Reaching for Malachi, marching forward

MALACHI - First in a series

The Hebrews lived as slaves for many centuries before the Exodus. In that epoch, did they feel chosen and special? Did they consider that Abraham had really been a friend of God? Or, did memories and hearts fail?

This brings up a good question: How many years can a collective memory be retained? Or, for us today and for the Jews, a better question is: How long can we continue to believe the promises?

The question speaks to our human frame, not to the essence of God's Word which will stand forever. (1 Pet 1:23) The answer is: But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us. (2 Cor 4:7) Yes, we can continue to believe as we wait for Christ to return, but only by his help.

God promised Abraham (Abram) his descendants would be afflicted in Egypt for 400 years but would emerge with treasures, so perhaps it was not too hard for them to wait, since they had been apprised how long their affliction would last and that it would end well. (Gen 15:13) Easy for us to say.

When we feel the days are stretching thin as we look for Christ's second coming, we have the written Word for help. We can read and hear Peter saying,

Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts, And saying, Where is the promise of his coming?…But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. (2 Pet 3:3-8)

About a thousand years passed from the giving of the Law to the last of the Old Testament prophets, Malachi. This "moment" for the Hebrews had been an eternity of learning, backsliding, relearning, and finally exile from their homeland and then return.

From Malachi's words to the birth of Christ, roughly 400 years would pass. Perhaps they would wonder over those centuries, Are we thinking right about God's words? Did we miss something? Or, did they think back to their time in captivity: That phase had lasted 400 years— Will this one too?

The Lord preserved them between the Testaments; the "collective memory" was maintained and communicated to their descendants. Those who met Jesus still recalled Malachi's words, and asked: What then? Art thou Elias? And he saith, I am not. Art thou that prophet? And he answered, No. (John 1:21)

And what about you? Are you looking for Elijah to return as a portent of Christ's second coming? Or, do you view Malachi's prophecy as pertinent only to Christ's first appearance? Are you waiting patiently, anxiously, or not at all for the return of the Lord?

Christ understood how it would be in the 21st century. He framed a parable to analogize to it.

There was in a city a judge, which feared not God, neither regarded man: And there was a widow in that city; and she came unto him, saying, Avenge me of mine adversary. And he would not for a while: but afterward he said within himself, Though I fear not God, nor regard man; Yet because this widow troubleth me, I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me. And the Lord said, Hear what the unjust judge saith. And shall not God avenge his own elect, which cry day and night unto him, though he bear long with them? I tell you that he will avenge them speedily. Nevertheless when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth? (Luke 18:2-8)

The purpose of that challenging question was to stress to us how very difficult it will be in the end times to maintain faith.

Jesus predicted: And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold. (Mat 24:12). He also warned: And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect's sake those days shall be shortened. (Mat 24:22)

Can Malachi help us to keep the faith, as he did those who earnestly looked for the Lord to suddenly appear in his temple? (Mal 3:1)

In this series we will seek that help.

I have seen the Lord!

Rejoicing Women - Seventh and final in a series

Many women lined the Via Dolorosa as Christ went to Calvary. They wept loudly and expressed their grief in words. Christ comforted them:

Daughters of Jerusalem, weep not for me, but weep for yourselves, and for your children. For, behold, the days are coming, in the which they shall say, Blessed are the barren, and the wombs that never bare, and the paps which never gave suck. Then shall they begin to say to the mountains, Fall on us; and to the hills, Cover us. For if they do these things in a green tree, what shall be done in the dry? (Luke 23:28-30)

Jesus was about to be crucified, yet it was a time of green trees, a time in the world for fulness of joy, when the flowers appear on the earth… the vines with tender grape give a good smell. (Song 2:12, 13)

But the evil was palpable. Christ understood that the hour belonged to Satan so the loyalty of these women was precious to him. Some had also accompanied and supported him and his disciples as they traveled throughout every city and village, sharing the good news (Luke 8:1-3).

