Malachi 4:4-6 – Being prepared!
By Pastor Lee Hemen
January 29, 2012 AM
Most of us on that Tuesday morning had not given much thought to what the day held. After all it was a pretty normal Tuesday. I was on my way to Morning Prayer and my thoughts were on what we would pray about when we met. I was not thinking about eternal things. This was true for most of those who boarded planes in Boston, went to work in New York City, or began their day behind a desk at the Pentagon. Few that day had any idea of what the next few hours would bring, yet with devastating swiftness we were all reminded just how quick death comes. Since 9-11, it has made me wonder how many folks are prepared for eternity.
We find that the Prophet Malachi was very concerned about the subject of preparedness. It was in his thoughts as he wrote to the Israelites. He wanted them to consider the eternal consequences of their lives. He knew that if they did not think about their actions and faith now, there would come a time of reckoning for his nation and for each individual. This morning, as we read the final few verses of Malachi, we will be forced to consider the matter of being prepared as well. Let’s discover how…
Whenever we decide to take a vacation trip, we begin to prepare for the trip by getting certain things together that we think we will need. Anyone who is about to take an important journey would be wise in doing such a thing, yet many of us never take the time to prepare ourselves appropriately for eternity. Malachi reminds us to…
I. Get ready right now! (v. 4:4)
1. God’s people are to remember their relationship with God!
1) To prepare ourselves for eternity, we need to reorient our hearts to the things of God. We are to “seek first his kingdom and his righteousness” (Matthew 6:33) because it is the spiritual compass for our lives. Far too often we forget to give it a glance for direction. In light of all that has been said about Malachi’s concern for his people’s lack of covenant faithfulness and obedience, this concluding exhortation was appropriately to the point. Malachi bluntly tells them, “Remember the law”, something in which they had totally disregarded. His command refers to the mental act of actually remembering the Law combined with appropriate actions (recalling and obeying) that it required. They needed to recall God’s law to mind and then do it! Dear child of the Lord, when was the last time you sought God’s kingdom and his righteousness for your life’s compass?
2) To prepare ourselves for the future we need to re-identify our connection to the past. This is what Malachi was doing with the Israelites. For them to remember the important moments of faith and Moses’ teachings would bring them out of the past and into the present. It would reestablish their spiritual foundation. Malachi told them, “Remember the law of my servant Moses, the decrees and laws I gave him at Horeb for all Israel.” (Malachi 4:4 NIV) Too often we forget the past, and when we do we are doomed to repeat it by making the same mistakes over and over again. Malachi attempted to correct the problem of forgetting the teachings of God by calling the Israelites back to those basic tenets of faith and practice. He wanted them to remember their relationship with God now.
EXAMPLE: Why do you think that so many politicians end their remarks with, “God bless America”? Some would say it is an attempt to misguided patriotism. It could be. I honestly believe it is because they are trying to connect themselves with God whom they have forgotten, hoping their listeners will think they are both patriotic and religious. Perhaps, they want to re-identify themselves with their country and the inherent ideals that were foundational in her formation, although I rather doubt it. Why am I so skeptical? God has always been at the center of our nation no matter how many try to say otherwise. God is to be the foundation of any nation. His law is where we get our notion of freedom and liberty, the idea that everyone has worth. Malachi knew that God’s people are to remember their relationship with God. They needed to get ready right now!
My ex-brother-in-law reminded us to “never forget these stories” his dad had shared with us concerning WWI. He was the second most decorated man in the Great War next to Sergeant York. The Israelites needed to remember their past in order to prepare themselves for the present situation. If they could not they would not be prepared to step into the future God had for them. The same is true for us and our nation as well. Malachi understood this and reminds us of…
II. Our future formation! (Vv. 4:5-6)
1. Only those who have placed their faith and trust in Christ are prepared to meet their Maker!
1). God promised through Malachi that “the Prophet Elijah” would come “before” the day of the Lord. What Malachi speaks of here is the same as mentioned in v. 3:1. The Israelites thought that Elijah would come before the Messiah came. He would “turn the hearts” of those who were willing to listen. The work of this Elijah-like messenger was found in John the Baptist. Jesus said, “If you are willing to accept it, [John] is the Elijah who was to come.” (Matthew 11:14 NIV) Jesus understood the significance of John’s witness. He would be the final Old Testament prophet archetype to the people. Jesus said, “Among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist; yet he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he… For all the Prophets and the Law prophesied until John.” (Matthew 11:11, 13 NIV) Malachi spoke of John, the Messiah’s herald, and John has come!
2) Notice also that the spiritual restoration of the family is at the heart of what God is all about. Malachi relates, “He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers.” There is no greater need in America today than fathers to be actively involved in the spiritual lives of their children. This is the idea here that fathers would be spiritually involved with their kids and the children would want to listen and learn again of the things of God! We face a paternal spiritual crisis where fathers are not involved in the spiritual preparation of their children and because of this we face a vacuum that is being filled by all other kinds of ungodly behavior.
3) This future formation must be heeded because unless God intervenes, the nation would be “cursed.” The last words of the Old Testament are Malachi’s ominous anticipation of the “great and dreadful day of the Lord.” For some this will be a happy time, but for others it will be dreadful! The nations God’s people had so long fought against for generations had been set aside to be destroyed because they had deliberately chosen to leave God and worship idols! This is why Joshua would declare that the city of Jericho “and all that is in it are to be devoted to the Lord.” (Joshua 6:17 NIV) It was devoted to destroyed, yet now Israel would be devoted to destruction if they did not “turn the hearts” back to God! The same holds true for any nation that says it follows God, yet deliberately turns away from obeying him! America included.
EXAMPLE: Stamped on our money are the words, “In God We Trust,” yet is this actually true? The stones that Joshua put in the Jordan have been washed away, the fire pit of Elijah is overgrown with weeds and forgotten, and the temple in Jerusalem is no more. No one knows for absolute certainty where the empty tomb of Christ is. The only monument that stands the test of time is the one made in the human heart by God’s handiwork through the blood of Christ. Will we remember the prayers we prayed and our conscious decision to follow and honor God again? Will the dust of those buildings become the soil of a renewed faith in America where “God Bless America,” really means what it says? The choice is ours to make this morning. Joel said that, “The day of the Lord is great; it is dreadful.” Then he asked, “Who can endure it?” (Joel 2:11 NIV) Are you prepared?
This morning, more than ever before, we need to be prepared for Christ’s coming. Are you personally prepared? Paul said that, “the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, “Peace and safety,” destruction will come on them suddenly.” (1 Thessalonians 5:2-3 NIV) Malachi warned Israel. He told them to get ready now and for the future. It is a matter of being prepared, are you?
Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 Biblica. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.
Pastor Lee Hemen has been the outspoken pastor of the same church for 25 years in Vancouver, WA. He writes regularly on spirituality and conservative causes and maintains several web blogs. This article is copyrighted © 2012 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.