|THE COMING OF THE SON OF
Pastor Stephen Muncherian
April 4, 2004
Years ago there was a game show on the radio and later on television called “You Bet Your Life.” Do you remember this? I realize this is 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. My how game shows have changed.
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 we live our 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 - the great Italian prophet - Malachi - chapter three. As you’re finding Malachi - let me encourage you by saying that many people would have trouble finding Malachi. Malachi is usually the book we run into because we didn’t turn far enough to get to Matthew. So, if you get to Matthew - go backwards a few pages and you’ll find Malachi.
As the Old Testament comes to a close, Malachi was the last of God’s prophecies given to His people for about 400 years. After Malachi the prophetic voice from heaven ceases - there are no more revelations from God - until the coming of Jesus Christ. Malachi - bridging this gap of silent years - is a letter from God full of hope, encouragement, and love to sustain His people during this time of silence.
Reading through Malachi - the book is in the form of a conversation between God and His people. The people asking questions - bringing up issues. God giving answers - talking with His people about their relationship with Him and what they need to be doing to keep that relationship tight - strong - healthy.
What we want to look at this morning is one part of that conversation where God is describing two groups of people. We want to focus on how that description - of two groups of people - relates to us and to the coming of Jesus into Jerusalem.
If you’ve found Malachi - turn to chapter 3:13 - look with me at this part of the conversation. Verse 13 - God speaking to His people - His description of the first group of people: “Your words have been arrogant against Me,” says the Lord. “Yet you say - here’s the question asked by the people - ‘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 can see 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 here 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 and assumptions about God and their relationship with God that were completely wrong - that we’re leading them to disaster - 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 the books of Leviticus and Deuteronomy God describes in detail the kinds and character of the sacrifices He desires from His people. What God demanded was the first and the best. What God desired was the consecrated hearts of His people.
In Malachi chapter one - God focuses on the priests. The priests - by their position - had greater accountability before God. It was the business of the priests to represent God to the people and to present the people’s offering before God. That was their place in the community. And, they were doing their job.
They punched in at the Temple at 9:00 in the morning and worked until 5. Bring wood for the fire. Chop this. Slaughter that. Wave this. Heave that. Day in and day out - doing the work of the Temple. They were doing what God had commanded them to do. But, they were keeping the best of the flock for themselves and only half-heartedly - going through the motions - presenting their offerings to God. (Malachi 1:6-8, 12-14)
In chapter two God focuses on the people. The Hebrews were bringing any old thing and half-heartedly sacrificing it on God’s altar because they felt that God didn’t really deserve anything better. They’d 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 wasn’t doing a whole lot that they could see to judge the “doers of wickedness.” Their enemies were escaping God’s wrath. So why should God care how His people lived their lives. (Malachi 2:17-3:7)
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?
While we’re critical of the lives of the men and women of Malachi’s day - we need to examine ourselves on precisely the same issues. What brings here on Sunday mornings or keeps us away? Especially on Palm Sunday. Is our focus in worship on God - or elsewhere?
This “Spring Forward” thing makes it just too hard to get here by 9:30 - or 8:00 if you’re setting up for worship. Wouldn’t it be great if we could just “fall back” twice a year? Next Sunday just stay home and sleep in. You could stay out later on Saturday night. You could stay home and watch baseball.
You should spend less time in prayer. If it feels good - if prayer helps you - then by all means go ahead and pray. Bible study is optional. The Bible is just some religious ideals written by some men who died a long time ago.
If I started teaching that you’d probably start looking for a new pastor - and you should. But, as Christians we allow that mentality to creep into the way we live out our relationship with God.
Sports - money - family - work - personal pleasure. How many good "Christians" claim that its hard to come to church - because Sunday is the only day they have to rest. How many family commitments - or guests from out of town - replace church on Sunday? How many activities of this world do we allow to crowd out our personal - individual - time with God.
With apologies to the ultimate driving machine and those who may own their motorcycles - have you heard of BMW Christians? Those who come to church for Baptisms, Memorials, and Weddings.
We’re here because we have to be. We go through the motions as a matter of obligation and routine. We can become bored with the whole process and indifferent to God. We say to ourselves, “We can sow up when we want - late - or not at all. We can give what we want. We can serve when we want.”
Too often we respond as the people of Malachi’s day responded - giving God less than the best. We take God for granted - our sacrifice too lightly - offering only a part when He deserves the entirety of our consecrated heart.
Have you ever been there? Be honest. We all have.
The entrance of Jesus into Jerusalem is a very familiar scene for us - almost routine. 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. This is important. Be silent. Listen.
“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.
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 come to worship - to sing Palm Sunday songs and hear a Palm Sunday message. 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. But a personal - heart totally consecrated - 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.