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Thursday, July 18, 2013

The Sun of Righteousness will Rise

The Sun of Righteousness will Rise

more from the book of Malachi




Malachi was the last of a long line of Old Testament prophets.  His name “Malachi” means “messenger.” And he was a messenger for God.  A prophet was a person who had a special gift from God –the supernatural gift of being able to receive messages from God.  After hearing God’s message these prophets would pass on these messages to the people of Israel.  God also supernaturally showed the prophets visions of the future.  And the job of the prophet was to share these God given visions and tell the people of Israel what God revealed and what would happen in the future.


 Over a period of fifteen hundred years before Christ each of the Jewish prophets (Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, and many more) lived and foretold the coming of the Messiah – Jesus Christ and then after their lifetime some years later God would raise up another prophet in another generation with the same prophetic message – the message of the Messiah coming to judge and to save.


 The religious leaders of ancient Israel knew that God had promised a Messiah or a Savior because of all of the prophecies about Him that they had received down through the centuries.  And the Jewish people accepted and acknowledged that God spoke supernaturally to them through these prophets.  However these prophets were not popular and their words were often ignored. 


Malachi was the last prophet that God sent to Israel before Christ was born and the book of Malachi is the last book in the Old Testament of the Bible.  It was about 450 years before Jesus Christ was born when Malachi lived and once again the Jewish people were given the same prophetic message by Malachi that all the other prophets had given-  that the “Sun of Righteousness” would come in the future.  Malachi not only saw Christ’s’ first coming – His birth and life but God also showed Malachi Christ’s’ second coming – the one we are still waiting for – the end of the age!  Clearly and dramatically Malachi writes down his telescopic vision of Christ’s end time coming!


Let’s listen to God’s dramatic message through his prophet Malachi which was to be given to Israel and to us!  “Look, I will send My messenger, and he will prepare the way before Me. And the Lord, whom you seek, will suddenly come to His temple.  Even the messenger of the covenant, in whom you delight.  Look, He is coming, says the Lord of hosts.”  (Malachi 3:1)  Bible scholars believe that when this verse states that God will send His messenger to prepare the way before Him that this may possibly refer to John the Baptist who preached and baptized and pointed the people to Jesus. But the Messenger may be Jesus himself.


The Jewish people of Malachi’s day saw injustices all around them and they longed for the appearance of the God of justice and judgment.  But will the people in Malachi’s day really be ready for justice on this great judgment day when it comes?  And will we?  Scripture says that every person who has ever lived will be there on Judgment Day! This day that will come suddenly and unexpectedly! Malachi goes on to describe this Judgment Day.  Let’s listen.


“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 launderer’s soap.  He will sit as a refiner and a purifier of silver:  He will purify the sons of Levi.  And purge them as gold and silver.  That they may offer to the Lord an offering in righteousness.”  (Malachi 2: 2-3)


Jesus as Judge will come to cleanse the world of sin.  His fire will refine us, take out the impurities – all that is unworthy will be burned up!  All that is diseased –all the cancer – will be burned out. And like a strong launderer’s soap –  Jesus will clean us up – purging and washing and cleaning us! – so that we may be as pure gold and silver – an offering of righteousness.  Will there be much left of some of us after we go through the fire and the cleansing?  Who can stand when He appears?   


Malachi goes on with his message from God about that Day when Jesus comes again!  “And I will come near you for judgment: I will be a swift witness against sorcerers, against adulterers, against perjurers, against those who exploit wage earners and widows and orphans.  And against those who turn away an alien- Because they do not fear Me.  Says the Lord of hosts.”  (Malachi 3:5)  These sins were popular back then, and alas they are still popular today!


Malachi continues describing Christ’s second coming and Judgment Day.  “For behold, the day is coming.  Burning like an oven.  And all the proud, yes all who are wicked will become stubble.  And the day which is coming shall burn them up,” says the Lord of hosts.  That will leave them neither root nor branch.  But to you who fear My name, The Sun of Righteousness shall arise.  With healing in His wings:  And you shall go out.  And grow fat like stall-fed calves.  You shall trample the wicked.  For they shall be ashes under the soles of your feet on the day that I do this; says the Lord of hosts.”  (Malachi 4:1-3) 


The sun is a symbol of righteousness.  Jesus Christ is that Sun of Righteousness! And in that Day of the Lord, the night of wickedness will give way to the Day of righteousness.   The Sun will rise and send its beams to end the night and crowd out every pocket of darkness.  And in the end good will overcome evil, Christ will conquer Satan, and love will win over hate!


