|THE COMING OF THE SON OF
Series: Questions People Ask - Part Six
Pastor Stephen Muncherian
March 24, 2002
Years ago there was a game show on the radio and later on television. The title was “You Bet Your Life.” Do any of you remember this? I realize that this dating some people. The way the show worked - Groucho Marx would interview some people and as they were talking if one of these people said the secret word then a duck would come down and they’d win a prize.
This morning, what we’re going to look at is a lot like the title of that program, “You Bet Your Life.” In other words, how you live your life can be a gamble - a bet - with the prize either being eternity with God or loosing it all and spending eternity without God.
Please turn with me to the Book of Malachi chapter three. At its core, the Book of Malachi is a love letter from God to His people. God speaking to His people. The loving God calling for His people to trust Him with their lives. As God speaks with His people there’s a series of questions that the people ask God. Over the past several weeks we’ve been looking at these questions and how God’s answers apply to our lives. This morning we’ve come to the last of these “Questions People Ask.”
If you’ve found Malachi - turn to chapter 3:13 - look with me at this question. Verse 13 - God speaking to His people: “Your words have been arrogant against Me,” says the Lord. “Yet you say - here’s the question - ‘What have we spoken against You?’” In other words, “How have we spoken arrogantly?”
To make good pilaf you take a cup of rice and 2 cups of Swanson’s Chicken Broth - bring the broth to a boil - add the rice - and simmer until there’s no broth left. I may get some arguments on that. But, that’s essentially it. While it’s simmering, what happens to the rice? It absorbs the broth.
That’s what God means by arrogance. The Hebrew word has the idea of boiling food so it grows - swells and puffs up. With the Hebrews they were swollen - puffed up with their own understanding and expectations of God. From this arrogance they were making confident statements about God that were completely wrong and they didn’t even realize it.
God describes this attitude - verse 14: “You have said, ‘It is vain to serve God; and what profit is it that we have kept His charge, and that we have walked in mourning before the Lord of hosts? So now we call the arrogant blessed; not only are the doers of wickedness built up but they also test God and escape.’”
In past weeks - looking at Malachi - we’ve seen that the Hebrews were bringing any old thing and half-heartedly sacrificing it in on God’s altar because they felt that God didn’t really deserve anything better. They had come to the conclusion that God was a distant - way out there someplace - God. God really didn’t care if their enemies prospered - or if they were oppressed by their enemies. God didn’t care about how they lived their lives.
So day after day they we’re going through the routine of being a religious people but their hearts just weren’t in it. They had religion - rules, rites, rituals - but they didn’t know God. So they said, “It’s a vain thing - a worthless thing - to serve God. Only those who take care of themselves get anywhere in life.” Have you ever heard that?
The entrance of Jesus into Jerusalem is a very familiar scene for us. On what we call Palm Sunday, close to 3 million pilgrims from all over the Jewish Diaspora are gathered in Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover Festival - commemorating God’s salvation of His people from Pharaoh - from bondage in Egypt. As Jesus enters, they cry out, “Hosanna to the Son of David. Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord. Hosanna in the highest!” (Matthew 21:9)
On that day - as there was in Malachi’s Day - and as there has been throughout history - in Jerusalem that day there were two groups of people. Those without God and those with God. Those who were betting their lives on themselves and those who had given their lives to God.
There were political leaders who saw Jesus and the crowd and feared unrest. Religious leaders who saw Jesus and feared their positions - retreating within their understanding of how God worked. Crowds demanding God’s justice. Children caught up in the celebration. Young - old - ignorant - astute - humble - moral - spiritual - religious - arrogant - from their own understanding and perspective shouting out “Hosanna!” Yet, without a clue to what God was doing because while many had religion or a religious culture - they were without God.
Malachi 3:16 - this is the second group of people: Then those who feared the Lord spoke to one another. The fear of God is not trembling and cowering before God. Fearing God means to respect Him - an honor and respect for God that comes from an intimate personal knowledge of who God is. Within Israel - in the days of Malachi - there was a group that loved God and feared Him. A group that was with God.
In Jerusalem - as Jesus entered the city - there were those who were with God. They’re on the same page with God. They understood that God was at work. People who feared God - esteemed God.
Perhaps as students of history and prophecy - they had followed Jesus - listened to His teaching and believed that He is the Messiah. For them “Hosanna! Save us!” had a very deep and personal meaning. They knew that Jesus had come to save sinners - to save them from their sins and lead them into a new kind of relationship with God.
Verse 16: Then those who feared the Lord spoke to one another and the Lord gave attention and heard it and a book of remembrance was written before Him for those who fear the Lord and who esteem His name.
