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Malachi, the Last Messenger

November 27th, 2009 by Vic

Advent I

Have you noticed how quickly Christmas comes every year? The stores are concerned that you do not have enough time left to buy all their stuff so they moved Black Friday up to Thursday. They are afraid you are going to run out of time to shop.

Should Christmas surprise us? Has the date changed? We know it is coming, but it seems to come too quickly. It seems to come suddenly to disrupt our routines.

This is why we have Advent. Some Christian leaders felt that it would be helpful to have some traditions that would prepare us for Christmas. Advent is a time of preparation. We want Advent traditions to be a reminder that Christ is coming again to disrupt our routines.

As I get older I am reminded that death is also coming. When I was pastoring the Nazarene church in Oregon City one week I was the last person to pray with 4 different people before they died. It was an honor to represent the Lord and a sobering reminder that not everyone is prepared to die. Death should not surprise us. It is appointed unto man once to die. But we do not have too many traditions in our culture that help us prepare for death: a will, a journal, a gift.

Last year I compared Advent to a woman’s pregnancy. There is expectancy. For those with eyes to see, there is some evidence that someone is coming. We are expecting again this week.

Jesus came and He is coming again. Advent is a time of expectancy. We need to be awake, be listening, be obedient, and be enjoying the chaos. During crisis times or special events, every word can become special. Be listening to the voice of God. Be expecting God’s surprises.

It is remarkably stupid that we forget the fact that Christ is coming and will come again. The men of God trembled at the thought of the Day of the Lord. We have become so accustomed to the idea of divine love and of God’s coming at Christmas that we no longer feel the shiver of fear. We remember the pleasant, the baby, the sheep, the manger, but dismiss the terror of the shepherds, the sky splitting with angels, the death threat from Herod. God comes to us in grace and love, but also as a washing machine. If Malachi was designing Hallmark cards he would probably begin with a metal refinery, a bar of soap or a washing machine. God comes to clean up sin. There is pain involved in refining.

To help us in our Christmas preparation I want to review the message of Malachi. This is the book just before Matthew. The name Malachi means messenger or angel.

Verse 8 gives us one clue about when the book was written. What does that verse tell you? When did governors rule in Israel/Judah? When were they receiving gifts? Nehemiah refused gifts.

Haggai and Zechariah had predicted that the glory of the Lord would come with great blessing after the temple was rebuilt. The temple had been rebuilt over 80 years ago, but the Messiah had not come. They did not remember seeing any glory. Their expectations were crushed and forgotten. The walls around Jerusalem were completely rebuilt. The people enjoyed good government and security, but they were apathetic about the things of God. Worship had become routine rituals. The feasts and sacrifices were not practiced with a loving heart. They were intermarrying with pagans. Divorce was too common. Priests were distorting the Word. The poor were oppressed. Their giving was not from a good heart.

Like our church today, we are getting away from teaching the whole word of God. The Bible used to be a major textbook in our schools. Less than 2% of pastors have preached verse by verse through the whole Bible. When we looked through the Christmas decorations that have been given to the church, it was easy to see that we have not given our best.

Malachi 3:1 is a common Advent Scripture reading. But today I want to fly over the whole book. 85% of this book is God speaking. There are 55 verses in Malachi and 47 are direct words from God. 1:2 God begins by declaring His everlasting love for us and ends in 4:4-6 with a vision 400 years in the future of John the Baptist’s ministry and Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration.

1:1-5

The people denied God’s love. They thought He did not really love them. They did not have the new horse and wagon. They did not have the biggest tractor in the block. They were living in security and nice homes with ungrateful hearts.

God says I chose to love you and I chose not to love Esau because he despised Me and his birthright. Esau’s descendants lived in Petra, but they have been destroyed.

I do not understand God’s love, but I want to have a heart that listens to His rebuke. Eight times in this book, the people answer back to God rather than obediently listen.

1:6-14

The people were despising and defiling God’s Name and did not see their sin. Like the Laodicean church they thought they were rich, but they were blind and naked and did not know it.

Worship had become half-hearted. They were bringing left-overs, not 1st fruits. They were not offering their best to the Lord.

Worship has always been a heart thing. Why do you worship? Lev. 22:32 says “Do not profane My holy Name” by giving a defective offering. God is not pleased with plastic gifts. 1:10 says it is better to shut the church doors than to give offerings with a bad attitude.

