#1, Apocalyptic Series
Two weeks ago my blog disappeared. My entire website was completely gone. I was afraid I had been hacked, and because it was Memorial Day weekend, I had a hard time connecting with my fantastic tech guys. None of my regular ways of reaching them worked, for all methods were tied to my blog site.
My problem wasn’t an attack from the outside. The problem was me.
My website had failed because I had forgotten my every-other-year payment for the platform on which my website is built. I hadn’t done my part. Because of my sloppy record-keeping, there was no foundation for my website.
This was the condition of Israel when Malachi wrote. Most everyone had forgotten their foundation.
Cyrus had ended their captivity in Babylon, allowing the Jews to return home and to rebuild the temple. But after a seventy-year captivity, they no longer knew how to live. We can discern from the words of the prophets who wrote in this period that all was not well.
The beliefs of the Jewish people were challenged because they were and had been surrounded by pagan Gentiles, and their children interacted with these Gentiles. They had no prophet proclaiming “Thus says the Lord…” to guide them. There were major changes in political power, language, and religions right at the time when they expected Messiah’s arrival to be soon, based on the prophecies being fulfilled.
One hundred years after the Jewish people had returned to the Promised Land, Malachi wrote down the final words of the Old Testament. There would be no more Scripture written until four hundred years later when John Mark, Peter’s writer, under the leading of the Holy Spirit, would pen the first Gospel.
“The Book of Malachi warns the Jewish people of their shortcomings and tells them they need to put the Lord first in their hearts. Chapter 3 of Malachi tells of the arrival of a messenger. ‘Behold, I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me: and the Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to his temple, even the messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in: behold, he shall come, saith the Lord of hosts.‘”1.
They were waiting for Messiah then, just as we are waiting for Jesus Messiah now.
In 1989, when our fifth child was a newborn, I rested in bed while everyone else attended the Christmas season church services. At home, I contemplated Malachi’s lead into the foretelling of Jesus’ birth.
Through that meditation, I realized the importance of the book of Malachi for pondering the birth of the Christ child and for considering how we should live in light of Jesus’ imminent return, as they were to live in preparation of Christ’s imminent first coming.
After more than two thousand years of God speaking throughout Israel’s history, the Word of the Lord came to Malachi in the mid-fifth century B.C., inspired by the Holy Spirit, the final words of the Old Testament.
The promise of Messiah, then and now, empowers familial love. Malachi’s message is to families.The arrival of Messiah empowers familial love, both in the past when He came and in the future, which we anticipate. When we turn toward Christ, we are turned toward our children. #apocalyptic Click To Tweet
We live in a world similar to the world into which the prophet Malachi proclaimed his message. Though Israel was back in the Promised Land after their captivity, and some Jews lived zealous religious lives, many, if not most, were increasingly secular.
The laundry list of reproofs in this short book shows sins similar to our own.
Husbands divorced the wives of their youth, abandoning their responsibilities to their wives and children in order to marry unbelieving women. Homes were broken. Families were left unsupported.
Involvement in the mission God had given Israel to reach the wider world with the Good News of a coming Savior and a forgiving God had largely failed as the nation became increasingly insular and the leaders secular or pagan.
Financial giving was down as the people looked more to their own comfort.
Malachi addressed these issues with rebukes and calls for them to return to the Lord, summarizing the main points at the end:
“Remember the law of my servant Moses,” (Malachi 4:4a ESV).
“Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet, before the great and awesome day of the LORD comes. And HE WILL TURN the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the land with a decree of utter destruction” (Malachi 4:5-6 ESV).
When Jesus Messiah – Emmanuel, “God with us” – appeared, heralded by John the Baptist, repentance was commanded. And the fathers’ hearts turned, as predicted – “the disobedient to the wisdom of the just.”
As I snuggled my newborn, love for him filling my heart, I was pinned to the text by these final words. I had thought we were responsible for turning our hearts toward our children, and in some degree that is true. But this is done by cooperating with the Lord as He changes us from the inside out.
It is the Lord who does the turning.
How does the Lord turn our hearts toward our children?
First, the Spirit of Christ in us softens our hearts and moves our emotions. When we turn toward Christ, we are turned toward our children.
