Call Back, Move Forward (Malachi
Calling Back, Moving Forward
In 1985, our family got a new camera and went on vacation. I can not tell you how many pictures we took using Kodak film. Yes, that was back in the day when you took a picture and then had to wait a few days to see what was really in the picture. Kodak was everywhere. Amusement parks had Kodak picture stations. People tried to get a Kodak moment. In the 1980’s the Kodak company employed over 60,000 in the town of Rochester, NY. Their research division was top notch. They invented the digital camera in 1975. The perfected instant photography in 1976. In the 1980’s it’s copy machines were the best in the world. In 1984, the rolled out 8mm cameras. In 1986, hey developed a battery as good as the best Energizers or Duracell’s. In 1987, Kodak invented OLEDS – the backbone of every HD flat screen tv. Kodak was the major player in medical imaging. They even owned the rights to Bayer aspirin. Kodak had it all.
And they went bankrupt in 2012. A whole generation has grown up not knowing their iconic name.
Numerous leadership books have been written about Kodak – along with other pioneers in the field – Xerox, IBM. Companies that were king for decades and are completely forgotten now. They had gotten too drunk on their success, they never realized what they had and devoted their resources to making it even greater. If someone had only called them back one step and allowed them to move forward more judiciously, those companies would probably still be household names. Past successes do not guarantee future results. We need to take stock of where we are, not focus on what others are doing, and then move forward into what God has called us to do, in this moment, in this place.
This is the message of the prophet Malachi. After 12 weeks, we are concluding our journey through the 12 minor prophets. Short writings, many only a couple pages. Written over a period of 400+ years. All with the same theme. Calling the people of God back to the covenant so they can move forward, looking for the fulfilled promise of redemption history.
Malachi is it. The last recorded prophetic address. The name Malachi means the messenger of God. Now, the messages cease. The next 400 years are silent. Plenty of history will happen. Plenty of documentation records what the Jewish people endure during that time. We have the intertestamental literature of the Maccabean defeat against the Greeks. But the prophetic voice of God is quiet until another messenger visits Elizabeth and Zechariah, then Mary and Jospeh – where the fulfillment of these books of prophecy begin to play out once again.
Please remain seated as we read several verses from Malachi 4:1-2
1 The Lord of Heaven’s Armies says, “The day of judgment is coming, burning like a furnace. On that day the arrogant and the wicked will be burned up like straw. They will be consumed—roots, branches, and all.
2 “But for you who fear my name, the Sun of Righteousness will rise with healing in his wings. And you will go free, leaping with joy like calves let out to pasture.
Malachi’s prophetic address does two things. It foretells that God will keep his promises in the future. But mostly, it forthtells. It tells the people what they must do, how they must live to keep their part of the agreement they have made with God. The covenant is mentioned numerous times throughout the 4 chapters. In fact, every separate oracle, every separate word of God, every separate address aimed at different segments of the population refer to the covenant they have with God. The entire people group God has chosen to eventually reveal the Redeemer in has a covenant. There are covenants the priestly class has with God. There are covenants of peace, there are covenants of marriage, there are covenants on how you act. There is the covenant of the exodus, the covenant of Mount Sinai. An accordingly, there are blessings that come along with the fulfillment of those covenants. There is even a hint that the covenant of Noah and Adam will also be upheld – giving us a glimpse that salvation history is not just for the ancient Hebrews but all those whom God has created.
Malachi is reminding his audience that we have a responsibility to participate in the covenant. Most scholars believe that Malachi is speaking to his fellow Jerusalem residents in the era of Ezra and Nehemiah. If you remember that timeline, Nehemiah was granted permission to come and rebuild the city and the temple. The second temple had been completed. The walls had been restored. But no Messianic period was immediately ushered in. So people gave up. They became lazy. They half-heartedly went through the motions. To paraphrase the Field of Dreams, just because you build it, doesn’t mean someone comes. Malachi and others remind the people that the attitude of the heart matters. They way they live the mundane parts of the day makes a difference. How they worship and serve God makes all the difference.
Each of us have a responsibility to participate in God’s covenantal promise: We find the first one in Malachi 1:2.
Receive God’s Unconditional Love. (1:2)
It all begins here. God’s love for us. His unconditional love for us. The love that burns through the darkness and lights up the very inside of our being. The love that holds the persons of the Trinity together. The love that warms are heart at the altar. The love that gives us strength in times of sorrow. The unfailing, love of God.
Malachi has to remind his audience that God loves them. We read in (1.2) Gods declaration of his love – and then we hear the sarcastic response, “yeah, how?”
This scene probably plays out in conversations between teenagers and their parents on a regular basis!
Malachi begins to recite how much God loves his people. He takes them through a brief journey of the covenant with Abraham, he reiterates his loyalty to them after the Edomites – their cousins had turned against them. He reminds them of the Exodus from Egypt.
