Please open your Bibles to Malachi 4.
The Lord is speaking to his people who have grown cold to him.
†† He wants to revive them spiritually and bring back into the circle of blessing.
Heís told them he loves them.
†† Heís said some hard things to them.†
†† Pointed out words, attitudes, behaviors that are detrimental to them.
Five major areas of concern.
Now at the end, one last thing.†
Let me give you a motivation, a grand inspiration for living this life.
INTRO:† There was a phrase that my mother would sometimes say to me when
†† I was a boyóand I wonder if moms today still use this phrase much anymore.
The phrase was:† Donít spoil your supper.
†† With Happy Meals and drive-throughs there is no need to sayó
†† Donít spoil your supper.
But my mother would sometimes have to say it during those hours after school.†
†† She would find me devouring a bag of potato chips or a box of cookies and she
†† would make me stop.
And she would tell me that she had a great supper cooking.
†† If I protested and said that I was starving half to death and couldnít wait,
†† then she might open the lid and show me the pot roast.† She might give me a taste.
And with that wonderful vision of motherís cooking, she would tell me to go
†† play till my dad got home and that she would call me when it was time to eat.†
My stomach would still be growlingóbut somehow that little foretaste,
†† and the certainty that it wouldnít be long, made it possible to pass the time.
And when we finally sat down at the table, and the blessing had been said,
†† and the food passedóIt was worth the wait.†
There is a lot of waiting in the Bible.†
Many times Godís people are toldó
†† weíre going to be eating soon, blessing is coming, God has heard you,
†† hope in the Lordóbut itís a very long wait.
Joseph was in prison two years after being unjustly accused of attempted rape by
†† Potipharís wife.† Two years before the Lord released him as promised.
David, after he was anointed king, was chased by Saul for 10 years
†† before he finally was able to claim the throne God has promised.
The Israelites wandered in the desert 40 years before entering Promised Land.
And they were in captivity in Babylon 70 years before their promised return.
Thatís a lot of waiting.
And here is this passage in Malachi.† Itís not just the last message of his prophecy.
†† Itís the very last message of God in the Old Testament.
Itís a promise to believers who are struggling with the injustice of life,
†† their own hard situations, the prosperity of the wickedó
†† itís a promise that the Lord is going to come and set things right.
Itís specifically a prophecy of the coming of Jesus Christ.
But how long was the wait between when this promise was given and fulfillment?
How long between Malachi chapter 4ólast book in Old Testamentó
†† and Matthew 1ófirst book of the New Testament?† 400 years.† Long wait.
And we can take it one step more, because clearly this last prophecy of Malachi
†† is not just about Christís first coming as
Savioróhis birth in Bethlehem.
†† But the language points us forward to his second coming as Judge.
And how long have we been waiting for that?† 2,000 years.
How do you wait that long?†
†† How do you wait for Godís promises to be fulfilled, whether 2 years or 2,000?
We have all these wonderful promises from God.†
†† But when they arenít fulfilled right way, sometime hunger pangs take over.
This makes us demanding toward our spouses,
†† because we canít bear living with another sinner and her mistakes and flaws.
This makes us unreasonable or indulgent toward our children,
†† because we canít face the fact they are broken like we are.
This makes us discontented with our work or church or standard of living.
†† We want it all to be perfect now, and it canít be.
And not only do we over expect in this life,
†† the flip side is that we under expect what Christ has promised in life to come.
We are demanding too much of the here and now instead of setting our hopes
†† on what will comeóperfect relationships, perfect work, perfect pleasures.
Our appetite for Godís promises is spoiled, so to speak.
Think back over our study of Malachi these past weeks and the different
†† areas of life that the prophet addressedóchurch, marriage, money, conversations.
Time and again, what is the problem?†
†† These believers are looking at these aspect of life in this world
†† to give them what God alone can give.†
Hereís the Lordís last word to us through Malachi.†
The Day of the Lord is coming.†
†† Dinner is in the oven and it will be served.†
Your stomach is growling, but donít spoil your supper by indulging in attitudes and
†† behaviors of this world.† When you sit at table, youíll be happy you waited.†
Two points:† 1.† Picture the Last Day.†† 2.† Prepare for the Last Day.
MP#1† Picture the Last Day
You must develop a vivid, Christian imagination
†† so that the prospect of Christís return helps you through the waiting time.
