My Sunday sermons given at Sellwood Baptist Church in Portland, OR, for those who missed church or just want to see what we're up to. You can also listen to these sermons if you prefer. Just go to our church website and click the "Online Church" tab. Here's the link:

Monday, March 5, 2012

“And you thought Phoenix was hot!” - (03/04/12)

Malachi 4:1-6 (Message #8 in Malachi Series)
March 4, 2012

            I’ve lived in some very hot places in my lifetime.  When I was a kid we lived in Guam for several years.  For those of you who may not know, Guam is a US Territory out in the far Pacific, located close to the Philippines.  It makes up part of the Marianas Island chain, which also includes the little islands of Saipan, Rota, and Tinian.  It is a lush green little island, very beautiful, densely covered with jungle.  I loved living there because of the easy-going laid-back Chamorro culture, the gorgeous white-sand beaches, and the incredible variety of sea life.  However, most people that go there complain of the heat.  Indeed, it gets very hot, and on top of that they have close to 100% humidity all year around.  You sort of get used to the heat but not completely.  Some days you just have to find a place in the shade and spend the day fanning yourself and drinking iced tea.
            Then when we ministered in Brazil as missionaries, our second term was spent in an interior city of the State of São Paulo known as Ribeirão Preto.  It is known all over the country as being very hot there.  Sometimes when I would be downtown walking around and going about my business the cobblestone sidewalks would get so hot that you couldn’t stand to walk on them.  After several days of scorching weather the basalt cobbles would heat up so much that you could literally cook an egg on them.
            And some of you have been to Arizona during the hot season.  You know what that’s like.  Folks who live down in Phoenix all have central air conditioning because without it you could hardly survive.  It gets ridiculously hot!

            Well, in our text for today the LORD talks about a day that will be even hotter than Arizona, or Guam, or Ribeirão Preto.  You thought Phoenix was hot, but you haven’t seen anything yet!

Verse 1: “For behold, the day is coming, burning like a furnace; and all the arrogant and every evildoer will be chaff; and the day that is coming will set them ablaze,” says the LORD of hosts, “so that it will leave them neither root nor branch.” 
·       What day is the LORD referring to here?  You’ve probably guessed that He’s talking about the Day of Judgment, sometimes called in Scripture “The Day of the LORD.”  In the NT it is called “The Great Tribulation.”  This is a common theme in the OT.  For example, in Zephaniah 3:8 we hear the LORD say, “Therefore wait for Me,” declares the LORD, 
“for the day when I rise up as a witness. Indeed, My decision is to gather nations, to assemble kingdoms, to pour out on them My indignation, all My burning anger; for all the earth will be devoured by the fire of My zeal.”
·       He says here that on that day the heat will be like a furnace and will utterly burn up the wicked as though they were chaff.  They will be set ablaze and will be completely destroyed—from the tip of their deepest root to the tip of their longest branch.  There will be nothing left of them but ashes.  Absolute annihilation!
·       This idea of a day of fire and burning has already been introduced up in 3:2-3 where the LORD said “the day of His [Messiah’s] coming” would be like a “refiner’s fire” and a “smelter’s furnace.”  In both cases, anything that is not the pure precious metal is burned away to nothing.  Here in 4:2 the picture is a little different.  It is the useless chaff that will get burned away leaving only the pure, precious grain.