Malachi reminds them that God loves them even within desperate economic and political times. That alone is a huge point. Too many people believe that God’s love for them automatically makes them more successful, better than others, on top of the world.
That has never been the case. On occasion, the people of God may enjoy success, may enjoy political power, may be placed in positions of authority. But the majority of history has not seen it that way. Why is that? Because that’s not the way God does things. God is the God of the poor, the God of the oppressed, the God of widow, the God of the orphan, the God of the forgotten ones, the God of the sick, the God of the disabled, the God of the sinners, the God of the imperfect, the God of the immigrant, the God of the stranger. The Kingdom of God is not of this world. The power structures of this current life are just a pale sham of God’s eternal plan.
The Unconditional love of God is actually available to all – but few take it. And in Malachi’s days, many were declining it. Too many people say one hiccup in the road and thought God stopped loving them. Not true. God loves you. Let me repeat that. God loves you.
Every single covenant God every created was born out of his love for you and me. The birth in Bethlehem, the torment on the cross, the Resurrection on Sunday morning – all was born out of God’s love for us. The question is – will you receive it? Or do you have other loves you prefer to hold on to? There’s only room for one.
This is why we support missions. Yes, I am glad when we can get water wells dug in villages or supplies to open schools in volcano ravished districts. But those projects are just tools to let all people know that God loves them.
The second responsibility we have in God’s covenant promise is to worship with integrity. What does it mean to worship? To really worship God? I’m not talking about just singing songs or gathering together for a community meeting on a Sunday morning. I’m talking worship. Worship is giving credit where credit is due. Worship is the attitude the creation takes to the Creator. Worship comes from a perspective that the LORD really does have the best intents and plans for our life.
There are several ways to worship. One is to show up for obligation. Because you have to. I’ll kneel on the outside, I’ll mumble my prayer and then I’ll leave as soon as I can. That’s fake worship. It’s worthless. I would much rather someone come and be authentic – making the choice not to worship if they are not ready to yet. If you are going to do something do it with integrity.
That was the whole point of Malachi’s address to the priests in verse 10. They were showing disrespect. They offered the sacrifice of worship when they felt like it, with the scraps and leftovers – the blemished animals – contrary to what they had been instructed. God made it clear to them – If this is your idea of temple worship, I would rather you shut the doors. It would have been better for you not to rebuild the temple! If you are going to worship – Go all in! Don’t hold back. Don’t play it safe.
As pastor of this church, and I think I can speak for the entire leadership of this church. We want to worship with integrity. We want to bring the best we can every single week. The songs, the sermons – that’s just part of it. Worship is more than that. Our desire is to teach faithfully according to the scriptures, to live out daily the life that God has called us to, to use what resources we do have for the honor of Christ. To swing for the fences whenever we get a chance. To take the calculated risks for the advancement of God’s love. To never be satisfied with the status quo or “playing church.” I have long said that the moment we settle for less than God’s vision for this church, for Wellington, for Sumner County, than we might as well close the doors, sell the building, and cease operating. But I firmly believe that our desire is to worship with integrity and see the great things coming!
Malachi addressed a third responsibility we have. Honor your family. (2.14). This message is repeated throughout the New Testament. It has its basis enshrined in the 10 Commandments – Honor your father and mother. It is enshrined in the ancient tradition of hospitality. It plays a factor in the saga of Abraham’s sons. At the heart of this command is faithfulness. When you are faithful to what God has entrusted / gifted to you / particularly your family, you are showing honor. This is the underlying context of this passage. Interestingly enough, Matthew, the first NT book located just a page or 2 away from this in most of your print Bibles, begins the narrative of Christ’s birth with a family lineage.
Too often, well-meaning people will quote three words from this passage ---" I hate divorce” and then pull it out of its greater context of honoring family – and making divorce the highest sin of all. That is mishandling the text. Anyone that has gone through a divorce, or are kids from a divorce, know that is a painful experience and no one would wish it on someone else.
What this passage is addressing is the break down of faithfulness to family by the one holding the power. Marriage vows are sacred. It is a covenantal sacrament when in the context of a Christian relationship and Christian community. We encourage strong relationships, we encourage pre-marital counseling, and we encourage marriage mentors – those who have survived the struggles and arguments and have wisdom to hand to the next generation. We also know that God can create new love in situations and can heal wounds from past broken and abusive relationships.
In this passage, the most powerful men of the capital thought they could worship God, while abandoning their wives and children to become poor and homeless while chasing young women who did not share their value about the one true God. Malachi is clearly saying – do not claim to be a worshipper of the True God when you are unrepentant and repeatedly engaged in hiding serial adultery. That is not honoring your family and violates the covenant promise
Teenagers – just because he or she looks cute, doesn’t cut it. If you want a relationship to work, you better find someone with shared value and goals who will unconditionally support you in your dreams and goals, even in the worst-case scenario. And by the way, no relationship is worth any abuse. If you are being abused physically or emotionally, it’s time to get out – separate and seek counseling. This is how you honor your family
Our 4th responsibility is to provide justice for the oppressed. In probably the clearest picture of what the coming future judgement will hold, is this image of a trial. Who will be at peril of being found guilty at the trial? The ones that have not integrity, the ones who are unfaithful to their family, and the one who demean others.
