Healing in His Wings – Part 2

As we look at Malachi, who knows what treasures we will discover! That is the joy of study, prayer and listening for God’s instruction, as well as learning from scholars and commentators. I am not a scholar. I am a lover of God and of His word. Things I share come from my heart, and I hope you’ll share from your heart, too.

Now, as I wrote in my last article, Part 1 of this series, this study is a spontaneous inspiration because my Bible happened to fall open to it, revealing to me the verse I’ve always wondered about, “healing in His wings.” (Mal. 4:2) But, as I have started to study, perhaps the timing is just what the Lord ordered. We shall see.

My study Bible gives us a little background. This writer, Malachi, is only mentioned right here in this book of the Bible. It is thought he might actually be the prophet Ezra, writing with a pen name. Mal’aki means ‘My Messenger’. Whoever the author is, it is clear that he loved the people of Judah and the temple ceremonies required of this covenant people. The prophet Nehemiah also hails from this time period, about 450 BC. (Read his incredible story of leadership in the book that bears his name)

Now, Malachi is the last in the line of the 12 minor prophets, inspired men of God, who delivered God’s messages to His chosen people over a period of 1000 years. Wow. That’s a lot of emails! (Consider the comparison: wireless communications! Ha ha.)

Malachi is “burdened” with this message it says in the first verse. Throughout Israel’s history, this covenant people has heard from God’s vessels, both prophets and kings, assuring them of His love…….and justice. Repeatedly, just like you and me, they fell away from their covenant promises to honor and worship the Lord, obey His commandments and serve Him alone.

The Biblical fathers in the history of Israel, the judges, prophets, good kings and wicked kings give us a picture of the ups and downs of a people, much like in modern times. It was during the Babylonian captivity, about 587 BC that Jerusalem was destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar and the people were carried away for roughly 50 years, but for a small remnant of peasants to till the land.

Malachi picks up the instruction to the children of Israel after their Babylonian exile. The people of Israel were living in a restored community in the land of Palestine. In spite of their past negative experiences, they returned to immoral and careless attitudes. Instead of “learning their lesson”, so to speak, repenting and worshiping the God of their ancestors Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, spiritual decline is at hand once again.

Did you ever find yourself stuck in a cycle of defeat? Just can’t break a habit or a behavior? Or have you ever watched a loved one make the same poor choices again and again, then wonder why life is so hard and they can’t find joy or peace or success?

I think Malachi was in just that place: “Burdened for his people.” Knowing how much grace, forgiveness and love was available to them, if only they would turn from their sin and obey their God, must have frustrated and even angered Malachi. Now, he had a message to deliver: an invitation to enter into a restored relationship,(once again) or face the coming judgment, for God is a righteous king, full of love and mercy, justice and peace.

How often I have done things my own way, struggled, become hopelessly frustrated and even angry when I can’t make it all work out the way I planned. I know part of the reason is that I have left God out of the equation. I hear the words of Jesus ringing in my ears “My grace is sufficient for you, for my strength is made perfect in your weakness” 2 Cor. 12:9 or in the Sermon on the Mount “Blessed are the poor in spirit”.(Matt. 5) Both of these verses, and many more, call us to be surrendered and submitted to God’s plan and allow Him to lead, guide and work things out for our good.

But, we can be so stubborn! I know from experience, life’s road is more treacherous and uneasy when I fail to include my Savior. Why is my first inclination always to take control, rush ahead, certain that I’ve got to figure it all out, fix it, clean it up, work it out, rinse and repeat? I guess you could call it human nature, or pride, or as Solomon the Wise King put it “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end its end is the way of death”. Proverbs 14:12 So insistent was Solomon that he wrote this same verse three times! Proverbs 16:25 and again 12:15 with a twist about fools ignoring advice.

As soon as I repent, invite Him to have His way, what a difference! My burden seems lighter, the way is made clearer, and no matter the outcome, I know God’s hand is upon me and He will lead me in safety and “make all things new!” No matter my mistakes or misguided intentions, God will bring good out of evil. It is one of His many promises that I am so grateful for. (Gen 50:20) Sometime I’ll tell you how He turned our IRS nightmare into good.

Verses 1 – 8 is written in question and answer form. I love that. God is in conversation with His people through His prophet. We are always welcome to draw near to God with our questions. Besides, he is omniscient, and already knows what is in our hearts. So, ramble away, plead and bless, thank and praise, for God desires a relationship with His people. That fact is repeated throughout Jewish history. It is our Christian heritage as well.

I noticed that the people are asking for proofs (!) of this love God has for them. I am certain they must be feeling some sour grapes about the destruction of their city and subsequent 50 year exile in a foreign land.

Israel had a poor record of being fully invested in this covenant relationship. They evidenced that time and again by worshipping other gods, inter-marrying with other people groups, and, as pointed out here in verses 7 and 8, they have even brought polluted offerings to the altar of God. How could they bring less than the best, chosen lamb or bull or what-have-you for the sacrifices? Did they think God wouldn’t notice that the animal was blind, or blemished in some way? Would the smoke and flames obscure the view of Holy, Almighty God, Yahweh, I Am Who Am?

How about you and me? Do we bring less than our best to the Lord in what we do with our time, talent and money? How about our thought life, our entertainment choices, speech, activities? Do we make time to spend with Him, in earnest, focused worship and conversation? Are we regularly attending a fellowship church with other believers and growing in our knowledge and understanding of God’s word?

To those who might be reading this now and thinking, “Here we go with the list of do’s and don’ts that I hate so much about religion,” may I offer, indeed, the Old Testament was about guidelines in a covenant agreement. The very fact that it was so difficult, even impossible, to observe every bit of it, laid the groundwork for the need of a Redeemer, a Savior, One Who could stand between us and the judgment of God as an intermediary, as the One Ultimate Sacrifice Who would take the punishment we deserve. No human could possibly fit that bill. Only Jesus Christ, the perfect Son of God could accomplish this all-encompassing payment for failures to keep the covenant. That is why He is called “The Lamb of God”.

The gospel, the “good news” is this: Because of Jesus, faith is now about relationship with God, not lists of rules. It is about recognizing the great gift of His sacrifice on the cross at Calvary to pay the price of our sin. Now, with deep gratitude, we respond with a desire to love Him as He has loved us and live as people who desire to bring Him pleasure at every turn, because we belong to Him….He purchased our freedom and forgiveness with His very life! This is what colors our choices, love, not rules.

“Now to those who belong to Christ, there is no condemnation.”(Romans 8:1) What great love indeed.

I do take seriously the instruction of Paul in the New Testament to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17) and “present yourself as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God”(Romans 12:1).

But, without conscious effort daily, the distractions of my life can undo my best intentions. We are weak, and busy, busy, busy. All the more reason to enjoy a season of rest and silence before the King each and every day. All the more reason to rejoice in what Jesus Christ has accomplished for us. What do you think?

Malachi reminds the remnant colony of returning Jews that God still loves them, but they had to pay some consequence for disregarding the covenant. This is a fundamental law of life: there are consequences! They did pay many times through the centuries. Here, Malachi admonishes them for “going through the motions” of worship in the temple ceremonies, without sincere hearts, or best offerings. Remember now, this is God speaking through Malachi. God is hurt with such dishonor! He asks, do you treat your mom and dad with this kind of dishonor, too?

For today, let’s finish with verse 9. No matter what, God is always, always reaching out and offering His acceptance to even the most wicked sinner. (That would be me and you, friend.) His desire is to show grace, it says. Ask for God’s favor that He may be gracious to us, showing compassion, forgiveness, generosity and kindness.

No one is beyond the reach of our loving God. I pray you are living in His grip.

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