The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all the saints. Amen. I can’t think of a more wonderful blessing to be bestowed upon us. Can you? Wrapped up in that blessing is the entirety of this life and the whole of eternity. The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all the saints. Amen. That blessing also happens to be exactly how all of our Bibles end. It is the last and final word from God. It is how God chose to define the link between heaven and earth that he established when he spoke those everlasting words, “Let there be light.” Those words tied heaven and earth together for all of eternity. Those words, “Let there be light”, in our English Bibles, begin just the second sentence of the whole Bible. “Let there be light.” “The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all the saints. Amen.” “And there was light. And God saw that the light was good.” And when that light was perfectly revealed, God took on human flesh, and lived for a time among us in the person of Jesus Christ who, at one point in his ministry, boldly took the divine initiative and proclaimed to all who would dare to understand, “I am the Light of the World.” In Christ, heaven and earth have become united in a way that none of us will ever fully understand in our lifetimes. The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all the saints. Amen.
This morning, though, we are looking neither at the end of the Bible, nor at it’s beginning, but rather at it’s middle. And here, the news is not quite so profoundly amazing and awe inspiring. In fact, if we care to look down in our passage this morning, we will discover that the last sentence of the Old Testament contains the veiled threat of a curse. We may not fully understand the depth of the amazing grace of the Lord Jesus, and we may not fully grasp the profundity of light constantly emerging in the Scriptures, but most of us have a pretty good idea when it comes to comprehending the threat of a curse. Blessings, we enjoy, even though we may not fully grasp the significance of them, but curses, we get. We understand them. And in our passage this morning, it is the threat of a curse that grabs our attention. And in the threat of that curse, there is both a warning and a promise of good news.
As the prophet Malachi peers into the future, he envisions a day when those who practice justice will be rewarded, and when those who promote injustice will be punished. And, true to the rest of the Scriptures, Malachi envisions that day to be one of fiery and inescapable judgment for all who are arrogant and for all who are evil doers. And of course, the picture that Malachi paints, is not a pretty one at all.
Malachi describes that day as a burning oven that will utterly destroy. Malachi says that, “The day that comes shall burn them up, says the Lord of hosts, so that it will leave them neither root nor branch.” That’s pretty gruesome: nothing left, not even a root. Even after a forest fire there’s usually a root, and that root almost always recovers. But in Malachi’s prophecy, there is nothing but utter and chaotic devastation. Recovery is not an option.
Thankfully, because of God’s great and abundant mercy and grace, that day has not yet come. And quite frankly, if Malachi was alive to day, he would be quite surprised that it had not yet come. Even John the Baptist, who lived some 400 years after Malachi, would be utterly amazed that that day had not yet come. In his prophecies, John the Baptist was completely convinced that the devastating day of the Lord would come with the first advent of Jesus Christ. And when it began to be evident that the day might not come during the ministry of Jesus, John expressed some genuine disappointment in Jesus, wondering aloud if Jesus was in fact, the promised and much anticipated Messiah. He even sent word to Jesus, asking, “Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?” Ouch! That’s a hard question! John should have known the answer to that question, but what he knew to be true about the Messiah did not at all square with what he knew to be true about Jesus. John prophesied that Jesus, the Messiah, would have a ministry that entailed the fiery judgment of evildoers, and the establishment of righteous justice for those who were faithful. But in spite of all of this, what John saw instead, in Jesus, was that the blind received their sight, the lame walked, the lepers were cleansed, the deaf heard, the dead were raised, and the poor had good news brought to them. That’s all restoration stuff. None of it even resembles the devastation stuff that Malachi prophesied, and that John anticipated. No wonder John asked, “Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?”
And still, that day has not yet come, because God is not, and never has been willing that any should perish in such a devastating firestorm such as Malachi has prophesied. Since the time of Malachi’s prophecy, God has waited patiently for nearly 2500 years.
Oftentimes, in our frustration, when we come head to head with the powers of evil, we wonder, why doesn’t God just get over with this business of tolerating evil and bring on that firestorm? Why doesn’t God do away with evil, why doesn’t God just wipe evil off of the face of the earth, along with all of those nasty evil-doers, who seem to be prevailing mightily over just about everything these days?
But you know something? I do not really want God to get things over with. I do not really want God to do away with evil, and wipe it off the face of the earth, and I do not want God to do this because I do not know which evil that God will choose. Will it be the evil of the thief, or the evil of the rapist, or the evil of the racist, or the evil of the serial killer, or will it be the evil of the pastor? When people people ask, if there is a God, how can there be so much evil in the world, the answer is always, there is a God precisely because there is so much evil in the world. The presence of evil in the world speaks volumes about a loving and patient God who is unwilling to bring on a premature firestorm. God does not pick and choose evil like we do. All sin is sin to God. God does not define degrees of evil, as we are so most prone to doing.
And so, God in his mercy and grace, at least for the time being, allows evil to co-exist along with the good. This is so that all can repent of their evil ways. The strong warning, though, from the prophets and the Gospels, and the whole witness of the Bible, is that God will not be patient forever. There will come the day of the Lord, mighty and righteous, with fiery judgment for the stubbornly unrepentant, and justice for the righteous.
The justice that Malachi envisioned is closely tied to his hope of a coming Messiah. Malachi paints a beautiful picture of a sunrise. When the sun rises, it brings with it the promise of something new. The night is over, and darkness has once again been banished; and light prevails. At Christmastime we celebrate the coming of light into the world. We celebrate the dawning of a new day of salvation and hope. The message of Christmas is that the light of God has entered forever into the darkness of this world, and the darkness did not overcome it.
When Malachi peered into the future, he saw the dawn of the sun of righteousness, rising with healing in it’s wings. He saw the light of God, rising over all of creation. But he didn’t know then what we know now. He didn’t know then that the rising sun of righteousness was none other than Jesus Christ. He did not know that God would visit this earth in human flesh to pave the way for our salvation.
When Jesus came to this earth, he bathed the world in the light and loving warmth of God; and he brought healing to broken bodies and broken souls. His ministry was one of restoration.
The sun of righteousness, with healing in its wings is still with us today, bringing light and warmth and love and healing and restoration.
Jesus is our daily assurance that God loves us and cares for us. Jesus is our promise of the absolute joy that Malachi saw in his vision.
Charles Wesley, captures the imagery of the sun of righteousness best, in his Christmas carol, “Hark! The herald angels sing” it is in the third verse, and I’m going to close this morning by reading it aloud. It is absolutely profound.
Hail the heaven-born Prince of Peace!
Hail the Son of Righteousness!
Light and life to all he brings,
Risen with healing in his wings.
Mild he lays his glory by,
Born that we no more may die,
Born to raise us from the earth,
Born to give us second birth.
That’s joy. That’s calves skipping into the pasture after being cooped up in the stalls. That’s freedom from all that enslaves us. That’s release from all that ensnares us. That’s the joy of heaven come to earth, but most importantly, it is the promise of earth invited into heaven. The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all of the saints. Amen.