The people of Malachi's day, much as we do today, wearied God by questioning His goodness. We are prone to doubt Him when we see the evil in this world. We challenge Him by asking why bad things happen to good people and vice versa. God's response in Malachi reveals His true character and gives us further reasons to trust in His mercy and grace.
He said: 'Return to Me.' We say: 'How'
He said: 'You are wearing me out.' We say: 'How'
He said: 'Marriage Matters.' We say: 'How?', part 5
He said: 'Marriage Matters.' We say: 'How?', part 4
He said: 'Marriage Matters.' We say: 'How?', part 3
He said: 'Marriage Matters.' We say: 'How?', part 2
He said: 'Marriage Matters.' We say: 'How?', part 1
He said: 'You have turned away.' We say: 'How?'
He said: 'You've despised me.' We say: 'How?'
He said: 'I've loved you.' We say: 'How?'
Father, you tell us if we turn our hearts and our attentiveness towards you that we're not going to regret it. Some of us are not convinced of that truth. We pray you just use this time wherever we're at to deepen our understanding of what is truth. Protect us from that which is false, but do not let us miss that which you are dying for us to understand.
Would you use this short little time right now to move us forward towards life, toward the way we were created to live. We ask this in Christ's name, amen.
We have been having some fun making our way through a book we don't think, frankly, would be that relevant. We miss it a lot in a major way. It's one of the Minor Prophets. His name means what we would call today angel. His name means literally messenger. In the Hebrew, it's called Malachi.
If you want to turn to Malachi, chapter 2, with me. You'll find it's right there before the book of Matthew. That's sometimes easier to find. Just hang a left. One book to your left, and you'll be right there with us.
Now Malachi is an interesting book. We have used a fun little hook to kind of introduce this to us. We've said that God Is from Mars, We Are from Venus. This little book is a prophet's guide for improving communication and experiencing what you want in your relationship with him, obviously having a lot of fun with the idea that just like we wrestle with each other in terms of gender, this book that was a hit about 10 to 12 years ago that Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus.
As a result of that, they miss a lot of what it means to communicate and share a life with one another. That's really what this book of Malachi is about. It is all about God efforting to communicate with those who were created to live in relationship with him. Just like we frustrate one another, male and female, we're going to find out, and have found out through this book, we have done an incredible job of missing the heart of what God is trying to communicate to us.
We always set this up with a different look at how men and women are different. Today, we're going to have some fun with this one. You may have even heard this one before. It's about a group of scientists who got together and tried to figure out if, in fact, we should assign a male or a female gender to the computer.
A group of male scientists got together, and they determined that, in fact, there is no question that in the romantic languages where you're trying to determine if this is a feminine or masculine object, if it's a le or a la, if you will, that computers are definitely a la. Why? Because the men found out after looking at computers that, first of all, no one but the creator understands their internal logic. Therefore, they are female. Right?
They found out they have to be female because the message "Bad command or file name," is about as informative to us as, "If you don't know why I'm mad at you, then I'm not going to tell you why I'm mad at you." Because even your smallest mistakes are permanently stored in long-term memory for later retrieval. Therefore, they are female. Right? Lastly, because as soon as you make a commitment to one, you find yourself spending half your paycheck on accessories for it. Therefore, computers are definitely female.
You may not be surprised that there was a group of female scientists who got together and studied computers. They found out that, in fact, no, no, no, computers are really male. They made that determination because number one, even though they have a lot of data, they are still clueless. Right?
Secondly, because they are supposed to help you solve problems, most of the time they are the problem. Lastly, we know computers are male because as soon you commit to one, you realize if you had just waited a little bit longer, a better model would have come along. Right? Amen to that.
I do all that just because it's so fun to laugh at how different we are, male and female. How sometimes it's like, "Man, these guys are from this planet. Girls are from this planet. We just can't get along." It can be a source of frustration when the relationship was meant to be just a source of life.
That really is what the whole book of Malachi is about. Let me not just dumb it down to you, but let me just put it in modern vernacular. God is efforting all through this book to just communicate with folks who he longs to have a relationship with. See, so many of us miss God straight out because we don't think he really wants a relationship.
We think he wants some kind of over-surrender to his massive greatness that has no intimacy involved in it, that he is this great force that is so transcendent but so intimately aware with our mistakes that we should be cowered before him, offering up whatever sacrifice of service and offering we can. We miss the fact that what God is really after is a heart that is aligned with his, that's wed to his, that anything we do in terms of service or sharing the resources which he has given us is an overflow of our love relationship not some tax.
It's hurt him unspeakably to see his people miss this message for a long time. God kept sending messengers, angels if you will, prophets, sometimes actual spirit beings, but often individuals who they might communicate to his people, so they could improve their communication and experience with God the relationship with him that he has always desired we have.
Let me just walk you through Malachi up to where we are today. For those of you who have not been here, let me just show you why this is such a great hook to talk about this book. In Malachi 1:2, God starts out by saying, "Man, I have loved you so much." Like a guy who can't understand a woman, or a woman who can't understand a guy, we go, "What do you mean you have loved us? We've not experienced that love. We don't know how to categorize love as you've revealed it in a way that makes sense to us."
