From a series on Malachi

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Presbyterian Deacon

Puritan Board Graduate
Not long ago I was pulpit supply for a little congregational church without a pastor. I served there 3 Sundays a month for about 7 months.

I preached through the book of Malachi. Here is one of the sermons. What do you think? Comments and critiques welcome.
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ONE OF THESE DAYS
Malachi 4:1-3

Good morning. My sermon today is entitled: “One Of These Days…” My text this morning is: Malachi 4:1-3. Please follow along in your Bibles as I read, Malachi 4:1-3

"For behold, the day is coming, burning like an oven, when all the arrogant and all evildoers will be stubble. The day that is coming shall set them ablaze, says the Lord of hosts, so that it will leave them neither root nor branch. [2] But for you who fear my name, the sun of righteousness shall rise with healing in its wings. You shall go out leaping like calves from the stall. [3] And you shall tread down the wicked, for they will be ashes under the soles of your feet, on the day when I act, says the Lord of hosts.

Before we look at the passage, let’s ask God to help us to understand His Word this morning.

Prayer: Father, as we open your word this morning, give us ears to hear, and eyes to see glorious truths from Your Holy Book. Fill us with desire that we might be living examples of righteousness. Grant that Your people may live in anticipation of eternity, as those who are prepared to meet their God in that Final Day of Judgment. May Your people be edified, and You be glorified through our time in Your Word. We ask in Jesus Name. Amen

Introduction:

Anticipation! Anticipation is suggested by the words, “…one of these days…” The day is coming! We all enjoy looking forward to some great event such as a birthday or Christmas. Homecomings, holidays, and vacations, the mere thoughts of these things excite us! Preparations are made. Invitations are sent out. Presents are purchased…luggage is packed. We by nature like to have something to look forward to, don’t we? And even less enjoyable things such as funerals, an upcoming surgery, a meeting with the school principal, or an appointment with the IRS—in the face of these events, we find that in anticipation of them we make certain preparations.

Anticipation is a part of biblical revelation. “One of these days…” A day is coming! It will be a day of hope for believers, and a day of wrath for unbelievers.

This sermon is about “The Day of Judgment.” We don’t like to think about Judgment Day, do we? I don’t! If I asked you to name five things that you’re really looking forward to in the future, I dare say that Judgment Day would probably not be on your list. And honestly, it wouldn’t be on mine either. But our sinful human thinking not withstanding—it is on God’s list!

Our subject this morning is one that should humble us! Our thoughts are not God’s thoughts. His ways are far above our ways! This, by the way is one of the benefits of expository preaching. Here is something to keep in mind perhaps, as you as a church are seeking to find a pastor. When interviewing possible candidates, find out how he feels about expository preaching!

You see, with expository preaching, to a large extent, the preacher doesn’t get to choose the sermon topic! The congregation doesn’t get to choose the sermon topic, either. There is a sense in which God chooses the topic for the expository preacher! Expository preaching deals with the topics of Scripture as they come along.

I was aware of this text of course, when I committed to preaching this series on Malachi, but my inclination is to skip verses 1-3, and preach on verses 4-6 “Remembering the Law and Looking for Elijah!” But a preacher cannot be faithful to his calling if he only likes to preach the “happy topics.” Paul said, “I have not shunned to declare unto you the whole council of God!” In 2 Timothy 3:16-17 he writes, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable (all scripture is profitable—all of it…even the hard topics! All Scripture is breathed out—or inspired by God and profitable) for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.”

And so today, we come to another one of those difficult topics.
The Day of Judgment is coming “…one of these days…” Judgment is a reality. Scripture says “we must all stand before the judgment seat of Christ!” We don’t know when that will be, but the reality of coming judgment cannot be denied by any one who seriously looks at Scripture. The modern day approach to eternity is all too casual. Liberal theologians deny the reality of a final judgment. God is a god of love. God won’t punish us. He won’t send us to hell. That is not the message of the Bible. It is not the message of the book of Malachi!

Malachi 4:1-3 is really a continuation of the discussion about Judgment in Malachi 3:13-18 (which we studied when I was last in this pulpit). In Malachi 3: 13-18 we learn of the fact that God will ultimately judge and make a distinction between the Righteous and the Wicked.

“The Day of the Lord is coming.” The day of Christ’s Second Coming is prophesied in this text. “The Day is coming,” Malachi tells us in our text this morning. It is a day of judgment. The day of the final judgment when the dead, small and great stand before the throne of God and are judged out of the books of God! The day is coming, burning like an oven! The day is coming. A day that shall set them ablaze!

