Day of the LORD, 26 March 2023

Day of the LORD
Honor: The Book of Malachi
Malachi 4

Series Big Idea:
The last book of the Jewish Bible (Old Testament) offers challenging words about bringing honor to the LORD.
Big Idea: God’s final judgment is coming for each of us on the day of the LORD…get ready!
When I was a kid growing up in the Church, one of the most popular songs declared,
This is the day the LORD has made; We will rejoice and be glad in it. (Psalm 118:24, NKJV)
Are we rejoicing? Are we glad?
Today we’re concluding our verse-by-verse exploration of the last book of the Jewish Bible—the Old Testament—written by the prophet Malachi. This is the day the LORD has made, but today we are going to look at the day of the LORD, something referenced throughout the Bible.
The day of the LORD. The Hebrew word yom means “day.” It’s one of the most common nouns in the Old Testament. You’ve probably heard of Yom Kippur, day of atonement. Yom Yahweh is the day of the LORD. This isn’t a reference to what some call the LORD’s day, the sabbath, the day of rest, but rather a period of time, not necessarily 24 hours. It could mean the daylight hours or a special event. Part of the challenge in defining the day of the LORD is it means different things throughout the Bible. Here are some examples of its usage:
Scream in terror, for the day of the LORD has arrived—the time for the Almighty to destroy. (Isaiah 13:6, NLT)
For this is the day of the Lord, the LORD of Heaven’s Armies, a day of vengeance on his enemies. (Jeremiah 46:10a, NLT)
for the terrible day is almost here—the day of the LORD! It is a day of clouds and gloom, a day of despair for the nations. (Ezekiel 30:3, NLT)
The day of the LORD is near, the day when destruction comes from the Almighty. How terrible that day will be! (Joel 1:15, NLT)
Yes, the day of the LORD will be dark and hopeless, without a ray of joy or hope. (Amos 5:20, NLT)
“That terrible day of the LORD is near. Swiftly it comes—a day of bitter tears, a day when even strong men will cry out. (Zephaniah 1:14, NLT)
Let’s take a look at some New Testament references:
The sun will become dark, and the moon will turn blood red before that great and glorious day of the LORD arrives. (Acts 2:20, NLT)
But you aren’t in the dark about these things, dear brothers and sisters, and you won’t be surprised when the day of the Lord comes like a thief. (1 Thessalonians 5:4, NLT)
Before we address today’s text, know this: God’s final judgment is coming for each of us on the day of the LORD…get ready! This is an urgent message for every generation. The prophet Malachi begins his final chapter:
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. (Malachi 4:1, NLT)
For centuries, people have debated whether or not the evil will be exposed to literal fire or if they will burn “like” a furnace. Will the torment be eternal, or will humans somehow be annihilated? The details are not as important as the big idea:
sin kills and we need Jesus.
“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 4:2, NLT)
This is a prophetic vision of the Messiah, of Jesus Christ, the Sun of Righteousness.
For the LORD God is a sun and shield; the LORD bestows favor and honor; no good thing does he withhold from those whose walk is blameless. (Psalm 84:11, NIV)
Jesus the Messiah brings more than just forgiveness of sins, but victory and healing.
“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 4:2, NLT)
This is where I wish the book ended, with joy and leaping!
Have you ever seen calves let out to pasture? It’s nothing like straw being burned up!
This is the fate of those who fear the name of the LORD, who know and love God, who are obedient, faithful, and righteous. They will go free, leaping with joy! But there’s more.
On the day when I act, you will tread upon the wicked as if they were dust under your feet,” says the LORD of Heaven’s Armies. (Malachi 4:3, NLT)
How would you like God to walk all over you? In this life, there seem to be few things that are black and white, but plenty of gray. The day of the LORD, however, appears to be binary: the wicked and the righteous, with two very different outcomes. Which group describes you, wicked or righteous?
“Remember to obey the Law of Moses, my servant—all the decrees and regulations that I gave him on Mount Sinai for all Israel. (Malachi 4:4, NLT)
This describes the righteous, those who obey God’s law, those how love God and speak His love language of obedience. We can obey or suffer.
Now we come to the end of the chapter, the end of the book, the end of the Old Testament.
“Look, I am sending you the prophet Elijah before the great and dreadful day of the LORD arrives. (Malachi 4:5 NLT)
John the Baptist was the prophet sent, according to Jesus in Matthew 11:14. He prepared the way for Jesus the Messiah. But some see this as the second coming of Elijah. Regardless, God desperately wants to give everyone ample opportunity to follow Him. He’s not tricky or deceitful.
He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent. (2 Peter 3:9b, NLT)
He has given each of us the mission—the commission—to proclaim good news as we go and make disciples. We want to give every man, woman, and child in this world not only a chance to escape eternity without God, but also eternity with God. Look what Peter says next:
But the day of the Lord will come as unexpectedly as a thief. Then the heavens will pass away with a terrible noise, and the very elements themselves will disappear in fire, and the earth and everything on it will be found to deserve judgment. (2 Peter 3:10, NLT)
Are you ready for the day of the LORD? Are you preparing others for the day of the LORD?
“Look, I am sending you the prophet Elijah before the great and dreadful day of the LORD arrives. (Malachi 4:5 NLT)
His preaching will turn the hearts of fathers to their children, and the hearts of children to their fathers. (Malachi 4:6a NLT)
The angel of the LORD quotes this when telling Zechariah about his forthcoming son, John the Baptist.
He will be a man with the spirit and power of Elijah. He will prepare the people for the coming of the Lord. He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and he will cause those who are rebellious to accept the wisdom of the godly.” (Luke 1:17, NLT)
His preaching will turn the hearts of fathers to their children, and the hearts of children to their fathers. Otherwise I will come and strike the land with a curse.” (Malachi 4:6, NLT)
And thus ends the book of Malachi and the Old Testament. It ends with a curse!
There were about four hundreds of years of silence between Malachi and John the Baptist and Jesus the Messiah.
So What?
Understanding biblical prophecy can be challenging. Much of it is focused upon Jesus the Messiah…His first coming about 2000 years ago, His return, …or perhaps even both! Many of the things in Revelation, for example, were fulfilled when the temple was destroyed in AD 70, though some have yet to occur (though Revelation is more apocalyptic than prophet, but that’s for another discussion). Does the mention of Elijah in today’s text literally mean Elijah, the prophet who never died (he was taken into heaven in a whirlwind)? Was it actually speaking of John the Baptist? Or both! Applying prophetic writings to our lives can be challenging, but some things are universal, including the unchanging God Pastor Donald spoke of last Sunday.
Two weeks ago I reminded you that judgment day is coming…for everyone. It’s a sobering reality, and I feel like each time we gather, it’s important to be reminded of who God is, who we are, and how our present impacts our future.
Some have said the Day of the LORD is similar to a coin with two sides, one positive and one negative. We’ve seen here in Malachi chapter four the Day of the LORD will be good for some and terrible for others, perhaps not unlike final exam week!
For the true members of God’s people, the Day of the LORD is blessing. For those who are not God’s people, it is judgment. Amazingly, the Old Testament is filled with passages which suggest it will be a day of judgment for Israel. They will not be alone, of course, as both then and now men and women have ignored or even rejected the Almighty, thinking themselves beyond the need for a relationship with God. The Day of the LORD refers to a variety of things, judgments, blessings, seasons, and the upcoming time when He will reestablish His rule over the earth.
Throughout our study of Malachi, we’ve seen a people who have robbed God by their greed and lack of stewardship. We’ve encountered rationalization…calling evil good. We’ve seen offerings of leftovers rather than the first fruits, their best. The Jews have been unfaithful despite the faithfulness of God. In many ways, it sounds like the Church in the United States today. I’m not trying to be critical. I want to be part of the solution, not the problem, both personally and professionally.
I think this challenging book gives us all a lot to reflect upon and consider. Where are you? I know you’re in this room or watching on a screen, but where are you? Where are you in your relationship with God? The first question in the Bible (Genesis 3:9) was God asking Adam and Eve, “Where are you?” It wasn’t that God couldn’t find them. He’s God. He wanted them to identify where they were relationally.
Where are you? It matters both now and for eternity.
You may think a church gathering would be an odd place to ask these questions. After all, most of you would say Jesus is your Savior and LORD. But saying so isn’t enough. Jesus asked,
“Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say? (Luke 6:46, NIV)  
47 As for everyone who comes to me and hears my words and puts them into practice, I will show you what they are like. 48 They are like a man building a house, who dug down deep and laid the foundation on rock. When a flood came, the torrent struck that house but could not shake it, because it was well built. 49 But the one who hears my words and does not put them into practice is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. The moment the torrent struck that house, it collapsed and its destruction was complete.” (Luke 6:47-49, NIV)  
The Day of the LORD will bring blessing for the true believers, but judgment for the self-sufficient, the busy, the unfaithful, the wicked.
Family, I don’t want any of you to be in that later category. I love you. I plead with you to surrender and follow Jesus with all of your heart, soul, mind, and strength. Worship with your time, talents, and treasures. Love God and your neighbor and yourself well. Knowledge is not enough. Our actions provide evidence for our faith. Today is the first day of the rest of your life.
God’s final judgment is coming for each of us on the day of the LORD…get ready! Get others ready!