Verse 2: “But for you who fear My name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings; and you will go forth and skip about like calves from the stall.” 
·       This verse stands in stark contrast to verse 1.  The Day of the LORD will put an end to the seemingly endless night of the wicked in which they appear to prosper and to get away with all their ungodliness.  When the Day of the LORD comes the wicked will be destroyed, and their time will be cut off.
·       “But for you who fear My name…”  He is, of course, speaking to the righteous remnant who continued to hold God in wonder and awe, who responded to Him in obedience, and who lived for Him with constant faith.  The Day of the LORD will be very different for them.
·       On that Day, He says, “the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings.”  He is saying that on that day the righteous will be blessed, and healed, and filled with joy.  There are those who want to say that this phrase, “the sun of righteousness,” refers to Jesus Christ, that it is a veiled reference to Him.  I do not believe this.  I believe that it is a word picture showing the rise of the day of righteousness and the victory of godliness over evil.  This is in line with Isaiah 60 where God and His glory are likened to the sun.  Certainly the Lord Jesus will be the active agent on the Day of Judgment because He will be seated on the throne as the Judge, but I don’t believe that this phrase in verse two is referring to Him specifically. 
·       In the same way that in the night of wickedness the administration of evil touched every corner, when the day of righteousness comes, the beams of the sun will reach every nook and cranny and will root out and destroy every vestige of wickedness.  The sun of righteousness will rise like a majestic eagle upon its strong wings.  As the sun rises and its penetrating rays dispel the darkness, sin and all that sin produces will vanish away in an instant.
·       “…And you will go forth and skip about like calves from the stall.”  A young calf is one of the cutest things you’ve ever seen.  Their big brown eyes can melt the hardest heart.  When a calf is born it’s pretty unsteady on its feet but after a day or so it’s ready to boogie.  When the farmer opens the stall door and lets the little guy loose he will jump and run and gambol all over the place out of pure joy.  That’s the picture here.  On that Day the righteous will be filled with pure joy and will skip around like little calves, unable to contain their happiness.  No longer downtrodden and oppressed by the schemes of the wicked, the righteous will finally have their day!  What a beautiful picture!

Verse 3: “You will tread down the wicked, for they will be ashes under the soles of your feet on the day which I am preparing,” says the LORD of hosts. 
·       “You will tread down the wicked.”  The wicked will be just so much dust under the feet of the righteous as they dance in the streets, rejoicing in what the LORD has accomplished.
·       “…on the day which I am preparing.”  This phrase looks directly back to 3:17 where the LORD promised: “And they will be Mine,” says the LORD of hosts, “on the day that I prepare My own possession, and I will spare them as a man spares his own son who serves him.” 

Verse 4: “Remember the law of Moses, My servant, even the statutes and ordinances which I commanded him in Horeb for all Israel.” 
·       In these last three verses we have the concluding remarks to the book.  Here the LORD gives a closing exhortation to the children of Israel to obey the Scriptures.  He says, “Remember!”  This means more than to merely recall something.  It means to act upon the teaching that God had given them.  In the NT we are exhorted to be “doers of the Word and not hearers only.”  Earlier we saw that the LORD’S indictment of the Jews was that they had gone away from God’s ordinances (3:7) and had deliberately “forgotten” His statutes.  That’s “spiritual drift.”
·       This exhortation is really addressed to sinners and saints alike.  The Law, with all its statutes and ordinances, was given by God to Moses at Mount Sinai and was “for all Israel.”  No one was above it or excluded.