God says, "Listen, I've loved you. I've shown you that." We talked about that explicitly with the way he has pursued us, chosen us, and loved us and drawn us to himself irresistibly at times. God says, "I've loved you." We go, "What do you mean you've loved us?"
He talks about that for three or four verses. Then in verse 6, he comes up with another line. He says, "Let me just tell you guys. You have despised me." The people who got this message were a nation of folks who had done a lot of things, seven different sacrificial festivals, daily sacrifices, temple worship, and pilgrimage.
They go, "What do you mean we've despised you? We don't get it." Because the way these people were offering love to God was not the way God thought you should offer love to him. So he said, "The way you go through the motion is despicable. You despise me." The next verse says it this way, "You give me defiled offerings." We say, "What do you mean we've given you defiled offerings? What do you mean we have despised you in this way? How has that happened?"
In chapter 2, verse 17, is where we pick it up today. The next one comes launching at us. "You have wearied me. You have worn me out." We would say, "God, how have we worn you out?" What's really interesting about this little section of Malachi we're going to start with today in chapter 2, verse 17, and look at about six or seven verses together, is that the thing the people in Israel at that day and age were using to wear God out is the number one reason people today don't trust God the way he wants to be trusted.
If you ask a group of people randomly, "Why don't you believe God is there? Why don't you believe he loves you? Why don't you believe he is actively engaged with humankind? Why don't you believe he is just, righteous, holy, true, and fair?" the number one problem most folks throw at you is because of this.
They say, "If God was good, the things that happen wouldn't happen. If God was loving, the things that happen would not happen to those he says he loves. If God is powerful, he could stop it from happening. Things don't stop happening that shouldn't be happening; therefore, God is either not good or God is not powerful." It is what is commonly called the problem of evil. How these folks were wearing God out was wrapped around this basic concept.
They said, "God, why in the world do you let individuals go forward when they are living lives that we know upset you because they upset us. Why are we not, as people who have been called to follow after you, who you have said are going to be your people…? How come our crops aren't coming in the way they should? How come our armies are getting chased back into the corner? Why aren't we prevailing when more wicked people than us seem to be getting away with murder? If you were really there, things would not roll the way they're rolling."
Let me just stop right here and put a little parenthesis because this time of year is the perfect time to make this comment. Christmas is the ultimate answer, by the way, to the question of the problem of evil. Why do I say that? Because of what God did to enter into this world, which he explains why evil exists. It even explains in the Christian worldview why evil continues seemingly unchecked, which would be an unfair characterization. Be sure that the restraining grace of God is at work.
You and I might say, "We wish it would restrain a tad bit more." There is no doubt God restrains evil. It still persists in ways we are uncomfortable with, but God is going to say to us, "Look. I can tell you where evil came from. I can tell you why it exists at the level it exists today. I can tell you how it's going to increase. I can tell you how I will deal with ultimately in finality." There are a group of folks who gathered together, so the play called The Long Silence goes. Let me read this to you, because this is a perfect little parentheses for Christmas. It says,
"Billions of people were scattered on a great plain before God's throne. Some of the groups near the front talked heatedly—not with cringing shame, but with belligerence. 'How can God judge us?' said one. 'What does he know about suffering?' snapped a brunette. She jerked back a sleeve to reveal a tattooed number from a Nazi concentration camp. 'We endured terror, beatings, torture, and death!'
In another group a man lowered his collar. 'What about this?' he demanded, showing an ugly rope burn. 'Lynched for no crime but being black! We have suffocated in slave ships, been wrenched from loved ones, and toiled till death gave release.' A well- dressed woman stepped forward and said, 'I never did anything to hurt anyone and I taught Sunday school for nine years; certainly he can't judge me.'
Far out across the plain were hundreds of such groups. Each had a complaint against God for the evil and suffering He permitted in His world. How lucky God was to live in Heaven where there was no weeping, no fear, no hunger, no hatred! Indeed, what did God know about what man had been forced to endure in this world? They all agreed, 'God leads a pretty sheltered life.' So each group sent out a leader, chosen because he had suffered the most.
There was a Jew, a black, an untouchable from India, an illegitimate person, a victim of Hiroshima, and one from a Siberian slave camp. In the center of the plain they consulted with each other. At last they were ready to present their case. It was rather simple: Before God would be qualified to be their judge; He must endure what they had endured. Their decision was that God 'should be sentenced to live on earth—as a man!'
But because He was God, they set certain safeguards to be sure He could not use His divine powers to help Himself: Let Him be born a Jew. Let the legitimacy of His birth be doubted, so that none would know who His father really is. Let Him champion a cause so just, but so radical, that it brings down upon Him the hate, condemnation, and efforts of every major traditional and established religious authority to eliminate Him.
Let Him try to describe what no man has ever seen, tasted, heard, or smelled—let Him try to communicate God to men. Let Him be betrayed by His dearest friends. Let Him be indicted on false charges, tried before a prejudiced jury, and convicted by a cowardly judge. Let Him see what it is to be terribly alone and completely abandoned by every living thing. Let Him be tortured and let Him die! Let Him die the most humiliating death—with common thieves." You can see where this is headed.