You can listen to this message and others at the First Alliance Church podcast here.

You can watch this video and others at the First Alliance Church Video Library

Judgment, 12 March 2023

Honor: The Book of Malachi

Malachi 2:17-3:5

Series Big Idea:
The last book of the Jewish Bible (Old Testament) offers challenging words about bringing honor to the LORD.
Big Idea: The God of justice will judge, and we need to be ready.
When I was in seminary, one of my professors said he likes to preach verse-by-verse through the Bible. This is known as expository preaching, as opposed to topical. One of the reasons, he said, is it can be tempting to skip around the Bible, finding popular passages and ignoring those which are more controversial, uncomfortable, or even offensive. Although we do some topical messages—especially around Holy Week and Advent—much of our preaching is expository. We’re in the middle of one such series on the book of Malachi, the last book of the Jewish Bible or Old Testament. It’s written by the prophet Malachi, and biblical prophets rarely made people happy!
It's always important to understand our text today was not written to us, but it’s very valuable for us…a glimpse into the heart of God and what happens when His people forget or even forsake God. It’s usually a slow fade, but one which inevitably results in God’s judgment, not because He doesn’t like us, but precisely because He loves us and He wants us to return to Him.
Two weeks ago we looked at Pastor John Soper’s summary of much of the Old Testament:
Israel forgets God >>> Israel forsakes God >>> Israel worships other gods >>> God sends judgment upon Israel >>> Israel cries out to God >>> God raises up a deliverer >>> God saves Israel >>> Israel pledges to serve God >>> [repeat]
Again I ask, where are you?
This past week a friend mentioned someone whose life is a wreck, they are experiencing God’s judgment or—at the very least—the dire consequences of many poor choices, yet they have refused to cry out to God and surrender.
God has ways of getting our attention, doesn’t He? Malachi is God’s prophet, trying to get the attention of His people, the Jews. The last verse of chapter two begins…
You have wearied the LORD with your words.
“How have we wearied him?” you ask. (Malachi 2:17a, NLT)
They pretend ignorance and declare innocence. This is the fifth sarcastic question they ask. God has an answer.
You have wearied him by saying that all who do evil are good in the LORD’s sight, and he is pleased with them. You have wearied him by asking, “Where is the God of justice?” (Malachi 2:17b, NLT)
God is weary over two things the people were saying.
First, they were saying that all who do evil are good in the LORD’s sight, and he is pleased with them. You might call this a new morality. It happened in Noah’s day. It happened in the period of the judges. Twice in the book of Judges (17;6; 21:25), it says,
In those days Israel had no king; all the people did whatever seemed right in their own eyes. (Judges 17:6; 21:25, NLT)
You can rationalize anything.
Throughout history, Christians have used the Bible to justify everything from misogyny to slavery. Satan even used it to tempt Jesus! We like to start with what we want, what we desire, what we think is fair, rather than beginning with a careful study of the Holy Scriptures and aligning ourselves with God’s will. Perhaps one reason we don’t read the Bible more frequently is we don’t want to be responsible for what it says!
We must be careful because
There is a path before each person that seems right, but it ends in death. (Proverbs 14:12, NLT)
I feel like this hits very close to home in our day, in our nation. It’s one thing to tolerate sin, but quite another to celebrate it with parades and celebrations. God must weep when He sees how even Christians have embraced alternative lifestyles, abortion, greed, gossip, pride, the pursuit of power and wealth, …the list goes on and on. It’s one thing for the world to act like the world, but when so-called Christians look just like everybody else, falling for whatever’s hip and cool and trendy, we have real problems. Politically correct does not necessarily mean biblically correct. In fact, the world is often diametrically opposed to godliness. There’s a war raging between good and evil, God and satan, the flesh and the truth.
Jesus said,
21 For from within, out of a person’s heart, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, 22 adultery, greed, wickedness, deceit, lustful desires, envy, slander, pride, and foolishness. 23 All these vile things come from within; they are what defile you.” (Mark 7:21-23, NLT)
This is nothing new. One of the things that makes me chuckle is when people say, “We are a New Testament church!” Which one? Laodicea? Ephesus? They were all filled with sinners…just like ours! The church in Corinth was hardly exempt:
I can hardly believe the report about the sexual immorality going on among you—something that even pagans don’t do. I am told that a man in your church is living in sin with his stepmother. (1 Corinthians 5:1, NLT)
Do we want details on that one?! If you need a definition, sexual immorality is any sexual activity outside of the marriage of a husband and wife. It’s mentioned more than a dozen times in the New Testament, including the lips of Jesus and the writings of Paul and John. Jesus said even lust was adultery.
Let me add there seem to be acceptable sins in the church…even so-called conservative churches.
-       Pride often runs rampant, the original sin.
       Fear, the opposite of love, is used to bring people to Jesus and paralyzes many decisions, both in homes and churches
       Gluttony…hey, we only have potlucks on 5th Sundays!
       Worry…Jesus condemned it (Matthew 6:25-34), but I’m very guilty!
       Lying…you’ve never told a lie, right?
       Favoritism…we like to hang around people like us, don’t we?
       Greed is demonstrated by stingy giving
Christians nationwide are giving 2.5% of their income…one quarter of what is known as the tithe, 10%, a good starting point for generosity. One 2023 report said only 5% tithe. Most of you tip your barista far more than you give to your God.
I’m not a perfect example, but I am seeking to follow Christ, not merely avoiding sin, but loving Jesus. The point is the Jews were celebrating sin, not unlike many Christians today.
You have wearied him by saying that all who do evil are good in the LORD’s sight, and he is pleased with them. You have wearied him by asking, “Where is the God of justice?” (Malachi 2:17b, NLT)
Second, they were asking, “Where is the God of justice?” Have you ever heard someone blame God for their problems?
Where is the God of justice?…while their poor choices have done them in. No wonder God was weary! In a moment we’ll see how God addresses the claim that He is either absent or unjust.
Now that we’ve looked at that verse, let’s move on to chapter 3! It doesn’t get any easier. God warns of the coming judgment.
“Look! I am sending my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me. Then the Lord you are seeking will suddenly come to his Temple. The messenger of the covenant, whom you look for so eagerly, is surely coming,” says the LORD of Heaven’s Armies. (Malachi 3:1, NLT)
This sounds like good news, right? God’s messenger is coming! Actually, there seem to be two messengers. Jesus quotes this passage in Matthew 11:9-10 and Luke 7:27, referring to John the Baptist, the one who will prepare the way. Then the messenger of the covenant will come. This appears to be none other than Jesus the Messiah, the LORD of Heaven’s Armies. Malachi describes the second coming of Christ.
“But who will be able to endure it when he comes? Who will be able to stand and face him when he appears? For he will be like a blazing fire that refines metal, or like a strong soap that bleaches clothes. 3 He will sit like a refiner of silver, burning away the dross. He will purify the Levites, refining them like gold and silver, so that they may once again offer acceptable sacrifices to the LORD. (Malachi 3:2-3, NLT)
This is a sobering, powerful message, family.
Clean hands and a pure heart are what God seeks, and purification is necessary, a refiner’s fire.
The Refiner’s Fire
As she watched the silversmith, he held a piece of silver over the fire and let it heat up. He explained that in refining silver, one needed to hold the silver in the middle of the fire where the flames were hottest as to burn away all the impurities. The woman thought about God holding us in such a hot spot; then she thought again about the verse that says: ‘He sits as a refiner and purifier of silver.’ (Malachi 3:3) She asked the silversmith if it was true that he had to sit there in front of the fire the whole time the silver was being refined. The man answered that yes, he not only had to sit there holding the silver, but he had to keep his eyes on the silver the entire time it was in the fire. If the silver was left a moment too long in the flames, it would be destroyed. The woman was silent for a moment. Then she asked the silversmith, ‘How do you know when the silver is fully refined?’ He smiled at her and answered, ‘Oh, that’s easy — when I see my image in it.’
This third I will put into the fire; I will refine them like silver and test them like gold. They will call on my name and I will answer them; I will say, ‘They are my people,’ and they will say, ‘The Lord is our God’” (Zechariah 13:9).
“See, I have refined you, though not as silver; I have tested you in the furnace of affliction” (Isaiah 48:10). 

