His holy nation
Many a world-conquering king, such as Nebuchadnezzar, was so rich in gold, silver and gemstone valuables that he could easily forget many of his most prized items. So he would keep near his person and under the watchful eyes of his close bodyguards the private collection of his specially treasured possessions, known in Hebrew as his segullah (1 Chronicles 29:3, ‘my personal treasure’ – the root of the word indicates something that has been shut away). Interestingly, God only ever used this word about his chosen people (Psalm 135:4). From the very beginning of their nationhood, when he had delivered the children of Israel from slavery in Egypt and was about to enter a marriage covenant with them at Sinai as they agreed to keep his commandments, he called Israel ‘my treasured possession’ (Exodus 19:5). Later he used this tender term repeatedly when addressing through Moses the next generation of Israel, born during the forty years of wilderness wanderings, as they prepared to enter and possess the promised land, to assure them how highly he valued them as ‘his treasured possession’ (Deuteronomy 7:1, 6; 14:2; 26:1, 18).
 His faithful remnant
Through the subsequent centuries the nation as a whole was unfaithful to the Lord, yielding allegiance to foreign gods, till he sent first the northern tribes and later the southern tribes into exile far from their homeland. When offered their release, only a remnant of Judah chose to return and rebuild the Lord’s altar. But eventually most of them became unfaithful. By the days of the prophet Malachi most merely went through the external motions of religion – offering damaged animals in sacrifice (see Malachi 1:6-14), while withholding their annual tithes (see Malachi 3:6-12); and the officiating priests were divorcing their wives and marrying idolaters ( Malachi 2:10-16). God found no pleasure in their religious activities ( Malachi 1:10; 2:17).
‘Then those who feared the Lord spoke with one another. The Lord paid attention and heard and a book of remembrance was written before him of those who feared the Lord and esteemed his name. ‘They [emphatic] shall be mine,’ says the Lord of hosts, ‘my treasured possession, on the day when I act’ [NIV margin], ‘and I will spare them …’ (Malachi 3:16-17). ‘[F]or you who fear my name, the sun of righteousness shall rise with healing in its wings [rays]. You shall go out leaping like calves [released] from the stall …’ (Malachi 3: 4:2).
 Characteristics of God’s treasured possession
- They revered the Lord and honoured his name (consequently they would have had access to his secret counsel; see Psalm 25:14 margin)
- They spoke to one another about the Lord and his interests (compare Colossians 3:16, and Anna and Simeon in Luke 2:22-38) – children with parents (Malachi 4:6)
- They attracted God’s close attention (see Titus 1:14; 1 Peter 2:9)
- They stayed spiritually fit and zealously young at heart
- They will survive the end-time tribulation, being meaningfully involved in God’s programme in the last days