The idea of “a book of remembrance” is found in many places in Scripture - God keeping a record of who His people are. In Isaiah 49:16, God says, “Behold, I have inscribed you on the palms of My hands” - a beautiful picture of God’s relationship with His people, a place of healing, safety, security, and blessing. The ultimate book of remembrance is the Book of Life - found in Revelation 20 - the record of all those who have come to salvation in Jesus Christ - those who will spend eternity with God. (Revelation 20:11-15) God knows His people and the deep issues of their hearts and lives. God will protect and save His people.
Verse 17: “They will be Mine,” says the Lord of hosts, “on the day that I prepare My own possession, and I will spare them as a man spares his own son who serves him.” So you will again distinguish between the righteous and the wicked, between one who serves God and one who does not serve Him.
Two groups of people. Those without God and those with God. Those who were betting their lives on themselves and those who had given their lives to God. In chapter 4 - God is specific - the eternal consequences of that bet.
4:1 begins “For behold.” “Behold” in Hebrew is a powerful - forceful - word. In modern English it carries the idea “Shut up!” Immediately stop what you’re doing. Be silent and listen. This is important.
“For behold, the day is coming, burning like a furnace; and all the arrogant and every evildoer will be chaff; and the day that is coming will set them ablaze,” says the Lord of hosts, “so that it will leave them neither root nor branch."
“The Day” is “The Day of the Lord” - the day of God’s coming judgment. The Bible teaches that those who die without a personal - saving - relationship with Jesus - those who bet on themselves - are to be judged and enter into eternity without God. They’ll become like dried empty chaff - leftovers from the harvest - and they will burn forever - eternal torment.
4:2: "But for you who fear My name, the sun of righteousness - Jesus - will rise with healing in its wings - when Jesus comes that same sun that sets the chaff on fire will bring healing to God’s people - and you will go forth and skip about like calves from the stall - that’s joy that cannot be contained. You will tread down the wicked, for they will be ashes under the soles of your feet on the day which I am preparing,” says the Lord of hosts. Literally - justice will take place. God’s people with be blessed beyond anything they could possible imagine. And, that blessing will go on throughout eternity.
In thinking through the implications - the application - of what this means for us this morning. It’s important that we understand - that just as in Malachi’s day - or when Jesus rode into Jerusalem - throughout history - even here in this sanctuary - there are two groups of people - those without God and those with God. We need to see that God is giving us a choice.
Our 3 year old son - has learned how to open the bottom latch on our front door. Fortunately there’s a dead bolt he can’t get to. If that door were to open - both he and his 1½ year old sister would be out of the house and gone.
It’s every parent’s nightmare - your little child wandering off - in danger - perhaps out in the street - a large truck is coming down the road - bearing down on your child.
In Malachi - God sees where His people have wandered - the choices they’ve made. He sees the future - the judgment - the sorrow - the disaster that’s coming. God, in this love letter to His people - in Jesus - is crying out for His people to come to Him - to safety - to a relationship with Him - to all that He offers to them.
Many of us have heard the account of Jesus coming into Jerusalem since we were in Sunday School. As we do each Palm Sunday - we’ve waved olive branches - listened to the children sing Hosanna - we’ve been singing special Palm Sunday hymns. It would be so easy to come here today and do the “Palm Sunday thing” - to practice our religion and then go on with our lives - to completely miss the urgency of what God is saying to us this morning.
God is calling each of us to a relationship with Him. Not a religious experience. Not a moral Christian lifestyle. Not an extension of our Armenian heritage. But a personal saving relationship with Him through His Son Jesus Christ.
The words shouted by those in Jerusalem come from Psalm 118:25,26. “Hosanna” meaning “save.” “Son of David” meaning Jesus’ anticipated role as King. “Save us Jesus. Usher in the Kingdom of David’s family line which will never end.”
Backing up just 3 verses is the foundation upon which those truths rest. Psalm 118 - verse 22: “The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief corner stone.” “The stone” - Jesus - is rejected - crucified in our place - offering us salvation from our sins. Jesus becomes “the chief corner stone” - the means of our salvation - the healing and restoration of our lives - the joy of an eternal relationship with God.
Two groups of people. You bet your life. This morning that choice is yours - to reject what God has done for you in Jesus Christ and to face a lifetime - an eternity apart from Him - or to accept what God has done for you in Jesus Christ - to enter into a blessed saved relationship with Him for now and forever.
_______________________Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture taken from the New American Standard Bible®, © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by the Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.