Return to the Lord? How Far? Malachi 3

We make our beginning in the Name of God the Father and in the Name of God the Son and in the Name of God the Holy Spirit and all those who have been purified and refined and retuned in Jesus said, AMEN!

OK, we get it! All of these books, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, others we haven’t read, they are all saying “The Lord is coming…” Thomas McComiskey writes: “Whereas the Lord formerly marched forth against Israel’s enemies, now he comes forth against his own people (Jer 25:30-31)”[1] Are we Jesus’ people when by our behavior, by our life, acts and attitude we reject Him? God is all or nothing for us, either fer or agin. There’s no in between, people today genuinely seem to believe and it shows in their actions, that God is irrelevant. That is what we are talking about in this period between 400 to 600 years before Jesus. Thinking God’s irrelevant, when He’s sending all these men to you and telling you, us, you need to get a grip, you’re setting up for a huge fall. God will disavow people after awhile, and leave them on their own. We see that all around the world, many can say it’s a coincidence, or due to other less, let’s say honorable acts, but I think it is because God has blessed us as a faithful Christian people. Any objective study of American history shows that we have been extraordinarily blessed. OK, your history classes may have been about “robber barons”, but the vast majority of Americans through history have honored God, treated people respectfully, helped when they could. It’s the current culture that has drifted off into its own world of privilege, elitism, that everything we have is because we deserve it. That’s just not true, and as much as Yahweh is telling the people of Israel to get a grip and focus on Him, He is very much telling us that today. The people in Israel have the same attitude, and Malachi is calling them out, at the direction of Yahweh. The Hebrew is Ma La Ki, literally means “my messenger”.[2] Yahweh is quoted at the beginning of our reading; “Behold, I send my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me.” (Mal 3:1) Sounds like a reference to John the Baptist. Yahweh is referring to “His Messenger”! God can certainly have many messengers, He has, especially in this time that is leading up to when Jesus, God the Son, appears in the incarnation. The reference “…he will prepare the way before me…” sounds like what Luke is saying about Anna and Zechariah’s son, John the Baptist, the Baptizer. Malachi is said to be the last of the Old Testament prophets. He was speaking/ writing to the community of Jews that had returned to Israel after they were released by the Persians. They restored, as well as they could, Jerusalem, and for a time, they were happy to be “home”, although most had never even seen Jerusalem before their return. But as usually happens, the new toy, the new house, the new lifestyle starts to lose its glitter and eh, into a new funk to grouse and whine about. They felt that even though Yahweh delivers them, again, now He’s taken a powder, disappeared, when He should be showering them with uncountable blessings in their Nirvana away from the Persians and in the place they’ve been told about since they were born. It is the Promised Land, again, albeit from a different direction, but, again, “we want more”, let’s find other “gods” who can give us what we deserve.

Malachi is the last time God will speak to the world for 400 years. Yahweh has repeated over and over through many men; Isaiah, Jeremiah, Malachi, Zechariah, Joel, and more, what more can He do? This is for us too, even 2,500 years later. Maybe we’re being told for the last time. Maybe Jesus won’t be returning for another 400 years, maybe we’re at the end of 400 years. It’s not for us to know, Jesus tells us in Matthew 24: 46 Blessed is that slave whom his master finds so doing when he comes. 47 Truly I say to you that he will put him in charge of all his possessions. 48 But if that evil slave says in his heart, ‘My master is not coming for a long time,’ 49 and begins to beat his fellow slaves and eat and drink with drunkards; 50 the master of that slave will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour which he does not know, 51 and will cut him in pieces and assign him a place with the hypocrites; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” Too many of us want to play games, cut it close and not take Jesus’ return seriously. It will happen and for those who thought they could get away with something, it’s not going to go well.

Malachi 1:6 to 2:9, he focuses on the clergy of the time. There have been many times throughout Scripture and through the history of Christianity where priests, ministers, pastors have copped out, just sold out to the culture, make it easier for themselves and the people they’re called to minister to. That clergy and lay people offer up to God, that which actually dishonors God. For us what we offer to God is our lives, we either praise Him in our life and are faithful in our worship, or we pretty much fake it, give God the leftovers, whatever we decide we can get away with turning over to Him. We don’t honor God in this culture very much at all. When faithful clergy call people to stand up and truly honor God, they get treated pretty much like the prophets or just patronized and pooh-poohed. We honor God in what we do to witness to Him, to give support to His ministries and support those who are to serve Him and you. Those priests/clergy who don’t stand strong for God will be held especially responsible for what they fail to do to serve Him, or dishonor Him by worrying about the culture and not God’s House and people.

Malachi writes that “…he will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, and they will bring offerings in righteousness to the Lord.” Those offerings that have been purified are us, our entire being righteous in Jesus, totally His. We are purified in the baptism of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit and therefore we are purified. When silver and gold are refined all of the substances on it are removed, all that remains is pure silver, or pure gold, what is entirely precious, uncontaminated with any ordinary material. We who are more precious than gold in God’s sight we are that purified, refined offering entirely in Jesus, entirely what God has done in and through us. Even as Malachi is telling us: “ESV 3:2 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. 3 He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, and they will bring offerings in righteousness to the LORD.” We are purified and we have returned to God through our baptism. Our baptism that purifies and refines, removes all of the contamination, all the pollution that has accumulated on us, the crud, debris and adulteration of the world. We have returned to Him, cleansed and purified, and He has returned to us, to redeem and save us in all righteousness in the eternal resurrection.

Advent is the anticipation of Jesus’ return, we are saved in Christ and while we are polluted by the world, we are those offerings, truly worthy of God only by what Jesus has done for us, through His sacrifice, His suffering, He who is the only one who could pay the price, do the purifying and refining that we need to stand righteous and perfect offerings for God the Father.

The peace of God that surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Amin and Shalom  Christ will come again.

 

[1] Thomas McComiskey The Minor Prophets   p 705

[2] Edited by Alberto Ferreiro  Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture OT volume XIV p 283

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