 Then the people who love God will grow fat like stall-fed calves and frolic around in their new found freedom and leap for joy.  Finally a world full of love and justice and plenty and rejoicing!  A world to enjoy where the lion will lay down with the lamb!  And a world where there will be no more killing –and no more war – no more sin –and no more disappointments – or sorrows or  frustration!  Or sickness or betrayals,  and no more enemies! All of those things will have been burned up and cleaned up by the Sun of Righteousness. And will be no more!    


There will be healing in His wings – healing for all our problems!  and for all our sorrows!  for all our sins!– and for all our fears!  And we will be healed and made new and we will be radiant and victorious through Christ!  And we will jump for joy and shout Hallelujahs!  It will be beyond our wildest imagination!      




Sorry but we will miss next week’s blog message – but stay tuned -we will be back in two weeks!  See you then.  




Saturday, July 13, 2013

God Asks a Question. Where is My Honor?

God Asks a Question

“Where is My Honor?”

from the book of Malachi





Malachi was the last of a long line of Old Testament prophets who gave God’s messages to the people of Israel.  Over a period of a thousand years each of these Jewish prophets lived and foretold the coming of the Just One – Jesus Christ and then died and some years later God would raise up another prophet with the same message. The Jewish people accepted and acknowledged that God spoke to them through these prophets even though the prophets were not popular and their words were often ignored.


The year is approximately 450 B.C. and God is upset and angry.  Angry at the priests and upset with the people.  He loves his children, the Jews, so much, but now they make fun of Him and don’t even try to obey His laws. He is hurt. It wasn’t supposed to be this way!


God speaks this message through his prophet Malachi: “My children, I have loved you so much.” The priests ask: “How has God loved us?”  (Malachi 1:2a)  The priests don’t even believe that God loves them!  Everything they have has been given to them by God but they don’t acknowledge that.


 God answers them with an example.  He tells them that they can look at the people of Edom and compare themselves with them.  Actually the tribe of Edom finally lost their land and their identity and became part of another ancient tribe. God did not bless them and hold them together like He had the nation of Israel.  


The people of Edom were the descendants of Esau and God speaks through Malachi and says that Edom was “The Territory of Wickedness”. (Malachi 1:3b)  We don’t know all that Edom did to displease God but we do know that they were a fierce enemy of Israel.  Because of Edom’s wickedness God had not protected the tribe from its’ enemies so that it could thrive and grow into a budding nation.  And because the people of Israel tried to follow God’s ways, He had protected them and held them in his hands and blessed their crops and their lives. Did the Jewish priests forget to give God the credit for their land and their nation?   


Scripture says that Esau, the father of the people of Edom, was a profane person who was a fornicator.  (Heb.12:16)   Esau’s famous grandfather was Abraham and Esau’s father was Isaac so Esau had grown up learning about God and knowing that he was in line for a wonderful spiritual blessing since he was Isaacs’ first born son.


 But Esau didn’t much care about God or His blessing and he wasn’t interested in obeying God even though he had been brought up by God fearing parents. He sold his birthright and God’s blessing for a bowl of beans to his brother, Jacob and laughed about it.  (Genesis 15:29-34)


 We know that Esau was wild and threatened to murder his brother Jacob after Jacob took his blessing. Jacob was so afraid of Esau that he had to run away from his home. Esau also married several wives who worshipped idols.  Their heathen lifestyle upset Rebecca, Esau’s mother.  She said that she was “weary of her life” because of these wives and their ways.  We don’t know the whole story but it seems that Esau never took God seriously and didn’t much care.  


