NOVEMBER 29, 2015
MAIN TEXT: MALACHI 4: 5-6
“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.”
This weekend, the Christian calendar tells us that we begin the first of the four weekends of Advent. Advent, formed from the Latin word means “coming” or “arrival”, is about the coming of Christ. Advent is the traditional celebration of the first advent of Jesus and the anxious awaiting of His second advent. The season is a time for remembering and rejoicing, watching and waiting, and a time to reflect upon the promises of God and to anticipate the fulfillment of those promises with patience, prayer and preparedness.
Our text in Malachi, the last book in the Old Testament, is a foretelling of one who would come in power and boldness preparing the way of the Lord by preaching repentance. We now know that this messenger would be John the Baptist – a forerunner to the Messiah.
Some background on Malachi’s day
Tough times for God’s people
During the middle of the fifth century BC, God’s people found themselves in what seemed to be a hopeless situation. They were back in their promised land but they were not in charge of their own destiny but rather a small province of the mighty Persian Empire. The Temple was rebuilt, but God’s presence had not yet returned to the Holy of Holies (Malachi 3:1). David’s line had no throne in Jerusalem. Basically, none of the greatest restoration promises seemed to be coming true (Deuteronomy 30:1-10; Amos 9:11-15; Micah 4:1-5). Consequently, the Jews who lacked faith looked around them and said, “What is the point of serving Yahweh? We are getting no blessing from it” (Malachi 3:14).
Unfaithfulness was common
Malachi saw the real problem. God was not unfaithful to His promises; rather the God’s people were unfaithful. Repentance was not happening. Hearts were hardened. Outward signs of unfaithfulness were inward signs of disobedience (Malachi 1-3):
- Blemished sacrifices were being offered to God in worship.
- People were not tithing to the Lord.
- The widow, orphan, and foreigner were being taken advantage of and not cared for.
- Mostly people were no longer worshipping idols, but they also weren’t worshipping God.
A desire for God to intervene
By the end of Malachi’s ministry, he understood as a prophet that restoration could not come without God mightily and dramatically intervening as He had done in the past. It would take a prophet that was as great as Elijah, whose miracles and boldness proved without a shadow of a doubt that he was God’s spokesman. He would preach a message that would bring repentance (verses 5-6). He would be the messenger preparing the way of the Lord. The Lord would complete salvation – in which would be the day of the Lord.
With the end of Malachi’s ministry, the voice of prophecy fell silent in Israel for about 400 years. The new Elijah – John the Baptist – would be the next prophetic voice crying out in the wilderness. The great day of the Lord would come – revealing God’s mighty arm of salvation. But the faithful old covenant believer would have to wait just a bit longer to see all this – expectancy and hope.
Living with expectancy and hope
We must cultivate expectancy in our lives. Here are some truths to escaping a passive stance and renewing anticipation.
God meets us at the level of our expectancy
We see patterns in the ministry of Jesus. He often met people at the level of what they expected Him to do for them.
- Jairus’s daughter was dying. He asked Jesus to come to his house and heal her. Jesus goes to the house, heals the daughter and she lives. (Mark 5)
- A Roman centurion’s servant was very sick. This military man understood authority and expected that if Jesus spoke a word, it would be executed. Jesus speaks and the servant is healed. (Matthew 8)
- A bleeding woman touches Jesus’ garment. She expects that if she can just get close enough to touch the miracle-working Rabbi’s clothing, she’ll be healed. When she touches his garment, Jesus knows and she is healed. (Mark 5)
- A blind man in Jericho tells Jesus the desire of his heart. Jesus asks him, “What do you want me to do for you?” The blind man replies that he wants Jesus to restore his sight and it is done. (Mark 10)
Some places that Jesus went, like Capernaum, there was such great expectation in the people that friends lowered a paralyzed man through a roof to get past the crowds (Mark 2). Other places Jesus went, like His hometown of Nazareth, there was skepticism and unbelief. Jesus didn’t do many miracles there “because of their unbelief” (Mark 6).
The pattern is this: God’s supernatural work happens where there is faith-filled exuberance and expectancy. This is true not only for individuals, but also corporately for communities.
Expectancy depends on what God says, not on my circumstances
When God speaks, it changes the very anticipation of my life. No matter the circumstances, crisis or damage, or years of waiting – when God speaks there is hope. Faith and hope work together. God’s Word brings faith – “faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the Word of Christ” (Romans 10:17). “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1).
Abraham and Sarah’s circumstances were one thing – barren and past childbearing years. But God spoke and hope and expectation came. They had faith. The hardest thing about the life of faith is that the Lord often seems slow to keep His promises. Sometimes we feel like we must wait, wait, and then wait some more for God to intervene. Faith, however, trusts that God is not slow but is working out all things in His time. It was hundreds of years after Malachi’s day that he Messiah came – but He came. As we wait for His return, and for answers to prayer, we must remember that all this will come as well.
We must be an expectant people!
NEXT WEEK'S PASSAGE: LUKE 1: 5-25
APPLY TO LIFE
This week, as you reflect on the message, utilize this section to help you apply what has been taught to your life. Think of friends, co-workers, neighbors, family etc., that you could meet with to have a time of mutual sharing as you open God’s Word together.
This simple acronym (BLESS, B - Bless, L - Listen, E - Eat, S - Speak, S - Sabbath) should help you to frame your life according to the great commandment “love God” (Matthew 22:37) and the expression of that commandment in loving your neighbor (John 13:34). Each time you meet, start by discussing the rhythms of your life according to B.L.E.S.S.
Intentionally bless: Christ-followers, non-believers and those different than you.
Listen to what God is saying to you, through His Word and others.
Share a meal with a Christ-follower and also a non-believer.
Talk to God through prayer and to others about Jesus through witness.
Be intentional about taking time to both rest and recreate.
DISCUSS THE MESSAGE
Read: Malachi 4:5-6
How would you define the word “expectancy”? Share a story where you had to wait to get something you desperately wanted.
What do you think the 400 years of silence was like for God’s People?
What do you do when God is silent?
Describe what it looks like to live with expectancy and hope as a Christ follower?