The boy imagines eating his motherís cooking,
†† and that helps him wait the two hours until his dad gets home.
The school child imagines the freedom of summer vacation,
†† and that helps him get through those endless final weeks of school.
The mother imagines holding her new baby in her arms,
†† and that helps her through the long nine months of pregnancy.
We use our imaginations in this way all the timeó
†† as a motivation to press on, to be patient, to put up with hardships.
Throughout the Bible, the Day of the Lord, the coming of Christ,
†† is held before us as one of the great motivations of the life of faith.
If you donít develop your imagination for it,
†† then you will miss out on a very significant help.
Malachi describes the coming of Christ with a vivid image.
He says itís like a hot, cloudless summer day.
†† Not humid like Alabamaóbut Middle-eastern dry, under brilliant sunshine.
Somehow there is a spark, and a field catches fireó
†† and the fire is so intense that it burns not just the branches and stalks, but roots.
Then, on that same, cloudless day, under the bright sunshineó
†† a farmer goes to a stall where he has kept a number of calves penned up.
And he opens the door of the stall, and these calves, that have been cramped
†† and crammed together for hours in the darkness, standing in all the manure,
†† they just explode out into the field, running, leaping, exuberant, free.
The bright sunshine and the heat invigorates them,
†† and they trample the burned stubble of the field into ashes.
Before we unpack those images . . .
†† Isnít it interesting how Malachi draws from everyday life
†† to get Godís people to think about the day of the Lord?
†† He mentions weather they were familiar with.† Life in an agricultural society.
Living here in Cullman, itís a little easier for us to picture Malachiís images than if
†† we lived in Birminghamómaybe youíve actually seen calves leaping.
But I think this enforces the main lessonóyou need to draw on things you see,
†† things you read, to stir your imagination concerning the Day of the Lord.
There is a photograph from September 11 that is burned into my memory.
†† Itís a picture of a crowd of New Yorkers, citizens of worldís greatest city,
†† men and women of every race, rich and pooró
†† and every single one of them is looking up with terror and amazement.
When I saw that, it sent a shiver down my spine.† Thought of verse in Revelation:
†† Look, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him;
†† and all the peoples of the earth will mourn because of him. So shall it be! Amen.
The next great event on Godís calendar should vivid in our imagination.
But back to Malachiís image.
The first thing that strikes you is the great separation on that day.
†† A dramatic distinction will be drawn between the wicked and the righteousó
†† loss and destruction for one, healing, freedom, and vindication for the other.
Stubble and ash burned root and branch on the one handó
†† exuberant, leaping calves o the other.
One of the biggest spiritual struggles that believers in Malachiís day were dealing
†† with was that it seemed like it didnít pay to serve God.†
Remember how that refrain was repeated over and over?
†† It is futile to serve God.† What do we gain by carrying out his requirement?
†† Where is the God of justice?† All who do evil are good in the eyes of the Lord.
And that attitude soured their walk with God, led to ungodly behaviors in
†† worship, marriage, money, and conversation.
On the face of things, it does seems to be a legitimate complaint
†† that it doesnít pay to serve the Lord.
When you contrast the lives of believers and unbelievers in terms
†† of success and troubles, there is no noticeable difference.
What I mean is that Christians get cancer at the same rate as non-Christians.
†† Christians lose children to untimely deaths, Christians have financial problems,
†† Christians suffer in dead-end jobs and difficult marriages.
We can argue that following Christ leads to the happiest life here and now,
†† and certainly there is a sense in which that is the case, but the differences
†† between happy Christians and happy pagans are negligible.
And that doesnít even take into account the fact that there are extra sorrows
†† and struggles that come with the Christian life itself,
†† things that arenít even on the radar screen of typical unbeliever.
But there is coming a day when the difference between those who have
†† given their lives to Christ and those who have not will be dramatically displayed.
The destiny of those outside of Christ will be burning root and branch.
†† The branch is where the fruit is produced.
†† The root is where the plant regenerates.
It means that on the last day there will be many people who suffer total loss.
†† All that they have worked for in this life will be burned up and no second chance.
†† In Christís eternal kingdom there will be no root of enmity against God.
But what about you who revere the Lord?† Three great promises in that day.
