Friday, April 27, 2007


Malachi 4. What A Difference A Day Makes

Some of us have recently had our car in for a scheduled check-up. Students have just recently or soon will be engaged in some check-ups called exams. And to prepare the way for further education, students have engaged in a check-up called the HSC, Bethany and Jacob Barker are engaged in that this year. And some of us have been to see our Doctors for our annual check-up. Check-ups are important. If we do them right and don’t play games, they are beneficial, healthy. As prophecy comes to a close in Scripture, God calls me in for a personal check-up. Malachi lived in a day when political leaders who professed to be believers violated God’s righteous expectations, abused their office and betrayed the public trust. Religious leaders were “professionals” who were out for what was in it for them. They had little time and little heart for God. And a depressingly large number of the ordinary folk who considered themselves religious had so bought into the pagan value system that for them God’s Promised Messiah was little more than a fairy tale. And in this setting the prophet looks back to the roots of the promise to Abraham and Moses and David, then forward to the fulfillment of the Promise–the awesome Day of the Lord, and he calls all who will hear him to engage in a personal checkup.
There was one question that is asked always and is asked today, as it was asked then: What’s the difference between the righteous and the wicked?”
I talked with our painter about that on Friday. Paul talked with a Roman governor about that in Acts 24 :24 After some days, when Felix came with his wife Drusilla, who was Jewish, he sent for Paul and listened to him on the subject of faith in Christ Jesus. 25 Now as he spoke about righteousness, self-control, and the judgment to come, Felix became afraid and replied, “Leave for now, but when I find time I’ll call for you.”
What’s the difference between the righteous and the wicked?”
First, there is a difference. Last week we saw that most in Malachi’s first audience were corrupt, vicious and arrogant. They called evil good, and good evil (3:13). They thought they were getting away with murder so they must be blessed. But God knew better. Now, there were also some in that first audience who “feared the LORD.” And Malachi, along with all the prophets, declares unequivocally that God knows the difference. And this one-of-a-kind, gracious God spares them like a man spares his own child. There IS a difference.
1. There Is A Difference In Destination
And there is going to be a difference. Some prophecy is prediction. And sometimes the prediction functions as a credential so “by this you shall know that the LORD has sent me...; for this is not my doing.” But often the prediction itself adds to the message– the teaching God has sent.
God says, “Look here! The day is coming.” (4.1) Malachi refers to this “day” in 3.17 “the day that I prepare my own possession.” Here in 4.1. Again in verses 3 and 5 “on that day when I do these things” and “that great and awesome day of the LORD.” He uses the same kind of language the prophet Joel uses
(Joel 2.11, 31). The Lord raises His voice in the presence of His army. His camp is very large; Those who carry out His command are powerful. Indeed, the Day of the Lord is terrible and dreadful— who can endure it? 30 And I will shew wonders in the heavens and in the earth, blood, and fire, and pillars of smoke. 31 The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and the terrible day of the LORD come.
For each of the prophets who speak about this “day of the LORD” it is “near” or “at hand.” As they saw it, it could happen at any time because they saw evidence that God was so engaged in their own day. And at the same time, they realized that there were aspects of this “day’ which were yet future when God would offer His Son to suffer for the sins of many and rise victorious over sin and death to reign in righteousness over all the nations.
Zech 14.1, A day of the Lord is coming when your plunder will be divided in your presence. 2 I will gather all the nations against Jerusalem for battle. The city will be captured, the houses looted, and the women raped. Half the city will go into exile, but the rest of the people will not be removed from the city. 3 Then the Lord will go out to fight against those nations as He fights on a day of battle.
8-9 And it shall be in that day, that living waters shall go out from Jerusalem; half of them toward the former sea, and half of them toward the hinder sea: in summer and in winter shall it be. 9 And the LORD shall be king over all the earth: in that day shall there be one LORD, and his name one.
The prophets saw two sides to this “day.” On the one hand, it was a dark day for unrepentant rebels; a day when God holds the wicked accountable. The prophets use the metaphor of a “consuming fire.”3
But this same “great and awesome day of the LORD” is also a bright and glorious day. For believers, it is marked by the “sun of righteousness” who is a “light to the nations.”
Malachi speaks of him as the “messenger of the covenant” whom God would send (3:1). And 400 years later the Jewish priest, Zacharias, indicates that some in the Jewish community understood and believed this.Luke 1: 76 And thou, child, shalt be called the prophet of the Highest: for thou shalt go before the face of the Lord to prepare his ways; 77 To give knowledge of salvation unto his people by the remission of their sins, 78 Through the tender mercy of our God; whereby the dayspring from on high hath visited us, 79 To give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.
He links Malachi’s “sun of righteousness” with the advent of Messiah that Isaiah 9 Galilee of the nations. 2 The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined.