"As each leader announced his portion of the sentence, loud murmurs of approval went up from the great throngs of people. But when the last had finished pronouncing sentence, there was a long silence. No one uttered another word. No one moved. For suddenly all knew: God had already served His sentence because of His divine grace and love. All this—because of the value of your soul and mine."
You see, so much of what this season is about is God, Jesus, saying, "Listen. I know what you're going through. Let me tell you, I want to deal with what you're going through. I will deal with what you're going through. I have identified, I have been tempted in every way as you have. Yet, I did not ever shake my fist at God, who loves us."
When God became man and lived on earth, he never said, "What are you doing?" He said, "This hurts. Is there any other way to make this happen?" But then he submitted, and he realized this was the way God could deal ultimately with evil in a way that would make him still both just and a justifier of those who love him.
This is Christmas. If you came this morning and you're worn out from trying to figure out why good things happen to bad people or maybe to say it just the opposite, why so many bad things happen to good people, this is a great place for you to be introduced to the book of Malachi. God is saying, "Man, you're wearing me out. Let's stop and put this in a little bit more context. Let me explain some things to you. Let me tell you what would happen if justice rolled the way you want it to roll."
In fact, I was speaking somewhere sometime. I had a Q&A section. Some young college student stood up and said, "I have a question for you," thinking for the first time he would introduce a problem that had never been addressed before. He said, "How can you say there is a loving God who is all powerful when so many [here it goes] bad things happen to good people or good things happen to bad people? How come God doesn't execute justice and execute justice quickly?"
I said, "That's fine. You want to get rid of evil?" He said, "Absolutely." I said, "Good. Let's start with you." He looked at me and goes, "What are you talking about?" I go, "Well, I assume you're not a rapist. I assume you're not a murderer. Maybe you haven't embezzled large amounts of money. But all we're doing here is making a standard that really isn't the standard ultimately God has.
When you say you want to get rid of that which is evil, you want to get rid of that which is evil to you. But you don't want real justice, do you? Are you going to tell me you're innocent before holiness and perfection? Are you going to tell me you've never harbored hatred in your heart? That you've never been misaligned in the way you have treated the opposite sex? Are you going to tell me you have never done anything that's hurt another person? Maybe it hasn't been murderous, but it's been murderous to their self-esteem and their sense of being valuable.
If we want to deal with evil, let's deal with evil completely and not make you or me God where we would deal with the Jeffery Dahmers of the world. Let's deal with evil the way God wants to deal with evil. Do you know why God hasn't dealt with evil yet? So that you could be here tonight and possibly understand how God wants to deal with your evil through the means of grace." That's where God goes with his messenger, Malachi.
Now I have to do this quickly. If you have some time, I would encourage you to go read Deuteronomy 28-30, because that really is one of the primary places in Scripture that will explain to you how history is unfolding from Genesis 12 all the way to this point in the Bible that we call Malachi.
The history of the Scriptures, and the history of God's dealing with the people called Israel, is really wrapped up in those three chapters…28, 29, and 30…of the book of Deuteronomy. For the sake of time, I'll show you another place where it's wrapped up in about 20 verses. If you have a Bible, turn to Leviticus 26. Let's take a look at this together.
Because Leviticus 26, you have a little section of Scripture right here where God is going to explain to you how he works the way he works with the nation of Israel. What God does with Israel is for no reason other than his grace, for no reason other than he chose to love them in a way that is unique among the world. See also Malachi 1:2, "I loved you." "How have you loved us?"
God would say, "How have I loved you? When I sought to reveal who I was to a watching world, I could have picked anybody. Because there was no one who was really like me. I chose this one guy, we'll call him Abe. I took Abe, and I said, 'Abe, I'm going to be good to you. I'm going to reveal myself to you. Then to your son Isaac, and his boy Jacob, and to all of his boys. They will become a nation that I will tell who I am. I will give them instruction. I will give them protection as they rightly relate to me. I will use them to be an instrument through which all the nations which I love can come to know me.'"
How was God going to do that? He was going to do that as Israel lived in relationship with God. God gave Israel all kinds of promises of physical prosperity. He knew the easiest way to illustrate in that day and age that he was the one true God was to make their nation prosper in that agrarian culture they lived in. So they would have crops in due season. There would not be drought. There would not be infestation of parasite or bugs.
He would say, "I would also make it so that five of your men would chase 100. One hundred of your men will chase 1,000. I will make your army great. People will consistently ask you, Israel, 'What is the secret to your success?' You are not to respond, 'Because we're better than you.'
You are to respond, 'Because the God who is has revealed himself to us, called us into a relationship with him, and by faith we have bound ourselves to him, and he has given us the prosperity that you seek. I want to tell you something, God has asked us to introduce you to him so he can bless you the way he has blessed us.'" That, my friends, is Leviticus 26:1-13.
You'll see a little word right there in verse 14. The word is but. It is a word of contrast. It says this. "But if you do not obey Me…""If you do not live as I want you to live as a people and meet the standard that I ask you to meet," God says this. "I'm not going to take an unholy people who, just because I introduce myself to them, live like hellions, and rape and pillage the earth but because they have this relationship with God buried in their pocket that they don't have consequence."
