Vol. 10 — No. 51 December 21, 1969
For, Behold, the day cometh, that shall burn as an oven; and all the proud, yea, and all that do wickedly, shall be stubble: and the day that cometh shall burn them up, saith the Lord of hosts, that it shall leave them neither root nor branch. But unto you that fear my name shall the sun of righteousness arise with healing in his wings; and ye shall go forth, and grow up (leap) as calves of the stall. And ye shall tread down the wicked; for they shall be ashes under the soles of your feet in the day that I shall do this, saith the Lord of hosts. Remember ye the law of Moses my servant, which I commanded unto him in Horeb for all Israel, with the statutes and judgments. Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord: And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.
In Christ Jesus, whose coming was foretold and who came, whose coming again is foretold and who shall come again, Fellow Redeemed:
In the ninth century B.C. the prophet Zechariah proclaimed “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem: behold, thy King cometh unto thee: he is just, and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt the foal of an ass.” (9:9)
In the fifth century before Christ the Prophet Malachi foretold: “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.” (3:1)
And He did come! The angel of the Lord announced His coming: “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.” (Luke 2:11) Then some thirty-three years later He entered Jerusalem riding upon the colt of an ass, St. Matthew reports: “All this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying, Tell ye the daughter of Sion, Behold, thy King cometh unto thee, meek, and sitting upon an ass, and a colt the foal of an ass.” (Matt. 21:5) He came, even as His coming had been foretold.
Four and a half centuries before His first coming the Prophet Malachi peered into the future beyond His first coming and prophesied: “For, behold, the day cometh!” THE DAY COMETH! There is but one day that is singled out in Scripture as THE DAY. It is the last day in the history of this earth. It is THE DAY when the Lord shall come again, even as He Himself testified: “Surely I come quickly. Amen.” (Rev. 22:20) That “Amen” is our Lord’s own assurance that even as He once came in fulfillment of prophecy made, so He shall come again in fulfillment of prophecies also made and in fulfillment of His own promise. He shall come again! What then? Malachi gives us a graphic picture of that day in bold word pictures. Let us read and ponder:
“For behold, the day cometh, that shall burn as an oven; and all the proud, yea, and all that do wickedly, shall be stubble and the day that cometh shall burn them up, saith the Lord of hosts, that it shall leave them neither root nor branch.” What a vivid picture of judgment to come. Fuel was scarce in that part of the world, and so stubble was gathered from the field and burned. What a brief, but raging flame it is when stubble burns! When a tree is destroyed root and branch, then all traces of it are removed from the face of the earth. The picture is one of swift, complete, terrible and terrifying judgment—with no bail, no reprieve, no amnesty, no pardon.
Who are the victims of that judgment? The “proud” and “all that do wickedly.” The context of this prophecy makes the destruction of the proud and wicked all the more amazing because sometimes even the children of God secretly or openly envy the success of the proud and wicked. In the preceding chapter the prophet records these words of the Lord: “Your words—the words of you, my people—have been stout against me, saith the Lord.” His people responded: “What have we spoken so much against thee?” And the Lord said, “Ye have said, It is vain to serve God: and what profit is it that we have kept his ordinance, and that we have walked mournfully before the Lord of hosts? And now we call the proud happy; yea, they that work wickedness are set up; yea, they that tempt God are even delivered.” (3:13-15) The proud and the wicked seem to have all the fun, enjoy the greatest success, are the richest and most honored of all people, while the children of God who try to walk the narrow way seem to have one problem after another, experience failure more often than success, suffer ridicule more often than acclaim, experience pain more frequently than pleasure.
Now is it with us? Are we secretly or openly envious of the proud and the wicked? Do we admire the person who can scoff at divine standards of behavior and ridicule them as old fashioned, “Puritan” ethic, even “Victorian” morals? Do you young people think that the guys and girls who boast about how much they drank at the last party are really big stuff? Do you think that the ones who try “pot” are really the “incrowd”? Do you consider the girls who think least of their virginity and the boys most eager to go “all the way” the heroes of the campus or of the group? You older people, do we consider the sharp operator who can legally chisel his neighbor out of his possession the hero of the game? Do we envy the “jet-set,” the “swingers,” the experts on all kinds of “honky-tonk”? It’s an amazing thing how often we can fall for the outward glitter and glamour of sin. It’s even more amazing how we can forget the future day of reckoning in the razzle-dazzle of the moment. The Prophet would give us pause this day with his prophecy: “Behold, THE DAY cometh!” Then the proud, who imagine that they are above the laws of God and who deceive themselves into believing that they are smart enough to escape the consequences of their own wickedness in this world and in the next will be as stubble for the fire and as trees torn out of the earth.
“Behold, THE DAY cometh!” “Surely I come quickly!” Let us repent now so that we are not classified as stubble for the burning and as trees torn from the earth and destroyed. That is one side of the judgment scene. There is another. Once again the word of the Prophet: “Behold, THE DAY cometh!”
