their numbers, and they will not be decreased; I will bring them honor, and they will not be disdained. Their children will be as in days of old, and their community will be established before me; I will punish all who oppress them” (Jeremiah 30:18-20).
In captivity through Ezekiel the Lord promised: “My servant David will be king over them, and they will all have one shepherd. They will follow my laws and be careful to keep my decrees. . .They and their children and their children’s children will live there forever, and David my servant will be their prince forever. I will make a covenant of peace with them; it will be an everlasting covenant. I will establish them and increase their numbers, and I will put my sanctuary among them forever. My dwelling place will be with them; I will be their God, and they will be my people. Then the nations will know that I the Lord make Israel holy, when my sanctuary is among them forever.’ ”
Now, over a hundred years after the return from exile, none of the promised grandeur had occurred. It led the people to a religious atheism: they believed in God and talked about Him, but no one regarded Him seriously. Evil prospered and the weak were crushed. Where was God?
God was (and is) where He always was. The problem was, so were His people. Little had changed. They still had little regard for and took advantage of the poor and helpless. Their morals were more like those of the world than those of heaven. People cannot expect that God will keep His promises to generations who wear His name live like children of Satan. The promise God did keep was to preserve His people, always giving them more time, more chances, more forgiveness. But even that will come to an end, for Malachi tells us a day of judgment is coming.