The crucible for silver and the furnace for gold, but the Lord tests the heart 
(Proverbs 17:3).

For you, God, tested us; you refined us like silver 
(Psalm 66:10).   
Purify (testing/fire) and cleanse (soap) like silver and gold.
After the purifying…
Then once more the LORD will accept the offerings brought to him by the people of Judah and Jerusalem, as he did in the past. (Malachi 3:4, NLT)
Hallelujah! The worshipers are purified and cleansed, acceptable to the LORD. But there’s more. They want the God of justice? He’s going to judge!
“At that time I will put you on trial. I am eager to witness against all sorcerers and adulterers and liars. 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,” says the LORD of Heaven’s Armies. (Malachi 3:5, NLT)
He's going to judge, and He mentions four things in particular: sorcerers, adulterers, liars, and oppressors, those who treat employees, widows, orphans, or foreigners/immigrants poorly. These things are still detestable to God, and we see it all over, don’t we? The occult is celebrated in many ways. Adultery sounds like an old-fashioned term for what everybody’s doing. We don’t like liars, but only tell “little white lies,” right? How have we treated laborers, widows, orphans, refugees?
Judgment is coming…for all of us. Are you ready?
So What?
There’s good news and bad news. The good news is that the Father sent Jesus to die on the cross to make forgiveness and purification possible. We all sin and fall short of God’s standard, but He has made a way for us to be reconciled to Him—and one another—through Jesus.
The bad news is so many have rejected God…even people who think they are Christians or “saved” because they prayed a prayer as a child. The invitation of Jesus is not pray a prayer so you can go to heaven when you die. It’s follow me, be with me, do life with me…it’s about a relationship. How’s that going for you? How is your soul?
Remember from two weeks ago in chapter 2, the Jews had intermarried with people from other religions. They had abandoned God and turned to sorcery, adultery, and lies. Every day is a new opportunity to follow Jesus or ignore Him. It’s like a marriage. It doesn’t end when you say, “I do.” That’s only the beginning, and the relationship must be cultivated every day.
Perhaps you’ve been going through the motions, mailing it in, so to speak. I’ve found myself doing that, at times. Just because I avoid doing bad things doesn’t mean I’ve necessarily been obedient, either. Following Jesus is more than just playing by the rules, avoiding murder, adultery, lying, and the like. It also means loving well…God and others. It means caring for the widow, stranger, and orphan. It involved surrendering my time, talents, and treasures for His glory, His Kingdom, His Church. Following Jesus even means surrendering my body, my dreams, and my comforts.
The good news, of course, is God’s grace. Forgiveness is available to every one of you. There’s nothing you’ve done that’s beyond God’s mercy. Each time we gather is an opportunity to be reminded that He’s God and we’re not, that we all fall short and miss the mark, and that we have a loving Father with arms wide open to extend grace and forgiveness if we come to Him, if we repent, if we turn from our sin, and do life with Jesus.
Family, I love you and I want what’s best for you. So does God. I don’t get it right all of the time, but that’s my desire. What is your next step in following Jesus? What do you need to surrender?

You can listen to this message and others at the First Alliance Church podcast here.

You can watch this video and others at the First Alliance Church Video Library