It is a day that, I dare say we, as Christians do not think of enough. The early Church Father, Saint Jerome (who lived from 340-420 AD) said,

“Whether I eat or drink, or in whatever other action or employment I am engaged, that solemn voice always seems to sound in my ears, ‘Arise, ye dead, and come to judgment.’ As often as I think of the Day of Judgment, my heart quakes, and my whole frame trembles. If I am to indulge in any of the pleasures of the present life, I am resolved to do it in such a way that the solemn realities of future judgment may never be banished from my recollection.”

Malachi 4:1-3 tells us what that coming judgment will look like, and how the distinction(s) between the Righteous and the Wicked will be manifested (made plain) at that coming Final Judgment.

It is my hope today, that as we examine this passage of Scripture, that the solemn realities of future judgment may become real to us, and that they never be banished from our recollection.

My sermon today has three points. First, The Day of Judgment will be a hot day for haughty people,(in verse one we find “the promise of the day, the people of the day, and the purpose of the day). Secondly, The Day of Judgment will be a healing day for holy people,(in verse two we find “the power of the day, the provision of the day, and those who are prepared for the Day).



And Thirdly, The Day of Judgment will be an honorable day for heavenly people (in verses two and three we’ll look at the Fate of Your Souls, the soles of your feet, and the Father who saves)!

I. The Day of Judgment will be a Hot Day for Haughty People, (v.1)

"For behold, the day is coming, burning like an oven, when all the arrogant and all evildoers will be stubble. The day that is coming shall set them ablaze, says the Lord of hosts, so that it will leave them neither root nor branch.”

A. The Promise of the Day: “…behold the day is coming…”

There has been much debate by Bible scholars and commentators about the meaning of the Day of Judgment. Debate continues on the precise meaning of "the day." Is it a single, pinpointed day? Is it a series of days or events that all bear similar purpose and so collectively is called, "the day?" Is it at the end of human history? Is it referring to Judah's day of judgment as a nation?

One of the best approaches to understanding this is called "the principle of successive fulfillment," (T. V. Moore, Geneva Series Commentary, 396). There are numerous places in Scripture where a singular statement refers to multiple events of similar purpose. Statements referring to God's judgment, in particular, generally point to divine judgments at points of time and then ultimately at the end of time. Other prophets used the same term, "the day," and saw it as bearing upon an ultimate fulfillment. For instance, the 9th century prophet Joel spoke, "Alas for the day! For the day of the Lord is near, and it will come as destruction from the Almighty." And again, "Blow a trumpet in Zion, and sound an alarm on My holy mountain! Let all the inhabitants of the land tremble, for the day of the Lord is coming; surely it is near" (1:19,2:1). Then he goes on to describe it in terms of darkness and gloom, mighty armies, consuming fire, no escape, the sun and moon growing dark, the stars losing their brightness, and as a day that none can endure! His view of it was both immediate (the Assyrian invasion) and ultimate judgment.

Zephaniah, in the 7th century, does the same thing. He warns, "Be silent before the Lord God! For the day of the Lord is near." Then he describes it as a day of cataclysmic events with great judgment transpiring (the Babylonian captivity). But then follows with what seems to point to an ultimate day of judgment. "Near is the great day of the Lord, near and coming very quickly...A day of wrath is that day, a day of trouble and distress, a day of destruction and desolation, a day of darkness and gloom...Neither their silver nor their gold will be able to deliver them on the day of the Lord's wrath. And all the earth will be devoured in the fire of His jealousy, for He will make a complete end, indeed a terrifying one of all the inhabitants of the earth" (Zephaniah 1:7-18, especially 7, 14-15, 18; cf. Isaiah 13:6, Ezekiel 30:3, Obadiah 15).

Zechariah did the same thing in Zechariah 14:1-8 (Kaiser, Communicator's Commentary, 485). Prophetically, in the Scriptures, we have a linear view of judgment rather than a punctilliar view. It is a long process that finally reaches its grand crescendo at the final day.

So what is the purpose of such a view of judgment?

(1) It is to remind us that divine judgment is not constrained by neatly mapped prophetic calendars.
(2) It is a call to readiness in view of the Lord Almighty who judges.
(3) It is a warning by God's mercies against presumption with our spiritual condition.

Some approaches to prophecy advance these nice little charts (you’ve probably seen them, I’m sure) where everything is all mapped out and you get the impression that we can know where we are in God’s timeline at any given moment by consulting their charts. However, the study of prophecy is more complex than that. God tells us that some of these things are a mystery. They are not unknown to God, but He has, in His Sovereignty not seen fit to fill in all the little details for us.

We are not called to make little charts and fill in the details, but to be alert. To be ready! To be watchful!! For no man knows the day when the Son of Man will come! As we live, mindful that the Lord could return at any time we do well to keep short accounts with God.
We ought to confess our sins and live as those who are ever mindful of the coming judgment. As Jerome said, “Whether we eat or drink, or whatever other action or employment we are engaged in, we should listen for that solemn voice of conscience to sound in our ears! … As often as we think of the Day of Judgment, our hearts should quake!… As we indulge in any of the pleasures of the present life, anticipation of the coming judgment should cause us to be resolved to live in such a way that the solemn realities of future judgment may never be banished from our recollection.”