When God sent Malachi as a prophet to the Jewish people in 450 B.C., many of the the Jewish people were not taking God seriously either. God had more to say to the Jewish priests and Malachi gave them His message.  “But a son honors his father and a servant his master.  If then I am your Father, where is My honor?  Where is My reverence?... you priests have despised My name….” (Malachi 1:6)


How have we despised God?, the priests asked!  Don’t we go through the motions of bringing offerings to God?  Isn’t that good enough even though we are bored with the job and think it is a stupid burden.  We are using our position as priests to take advantage of the people   – charge high prices to the poor for offerings.  But we feel we have to play this religious game -what more does God want?  


Scripture says that the priests call the Lord’s Table “contemptible and defiled”. (Malachi 1:12)  The people are allowed to bring in diseased animals for sacrifices.  The priests’ teachings have caused many of the Jewish people to stumble.  (Malachi 2:8)  They didn’t pray for their people, which was the duty of a priest. These religious leaders tell the people that what is evil is good.  And they criticize God to the people by questioning His justice.  (Malachi 2:17)  It would seem that the religious leaders in Malachi’s day were treating God the way Esau did – with contempt and disdain.  


Completely frustrated and hurt God answers: “Oh that one of you would shut the temple doors so that you would not light useless fires on My altar!  I have no pleasure with you and I will not accept your offerings any longer!”  (Malachi 1:10) Better no sacrifices at all than ones offered without love! 


God the Father had once been so proud of his children –Not so long ago the Jewish nation had leaned on Him and loved Him and tried to follow His laws. They had given Him such pleasure and He had hoped that they would have pleasure in being with Him also.


 But now instead they grumble that worshipping Him in the temple with prayers and sacrifices is a burden. What does a parent do when year after year a grown up child constantly makes fun of them and humiliates them and finds them a bore to be with?  Better to shut the temple doors than to be slandered by your own children.


Honor and respect are very important to God.  Four of the Ten Commandments are about honor.  (Exodus 20:3-12) The first commandment commands us to honor God by putting Him first – having no other gods before Him.  The second commandment commands us  not to have idols – all of our honor and worship should go to God and nothing else.  The third commandment commands us not to dishonor or disrespect the name of the Lord.  And the fifth commandment commands us to “Honor your father and your mother,…”


These Ten Commandments have not changed.  Even though we live in modern times and our lifestyles are more casual than those in ancient times, God still waits for his people to love and honor Him.  And He still expects children to honor their parents and people to respect one another.


 God put the world together and He knows what it takes to make it run.  Honor and respect and love are still up there on top keeping things going.  Let’s not make the same mistakes the Jewish priests did in Malachi’s day.  Let’s be the kind of children that God can take pleasure in by loving and honoring God in everything that we do.


















Saturday, July 6, 2013

The Cost of Discipleship

The Cost of Discipleship


When the disciples leave everything to follow Jesus, they believe that Jesus is the Messiah who will save Israel from Roman rule. Israel will be free at last and they will rule with Jesus as victorious leaders.  They even argue among themselves as to who will sit on the left side of Jesus’ throne and who would sit on the right. (Luke 22:24)  They dream that following Jesus will bring them fame and power and money!  How can they lose?   


And when we first say “yes” to Jesus and decide to follow Him we often make the same mistake.  We think we are better than others, even tell people who don’t agree with us that we are the ones who have the “values” – implying that they don’t.  And we expect to be blessed with money, status and power since God is on our side! 


Some Christians actually think that following Jesus is just one long ego filled victory ride!  Until they find out that it isn’t! Jesus tried to tell his disciples that there would be a cost in following Him.  He told them outright: “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me.  For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it.”  (Luke 9:23-24)  But they still didn’t understand.  And we don’t either.


Once when Jesus and his disciples had spent the day traveling, Jesus asked James and John to run ahead into a nearby village and find an inn or home where they could rest for the night. They were walking to Jerusalem from Galilee and they were tired from the long trip.  Perhaps the weather wasn’t good either. They would pay a nice fee for shelter.


 James and John ran to the nearby village and knocked on every door.  But each time when an inn keeper opened their door and heard that it was Jesus and His followers who needed a place to stay the innkeeper would slam the door in the men’s faces.  Many in Israel knew who Jesus was by now since He went about healing and teaching. And evidently the people in this village did not want Jesus to stay in their village.