When I read and study about the coming judgment, the fearful day of the Lord, it strikes me that this theme becomes a dark apocalyptic thread, full of fire and brimstone. But there is a whole other side to this coming judgement day that is positive and inspiring. I think our perception is distorted by viewing everything as a criminal trial. The day of judgement is more of a sorting day than a day of peril. It is only a day of peril for those who follow evil and reject God. It should not cause any fear among any believer.
It is on this day, that God will examine if we have provided justice for the oppressed.
“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.”
This passage directly addresses those in authority and power who do not practice economic justice, who do not provide for the care of those unable to care for themselves, and who do not grant basic human rights for immigrants who live among us. Certainly, there can be laws and regulations that call for compassionate ways to address these issues. And there are plenty of ancient Biblical models in both the First Testament and the New Testament that show the people of God were regularly engaged in social services – including to those with whom they had substantial moral and ethical disagreements.
That obligation does not just belong to those who are in political power. It belongs to each of us. Because we were strangers before Christ took us in. When God compels our Spirit to act and take in someone of the street, or buy somebody lunch, or give help the red kettle campaign raise money for emergency social services in town. These are all ways we can provide social justice in our community. When we stand up for the kid being bullied at school, when we befriend the kid that no one sits by, when we argue for someone’s right to do something that we personally disagree with – this is all showing God’s love through justice.
Malachi’s fifth responsibility to the covenant is probably the one many of us have heard the most. Give generously. 3:10 is all about bringing the tithes into the storehouse. In this passage, God alleges that the people have cheated (been unfaithful) to God because they did not bring in the tithes on a regular consistent basis.
What were the tithes used for? Three things. The operation of the temple, the support of the priests, and emergency community needs. These are the 3 main things that we use tithes and offerings for today. Our ministry operations, the financial support of the pastors, and local and world missions giving.
This was even more crucial for the temple then – because the entire tribe of Levi had been dedicated to public service and could not earn a living except from what others provided for them. The way the storehouse principle worked was that God’s blessings on the people had a direct correlation to what was faithfully given. Unlike some prosperity teaching – the goal of giving was never to get rich – but to always reinvest your own blessings so others could be blessed in turn.
Our ministries of this church today would not exist had it not been for countless people decades ago giving generously. You may never see the impact of your generosity today – but it will affect countless of future generations.
Thank you, church, for giving generously.
The final responsibility we have to the covenant comes in the verses we read at the beginning of the sermon. We must Anticipate the Coming Messiah (4:2)
This was key to all the minor prophets. They call us back to recognize the resources we have, the heritage we have been granted, the blessings we have received, so that we can look forward to what God has in store for us. It is too easy to do the first five of these things and forget this final one. The first five make us good decent humans – better than most people around. We are faithful, show integrity, help our neighbors., give justice, show mercy, live generously. But if that’s all there is to it, then we missed one important thing – We must be looking forward to the return of our LORD. Our game plan is worthless, if we don’t have the end in mind. What made the once highly innovated companies of Kodak, Xerox, IBM and other blue-chip of a generation ago fail, is they forgot to keep focused on the end game and became reactive.
The moment we forget that the promised Messiah is returning to culminate his Kingdom, we lose out on the power of living in this day and age. Even in our pain, we can have joy. Even in our distress, there is healing in his wings. Even in our wait, there is freedom.
For me, the coming day is not of judgement, but of joy. Not of vanquishing, but of victory, not of remorse, but of remembrance.
This is the secret St. Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 15:51:
But let me reveal to you a wonderful secret. We will not all die, but we will all be transformed! 52 It will happen in a moment, in the blink of an eye, when the last trumpet is blown. For when the trumpet sounds, those who have died will be raised to live forever. And we who are living will also be transformed. 53 For our dying bodies must be transformed into bodies that will never die; our mortal bodies must be transformed into immortal bodies.
54 Then, when our dying bodies have been transformed into bodies that will never die, this Scripture will be fulfilled:
“Death is swallowed up in victory.
55 O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting?”
56 For sin is the sting that results in death, and the law gives sin its power. 57 But thank God! He gives us victory over sin and death through our Lord Jesus Christ.
58 So, my dear brothers and sisters, be strong and immovable. Always work enthusiastically for the Lord, for you know that nothing you do for the Lord is ever useless.
Let me close with this.
As you pursue a life of faithful service and worship,
Jesus will always remember you.
via Blogger https://ift.tt/2wyWC5J
August 26, 2018 at 03:56PM