“But unto you that fear my name shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in his wings; and ye shall go forth, and grow up as calves of the stall. And ye shall tread down the wicked; for they shall be ashes under the soles of your feet in the day that I shall do this, saith the LORD of hosts.” (Malachi 4:2-3)
In stark contrast to the destruction of the wicked, the deliverance of the God-fearing is presented. Since true conversion comes only through the avenue of the fear of the Lord, the redeemed are represented as you that fear my name. Victory through the person of Jesus Christ is promised to God's people. In this passage, Christ is likened unto the bright sun that brings light to the darkness. The word wings can also mean extremity. The wings depict the life-giving rays of the sun which represent the healing nature of Christ's person. To the repentant sinner, the light of Jesus Christ brings help and healing through the avenue of faith, but to the proud, His light means judgment and certain destruction. The word grow up means to spring about. In Habakkuk 1:8, the same word is translated spread. The picture is that of young calves who are full of energy and life. While running from the confinement of the stall, they kick their heals and throw about their heads with great energy. Such a picture vividly illustrates the joy and freedom of God's redeemed. Clothed in the righteousness of Jesus Christ, and having beheld His victory at last, God's people will break forth from the confinements of this wicked world and enjoy the righteous reign of their King. The main application is to Israel, but the principle holds true for all who have come to Christ in repentant faith.
Redeemed Israel is also given the promise that they shall tread down the wicked. As ashes which have no power to deliver themselves from those who would walk over them, so is the final end of those who resist God's doctrine. The main application of this may be realized by studying what God has to say concerning Israel's future victory. Though hated on every side, and consistently plagued with apostasy, Israel will someday be nationally redeemed, and the saints of God will be victorious when their Messiah returns. God's people will no longer be ruled by false religion. They will no longer be shunned and oppressed by a godless world. Instead, they will go forth in the power and authority of their Messiah, and in that day, they will be victorious.
It is important to note that such victory is only made possible through the person and work of Christ. Also, this treading down is not accomplished through a spirit of hatred and revenge on behalf of the believer. It is accomplished through the authority of God, and it is accomplished in God's time, and in His way. God's people are not commanded in this day to exercise physical warfare against unbelievers simply because they will not accept Christianity; however, there is a day coming when God's patience with the wicked will have an end, and in that day, the fire will fall, and God's people will enjoy the victory of their King.
The text never indicates that the people of Malachi's day witnessed a change in their circumstances. More than likely, they passed on into eternity without having beheld any repentance in their countrymen; yet, their end is not to be mourned. Through the eyes of faith, they held fast to God's commandments, knowing that better things lay ahead, as Hebrews 11:13 says, “ These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.” God does not guarantee deliverance from present circumstances, neither does He promise that His people will see His revenge upon the wicked in their lifetime, but He does guarantee the final victory; and what a victory it will be!