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Sunday, October 30, 2011

Glimpses into the Future -Visions from Malachi

Glimpses into the Future

Visions from Malachi

Malachi was the last of the twelve Minor Prophets. And the book of Malachi is the last book in the Old Testament. -the last recorded prophetic message to the nation of Israel before their promised Messiah, Jesus would come. Malachi wrote his prophecies in about 450 B.C.- long after the people of Israel had returned to their homeland from captivity in Babylon.

The Jewish people had been thrilled to finally be free and back home again. And they were anxious to rebuild the temple and worship God. But then, all too soon, their enthusiasm for the Lord had cooled, and worshipping God had become a chore – a boring formality. They had become careless and disrespectful when they came before God. They didn’t bring the offering that God had asked for. Malachi tells them how God feels about their sloppy worship.

Here are just a few things that displeased God when the Jewish people came to worship. “Where is My honor,” “Your priests despise My Name,” “You offer defiled food on My altar.” “You offer the blind as a sacrifice” “and you offer the lame and the sick,” “I have no pleasure in you.” “You are robbing Me, bring the whole tithe into the storehouse,…” “nor will I accept an offering from your hands.”(Malachi 1:6b,c,7a,8a,10b,c, 3:10)

God had given Israel rules about how to come before Him and how to bring their sacrifices for sin. They had been instructed to offer a lamb for their sin offering that was perfect, (healthy), because when Jesus would come, He would be the Lamb for their sin offering and He would be perfect (without sin). Malachi speaks out with Gods’ message and accuses the people of bringing sick and lame animals. They were not offering their best to God or bringing what He had required. They had ignored Gods’ instructions as to how to come into His presence. Instead of worshiping God the way He required, the Jewish people were doing their own thing. And God told them that He would not accept their offerings.

God doesn’t want our careless and disrespectful worship either. I have been to Sunday morning worship services where instead of worshipping God, we have been entertained by elegant symphony performances. And other times where Holy Communion was not served reverently but in a casual playful manner. It’s times like these that we looked for another church.

We come to a worship service, not to be entertained, but to worship God. And Holy Communion or the Eucharist, -the body and blood of Christ –is to be taken reverently, and only after we have confessed any known sins. God wants us to take pleasure in Him and He will take pleasure in us. He wants us to give our best to Him, and He does not want our gifts to be given grudgingly - “God loves a cheerful giver.” (2 Cor.9:7) He isn’t pleased with our lukewarm love or our bored attendance.

God has given us instructions as to how to come to Him. There is just one way – not any old way that may seem right. Scripture says: “There is a way that seems right to people, but the end thereof are the ways of death.” (Psalms 16:25) Jesus is the only Way and no one comes to God except through Him. (John 14:6) One of the first lessons we learn in Malachi is that God desires our worship of Him to be wholehearted. He wants our best. And we are to come to Him the way He told us, through the Door (Jesus) and not try to climb over the wall like a thief. (John 10:1) God didn’t accept the second hand offerings brought to Him in Malachi’s time, and I don’t think He will accept our anything goes offerings today either!

Our worship can either be “high church” or casual: but worshipping God with a humble open spirit is what counts. Sometimes we may be bored or feel lukewarm in church, like they did in Malachi’s time. But God wants us to be willing to be willing to change. We can ask Him to mold us into what He wants, and He will.

The Israelites in Malachi’s’ day did not believe that God was a God of justice. “You have wearied the Lord with your words. …By saying, ‘All who do evil are good in the eyes of the Lord, and He is pleased with them,’ or ‘Where is the God of justice?’” (Malachi 2:17) Are we ever like the people in Malachi’s day? Do we forget that God does see the unjust, the unfaithful, and the really bad things that are being done in our world today? Or do we forget that God is a God of justice - that He really does care and He really will judge?

Malachi continues to encourage Israel not to lose faith. They are reminded that God is just and He does care about them. Even though they may not have seen evil people punished yet or good people rewarded during their lifetime, the Day of Judgment is coming and the records will be set straight. God will keep His promises and His judgments, even if His timing is not our timing.

Malachi reminds the Jewish nation that their promised Messiah is coming. “Behold I send My messenger, and He will prepare the way before Me. And the Lord, whom you seek, will suddenly come into His temple, for the Messenger of the covenant in whom you delight. Behold, He is coming, says the Lord of hosts.” (Malachi 3:1) “But who can stand the day of His coming? And who can stand when He appears? For He is like a refiner’s fire, and like a launderers’ soap.” (Malachi 3:2)

Malachi was prophesying the coming of Jesus and giving the nation a glimpse into the future. Jesus would be born about 450 years after this prophesy was given. The Lord whom you seek will suddenly come into His temple. And it is believed that the “messenger” referred to in Malachi 3:1 is John the Baptist since he preached repentance and helped prepare the way for Jesus’ ministry.

Malachi announces the Lord’s coming. But then he asks the question: “But who can stand the day of His coming?” (Malachi 3:2a) What does that mean? Those who desire the Lord’s coming must know that clean hands and a pure heart are required. (Ps. 24:3-4, Isa. 33:14-15) Uh oh! Are we in trouble? Who among us has clean hands and a pure heart? Who can stand the day of His appearing?

But then as we read on we see that Christ comes as the Purifier and a Refiner of His people. Malachi says that Jesus is like a launderers’ soap! Jesus is like a bar of soap! That’s such good news! We so need to be washed and cleaned up! Other Scriptures say we are washed in His blood. But we must let Him wash us. We must allow Jesus to be our Refiner and our Purifier.

Malachi closes with more prophesies about Jesus. He has foreseen Jesus’ first coming and the salvation He brings with Him. But this time he prophesies about Jesus’ second coming, - the Great Day of the Lord. “Surely the Day is coming. It will burn like a furnace. All the arrogant and every evildoer will be stubble, and the Day that is coming will set them on fire, says the Lord Almighty. Not a root or a branch will be left to them. But for you who revere My Name, the Sun of Righteousness will rise with healing in his wings. And you will go out and leap like calves released from the stall….” (Malachi 4:1-2)

The people in Malachi’s day were caught up in their sorrows and discouragements, and they didn’t think anything would ever change. God didn’t seem to be judging the evil in their midst and even though they were Gods’ people, their troubles still weren’t going away. Maybe God didn’t care.

But then Malachi comes in with visions from God that allowed the people to see way into the future- to a time when God would judge and heal and make things right. He allows the people to see things far beyond their little discouraging world. His prophesies are like a telescope that the people can peek through and see Christ’s coming. And they can also see the salvation that He will bring with Him.

And then God speaks through Malachi again and gives the people (and us) a second vision through this prophesy telescope. Malachi gives the backslidden people of his day – and us too - a glimpse of Christ’s Second Coming. And the final judgment. We get glimpses of that final Day when justice will prevail and evil will be put down. And we can even see God’s people leaping around like calves released from the stall!

These visions gave hope to the folks in Malachi’s day. And they are there to give us hope too. When we get discouraged and begin to feel that all is lost, let’s remember that a future day is coming when we will leap around like calves released from the stall! Prophesies in Scripture are given to remind us that God isn’t finished with us yet. When we get mired in the troubles we have today, and start to lose faith, we may need to stop and re-read the prophetic words. And we may need to take another glimpse into the future!


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