God says, "No. I want you to be separate from the world, not in your blessing, but in the way you love one another. In the way you treat one another. In the way you treat the alien. In the way you treat the downtrodden and oppressed. You separate yourself by character because you know me. As you separate yourself by character and it becomes clear you are different in holiness, I will make it clear you are different in provision as well. If you don't do that, if the holiness isn't there, neither will be the blessing."
That was God's deal with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in your Old Testament. Watch what he says in verse 14. "But if you do not obey Me and do not carry out all these commandments, if, instead, you reject My statutes, and if your soul abhors My ordinances so as not to carry out all My commandments, ** and **** so break My covenant, I, in turn, will do this to you:**
I will appoint over you a sudden terror, consumption and fever that will waste away the eyes and cause the soul to pine away; also, you will sow your seed uselessly, for your enemies will eat it up. I will set My face against you so that you will be struck down before your enemies; and those who hate you will rule over you, and you will flee when no one is pursuing you. If also after these things you do not obey Me, then I will punish you seven times more for your sins."
What God is saying is, "I'm so committed to you getting this right, I will not relent. If I have to heat the fire up more to drive more dross up that I can skim it off, I will heat the fire up. Because I am committed to making you the pure people I want you to be so I can do with you what I said I wanted to do."
"I will also break down your pride of power," it says. "I will also make your sky like iron and your earth like bronze." Which is to say, if you know much about raising crops and all you have is a burning sun, you will have dead, west Texas, piece of dirt. It's not easy to grow much there. God says, "Let's get this right."
What you have is God sending messenger after messenger. In the Hebrew, that would beMalachi after Malachi, to give those Malachi's different names, Isaiah after Jeremiah, Ezekiel after Daniel, Amos after Obadiah, Jonah after Elijah. He kept saying, "This is who God is. This is what he wants, a relationship with you."
Until finally he sends one last messenger, and he says, "After this, I'm going to go cold on you. There's going to be no more messenger, no more Malachi, until there's a final revelation, a final messenger, a final revealer of who God is. So get it right, because I'd love to bless you. I'd love to use you, like I said, but if you miss it, things are going to change."
There's your Old Testament. We're about to launch into the New and what we commonly call Christmas. Remember what's going on here. The people are saying, "God, why are the other nations doing better than us? Why aren't you a just God?" What God is going to say is… And if you'll look back now at Malachi with me, this is what he says. "You want judgment? You want justice? All right. You're going to get your justice." That's verse 1 of chapter 3.
"Behold…" he says, which is another way of saying, "Listen. You can be sure what you're asking for is coming." Let me give you another parentheses right here. About 26 months ago, there was a little event that happened on the eleventh day of the ninth month just east of here. A little town called New York City. When it happened, people who lived in this country flooded churches and places of worship. We wept together. We cried together.
We were shocked that these wicked folks who wrapped cloth on their head and called God by a bastard name were being somehow victorious over us, and thousands of innocents died. We said, "God, where is your justice? Would you go wipe out that infidel who doesn't know you? We want justice to come."
Let me just tell you, if God had answered our request as a nation, he could have started in the upward tips of Maine and worked his way down to the southern part of the Baja Peninsula. There wouldn't have been a single piece of this land that would not have been scorched. For America to say, "Glory, glory, Hallelujah! His truth is marching on," God must have sat there and said, "Do you really, this nation that I, by grace, have raised up…
I didn't make a special covenant with you like I did Israel, but by grace I have showered out my blessing on you like I never have a mass of people. Yes, there have been times that you as a mass of people in these United States have been missionaries to the world for me like no other nation in the history of the world. I'm thrilled for that!
But in the context of you being this people, do you know that there has never been as much murder of children as there has been in this nation, never been as much heartache and divorce and rancor and adulterousness and false witnessing and oppression of the wage earner and ignoring of the widow and abandoning of the orphan in this country like I've never seen in any pagan nation?
You want justice to roll? Let me just tell you something. You saw a glimpse of justice in New York City. If I really took my hand of protection off of you, it wouldn't just be airliners going into buildings. It would be earth opening up, swallowing every building you have. Before, America, American, church attender, you cry out for justice, let's make sure that you're more than a nation whose coinage says, 'In God We Trust.'
Let's make sure that you're more than a people whose Sunday says go to church at a certain time on the calendar. Let's make sure you know who the Creator is and what it means to know him so you can escape the justice due you."
Do you understand what I'm saying? Is there an application in this book to us as a people? You bet there is. Watch what God says in Malachi. "Behold, you want justice? All right. I'm going to send you some justice. It's going to come like this. This is the way it's going to roll out. First of all, I'm going to send a messenger."
Let me stop you right there. Who is the messenger? I will show you who this messenger is. This messenger is first alluded to in a book called Isaiah, In Isaiah, chapter 40, when he said , "Comfort, O comfort My people,' says your God.""For I am going to send you one who will speak kindly to you. He will call out to you. That her warfare has ended. A messenger is going to come and say your iniquity has been removed.'"
It says, "She is going to offer you such kindness, even though your sins deserved incredible judgment, I'm going to double up your blessing. Instead of what you should get for your sins in double judgment, I'll double your blessing for all your sins." Then it says, as it continues in verse 3, "A voice [will come, predicting this day and age] 'Clear the way for the Lord in the wilderness; Make smooth in the desert a highway for our God.'"