The prophets saw this “day of the LORD” as one day with successive development over time until it reached its ultimate goal. The prophets are clear that the distinction is not between plaster saints and wretched ogres. We’re all sinners. It’s between arrogant self-righteousness on the one hand and repentance and faith in God’s gracious Promise on the other.
Check-up: So, Where do I stand? Am I responding to God’s taking the initiative to love me by loving him back with all my heart, all my soul, all my ability? Do I more and more consistently choose to renounce sin and accept His forgiveness and cleansing. Is my relationship with Him authentic? Do I belong to Him?
“For indeed, the day is coming, burning like a furnace, when all the arrogant and everyone who commits wickedness will become stubble. The coming day will consume them,” says the Lord of • Hosts, “not leaving them root or branches. 2 But for you who fear My name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings, and you will go out and playfully jump like calves from the stall. 3 You will trample the wicked, for they will be ashes under the soles of your feet on the day I am preparing,” says the Lord of Hosts
Loel Stein, columnist for the Los Angeles Times said: Heaven is totally overrated. It seems boring. Clouds, listening to people play the harp. It should be somewhere you can’t wait to go, like a luxury hotel. Maybe blue skies and soft music were enough to keep people in line in the 17th century, but Heaven has to step it up a bit. They’re basically getting by only because they only have to be better than Hell.
2. There Is A Difference In Direction
I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed, and I am convinced that he is able to guard until that Day what has been entrusted to me. --2 Timothy 1:12
A Christian always lives for two days, this day and "that" day. Obviously, believers are to live for this day…the current day…the time God has given us here on earth to worship and serve Him. But we are also headed for an even bigger day: "that" day! Paul was using this term to refer to the time when Jesus Christ will come for us and we finally get to see Him face to face in all of His glory! What a glorious day that will be, the day when Christ returns for us and we get to be with Him for all eternity. So even though as Christians we live for this day, everything we do should be in preparation for that day when we will be with Christ. Our calling as believers is to obey God and live fully for Christ until the glorious day of His return. Are you preparing for Christ's return? If not, you can start today by living this day in light of that day.
4 “Remember the instruction of Moses My servant, the statutes and ordinances I commanded him at Horeb for all Israel.
So first: “Remember the law of my servant Moses, the decrees and laws that I gave him at Horeb for all Israel.” Malachi 4:4 Remember God’s Torah: His Instructions; God’s righteous expectations. Jesus said, “do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.” Matt 5:17-19 These instructions expose our rebellious heart and drive us to God’s Promised Messiah–our only hope. (Gal 3.22-24)
Now, in Hebrew “to remember” is not merely to recall or to think about the past. “Remember” is not synonymous with “action” but the two ideas are connected. Remembering implies doing. So, e.g., Nehemiah prays, “Remember me...O my God, and show mercy to me according to your great love.” Neh 13:22 Remembering implies doing something. Last week we saw the arrogant challenged for their disregard for God’s covenant expectations. God challenges me to check and see how I’m living in light of His righteous expectations.
Check-up: How is it going? In what ways am I “remembering” God’s Word? Is God’s Word a “lamp to my feet and a light to my path”? Am I consciously living before an audience of One. Does my life–my attitude, my values, my choices and behaviour give plausible evidence of a loving, personal relationship with Holy God? Does my behaviour, do my responses indicate that I love my neighbor as myself?
3. There Is A Difference In Dynamic
Look, I am going to send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome Day of the Lord comes.
6 And he will turn the hearts of fathers to [their]children and the hearts of children to their fathers. Otherwise, I will come and strike the land with a curse.”
Malachi reminds his audience of the prophets, God’s spokespersons. Here he highlights a little different aspect of the role of God’s spokesperson: “Look here! I’m going to send you Elijah the prophet before that great and awesome day of the LORD comes. Presidents and prime ministers, kings and queens have “advance people” to get things ready for them. God would enlist an advance man for the Messiah.
This prophecy of Elijah’s coming has 2 dimensions to it. There is The First coming of Jesus prepared by the coming of Elijah. Though Malachi and his audience may not have known it at the moment, prophecy was over until God would send THE Prophet–God’s Ultimate Spokesman–Jesus. And just before He comes on the scene, God would send a spiritual descendant of Elijah to come and prepare the way for Messiah. For the prophet Malachi and his first audience and for the next 400 years they were looking for one who would prepare the way for the God’s Messiah to come the first time to pay a debt he did not owe in order to provide for you and me a gift we do not deserve. Still today, when observant Jews say grace at mealtime they pray “May God in His mercy send us the prophet Elijah.” After reading from the prophets on Sabbath they recite “Let us rejoice, O Lord, through your servant, the prophet Elijah, and through the kingdom of David, your Messiah. May he come soon and rejoice our hearts.” Elijah was known for his transformational leadership. He made a difference. He denounced rebellious idolatry and called for repentance–challenged his audience to turn their hearts back to the faith of Abraham and Isaac, of Moses and David–believers whose hearts sought after God.. And John also made a difference as an advance man for Jesus.