God says, “My name will be great” (1:11) even if you despise Me. Gentiles will worship with good attitudes and please Me. All around the world people will honor Me and please me.

But you are insincere, and bring a curse on yourself. I’ve been trying to put the fear of God in you. I’m a great King. Do you get it?

2:1-9

The people were devaluing God’s word. It was available, but not valued. Honoring God is a heart choice. We can choose to honor God. It is smart to choose to honor God. If we don’t listen with our heart, we will wallow in our own pig pen. God’s word is intended to wash us and purify us. If we distort God’s word, we will suffer God’s wrath.

2:10-16

The people were forgetting God’s faithfulness. They were casual about divorcing Him and their wives. They broke their marriage covenant and had no heart of repentance. The Lord hates divorce. Divorce is not the unpardonable sin if there is repentance. But most who have had a divorce, have tried to justify themselves rather than repent. They were being unequally yoked with unbelievers. They despised the law of the Lord. It was a heart thing.

2:17-3:5

The people were calling good evil and evil good. They were saying that “God would not punish their sin. God won’t send anyone to hell. God is pleased with all my good works. My sin is just a little thing.” That is the unpardonable sin.

God promised to send 2 messengers (3:1). The first will prepare the way for God. The second will be the Lord of the new covenant appearing in His temple. The new covenant will bring salvation by grace.

When Jesus was brought to the temple to be dedicated 2 people recognized Him. They were expecting Him. Why were they waiting in the temple? Because of this prophecy.

Jesus promised us, if we seek Him with our whole heart, we will find Him.

When He comes His love reveals the sin in our hearts and if we repent He will use suffering and tribulation to refine us and purify us so we reflect His image perfectly.

God takes sin very seriously. We have become inoculated against the horror of sin. When the first Harry Potter book came out, it seemed to be a nice pretend story for children. But I understand the books became darker and darker with more adult themes. Gradually sorcery was a harmless topic to play with. Now we are to accept homosexuality as normal.

Revelation says the second coming will be linked to black magic, sorcery, politicians, and slick economists. Seeker sensitive, new age, and feminism have tried to rewrite the Scriptures so they are not so offensive. Sorcerers, adulterers, perjurers, identity thieves, embezzlers, and other criminals have one thing in common. They do not fear the Lord Almighty. What does that tell you? The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.

It is smart to honor and fear the Lord. Don’t moon the Lord. He will not be pleased. It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of an angry God. But that’s where sinners are.

3:6-12

God does not change.

The people were robbing God. They had no sense of guilt or shame. The Hebrew word for tithe is related to our word “harem”. It is a devoted thing. Lev 27:30 declares, “The tithe is the Lord’s.” Romans 14:8 says, “We are the Lord’s.” It is no longer just 10% in the NT.

The tithe is the Lord’s whether you give it to Him or not. You are the Lord’s whether you live for Him or not. Just as it was stupid not to get God’s 10% out of their bank account in the OT, so today it is stupid not to live our lives unto the Lord.

3:13-4:3

The people were accusing God of injustice. They claimed that serving God did not benefit them. It was a waste of time. It does not gain me anything. The wicked are prospering.

They sounded like Judas when the Alabaster box was broken. “You’ve squandered a year’s wages.”

But God records the good attitudes of those that fear Him (3:16). He is planning to reward the righteous. He has great things for His children (17). He will judge between the righteous and the wicked.

The Day of the Lord will come like a furnace or wildfire. The evildoer will be like burned stubble, and become fertilizer for the spring grass. The righteous are like young calves let out to pasture.

4:4-6

God says remember. Remember the ministry of Moses and Elijah. No other prophets will appear until they appear again. They will appear again. Remember the old, but look for the new. Which Christmas presents do you remember receiving last year?

Before the Messiah comes there is one coming in the spirit of Elijah who will turn the hearts of the fathers and children so they can repent and not suffer the fire of God’s wrath.

Malachi is a message of God’s patient love. God still loves us, but He expects honor and faithfulness on our part. God calls the people to repent. But there are only more murmurings. So the last word that God speaks for 400 years is a word of judgment.

The next word is the angel’s word to Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist. Luke 1:17

1:18 Zechariah protests like other Jews have done before him, “How can this be, I am an old man.”

1:19 The angel replies, “So what? I am Gabriel.”

God is sovereign. Fear Him and do good.

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