In other words, there is going to be a messenger, Malachi says, consistent with Isaiah that will come. If you guys know Handel's Messiah, you'll know the very first part of this piece is the prediction that one would come who would clear and prepare the way of the Lord. "Comfort ye, comfort ye My people," starts this great piece of orchestration and chorale that Handel wrote.
In the musical, Godspell, you have this character singing, "Prepare ye the way of The Lord." In the Gospels, we're told who this messenger is going to be. In Matthew 3:3, it says this, "For this is the one referred to by Isaiah the prophet when he said, 'The Voice of one crying in the wilderness, "Make ready the way of the Lord, Make His paths straight!"'"
What he is saying right here is, "This is the one." Matthew 3 tells you who it is. In Mark, it says, "The voice of one crying in the wilderness, 'Make ready for the way of the Lord, Make His paths straight.'" In Luke, it says this. "…as it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet…" Also alluded to in Malachi. "The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Make ready the way of the Lord, Make His paths straight."
Who is this one? Who is this messenger we find in John, chapter 1? This he is a guy by the name of John the Baptist. He said, "I am a voice of one crying in the wilderness…" I am encouraging you to, "'Make straight the way of the Lord ,' as Isaiah the prophet said."
Malachi is full of people saying, "God, where is your justice? Bring justice." God said, "You want justice? Justice is going to come. First, I'm going to send a messenger. He will precede somebody." Who does Isaiah say that somebody will be? "Make straight the way of …" Who is somebody who will come? The Lord.
God himself is going to be the one who brings this justice that you look for in your mourning over evil having its way on this earth. A messenger will come and he will get your hearts ready so when justice comes you can escape it. What was the message of this one who came? "Repent, for the Lord is coming, the kingdom of God is at hand. The God you are looking for is about to show up, so you'd better repent and get right before him, because if you don't, there's going to be hell to pay, literally."
What you have right here in this section of Scripture is you're going to see a huge link between Genesis and Matthew, between God's dealing with Israel and God's dealing with the world through Jesus. Because he is the fulfillment of their hope. They wanted comfort. They wanted delivered from oppression.
Here is what they thought in the Old Testament, and you understand why. They thought their oppression was from nations that lived outside the borders. They thought the problem was sin that reigned in the hearts of those who wore turbans on their head, who worshiped Buddhas by candlelight.
God said, "Your real problem, real evil in those nations and in your nation is a problem of the heart. The way to deal with evil is either to let me eradicate those who have not had a broken heart and cried out for mercy… The way to deal with evil is to deal with the evil that is in your heart. As I get ready to straighten the way for this coming King…"
This was a metaphor that Isaiah used, because it was common in that age when a king would go to a new land, he would send armies of men before him. They would literally move boulders out of the road. They would ride in the road if necessary. They would fill holes so when the king came in his procession, it could come rolling with thunder and chariots and horses. There would be no delay. The king wouldn't get held up because a rockslide had stopped him.
There was nothing that would get in the way of the lord. They would flatten the road so the king could come. They would make right the way of the lord. What's the analogy in the New Testament? John the Baptist paved, if you will, the way in men's hearts by calling them to repent and get rid of the rocky soil that would keep the Word of God from taking root. Make ready the way of the Lord. How do you get ready to receive the Lord? You get your hearts right.
Let me just give you a little bit more. Because what God is saying right here is, "You want justice to come? It's about to come. There's a messenger that which will proceed." Look back at Malachi with me. "There's a messenger and he will clear the way before…who? Me." Who is me? God talking here. "You want justice? Justice will come from me ultimately. A messenger will tell you I'm a-comin'."
Who is coming? Just like it says in Isaiah, "…the Lord, whom you seek, will suddenly come to His temple…" Notice the one who the messenger predicted, the one who would fulfill the covenant he made right there in Genesis 12, the one that is carried through in Leviticus 26 we saw earlier, Deuteronomy 28-30, the keeper of the covenant now revealed in Malachi as the messenger of the covenant is God himself.
The one who will deal with evil is God himself, but if you don't want your evil to be dealt with, you'd better be ready to receive him. Why? This is what he says. He says, "If you're not ready when he comes to his temple…" Who? "…the messenger of the covenant, the one in whom you delight, you say. 'Behold, he is coming.'"
Verse 2 says, "But who can endure the day of his coming? And who can stand when He appears? For He is like a refiner's fire and like fullers' soap. He will sit as a smelter and purifier of silver, and He will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, so that [their hearts can be right, and in their hearts being right] they may present to the Lord offerings in righteousness." Again, as they used to. "…in former years."
"As in the days of Moses. When they offered those same sacrifices, but in right relationship to God. As in the days of David. When they went through the temple practices, but they did it with a right heart. As they did early in the days of Solomon, but now you've gotten lost in these activities without relationship with me."
What you have wrapped up a lot of times in your Old Testament is a prediction of Jesus or, if you will, the Messiah, the keeper of the covenant, God himself, who will eradicate and deal with evil. You have him always portrayed as doing two things when he comes, offering peace and offering judgment. There is no delineation between those two arrivals.