James and John hated to be treated so badly. They couldn’t understand why so many people in the village were rejecting them.  By the time they got back to Jesus they were furious.  “‘Lord, do you want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them?’ they asked.”  (Luke 9:54b)  James and John wanted revenge! They knew that Jesus was God and He had given them power to heal and perform miracles.  Why not use their God given power to kill off the people that didn’t treat them right? 


But Jesus turned and quickly let them know how wrong this idea was!  He told them that they did not understand the Holy Spirit power that they had been given.  They (and we) have been given the Holy Spirit to use for good works and not for evil!


 And Jesus also said: “The Son of Man (Jesus) did not come to destroy people’s lives, but to save them.”  (Luke 9:55)  If Jesus’ purpose is to save people and love them then, as His follower, that is our purpose too.  We are called to a life of love and generosity, even when the people around us are rejecting us.


Jesus and his disciples must have had to sleep outside that night since they were not welcome in town.  This gave Jesus an opportunity to talk with the disciples about having to put up with rejection.  He said: “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests: but the Son of Man (Jesus) has no place to lay his head.”  (Luke 9:58)


Everywhere Jesus went He suffered rejection, the prophets of old also suffered rejection and we will too since we are His followers.  One of the beatitudes says: “Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and say all manner of evil against you falsely for My sake.  Rejoice and be very glad for great is your reward in heaven because the prophets were also persecuted like that.”  (Matthew 5:11-12)


Jesus and his disciples continued along on their long walking trip to Jerusalem.  And on the way crowds followed Jesus and the disciples. Jesus asked several people in the crowd to follow Him – to be His disciple.  Each person wanted to follow Jesus and told Him that they would.  But each one gave excuses for why they couldn’t follow Him right then.


 One person said “Lord first let me go and bury my father.” And Jesus answered: “Let the dead bury the dead: but as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.”  (Luke 9:59-60)  We can find so many good excuses to keep us from proclaiming the good news and from following Jesus!


 Bible scholars believe that in this passage Christ is not teaching that his followers should not care for their aging parents or honor their loved ones at funerals.  But we should not use these reasons as excuses for not following Christ or proclaiming the good news of the kingdom.  We are to proclaim the good news of the kingdom in everything we do – even when we are attending funerals or caring for aging parents.  


And the other person who Jesus called to Himself answered: “I will follow you, Lord: but let me first say farewell to those at my home.”  (Luke 9:59, 61) And Jesus answered: “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”  (Luke 9:62)  Again scholars do not believe that in this passage Jesus is teaching us to not say “goodbye” to family when we leave on a trip.  But we should not compromise our love for Christ possibly because of family disapproval. The Bible teaches us to honor our parents and take care of family, but again our love for God should come first.


And also this passage should not be construed as a teaching that a person loses her  salvation if she looks back.  Scholars believe that Jesus is focusing here on the truth that service for Him demands undivided attention.  Halfhearted discipleship eliminates one from God’s maximum use.


 Paul talks about following Jesus in 1 Corinthians 3:10-15   In this passage he compares following Jesus to “building on a foundation.”  Jesus is the foundation and we, His followers, build on that foundation.  Scripture says:  “If anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw.  Each one’s work will become clear for the Day will declare it because it will be revealed by fire: and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is.  If anyone’s work endures, he will receive a reward.  If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss: but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.” (I Cor. 3:12-15) 


When Jesus says, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God,” we don’t believe that Jesus meant to say that the person who looks back will not be in heaven. It is just if that person does sloppy work he may not leave any lasting kingdom work.  If his work is burned up, “he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.” (1 Cor. 3:15)


 Following Jesus and doing our best work means living in the present and looking ahead to the future where He is leading – with no time to look back.  We cannot do our best work in the present when we are living in the past. And we want to give Jesus our best.


We have been called to follow Jesus – to build on the foundation – that is Jesus. There are things we must learn in order to accomplish our building – and costs we must pay to be a disciple. What does this discipleship look like?


First we must abandon some attachments.  Leave behind what gets in the way. Stop looking back. Don’t be surprised when we experience rejection.  Practice hospitality amid rejection. Deny ourselves.  Love others. Obey God.  Pray. Have faith. When we follow Jesus there is much to do, so we better count the cost.  But the joy of knowing Jesus is worth any price. And we will live in ways we never could have lived.  And go places we never could have imagined!