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Home Sermons Malachi: Longing for God's healing intervention [3] - Text

Malachi: Longing for God's healing intervention [3] - Text

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Malachi: Longing for God’s healing intervention [3].  

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Malachi 3:6 - 4:6 

David Calderwood                

The way a book ends is just as important as the way it begins - authors want to keep their readers engaged to the very last word. Sometimes the hero solves the problem and disaster is averted

But sometimes the ending is totally unexpected - some theme or person is brought front and centre in the last paragraph, in a really tantalising way. Suddenly it is clear that the story is not finished, and that there will be a sequel, another book which will take up and complete the story.

Well, this is exactly what happens in the prophecy of Malachi, written about 430 BC, not long after the time of Nehemiah.

Malachi is the last of 17 prophets, each of whom was God’s messenger urging God’s people to love and serve the Lord, speaking of the good life which would flow from obedience, but at the same time warning of the judgment that would result if they failed to love and serve the Lord God.

The words of Malachi are the final words in the first section of God’s word, the Bible, which we call the Old Testament. And like all the other prophets before him, the twin themes of judgment and hope are dominant, but the very final picture is one of hope and healing.

And this morning, circumstances have given me the opportunity to revisit Malachi one more time to focus on the hope of healing, a wonderful picture and theme which I failed to do justice to when preaching through Malachi a month ago.

So, here’s the question: Why does the Old Testament conclude with a wonderful promise and expectation of God’s healing intervention. Why does the picture of healing overshadow the terrible picture of impending judgement?

1. God’s healing intervention is desperately needed by his people.

When body-destroying disease takes hold of a person we long for healing, sensing we are made for something better.

But it is possible to be really unwell and have no obvious symptoms. The current focus on health, healing and wellness in our society recognises that we can have healthy physical bodies but be unhealthy in mind and spirit, and in danger of impending disaster.

Malachi’s job, like all the other prophets, was to force God’s people into a comprehensive spiritual health check that they might see just how desperately in need of radical intervention they were.

Look at Malachi 3:6 & 7 – The disease of sin made God’s people compulsively and obsessively disobedient to God. No isolated outbreak of illness, but a generational disease, a genetic pre-disposition to disobedience and rebellion, the consequences of which would inevitably be judgment.

The symptoms were obvious in the way they treated others around them – 3:5

And in the way they treated God – 3:14

A majority of God’s people had come to the conclusion that it was a waste of time to serve the Lord. And 2:17 they were actually thinking that the life of rebellion and evil was a better option.

God had never failed to love THEM passionately – 1:2 – but they had lost touch with their Lord and had become dismissive and contemptuous of him at every level, settling into a near-enough-is-good-enough attitude towards God, giving him the leftovers of their time, money, efforts, and virtually no genuine love.

But the real problem is diagnosed in 2:2 – it was a heart problem. A problem on the inside– disease in their heart and mind and spirit. They were unable and unwilling to set their hearts to honour and delight and serve the Lord.

Malachi like all the prophets delivered strong reminders and warnings calling God’s people back to a proper response to God’s love and relationship with them – their own love and delight in him.

But clearly they needed much more than just reminders and warnings. God’s people had been given these over many generations, and while there may have been some immediate response, it was always short-lived. Reluctant obedience always gave way to open rebellion against God.

So the final word is what’s needed - hope of healing because his people needed to be changed from the inside out. They needed serious intervention, the sort that only the Lord could deliver to reformat his people in their heart and mind and spirit.

 

2. God’s healing intervention will be perfect for his people.

Look at Malachi 4:2 .  He is describing the future Day of the Lord, God’s great intervention into history which would have two distinct outcomes.

There would be total destruction for those who consistently rejected and despised the Lord, including those of his own special nation Israel who were guilty of this terrible crime. Restorative disciplines would become absolute judgment if they persisted in rebellion.

But on the other hand, those who valued God’s relationship with them, who sought to serve him because he was worth serving, erven though they failed regularly in their attempt would experience God’s intervention as total healing into perfect righteousness.

God’s future intervention will be like the sun rising in contrast to a long dark night.

God’s healing intervention will end the dark night of sin, rebellion, failure, and misery which marked the life of every one of God’s people and marked the life of God’s servant nation, Israel, and would replace it with a new day of righteousness.

It’s a picture we can easily feel and relish and anticipate if you have ever been sleepless and troubled at night, or if you have ever sat up with a sick child or been up with your own sickness. The relief, joy, and physical revival that the dawning of a new day with the warmth of the sun on your back brings is amazing.

No wonder, then it would bring great excitement and joy because God’s people who longed to honour God and serve him faithfully and obediently, would finally have and be what they longed to be, but which had previously eluded them because of their sin and bad hearts.

That great healing would mean that God’s people could be what God created them to be, and always intended that they should be – people of righteousness, enabled by God’s direct gift and healing to live a life of righteousness, and finally make it to the home of righteousness, heaven.

3. God’s healing intervention is a guaranteed gift to his people.

Look at Malachi 3:16-17 . Future healing was the promise of God’s ownership and eternal identification with them. It was the promise of a living loving, intimate, personal relationship with God forever.