Verse 5: “Behold, I am going to send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and terrible day of the LORD.” 
·       Elijah was arguably the most revered and beloved of all the prophets of Israel.  You can read about his ministry in I Kings 17 – II Kings 2.  His ministry lasted many years and during that time he performed many jaw-dropping miracles.  He was fearless in preaching the Word.  He took no guff from anyone.  I believe he exemplified the truth found in Daniel 11:32-33 which says, “…but the people that do know their God shall be strong, and do exploits.  And they that understand among the people shall instruct many.” 
·       Here we see the promise of “Elijah’s coming” in verses 5-6.  God says He will send a prophet to prepare the moral and spiritual soil to get things ready for Messiah’s coming.  The appearing of this person was first spoken of up in 3:1 where the LORD refers to him as “My messenger” [literally, angel], saying that he would “clear the way before Me.”  In other words, this ministry of this human messenger would prepare the way for a divine Messenger, referred to in the same verse as “the Messenger of the Covenant,” who is, of course, Jesus Christ himself.
·       So here in 4:5 the LORD says that this human messenger is “Elijah.”  However, we know that Elijah was long since dead, so is the LORD saying here that He is going to resurrect Elijah, or is there some other explanation?  What we have here is a form of parallelism in which the messenger who will make his appearance before the arrival of the Messiah will be Elijah-like.  In fact, we learn from the NT that this prophecy is in reality speaking about the ministry of John the Baptist, who came “in the spirit and power of Elijah,” so it’s not about Elijah himself (cf. Matt. 11:13-14; 17:12-13; Mark 9:11-13; Luke 1:15-17).  Luke 1:15-17 is in the story about the birth of John the Baptist.  Here we hear the angel Gabriel telling Zacharias about his son who was soon to be born: “For he will be great in the sight of the Lord; and he will drink no wine or liquor, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit while yet in his mother’s womb.  And he will turn many of the sons of Israel back to the Lord their God.  It is he who will go as a forerunner before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, TO TURN THE HEARTS OF THE FATHERS BACK TO THE CHILDREN, and the disobedient to the attitude of the righteous, so as to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”  So then we don’t have to guess what the LORD was talking about back in Malachi 4:5-6.  The NT lays it out for us.  John the Baptist is the “Elijah” spoken of in Malachi.

Verse 6: “He will restore the hearts of the fathers to their children and the hearts of the children to their fathers, so that I will not come and smite the land with a curse.” 
·       “He will restore the hearts of the fathers to their children and the hearts of the children to their fathers.” Luke 1:16-17 actually quotes from this verse, but what does it mean?  The LORD says that through the ministry of John the Baptist many people would be brought to the LORD through repentance and conversion, and once again Israel would be brought back to obeying God’s Law.
·       Malachi ends with both a promise and a warning.  You’ll notice that this verse is conditional.  The LORD in effect is saying that He “will not come and smite the land with a curse” IF the people’s heart’s are turned back away from wickedness towards righteousness.  We see this again and again in Scripture.  Whenever God announces judgment there is also always an offer of His mercy.  Jonah 4:2 is a good example: He [Jonah] prayed to the LORD and said, “Please LORD, was not this what I said while I was still in my own country?  Therefore in order to forestall this I fled to Tarshish, for I knew that You are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness, and one who relents concerning calamity.  Here in Malachi God is holding out an olive branch, a promise of a different outcome if they will turn away from their sin and return to Him.  However, if they refuse to repent, God will deal with them the same way He did with Edom (cf. Isaiah 34 5; Malachi 1:3-4).

            So, although the OT closes with a conditional curse, the NT begins with the story of how this “Elijah” did come and did make ready a people prepared for the LORD.  He preached a message of repentance and many responded.  He preached about turning away from sin and many heard and obeyed.  He preached about the coming of the Messiah and many believed and rejoiced at His appearing.  John’s prophetic ministry “in the spirit and power of Elijah” produced a revival in Israel and prepared the way for the coming of the Christ.
            God’s offer of salvation is still in force today.  The Bible says, “Whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”  Have you done that?  If not, what are you waiting for?  Do it today.  “Behold, today is the day of salvation.”

            What has been the most important thing you have learned from our 8-part study of the Book of Malachi?  Is there one particular truth that stands out?

No comments:

Post a Comment

About Me

My photo
Since 1994 I have been the pastor of Sellwood Baptist Church in Portland, OR. Before that I was a missionary in South Brazil for many years. Until just recently I have also served as a police chaplain with the Portland Police Bureau. Now, however, God has a new assignment for us. My wife and I have been appointed with WorldVenture and are preparing to move to Ireland to help plant a new church in Sligo, a small city in NW Ireland. I'm married to Ramel, a crazy, beautiful redhead that I love more than life itself. We have three great kids, Jonathan, Chris, and Simoni who have given us ten wonderful grandchildren. We are truly blessed.

Stat Counter