1.† Healing.† The same sun that withers and scorches and sets the wicked ablaze,
†† will rise with healing in its wings.† Complete healing of all that ails you.
Health in the fullest, deepest sense of the word.
†† Physical healing, emotional and psychological healing, relational healing.
Iíve mentioned before a woman I knew in Florida who was so deeply scarred
†† by her fatherís hatred of the church during her childhood, that even as an adult
†† she had a hard time staying in a worship service.† Would often flee at the end.
It grieved her, because she loved Jesus, loved his people, wanted to worship.
†† She told me:† I used to pray for God to heal me, but then I realized that there are
†† Christians whose legs are crippled, they wonít walk until Jesus comes back.
Thatís my hope, when I see him, my mind and emotions will be made whole.
2.† Freedom.† You are going to be like these calves leaping and skipping.
This is a wonderful promiseóyou will enjoy your full humanity, freed from
†† the constraints of sin and a fallen world.† Free to be who God made you to be.
†† This is true freedom, not like the freedom of world that actually enslaves people.
Probably nowhere more clear in our time than effects of the Sexual Revolution.
†† As people throw off Godís law regarding sex, they think they are being set free.
But sexual license traps people in selfishness and shallowness, damages character.
†† It robs them of the intimacy and freedom that comes from fidelity
Imagine being so free from sin that all your words, all your interactions with
†† people, all your use of the good things of creation are balanced and rightó
†† you will live in the fullest sense of the word.
3.† Vindication.† These leaping calves trample the wicked into ashes under feet.
As American Christians, we cannot fully appreciate this.
Vindication on the Day of the Lord is a great hope for believers who are
†† persecuted for their faith, who are accused of being infidels and hate mongers.
What must it be like to have a whole society turned against you,
†† to be drug before a kangaroo court, to be imprisoned, separated from family,
†† to know that your children are hurting, denied schooling, pushed into menial jobs?
Praise God we havenít suffered that, and letís pray we never willó
†† but for those who have, there will be a day when they are vindicated
†† before their enemies by the judge of all the earth.
And in a lesser sense, all the decisions you make for Christ that cost you
†† will be proved in that day to be worth it.†
Is the Day of the Lord, the coming of Christ vivid in your imagination?
Do you think about it?† You must.†
†† Learning to wait in hope for the Lordís return is one of the great
†† encouragements of our faith.† If you miss it, you will be weakened.
Picture that day.
MP#2† Prepare for the Last Day
How do you prepare for the coming of Christ?
†† How do you live in such a way that you are ready for the day of the Lord?
To go back to the opening illustration . . .
†† How do you keep yourself from gorging on the potato chips and candy
†† of the world, so that your appetite for Christís return is not spoiled?
Itís a long wait, and there are so many temptations.
Hereís what Malachi says:
You prepare by submitting yourself to Godís Word so that it changes your
†† appetites.† Submit to Godís Word and it will turn you from sin to Christ.
It will develop in you an increasing revulsion to sin and a growing desire
†† for Jesus and his coming.
Itís through the word that your mother lifts the lid of the Dutch oven,
†† and lets you see that roast, and smell it, and have just a little foretaste of heaven.
Itís through the word that you can sayóthatís what I want, and itís worth the wait.
But hereís the thing, it doesnít just happen.†
†† It takes a deliberate, committed, regular submission of yourself to Godís Word.
Itís amazing how many ways Malachi drives this home in these last three verses.
†† We donít have time to unpack all of the ways he makes this point.
One way is that he mentions two menóMoses and Elijah.
†† These two men together signify the fullness of Godís Word.
Often the Hebrew Scriptures are referred to as the Law and the Prophets.
†† Moses was the great lawgiver.
†† Elijah was the representative prophet.
So Moses and Elijah are mentioned together at this very pregnant point
†† in redemptive history.† Itís the end of the OT era.†
†† There will be 400 years of silence, next big thing, birth of Christ.
This is Godís way of driving home to his OT saints,
†† during this waiting time, until Christ comesó
I want you to base your life on my Wordó
†† Moses and Elijah, the Law and the Prophetsómust be your foundation.
Itís no different for us.†
†† We are living in the New Testament era, but the very same spiritual principle
†† is valid for us.† We are in a time of silence and waiting for his coming.
