10/12/06 Evensong Malachi 3:1-4 ( Luke 1:1-25 )
3 1 See, I am sending my messenger to prepare the way before me, and the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple. The messenger of the covenant in whom you delight - indeed, he is coming, says the Lord of hosts. 2 But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears? For he is like a refiner's fire and like fullers' soap; 3 he will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the descendants of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, until they present offerings to the Lord in righteousness. 4 Then the offering of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to the Lord as in the days of old and as in former years.
Malachi lived about 400 years before Jesus. God's people had forgotten about His faithfulness to them and were not giving him the honour and worship he was owed. God sent Malachi to rouse the people from their spiritual sluggishness and to urge them to return to the living God. Today's passage includes the promise of a new way out of this, and the judgment this will bring.
The messenger who prepares the way finds its initial fulfilment in John the Baptist who came to prepare the way for Jesus. He was filled with the Holy Spirit from birth, as we read in the gospel. He led a distinctive life and was fearless in his preaching. He called people to repent from their sins and follow God's ways. He also pointed to Jesus as the Messiah who would save God's people.
The Lord Jesus came into his temple, purifying it by expelling the money changers. He brought the new covenant in, and was rejected and crucified by the religious leaders.
This passage also refers to the second coming of Jesus. It features a time when Jesus will return to judge and purify. The Old Testament priests had been criticized earlier on the book of Malachi and he looks forward to a time when they will be purified by the Lord and be able to offer acceptable offerings to God.
John the Baptist and Malachi would not have been comfortable people to have around. They challenged people with God's demands on them in this life and the future judgment that everyone will face.
During this time of Advent let us rejoice that God sent His son into the world.
Let us beware that we do not be lethargic about our faith like the people of Malachi's time.
Let us be prepared for the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ, whenever that may be. May we be filled with His Spirit so we may be united with Him. In this life and into eternity.