A Midweek Devotional - Preparation
Continuing this Advent Season through the Songs of Christmas, this week we will look to Zechariah’s Song in Luke 1:67-79. Zechariah was a proud papa singing at the birth of his son, but as opposed to what we might expect, the main chorus of his song focused on another child. Zechariah blessed the Lord for His provision of the Redeemer, and then he anointed his own son for his work in pointing to the Redeemer. Zechariah’s son was John the Baptist and Malachi (among others) points to his coming.
Wednesday, December 11th
Focused Passage for Reflection - Malachi 4
Reflecting on the Text:
Have you ever found yourself struggling through a long night, anxiously awaiting the sunrise? Maybe it was because sleep eluded you. Maybe it was a job that kept you up all night. Whatever the reason, many of us have spent long nights where we couldn’t wait to see those first glimmers of sunlight crest over the horizon.
Malachi prophesied of the coming sunrise, speaking of the sun of righteousness which shall rise with healing in its wings. He was speaking prophetically of the coming Messiah using the rising sun for imagery. He spoke of the coming Day of the Lord. Yet like many of the prophets, his vision blended Jesus’ first and second comings.
In the first coming, and most certainly in the second, Malachi points to varied responses among the people. For those who fear (worship) the name of the Lord, it will be a day of exceedingly great joy! Don’t you just love the picture Malachi paints to capture that joy? He speaks of a calf leaping from the stall. Have you seen a calf in springtime leaping from the stall and running through the pasture? It is a picture of unbridled joy as the calf frolics about.
On the other hand, there is a far different response among the arrogant and evil doers. As opposed to joy, their response is rightly one of terror. Malachi says they will be set ablaze, with nothing left but ashes and stubble. Flying in the face of righteousness, they had embraced the darkness, seeking only their own desire at the cost of others. To them, the light of the rising sun marks the day of destruction. So Malachi warns.
Yet Malachi speaks of another. The Lord speaks through him to say that Elijah (or a prophet like Elijah) will come first to prepare the way. The New Testament affirms that this prophet to come is John the Baptist. John will do the work of preparation. His work is rooted in the law of God (v. 4). And his work will be manifested in the lives of those who look with anticipation upon the coming Messiah, as evidenced at least partially by a restoration of the family unit. “And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers.”
Isn’t this a beautiful picture of the restoring and preparing work of the the Lord’s anointed prophet? Do you long for this restoration in your own family life? Malachi points to this restoration as an outworking of our remembering the law. In the law we see God’s design for human relationships, including familial relationships, in the context of the fear of the Lord. And in this way, the hearts of the children of Israel are being returned to the fathers of the faith.
This restoration of the family is beautiful and important. But it is also preparatory. You see, John’s role wasn’t to fix the family. His role was to prepare the way of the Lord. He was not merely pointing the people to a pattern of living. He was pointing them to the person of Jesus. Our broken relationships, and our personal sin behind those broken relationships, are pointers to the One who has come to make us whole by atoning for our sin and reconciling us to the true Father.
John’s work of preparation is necessary as he calls us to confront our own sin. And Malachi, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, beautifully points to his coming. So when we read the fulfillment in Luke 1 we are able to rejoice in the wisdom and sovereignty of God. And we take comfort in the fact that His wisdom and sovereignty was made manifest, not merely in John, but more fully in the Savior who would come after him. So this advent season let us remember, and let us prepare to receive Him afresh.
Questions for personal reflection:
In what ways are you looking to the Word of God to prepare your heart for the person of Jesus?
In what ways have you neglected preparation?
How does the ministry of John the Baptist prepare your heart for joy?