But how are god’s people to live confidently in future promises, especially in a time when it looked as though God’s plan was going nowhere? Look at Malachi 6:4-6 – the future is guaranteed by God’s character and actions in the past, specifically focussed in the covenant at Sinai or Horeb.

Remembering that God had initiated relationship with them in spite of their sin and failure. The issue is not where they live, but how they live and relate to the Lord wherever they are.

Remembering that God’s standard in relationship was perfection or righteousness

Recognising that God’s law, though good in itself, only showed their inability to be righteous as God demanded.

Remembering that God has provided a way to maintain relationship with him, though sinful by nature, through sacrifices to deal with their sin.

Remembering that God committed to meeting with his people and being present constantly with them in a personal way through the tabernacle.

Remembering that God’s final promise in the Old Testament is the same as his first promise made in the context of sin and disobedience in the Garden of Eden, and reaffirmed at Sinai – I will deal with your sin, I will heal you completely so that once again you will be my righteous people, in my place or kingdom, and living obediently under my rule as I originally intended

Their guarantee for future healing was God’s character and promise of healing in the past. God does what he says.

And so God’s people are pointed to God’s promise of a new Elijah – who challenged God’s people to trust God’s character and promises when it looked like that promise had failed and God’s cause had been lost in the face of evil attack.

Elijah gave God’s people courage and determination to rebuild a strong and distinctively holy covenant community, where fathers taught their children to fear and trust the Lord, and children in turn took up this privilege and challenge.

But of course Elijah had only limited success because once again the cycle of sin and disobedience caused God’s people to crash and burn. So, as well as promising another like Elijah in the future, God’s final word is the promise to enact the covenant curse, which the Lord had taken as his own responsibility as the ultimate measure to deal with sin, and free his people from the judgment due their rebellion.

Friends, what a wonderful picture of our God – he is so worth honouring and giving glory to. From his first word in history and at Sinai and in Malachi’s prophecy – loving commitment to his people, to his last word in Malachi and in the Old Testament before he sends Jesus into the world to effect the covenant curse of death and thereby achieve the promised healing and reversal for his people.

God’s grace and mercy and compassion is there for all to see in Malachi’s day, and has already been experienced in reality in our own day.

As Christians we have already experienced this healing intervention. We have been made new in our hearts and minds by the defining presence of God’s Holy Spirit. We have been healed and given a fresh start in the good life of God because Jesus has taken the covenant curse of death for sin and disobedience, and because we are a new creation in his Spirit.

But we know something that God’s people in Malachi’s day could never have guessed – this day of the Lord, this great healing intervention is a two-stage event. We have already experienced healing in Christ, but sin still remains in our members until we go to be with Christ or he returns again and completes that healing.

We already enjoy great joy and excitement but the best part of God’s promise is yet to come for us. Listen as I read Revelation 21:1-5

How good is that as we look to the future as God’s special people?

The people of Malachi’s day had to learn that God was never going to be bound to a geographical location, or a walled city like Jerusalem

He would not be limited to a single race of people, or a temple built out of stones. All these things were just pointers to the real thing – the real expression and fulfilment of God’s promises and purpose, the Lord Jesus Christ.

God’s people lamented that the rebuilt Jerusalem was not what it used to be – God says my real city is Zion, and encompasses the whole earth.

God’s people lamented the rebuilt temple was only a patch on the old temple of Solomon. God says my real temple is Jesus, it is through relationship with him that you meet me personally.

God’s people lamented the need for regular sacrifice for sin, and were failed by priests who lead them into evil rather than righteousness. God says, Jesus is my one true priest who offers himself as the one true sacrifice, offered once to deal finally your sin, thus allowing continuation of relationship with my people forever.

God’s people lamented their disobedience and recognised their need for a strong word from God to penetrate deep into their hearts and minds to take captive their thoughts for God. God says Jesus is my divine, powerful word, my final word which by his Spirit renews from the inside out.

God’s people lamented that they were still without a king to rule them, and were still under control of the Persians. God says Jesus is my true king who will subdue the unruly hearts of my people and establish my kingdom or rule across the earth.

Friends, all God’s purposes and promises for healing and restoration are fulfilled in Jesus – In him we are the righteousness of God. And we need to learn that as Christians today. In Christ we have it all – all God’s promises are yes and amen in Christ and therefore in us as Christians. .

So, the challenge for us today is the same as it has always been to God’s people – will we live in righteousness and thereby show the Lord is worthy to be served and honoured to our world, even in the midst of its rebellion and pursuit of evil?

We have so much more privilege than the people of Malachi’s day because we have the reality of this healing and the reality of God’s enabling and empowering Spirit within us. Renewed in Christ we are no longer slaves to sin, but freed for righteousness.

So our delight in the Lord ought to reflect this. And the overflow of our delight ought to be lives of obedience and praise to our saviour and Lord.

We enjoy new spiritual health and wellbeing in Christ – the good life is ours now. Surely we will find our greatest delight in living under God’s rule, and seeking to demonstrate that in Christ we already have every blessing imaginable, and every grace necessary to live well for him in this life. Amen

 

Last Updated on Wednesday, 22 July 2015 09:16  

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