What you find out is that the way God in his grace was going to allow Israel to be the people who he wants them to be, and yet still judge wickedness is there is going to be a split in the arrival of this keeper of the covenant. You have to understand some things about your Bible today. If you can keep up with me for this little bit right here, that will help you so much in understanding how the story of God and his love for humanity is made up.
Isaiah 61. It talks about this same keeper of the covenant. This one. It is the sum of your desires. Your great deliverer. It says this one will come. "The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me To bring good news to the afflicted; He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to captives And freedom to prisoners."
This is good stuff. "To proclaim the favorable year of the Lord …" There's a conjunction there. The word and. "And not only will I come bringing grace and deliverance, but I will come bringing the day of vengeance. I will come bringing that justice that makes all of you who suffer from injustice mourn."
Those of you have experienced the evidences of sin in a severely handicapped child and you mourn. You go, "God, why do bad things happen to good people?" Those of you who have never been able to conceive in marriage. You go, "Why do bad things happen to good people?" Those of you who have suffered at the hands of abusive parents, abusive spouses, absent spouses, you go, "God, when is judgment going to roll?" God says, "I will let it roll. But before I let it roll, I want my grace to reign so that it doesn't get you, too."
This is key. Because in Luke, chapter 4, this messenger of the covenant who was preceded by John the Baptist, was traveling along. He left Galilee, and he came to Nazareth. As was his custom, he would go into temples to teach. The very first message Jesus ever spoke in this particular synagogue was when they handed him the scroll from the prophet Isaiah.
He picked it up, and he read it. This is what he said. He picked up in Isaiah 61. Jesus, first public message. " The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, Because He anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor. He has sent Me to proclaim release to the captives, and recovery of sight to the blind, To set free those who are oppressed, [I have come] To proclaim the favorable year of the Lord."
He closed the book, but what did he not do? He didn't finish the verse, did he? There's a reason he didn't finish the verse. There's a reason he didn't say, "And[to bring the]vengeance of our God To comfort all who mourn." Because God has a heart for those who are about to receive ultimate retribution for the rebellion against him.
He wants them to experience grace so they might escape the judgment that is to come. He loves them so much that he himself will receive the judgment due them that death might pass over them and they can move into life. We celebrate this child who is the light, because now the darkness is over.
We see that the great enemy is sin that poisons our heart, that poisons the hearts of our enemies, that makes us war with one another. If God judges the hearts of our enemies, he need also judge the hearts of us. Let's receive the gift of grace and go tell it to others so that when this Jesus returns as he says that he will, we can find rest and protection from the flood of judgment that will ultimately comfort those who mourn.
Turn back with me to Malachi, and then we're going to give you some application. If you want judgment to come completely, I'll tell you something. Judgment is going to come. But I want to ask you this. Who can endure the day of his coming? Nobody. What he is going to do is he is going to come, and he is going to proclaim to you how you can escape judgment, and he is going to get your heart right back with him, rightly related to him.
As your heart is rightly related to him, then you can go back through your offerings, and they will be acceptable as they meant to be. And then once you are restored to that place, then he will… And this is key. Look at verse 5. "Then," he says, "when I return again and I deal with evil thoroughly," the Scripture says he, "will reign among them with a rod of iron."
The Scripture says that this Jesus who came as a lamb will return as a lion. He will come proclaiming the day of vengeance of the Lord to comfort those who mourn. Jesus is not just some limp little lamb who died on the cross unable to help himself. He was a willing sacrifice so that we might receive the grace God wants all to experience before he comes and devours those whose hearts are alienated from him.
This Jesus will return, and when he returns, verse 5 says, "Then I will draw near to you for judgment; and I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers…." In other words, Jonathan Edwards' show, Crossing Over, will not get a lot of air play during that time. I will deal with the astrologers, those who have made up ideas of how to make your way on this earth.
He says he will deal "…against the adulterers and against those who swear falsely…" Uh oh, it's getting closer to home all the time, isn't it? "…against those who oppress the wage earner in his wages, the widow and the orphan, and those who turn aside [those who are not like them] and do not fear Me…" All those things are just symptoms of that last issue. "For I, the Lord ," he says, do not change; Therefore you, O sons of Jacob, are not consumed."
God is going to send a messenger who will predict the messenger of the covenant who himself will eradicate evil. Who will come and bring them into a place of rest so that when justice comes, they won't be consumed so he can use them the way he always intended to use them. I need to repeat that, because do you want to know the future of Israel? Here it comes. They have rejected, for now, this God who has come to proclaim to them the favorable year of the Lord.
I am saved by grace through a Jewish Messiah who I have trusted in his provision for me. The Jews have by and large rejected him. There will be a day when the refiner's heat will boil up so much that the dross will be skimmed off. That true Israel will come to faith and remain. They will believe as we have believed, and God will make them as he has intended them to be.
Then they will be holy among the nations, and God will come and reign with them. It says during that time that if there's an adulterer there's not going to be 40, 60, 80 years of adultery. They will come pay a visit to Jesus, and we will execute severe discipline. See also capital punishment.