“But unto you that fear my name shall the sun of righteousness arise with healing in his wings; and ye shall go forth, and grow up—better, leap—as calves of the stall. And ye shall tread down the wicked; for they shall he ashes under the soles of your feet in the day that I shall do this, saith the Lord of hosts.” On the one side there are the proud and wicked who shall burn as stubble and be destroyed as trees torn out by the roots. On the other side are those “that fear my name.” The word “fear” doesn’t mean in this place “to be afraid of.” It means rather to stand in awe of, to reverence. That which is to be reverenced is the NAME of the Lord, that is, His Self-revelation in nature, in history, but especially in His Word. Those that fear the NAME of the Lord listen when He speaks, obey when He commands, yield when He forbids, trust when He promises, hope when He gives assurance. Those that fear the MAME of the Lord are not afraid that He will come with His wrath, but rather that He may depart with His grace. Those that fear the NAME of the Lord are the penitent who smite upon their breasts and say, “God, be merciful to me, the sinner.” Those that fear the NAME of the Lord are the meek and lowly here upon earth, those that carry the cross of Christ, those that look to the Lord Jesus for full salvation in every physical and spiritual need, in time and for eternity.
Unto them “shall the sun of righteousness arise with healing in his wings.” It is a picture of the sun rising with its warm and healing rays. The sun is righteousness—which is all that is right and just according to divine standards. On that last day when “the sun of righteousness shall arise with healing in his wings,” then “God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the Former things are passed away.” (Rev. 21:4) What a day of joy and bliss that shall be! “Ye shall go forth, and leap or caper as calves of the stall.” What an earthy picture of our joy! When the calf that is in the fattening pen is loosed for a time, he really leaps and capers and prances about—a picture of the joy and bliss of those who have passed safely through this vale of tears. Here below we are so frequently the victims of injustice, lies, abuse, scorn, mockery, ridicule. But on that day we “shall tread down the wicked; for they shall be ashes under the soles of your feet.” The tables shall be turned, and those who laugh last shall, indeed, laugh best. So shall it be, for THE DAY cometh!
Malachi was the last of the Old Testament prophets. His message for the people of his time in view of the coming DAY was “Remember ye the law of Moses my servant, which I commanded unto him in Horeb for all Israel, with the statutes and judgments.” The Lord calls Hoses His servant. He says that He commanded him to record and to deliver to Israel all that He gave him on Mt. Horeb. That message that the Lord delivered to His people through Moses the Lord describes as statutes and judgments. The statutes, literally, that which is engraved, are the divine principles by which man is to live here on earth as embodied in the Law. The judgments are the Lord’s verdicts and norms as to right and wrong. So frequently when we read of the statutes and judgments of the Law, we confine our thinking to but the legal demands, both ceremonial and moral, that the Lord made upon His people. If we restrict our thinking in this way we pervert the “law of Moses,” and convert it into a system of rules and regulations, deeds and works, with corresponding merits and demerits. The “law of Moses?” or the “instruction of Moses” also proclaimed the Lord God as gracious and merciful, patient and longsuffering, forgiving iniquity and sin. The “law of Moses” pointed the people to the coming Messiah, their Savior from sin and death, who alone could save them in the day of judgment.
The mission of “Elijah” was to achieve in the latter day that which Moses was to have achieved in his day. “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord.” That “Elijah” had been previously called “the messenger” of the Lord. Isaiah had spoken of him as “the voice of one crying in the wilderness.” We know him as John the Baptist.
What was to be his work? “And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.” There were believing fathers living in Israel when the Lord came—adult people like Zacharias and Elisabeth, Simeon and Anna, and the shepherds. And there were believing children—young men like James and John, Andrew and Simon. The work of John the Baptist was to turn the hearts of unbelieving children towards the hearts of the believing fathers, and the hearts of unbelieving fathers or adults to the hearts of believing children. To this end John preached repentance—urging young and old, rich and poor, Pharisees and Sadducees, publicans and soldiers to turn from their sins to the Savior who stood on the threshold of His ministry. His work was not an idle, indifferent effort. It had a sense of divine urgency, as is indicated by the closing words of the Lord, “lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.”
In this Advent Season in the year of our Lord, 1969, we are reliving those years of waiting for the first coming of our Lord, while we in fact await His second coming. Either fire for the chaff or healing for those that fear the Lord lies ahead. Which it shall be is decided in the here and now—perhaps this day for one or the other of us. Who knows? Today again the Lord calls to repentance and faith. Today again the Lord is offering His body and His blood to be eaten and drunk as a pledge and seal of His divine forgiveness. Let no one imagine that he can deceive the Lord. Let no one take the forgiving grace of the Lord for granted or the threat of the Lord’s judgment lightly. Let us rather come before Him penitently, humbly, believing. Amen.
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All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the King James Version.