And during this waiting time, we must base our life on his wordó
†† the Law, the Prophets, and the Apostles.††
And when you think about the different emphases of Moses and Elijah,
†† you see how comprehensive this command is to submit to the Word.
The Lord says:†
Remember the law of my servant Moses, the decrees and laws I gave him at Horeb for all Israel.
†† The Law was a comprehensive rule that applied to every area of life.
The way you prepare for the coming of Christ is to make Godís law
†† your standard for all the important things in your life.†
What was it that soured Godís people in Malachiís day,
†† what made them so discontented and unhappy?
They accepted the cultureís definition of important things.
†† As believers that eventually made them miserable.† God says, remember my law.
Use the Bible as the standard by which you judge money and success.
†† The way you relate to your parents, children, needy, those in authority.
†† The way you define sexual morality, way use view work, use leisure time.
†† The priority you place on worship and mission of the church.
Then the Lord says:† And pay attention to the ministry of Elijah.
If Mosesí work was to provide a law that speaks to all of lifeó
†† what was Elijahís?† It was to preach sermons that moved the heart to repentance.
In historical terms, this is a prophecy of John the Baptist.
†† Remember, Jesus said that John the Baptist was Elijah.
†† He came in the spirit of Elijah to prepare people for the coming of Christ.
Remember how John the Baptistís message is summarized in the Gospels:
†† ďRepent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.Ē
Malachi alludes to this when he says that Elijah will turn the hearts of fathers
†† to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers.
This is not a comment about family relationsó
†† fathers to children, children to father is a way of saying Godís people,
†† the covenant community, the church.
Hereís the pointóYou prepare for Christís return by submitting yourself to
†† the prophetic ministry of the Word, to the regular preaching of the Word
†† within the context of church life.
When you do, it turns you.† Thatís how repentance is presented in Scripture.
†† Itís a turning, from sin to Christ at the deepest heart level.
I heard a definition of repentance this week that fits so perfectly with
†† the message of Malachi.† From English Puritan Thomas Brooks.
†† ďThis turning, this repentance, is the vomiting of the soul.Ē
When you submit yourself to the wordódeliberately, regularlyó
†† both through private reading and public preaching it changes your nature.
You start to be repulsed by the things that displease God,
†† even if you still want them as a sinner.
Once when Will was about 10 years old, Don and Judie Hubbard invited us to
†† come and eat with their Covenant Group one summer evening.
The menu was pizza and cold drinks.† We were sitting on their back patio.
†† Will was very impressed with this great big, icy tub of canned drinks.
†† And before we had even gotten settled, he had drunk three cans.
Bam, bam, bamóhe chugalugged them!†
†† The sugar rush alone would have done me in, not to mention the caffeine.†
†† And then he was on to the pizzaóand right about the third sliceóit all came up.
Mt. Dew and Dominos.†
What happened?† His nature, to protect his bodyís health,
†† was repelled even by what he wanted.† This is so hopeful.
Because I still want things that I have no business wanting,
†† but they also make me sick.†
Personal example:† I want people to like me.† I donít want any conflict.
†† That means Iím fearful in my pastoral duties.† Iím afraid to say things need to say.
†† Iím afraid to approach certain people.† But when I give in to that, makes me sick.
Just this week I read Ezekielís message to pastors in chapter 34.
†† ďWoe to the shepherds of Israel who only take care of themselves.Ē
†† A devastating indictment of my ministerial fear and desire for comfort.
But after humbling me to the dust, Ezekiel then says:
†† ďI will place over them one shepherd, my servant David,
† †and he will tend them, he will tend them and be their shepherd.Ē
And it made me cling all the more to Jesus, long for his coming.†
† †And try not to give in to fear and comfort that spoils my appetite for him.
Itís the word of God, read, pondered, preached that prepares you for the last day.
This is Palm Sunday, day when Christ entered Jerusalem as a humble king,
†† riding a donkey, on his way to suffering and the cross.
Through that humility and death, and by his resurrection,
†† he secured our salvation.
And now we are waiting for his return.† Picture it, prepare for it.
†† Itís the great hope of our faith.
The King shall come when morning dawns,
And light triumphant breaks;
When beauty gilds the eastern hills,
And life to joy awakes.
The King shall come when morning dawns,
And light and beauty brings:
Hail, Christ the Lord! thy people pray.
Come quickly, King of kings.