False witnesses, adulterers, sorcerers, oppressors. During the millennial reign of Christ when he reigns as Israel's king in Jerusalem, you're not going to have a lot of problems, because things will be as we wish they were now. God will deal severely with evil. What's the application for us today? Let me just give you a few.
First, before we call for justice we ought to remember that we need mercy. Just like Israel said, "God, where is justice? How come you don't come deal with evil?" I'm going to remind you again. As a nation, we celebrate… Before this service started, there were a few folks who whispered in my ear, and I also heard myself, and I said to the worship team when they came downstairs before the first service, "Hey, I have some good news, and I have some great news."
They go, "What's the good news?" I go, "The good news is that we caught Saddam Hussein." Those of you guys who haven't heard that. About 24 hours ago, our troops found him in some rural farmland outside the creek, buried deeply with some folks, with graying hair and a long beard. They have Saddam Hussein. This country will rejoice. Early Christmas present. We're thrilled.
But I said, "I have some great news." They go, "What's the great news?" I said, "The great news is when he who is our judge catches us at our rural farmland, buried in our disobedience, we will not be judged because God in his grace has made provision for us. That's great news."
Before I go about saying, "God, would you judge evil that's in the world," I need to be reminded that I am a recipient of mercy. The reason I will continue when judgment comes is not because I am an innocent, but because an innocent has paid the debt for me.
Jesus tells a great parable in Matthew, chapter 21. It goes like this. He told this parable to the people who had cried out. Their forefathers said, "Where is the justice of God? Where is it coming from? When is it going to get here?" Jesus said this, "But what do you think? A man had two sons, and he came to the first and said, 'Son, go work today in the vineyard.' And he answered, 'I will not'; but afterward, he regretted it and [that child] went.
The man came to the second and said the same thing; ['Go work for me in the vineyard.'] and he answered, 'I will, sir'; but he did not go. Which of the two did the will of his father? They said, 'The first.' Jesus said to them, 'Truly I say to you that the tax collectors and prostitutes will get into the kingdom of God before you. For John came to you in the way of righteousness[the messenger]and you did not believe him…"
"You, seeing this that others were being given forgiveness before a holy God, did not feel remorse that you needed forgiveness, because you thought you were more holy than you were. So you did not believe in him, which is me, who is the Lord. That's my temple, and you're missing it. So before, Pharisees, you call for judgment on the tax gatherer and the sinner, what you need to know is the tax gatherer and the sinner heard John and are hearing me. They are coming and receiving what you need so that you won't get what you have coming."
Are you ready for a more thorough application? Our problem in America today is not those who would never wake up and attend a church service. Our problem is our church services will be filled with people who have not come to him.
Just like the Pharisees and the religious people of that day wanted to know where justice was, and yet there was absolute perversity that ran through their temple worship, there is so much false witness, there is so much oppression of the poor, there is so much callousness towards those who are different than them, there is so much adultery, so much backstabbing, so much rebuffing of who God is in churches today, who sit there and wag their fingers at those who won't get up and go where they go.
And God says, "You know what? Some of them are, right now, because of their rebellion being led into a darker and darker and darker place. Eventually, they're going to see the poverty of their ways, and they're going to really return to me. They may not even be able to come into your church, because when they get to your church, it can seem to be so full of hypocrites and people whose hearts don't really engage with them there, so much inauthenticity there, so much lack of love there, so much lack of care for God and care for others that they're going to have to find or start their own church somewhere else."
What God would say to the church in America today is, "Before you cry for justice to come, make sure you're ready for justice to come. That you've sheltered yourself in a right faith relationship with Jesus Christ that is evidenced in the way you serve and love other people." Not so God can save you, but because he saved you, your hearts are changed.
Secondly, while we wait for justice, we ought to remember that others have a great need for mercy. What's really interesting is that in God's response to Malachi, when he goes into 400 years of silence, when he said, "You want justice? Justice is coming…" It was before the favorable year of the Lord came in the person of Jesus Christ. There was 400 silent years, but now that grace has come, we've gone into another silent period, about 2,000 years of silence.
Now why is God slow? The Scripture says, "He is not slow as some count slowness, but he is patient toward you, wishing that none should perish but all should come to eternal life." What Jesus is saying there through his servant Peter is, "Do you want to know why God has not yet returned in the second advent? Do you want to know why we don't have Christmas 2?" Not Santa Clause 2, but Jesus Christ 2? "Because he hopes somebody else believes, not in some mythical, red-capped figure but in the one who can give them grace." He wants us to tell it.
If we are not committed to tell people where rest for judgment is, God has a problem with us. Look at Proverbs 24. It says this, "Deliver those who are being taken away to death, and those who are staggering to slaughter, Oh hold them back. If you say, 'See we did not know this,' Does He not consider it who weighs the hearts? And does he not know it who keeps your soul? And will He not render to man according to his work?"
In other words, one of the reasons we are not committed as a people to proclaim the justice of God met in Jesus Christ, deliverance from the wages of sin, met through Jesus Christ, is maybe we're not that convinced we really need to be delivered from our sin. Or maybe we haven't really been delivered from our sin in such a way that our hearts would be conformed to God's heart, so we don't love those that he loves that he died to save, so we just could care less about them because we culturally are in the mainstream.
