Agonizomai: Malachi 3:1 - The Promise and Deaf Ears

Monday, August 24, 2009

Malachi 3:1 - The Promise and Deaf Ears

Malachi 3:1 - The Promise and Deaf Ears

Malachi 3:1 "Behold, I send my messenger and he will prepare the way before me. And the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple; and the messenger of the covenant in whom you delight, behold, he is coming, says the LORD of hosts..."

Attention is now turned to the coming of the Lord God Himself, and to the herald of His coming. The idea of Messiah was well known to the Jews. He would be the deliverer of Israel; God with them. But though the concept was plain, the full depth and breadth of it was so audacious and so unimaginably bold, so overawingly condescending, that men simply could not take it in unaided. This is why the disciples seemed like such dunderheads during the three years that Christ himself taught them. It is why John the Baptist (spoken of here) wavered and asked if Jesus was He Who was to come or if they should look for another.

God with us, God taking the form of one of us, God self-limiting His almightiness, His sovereignty, His infinity, so as to live a life in the body by faith - (fully human yet without sin) - is incomprehensible to the mind - to anyone’s mind. The incarnation will be the subject of wonder and learning for us throughout eternity, and we shall not discover the bottom of it even then - despite glorified bodies and purified minds. Much less, then, were men able to begin to take it in apart from the indwelling power of God’s Spirit. And we upon whom the Spirit of God has come, still dwelling in sinful flesh as we do, are able to catch only the waft of an odour of the substance of this truth during a whole lifetime. Certainly, were God not in us to reveal Christ both to and through us we should remain clueless.

This indeed is both the result and the weight of sin. Lost men are impervious to the depths of the depravity of their souls and their utter inability to receive truth apart from the intervention of God upon their hearts. We must be born again. Born again first or we cannot see the kingdom of God, much less enter it. As Paul Washer describes it, a fish has no concept of its wetness, though it lives in complete submersion in the water. So are we with regard to sin. Being all we know we think it normal. We think sin is not so bad. We think there is still good in us when God clearly states in His word that apart from His indwelling we are capable of nothing but sin. {Ge 6:5 Joh 15:5 Ro 14:23} God alone is good {Mr 10:18} and, unless He is in us through our union with Him in Christ, we cannot do good; we cannot please Him; as rebels and God-haters we remain under His condemnation and wrath.

Malachi is prophesying, under the inspiration of God, that there will come first a herald (John the Baptist) and then the Messiah Himself. His appearance will be sudden. What can this mean? Does it refer to the second coming of which no man knows the hour and which will be as a thief in the night? Or does it refer to the incarnation of the Son of God in the time of Herod?

I think that the "suddenness" is related to the expectations of men. The vast majority would be looking for great fanfare and in high places. They would be expecting a big commotion and lots of pre-appearance promotion. In short, they would be looking for the first century equivalent of Finneyism. The manipulation of people through worldly and carnal means. And why would they be looking for anything else since that is all that they knew? Malachi has just got through warning about the worldliness of Israel. Their focus was in entirely the wrong place. They were looking at the window pane instead of through it. In this sense, the appearance of Christ is a sudden thing - the Galilean peasant, with a ministry out in the boondocks that only for a few weeks out of three years comes to the city of Zion, the centre of the Jewish world.

The claims of His to being Messiah and being Deity incarnate are rude offenses, slaps in the face, dousings with a sudden rush of cold water that simply do not compute; not to carnal and lost men who are looking in the wrong place for someone to boost their earthly existence and secure for them the objects of their lusts.

And so two related things create ignorance and confusion regarding the coming of Messiah - despite the clearness of the text. The LORD will come to His temple... Yes, but the lostness of many makes them unable to apprehend - they have been made dull of heart and unable to receive the truth; and even for those who truly follow the Lord among the apostasy of Israel there is the befogging corruption of the flesh that dulls the spiritual understanding until Light Himself shines in.

The phrases "Whom you seek" and "in whom you delight" ought not to be taken literally to imply a godly expectation in Israel. That would be to rip them out of the context in which Malachi has been chastising the Jews for their carnality. To be sure, the Jews had a delight in the promise of their Messiah, but it was a delight that rested improperly upon things external, to which they had sold and whored themselves, and in which they were, for the most part, inured, blind and hardened. And we know that no one truly seeks after God {Ps 14:2-3 Ro 3:11} although there are many commands to do so in the Writings.

But God says that He has been found by a people who did not seek Him, nor ask for Him {AV Isa 65:1} and implies that it is because the Jews, for all their seeking did not seek aright. They wanted a God who would serve them but not a God Whom they would serve. To use the vernacular, they are the poster boy for us all, so that it may be understood that salvation is not by dint of human effort, but by the grace of God Who has mercy upon whom He will have mercy.



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