Malachi – The same sun that burns the arrogant will heal the faithful
The Lord of Heaven’s Armies says, “The day of judgment is coming, burning like a furnace. On that day the arrogant and the wicked will be burned up like straw. They will be consumed—roots, branches, and all.
But for you who fear my name, the Sun of Righteousness will rise with healing in his wings. And you will go free, leaping with joy like calves let out to pasture.” Malachi 4:1-2
Malachi was the last of the Old Testament prophets. He served towards the end of the time Nehemiah was leading Jerusalem after the the successful rebuilding effort. With the temple and wall in place life could return to normal in Judah, with the key difference being they were no longer an independent country but were now subjects of Persia.
Within the boundaries their landlords had set they were relatively safe and as free as the could be under the circumstances. But with the peace, came, as it often does, complacency and overconfidence. Humans are funny that way. When things are tight and the pressure is on, our ears are open to the voice of God and desperate for His direction. But when things are going pretty good we tend to coast and let discipline slip.
In Israel this complacency manifested itself with priests accepting inferior sacrifices, no longer teaching the Law, and neglecting their sacred duties. Others oppressed the poor, widows and orphans, thought nothing of divorce and became hypocrites, neglecting tithes and offerings.
So God challenges the people to wake up by talking to them straight, with questions and accusations – “You’ve defiled My Name.” “You are doing things I hate.” “You are robbing Me.” “You’ve insulted Me.” And the people reply, “Who? Me? Us?”
The people had become oblivious to their own behavior. Blind. Unable to see their own culpability, their own sinfulness. Like us, they assume God’s reprimands apply to everyone else but them.
But He desire’s obedience not just for His own pleasure. Yes, obedience honors Him. Yes, obedience shows our love for Him. But there is more. Obedience to God is for us, as well – for our own good, for our own best interest.
God desires our obedience so much that He says something here that He has never said before. “Test Me.” If we will be obedient He will take responsibility for the result.
“Bring all the tithes into the storehouse so there will be enough food in my Temple. If you do,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, “I will open the windows of heaven for you. I will pour out a blessing so great you won’t have enough room to take it in! Try it! Put me to the test! Your crops will be abundant, for I will guard them from insects and disease. Your grapes will not fall from the vine before they are ripe,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies.” Malachi 3:10-11
This is such a beautiful picture of God’s grace and His blessing for simple obedience to His word. What we do is a reflection of who we are – what is in the heart.
He knows the arrogant ones, the people who don’t need God. They aren’t interested in obedience. To them God is a crutch for the weak, an excuse for the slacker. The sun of judgement will one day rise on the arrogant and the wicked. Arise to burn them like straw, consume them roots branches and all.
And God knows the honest ones, the ones who are trying to bring Him glory in all things. Even those of us with two left feet, who just seem to stumble from one mud puddle to the next, always wiping our selves off and apologizing to Him again. For these the Sun of Righteousness will rise not to burn, but with healing in His wings and set them free.
Jesus will take what you bring from a pure heart and make it something beautiful.
“Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful, who also will do it.” 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24
What we could never do in our own strength, Jesus completes in us. He is faithful and He will do it!
Our job? As the old song said, “Trust and obey, for there’s no other way, to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.”