So we see the promise of the day, and now—

B. The People of the Day. “…all the arrogant and all evildoers…”

The judgment Malachi speaks of in his prophecy has dual effects. The Day of Judgment is a dreadful day for those in rebellion against the Lord. The Day of Judgment will be a liberating day for those in relationship to the Lord, vv. 2-3

It will be a hot day for haughty people. “…all the arrogant and evildoers…” Who are these Haughty People?

Keep in mind what Malachi has been doing throughout this prophecy. He has been calling pretenders, deceivers, and hypocrites into account. Mere profession of religion will not dupe God. God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and in truth!
God knows when you’re just playing church! Going through the motions of spirituality will never pass muster in the day of the Lord.

We’ve looked at the promise of the day, the people of the day, and now—

C. The Purpose of the Day.

Malachi’s description here identifies the horrors of judgment. How can we grasp the scene of the divine wrath that has been stored up due to the breaching of His holiness over and over? We lack the language to adequately describe such horror! So the words used by Malachi, picture the severity of such a day in language that makes the best sense to his hearers. These people understood what it was like to live in drought and scorching heat. The sun would burn with such intensity in the barren lands that the stubble of the fields would begin to flame up. Driven by winds the fires would rage across the land uncontrollably.

And so we read the arrogant, the prideful, the haughty “…will be stubble (or “chaff”)…” God will “…set them ablaze…” and He will “…leave them neither root nor branch…”

(1) "Burning like a furnace"

Furnaces were used to heat ore and metal to burn away all the impurities. That which was not genuine gold or silver was burned away by the intensity. So, too, those who are mere pretenders will burn in God's judgment.

(2) "And all the arrogant and every evildoer will be stubble (or chaff)"

What happens to "chaff" in the flame? Chaff refers to the husks of grain that were separated from the grain. Because they were so dry they flamed quickly into destruction. The word “arrogant” alludes to the previous section, 3:13-15, where Malachi reproves those who spoke arrogantly against God. The issue of ongoing sin is found in "every evildoer," the ones who pursue their own desires contrary to God's law.

(3) "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 finality of judgment is the point. It is one thing for God to chasten His children with a view to refining them for greater purity of life and service. It is a different issue, when it comes to judgment. There's no second chance: no root or branch remains for sprouting again. In other words, when God judges, it is over. We know the repetitious statements of judgment in the New Testament point out that judgment does not mean annihilation but an eternal condition of experiencing God's righteous wrath.

His judgment is always pictured more severe and horrible for those who have heard the gospel truth but have spurned it. This may be an Old Testament passage but it has a New Testament warning: Presumption with your soul, delaying response to Christ's offer of forgiveness, and the arrogance of going your own way in the face of God's tender mercies in Christ meant you are in danger of judgment. Jesus declared that those who have not believed are condemned even now! "He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God" (John 3:18). Judgment is not simply a future possibility. It is a present reality. That is the message of our text. Our text calls for any among us who delay turning to Christ to linger no more. Now is the day of salvation!

II. The Day of Judgment will be a Healing Day for Holy People, (v.2).

“But for you who fear my name, the sun of righteousness shall rise with healing in its wings…”

A. The Power of the Day: “…the sun of righteousness shall rise…”

“But unto you that fear my name shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in his wings.”—Malachi 4:2

In commenting on this text, Charles Haddon Spurgeon wrote,

“FULFILLED once in the first advent of our glorious Lord and yet to have a fuller accomplishment in His second advent, this gracious word is also for daily use. Is it dark with the reader? Does the night deepen into a denser blackness? Still let us not despair: the sun will yet rise. When the night is darkest, dawn is nearest.

The sun which will arise is of no common sort. It is THE sun—the Sun of Righteousness, whose every ray is holiness. He who comes to cheer us, comes in the way of justice as well as of mercy, comes to violate no law even to save us. Jesus as much displays the holiness of God as His love. Our deliverance, when it comes, will be safe because of His righteousness.

Our one point of inquiry should be: “Do we fear the name of the Lord? Do we reverence the living God, and walk in His ways?” Then for us the night must be short; and when the morning cometh, all the sickness and sorrow of our soul will be over forever. Light, warmth, joy, and clearness of vision will come, and healing of every disease and distress will follow after.

Has Jesus risen upon us? Let us sit in the sun. Has He hidden His face? Let us wait for His rising. He will shine forth as surely as the sun.”

