Sunday, December 18, 2011

“I am the LORD and I do not Change”

Wednesday, December 14 - Malachi 3:1-6 (NLT)

 1  “Look! I am sending my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me. Then the Lord you are seeking will suddenly come to his Temple. The messenger of the covenant, whom you look for so eagerly, is surely coming,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies.
 2 “But who will be able to endure it when he comes? Who will be able to stand and face him when he appears? For he will be like a blazing fire that refines metal, or like a strong soap that bleaches clothes. 3 He will sit like a refiner of silver, burning away the dross. He will purify the Levites, refining them like gold and silver, so that they may once again offer acceptable sacrifices to the Lord. 4 Then once more the Lord will accept the offerings brought to him by the people of Judah and Jerusalem, as he did in the past.
 5 “At that time I will put you on trial. I am eager to witness against all sorcerers and adulterers and liars. I will speak against those who cheat employees of their wages, who oppress widows and orphans, or who deprive the foreigners living among you of justice, for these people do not fear me,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies.
 6 “I am the Lord, and I do not change. That is why you descendants of Jacob are not already destroyed.
“I am the Lord, and I do not change.” What an immensely comforting thought! In all the change and chaos that can surround us, amidst all the fickleness and fecklessness of people, God does not change and he is in control.
I got behind in writing meditations on our daily advent scriptures when we went away for Grandma’s funeral and in the events surrounding that. So this is a “makeup” lesson because I really do want to dwell on all these scriptures for a few moments.
Highlights of this passage include:
The ultimate answer to a seeming lack of justice
The messenger who will prepare the way for the Lord
The sudden appearance of the Lord in his Temple
The fulfillment of the Abrahamic and Davidic covenants when the “messenger of the covenant” appears
The absolute, blinding purity of the Lord
The acceptance of the people’s offerings following the work of the Messiah
The assurance that justice WILL prevail

The previous chapter of Malachi ends with these words:
You have wearied the Lord with your words.
   “How have we wearied him?” you ask.
   You have wearied him by saying that all who do evil are good in the Lord’s sight, and he is pleased with them. You have wearied him by asking, “Where is the God of justice?”
We have all struggled with the problem of evil. We have been discouraged to see seemingly wicked people prosper, and have felt that God doesn’t care. We despair over the lack of justice. We may think God doesn’t notice or doesn’t care. God’s response to the question “Where is the God of justice?” is to come down himself and personally deal with evil in a very permanent, just, effective way. “The Lord himself will come to his temple.”

Messenger (verse 1)
The way we (the people of Israel at the time the Messiah came) would know the Lord’s coming was imminent was that a messenger would come. This is another prophecy concerning John the Baptist and his ministry of calling people to repentance and preparing the way for Jesus. (see also Isaiah 40:3)

Sudden Appearance (verse 1)
The people hearing Isaiah’s message did not know that hundreds of years would pass, including 400 years of silence with no words from any prophets, but then events would unfold very quickly. The messenger would appear and the Messiah would be revealed and the perfect sacrifice would be made. I love that Simeon and Anna (Luke 2) immediately recognized Jesus when he made his first incarnate appearance in the Temple at 8 days old. The very next record we have of the early years of Jesus is when he was 12 years old and was discussing scripture with the religious leaders in the Temple.
I believe this passage also looks forward to the second coming of Jesus.

Messenger of the covenant (verse 1)
We have already looked at the covenant God made with Abraham (Genesis 12, 15, 22) and restated many times to the descendants of Abraham, culminating in David (2 Samuel 7). This passage in Isaiah illuminates how that covenant will be fulfilled.

Purity of the Lord (verses 2-3)
What beautiful imagery of the absolute, scorching, consuming righteousness and purity of the Lord. Over and over in scripture, we see that people – no matter how “holy” – are unable to stand in the face of God’s holiness (Moses in Exodus 3, Isaiah in Isaiah 6, Ezekiel in Ezekiel 1:28, and many others). There is no way to appear before the Lord, to even offer our selves to him, without the purification offered by the Lord.

Acceptance of the people’s Offerings (verse 4)
Because of the purifying work of the Lord, we can approach God and make sacrifices to him.

Assurance that justice WILL prevail (verses 5-6)
We begin and end with justice today. God will make sure that the wicked are punished and that the oppressed receive justice. He notices every wrong done to the defenseless, and as the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, he has the power to enforce justice.
If you are wondering where is the justice in your situation, if you have seen people do evil against you with impunity, please know that God has noticed your affliction and he has a plan in motion for justice on your behalf.

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