God says, "Before you cry for justice, you'd better remember those who I want to experience my mercy." If you, this Christmas, are not somebody who sings it from the mountain every chance you get but who saves it for Christmas Day, it ought to give you great pause about whether or not you've met the Child who is the light.
Thirdly, heat and affliction are for us all, either to make us like Jesus or one day to make us know justice. What am I doing here? I'm using the metaphor of Malachi that he is the refiner. The Scriptures talk about how he will sit and he will stay focused on this metaphor of the silver.
He will allow that heat to continue to go into that metal so the dross can be taken up, and one of two things is happening. You are either silver and the dross will be skimmed from you through the fire of trial and circumstance and suffering, or you are the dross that will one day be skimmed and dealt with in an eternal fire that will purify you with appropriate justice. One of two ways.
James says it this way in chapter 1, verse 2. You know Christ, you have been made silver by him by the grace of God. "You consider it joy, then, as you continue to experience the consequences of circumstances that are not as they should be." "…knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect results so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing."
This is the reason that evil persists. God wants everybody to escape the coming wrath, so he lets sin have its way so men might come to repentance as a result of the consequences of sin and the evidences of sin in this world and the hearts of men. Also, so that those of us who know Christ can persevere through them and be made more and more like him.
There's a lady who went and visited a silversmith and found out that when a refiner of that fine metal sits over it, they have to watch it attentively, as too much heat on that silver can damage the metal. Now they know when the metal is done being purified, how? After they skim, skim, skim the black dross that rises up with that heat, the refiner will say, "I know that the silver is pure when I can see my reflection in it."
That's James, chapter 1, verses 2 and 4. And know this, redeemed, who are silver in this analogy. God knows intimately the heat that is on your life. He will do nothing that will damage your metal, but he is in the process of allowing those sufferings to make you into the image of his Son that he can be most glorified in you.
Fourthly, when we offer anything to God we ought to remember it is always the offerer, not the offering, which makes the gift acceptable to God. This comes from Malachi where he says, "I'm going to get you purified so that when you offer these offerings they can be acceptable to me again."
When you leave here today, and you have a chance to worship God with your gifts, when you have an opportunity next week to serve with children or greet people or love your neighbor or care for those who are less fortunate than you or just love somebody who is in your way, know that God does not like what you do, like what you give, care about how you serve if it's not done from a broken heart and a contrite spirit.
He is not impressed with the amount or the skill of your service. Likewise, be not discouraged if in your ability to offer, it's not as grand as somebody else's if the offering box doesn't shake when you put yours in the way it does when somebody else puts theirs in. Because God is impressed, not with the offering but with the offerer.
Now, if an offerer is of great means and they have a great ability to offer much to God and they're rightly related to him, then there would be a different in amount, but only because it's consistent with who they are, not because the amount itself gains favor.
Finally, God has come first to testify of grace and later to test to see who has experienced it. My call to you this morning is are you sick of evil in this world? Do you want justice to roll? Then I would tell you that you need to hear the testimony of Jesus Christ. That he alone is the means through which the favorable year of the Lord can be experienced by you.
That he alone is the means through which you can find the way, the truth, and the life. I would tell you to take the testimony of John the Baptist, that he is the Lamb of God who has come to take away the sins of the world. Otherwise, when the true wrath of God comes you will not pass the test, no matter what works you submit.
This Christmas season, I ask you, do you know that this child is the Lord? That's his temple. This is his world, and his justice is coming. Have you experienced his grace?
Father, we thank you for this morning, that we see how Malachi, this section tucked away in our Bible. is so relevant to us. It answers our most pointed question. That we wear you out saying, "Where is justice?" when you say you want to know where justice is. Justice is most fully displayed on the cross, but justice will come one day that those who reject it being displayed on the cross will find it displayed on them.
Lord, may we not know any who reject your provision in the Christ child, in the cross. May we tell it with everything that we have that there is a favorable year of the Lord. It's gone for 2,000 years now, but we know that you're going to come again. You're going to come this next time, not as a lamb to take away sins but as a lion to consume it.
Father, we, who do want that day to come, and you've told us to pray that your kingdom would come on earth as it is in heaven, but in the while, while we wait we pray that we would testify to your goodness and call other people onto this ark of rest that is Jesus Christ that they might find themselves acceptable in your sight, not because they are silver in and of themselves according to their own works but because they are precious in your sight, so much so that you shed your blood for them.
If there is one who is here today, Lord, who does not know that Christ is that purifier, I pray they would trust in him, lest they meet him as one who will deal with them as dross. Purify our hearts.
When it comes to communication, men and women often struggle to understand one another. Even though we care, at times we just can't make sense of what's being said. In the same way, the nation of Israel misunderstood what a relationship with God should look like, even though He repeatedly revealed His heart to them. And even today, churches and followers of Christ miss what He's trying to say. In "God is from Mars, We are from Venus", you'll see God's effort to clearly communicate what a vital, abundant relationship with Him entails as expressed in the book of Malachi. You can learn volumes from this small book that caps off the Old Testament as you consider who God is, who we are, and what it takes to live in right relationship with Him.This series includes the 5-part sub-series on marriage entitled "Why Marriage is a Big Deal to God".