They come to us helpless, needy, and demanding. The “heart” is the seat of the emotions in the language of both Old and New Testaments. The heart is where our deepest innermost feelings occur. Malachi always reminds me of when my son was a newborn infant, even though that son is now thirty-three, an adult man with a wife and a child. Love for him and all my grown children fills my heart still.
The passage names “fathers,” probably because the fathers here in this passage were the hard-hearted instigators of divorce and abandonment then, but of course the Holy Spirit moves both parents’ hearts, turning us to love our children.
Our part: Don’t resist the Holy Spirit. Allow yourself to love your children deeply and selflessly in a Christlike way. Let go of yourself. Love them like Jesus loves you. Pour yourself out. Let the love of the Father flow through you, overcoming the selfish tendencies we all have inside us.Don't resist the Holy Spirit. Allow yourself to love your children deeply and selflessly in a Christlike way. Let go of yourself. Love them like Jesus loves you. Pour yourself out. Let the love of the Father flow through you. #bgbg2 Click To Tweet
Second, the Lord also instructs, giving us the how-to:
All through the Old Testament, Israel had been instructed to bring their children up in the nurture and the admonition of the Lord. They were to talk of the Lord and His ways as they sat in the house, walked by the way, rose up, and laid down, thus involving the kids in a lifelong loving focus on the Lord. Loving and raising children is a 24/7/365 project.
Our part: Follow God’s instructions. Turning our hearts toward our children involves concern for their immortal souls, in obedience to Christ, not merely occupying ourselves with feeding and educating them. Their physical care is essential. Their education is crucial. Their spiritual instruction is primary. Our loving presence is necessary. All go hand in hand. Our love and care is then used by the Lord to mature them, to turn them toward Him, and to turn their hearts to love us in return.
But, what else? In Malachi’s book, the Lord urged commitment to their marriages, providing an environment conducive to feelings of love and security for the children. There are many reasons people divorce, sometimes for safety because of violence, harm, and abuse. Sometimes because of marital unfaithfulness. Malachi isn’t addressing these legitimate reasons.
Here Malachi writes of cause-less abandonment. The spouse being divorced, husband or wife, did nothing wrong. It only takes one to walk away, leaving a spouse who did not want to be divorced. The divorce discussed here is frivolous divorce with no attempts at reconciliation, because the one initiating the divorce has hardened their heart and turned toward a selfish lifestyle. The selfish one leaves behind hurting victims.If you’re the one left by an abandoning or unfaithful spouse, the Lord is on your side. Read Malachi. God is with you. He loves you. He will be a father or a mother to the children bereft of one parent or the other. #Faith #bgbg2 Click To Tweet
If you’re the one left by an abandoning or unfaithful spouse, the Lord is on your side. Read Malachi. God is with you. He loves you. He will be a father or a mother to the children bereft of one parent or the other.
In 1 Corinthians 10:11-13 we’re told that we’re responsible to learn from the failures of those who went before us – the people of the Old Testament – and to rely on the Lord to provide us a way to escape those same sins.
Malachi discusses having a soft heart toward the Lord and toward our families. It was written down for our instruction. This applies to us as it applied to them.
What can we learn from this?
It will be difficult, otherwise God would not have used such strong words of admonition. We will have to rely on the Lord for the love and self control necessary to truly love our children, to instruct them in God’s ways, and to love our spouses, all for the rest of our lives.We have to rely on the Lord for the love and self control necessary to truly love our children, to instruct them in God's ways, and to love our spouses. #bgbg2 #Faith #Family Click To Tweet
“Watch over your heart for from it flow rivers of life. My son, be attentive to my words; incline your ear to my sayings. Let them not escape from your sight; keep them within your heart. For they are life to those who find them, and healing to all their flesh. Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life” (Proverbs 4:4, 20-23 ESV).We can’t coast through the challenge of lifelong selflessness. It will require the empowerment of the Holy Spirit to convict and motivate us. Our obedience is essential. We can only do this by the power of God. #bgbg2 #Faith Click To Tweet
How does the Christ’s imminent coming impact the turning of your heart toward your children and toward your parents?
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