A passage in Daniel is interpreted by some to mean that the antichrist will not have any Christian sympathies: Neither shall he regard the God of his fathers, nor the desire of women, nor regard any god (Dan 11:37). They translate this verse as "the God desired by women," who would be Jesus. The basis for this rendering is the use of the same word for "desire" in Haggai 2, And I will shake all nations, and the desire of all nations shall come… (Hag 2:7)

Jesus was and is the desired God of women. His gracious kindness to all of us is made clear in the Word, highlighted by his special care for certain ones, such as Mary Magdalene who was delivered of seven demons. No wonder they followed him to Golgotha (John 19:17, 18) and then to his tomb.

Those specially called out in various Gospels as faithful in his final hour are: his mother; Mary, the wife of Cleophas who perhaps was the mother of James ("the less"); Salome, the mother of James and John; Joanna; and Mary Magdalene who was most prominent for persistence and devotion. Some have confused her with the sinful woman of Luke 7 who anointed the feet of Jesus with ointment and washed them with her tears and hair. (Luke 7:37-39) However, that was a different woman.

Mary's seven demons were not described; whatever sins they locked into her, she had been freed and held to that freedom by wholehearted devotion to the Lord. That seven were numbered may indicate she had been earnest to seek deliverance from a satanic stronghold; but the evil spirit that departed once then found reinforcements and regained her mind and soul, as explained in Matthew 12. From such embattlement and despair there is no deliverance but by Christ himself. (Mat 12:43-45)

Mary Magdalene was at the crucifixion (Mat 27:55, 56), went to his tomb after his death (Mark 15:47), returned there on the first day of the week with spices to anoint him (Mar 16:1), and is celebrated as the one to whom Christ first appeared. (Mark 16:9)

As she alone sat by his tomb weeping, he came to her and she recognized him when he said her name. (John 20:11-18) She then ran to tell the disciples, "I have seen the Lord!"

In all of Scripture, she probably is our best example of a rejoicing woman.

Perhaps Christ appeared specially to her because he understood the depth of her former agony. Now, there is never any evil that can overcome us if we trust in Christ and cling to him, for he has led captivity captive (Eph 4:8; John 20:17). Rejoice!

Magnify the Lord with Mary

Rejoicing Women - Sixth in a Series

Luke, the beloved physician (Col 4:14), who wrote more pages of the New Testament than any other of its authors, found out just what Mary said or sang about her pregnancy.

A gentile who accompanied Paul on journeys, he was a literary type who used his special gifts — inquisitiveness, empathy, wisdom, and writing, to garner and present a beautiful, behind-the-scenes account of the Christ's nativity.

As a doctor, perhaps he had heard expectant mothers cry out with great joy and agony. Mary's words, however, were inspired. They did not simply reflect a woman's heart, but expressed the hope of nations, the sure deliverance of Israel, and the nature and character of God. As well, we see she was knowledgeable of Scripture in that her words echo those of Hannah:

My soul magnifies the Lord,
And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.
For He has regarded the lowly state of His maidservant;

For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed.
For He who is mighty has done great things for me,

And holy is His name.
And His mercy is on those who fear Him

From generation to generation.
He has shown strength with His arm;

He has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.
He has put down the mighty from their thrones,

And exalted the lowly.
He has filled the hungry with good things,

And the rich He has sent away empty.
He has helped His servant Israel,

In remembrance of His mercy,
As He spoke to our fathers,

To Abraham and to his seed forever.
Luke 1:46-55

Mary rejoiced because

  1. She knew her God as her Savior
  2. He chose her, an unimportant person
  3. She would forever be known as blessed!
  4. God is holy and he is merciful to those who fear Him
  5. He is faithful across the centuries and generations
  6. His judgments overturn the proud of heart and lift up the lowly
  7. He remembers his promises to Abraham and to his seed forever.

Her reasons for rejoicing can be ours too!