Luke 1: 16And many of the children of Israel shall he turn to the Lord their God. 17 And he shall go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.
So Jesus says of John the Baptist: “This is the one about whom it is written: 'I will send my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way before you.' I tell you the truth: Among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist.... And if you are willing to accept it, he is the Elijah who was to come.”
There is a Second Coming of Jesus prepared again by a coming of Elijah. Notice Malachi 4:5 Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD:
Notice there it is an end times event that is prophesied. In a very difficult piece of Scripture John writes:
Revelation 11:1 And there was given me a reed like unto a rod: and the angel stood, saying, Rise, and measure the temple of God, and the altar, and them that worship therein. 2 But the court which is without the temple leave out, and measure it not; for it is given unto the Gentiles: and the holy city shall they tread under foot forty and two months. 3 And I will give power unto my two witnesses, and they shall prophesy a thousand two hundred and threescore days, clothed in sackcloth. 4 These are the two olive trees, and the two candlesticks standing before the God of the earth. 5 And if any man will hurt them, fire proceedeth out of their mouth, and devoureth their enemies: and if any man will hurt them, he must in this manner be killed. 6 These have power to shut heaven, that it rain not in the days of their prophecy: and have power over waters to turn them to blood, and to smite the earth with all plagues, as often as they will. 7 And when they shall have finished their testimony, the beast that ascendeth out of the bottomless pit shall make war against them, and shall overcome them, and kill them. 8 And their dead bodies shall lie in the street of the great city, which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified. 9 And they of the people and kindreds and tongues and nations shall see their dead bodies three days and an half, and shall not suffer their dead bodies to be put in graves. 10 And they that dwell upon the earth shall rejoice over them, and make merry, and shall send gifts one to another; because these two prophets tormented them that dwelt on the earth. 11 And after three days and an half the Spirit of life from God entered into them, and they stood upon their feet; and great fear fell upon them which saw them. 12 And they heard a great voice from heaven saying unto them, Come up hither. And they ascended up to heaven in a cloud; and their enemies beheld them. 13 And the same hour was there a great earthquake, and the tenth part of the city fell, and in the earthquake were slain of men seven thousand: and the remnant were affrighted, and gave glory to the God of heaven.
A couple of weeks ago in our midweek meeting we examined how Zechariah 2 and this passage fit together. It appears that maybe John the Baptist and Elijah will come back during the tribulation time as clear warning of the Lord’s powerful return to destroy His enemies.
The last word of Malachi is herem (ban, curse) which is something of a “downer” so scribes repeated v. 5 after v.6 so it doesn’t end so harshly. The LXX, the translation of the Hebrew Bible into Greek, also changes the order so our v. 4 is the last. However, the point Malachi makes is that unless God comes in grace and people respond by faith, He comes in judgment. There is no neutrality. The Bible tells us that God’s heart desire is that none should perish but that all should come to repentance.
So what does the promise of Jesus’ coming again have to do with how I live and interact and do business? The Apostle John wrote: “Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as he is pure.”
Time for a check-up: In what ways am I "preparing" for His coming? Is the fact that He promised He is coming again having any impact on my life? Am I living in light of His coming? Am I an effective advance man? In what ways am I preparing the way for Him to come again?
Advance people have an impact. Twelve years out of office, ex-VP Quayle is still America’s poster boy for a dumb politician because of what happened in Trenton on 15 June 1992. As reported in the Trentonian, that’s when he participated in a staged photo op: a spelling bee at the Mun~oz Rivera School. After being shown several activity centers at the school, he was taken to the multi-purpose room where the spelling bee was to take place. "What are we supposed to do?" he asked Keith Nahigian, the advance man who had prepared this little photo op. "Just sit there and read these words off some flash cards, and the kids will go up and spell them at the blackboard," the advance-man told the VP. "Has anyone checked the card?" another aide asked.
"Oh, yeah," responded Nahigian. "We looked at them and they’re just very simple words. No big deal." When Billy Figueroa’s turn came, the VP announced his word. Billy knew how to spell "potato," and he wrote it nice and legibly on the blackboard. Quayle looked at the blackboard, then at the card he had been given. Gently and quietly the VP told the boy, "You’re close, but you left a little something off. The e on the end." Hmmm. An advance man can have a significant impact! So listen: Just as God raised up those who would prepare the way for the Messiah to come the first time, He is raising up those who are preparing the way for His second coming. The question is: am I willing to be one of the Messiah’s “advance people” who seek to turn lost people toward the Savior and make ready for His appearing? Are you?

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