We’ve seen the power of the day, and now—

B. The Provision of the Day: “…with healing in its wings…”

Forgiveness, pictured by "the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings."
Rather than destruction in the face of God's righteous judgment, there is healing by God's righteous judgment on your behalf in Christ on the cross. The judgment you and I deserve was meted out to Christ, who bore it in our stead out of God's mercy. And now healing comes - "for we are healed by His stripes," as Isaiah 53 tells us.

Thus the provision of the day, the power of the day, and now—

C. Those Prepared for the Day: “…for you who fear my name…”

"But for you who fear My name" Malachi here uses the same language we saw in our last study to refer to the righteous or the people of God. It is a fear of reverence, awe, and trust. It is a fear that comes from having recognized our own wretchedness before God as sinners but now having trusted in God's provision of righteousness through Christ alone. Such fear fits us for heaven. The day of judgment will be a hot day for haughty people, a healing day for holy people, and so we come to our third point:

III. The Day of Judgment will be an Honorable Day for Heavenly People, (v.2, 3).

“You shall go out leaping like calves from the stall. [3] And you shall tread down the wicked, for they will be ashes under the soles of your feet, on the day when I act, says the Lord of hosts.”

A. The Fate of Your Souls: (v.2) “You shall go out like calves leaping from the stall…”

Fear produces Joy. That may sound strange, but it is a biblical reality! Joy is here pictured by the skipping calf. This is what takes place in those who realize that judgment has already passed in Christ. If you've ever been on a farm or ranch setting and witnessed what happens when a penned up calf is let out of its stall, then this picture is quite clear! It is one of exuberant joy, profound, overflowing, unabated, incomparable joy! That is what is ours in Christ! Jesus gave us His joy - that joyous satisfaction of relationship with the Father through the Son, the joy of realizing no barrier stands between you and God's favor, the joy of knowing that you belong to the Lord (3:17).
B. The Soles of Your Feet:

1. “…you shall tread down the wicked…”
2. “…they shall be ashes under the soles of your feet…”

Fear produces Joy. Fear leads us to Triumph, This is seen in v. 3. These few, struggling believers had witnessed evil having its day. But in light of the day of the Lord there is triumph. God hears their cries in the midst of oppression. Perhaps there's some allusion to the New Testament teaching of believers judging the nations, as "they will be ashes under the soles of your feet on the day which I am preparing." It may also refer to the ultimate triumph of the gospel through the ages. The nations that have oppressed God's people have step by step, age by age, been brought into nothingness - like ashes under the feet.

By the way, I was trying to be clever when I came up with “the fate of your souls, and the soles of your feet.” I’ll leave you to judge if it was clever or not, I’m not sure I like it—but I left it in my out line because it reminded me of a precious truth of Scripture. God’s providential care! God loves us and cares for us, (body and soul)! In the Gospels Jesus says that a sparrow cannot fall to ground without the knowledge of God. In Matthew 6 we read:

[25] "Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? [26] Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? [27] And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? [28] And why are you anxious about clothing? Con sider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, [29] yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. [30] But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? [31] Therefore do not be anxious, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' [32] For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. [33] But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you [34] "Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.

Yes, God loves you body and soul! He cares for you! His concern is not just the fate of your soles, but also the “soles of your feet!” This gives us comfort, I believe as we “anticipate” the Day of Judgment, and as we look to the events of this life! God is not just creator and judge. He is—

C. The Father Who Saves: “…on the day when I act, says the Lord of hosts…” (verse 3)

The teaching of Scripture is this:

(a) Judgment will vindicate our faithfulness to the Lord. Judgment will demonstrate that He indeed is Lord God before whom all will bow. Philippians 2:9-11 says, “Therefore God has highly exalted him [Jesus] and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

The teaching of Scripture is this:
(b) Judgment has finality to it. Hebrews 9:27-28 teaches, “And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.”

The teaching of Scripture is this:
(c) Believers need not fear the fires of judgment but glory in the grace shown to them in Christ. In Romans 8:1 God tells us through the Apostle Paul, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”

Conclusion:

But unto you that fear my name shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in his wings; and ye shall go forth, and grow up as calves of the stall. — Malachi 4:2

THERE is one grand distinction among men — "him that serves God, and him that serves him not." We looked at this two weeks ago in Malachi 3:18 “Then once more you shall see the distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between one who serves God and one who does not serve him.”

Fearing God is the one characteristic that distinguishes man from man in the sight of God! Far more than wealth, rank, or nationality, it is your fear of God’s name and your service for Him that makes the difference in the Day of Judgment. The coming of Christ is a calamity or a blessing to men according to their character. Your experience of blessing or calamity at the final judgment is directly proportionate to the extent that you’ve feared God in this life!

What a change of figures we have seen in this text! To the wicked, judgment will be a burning oven (see verse 1), yet to God fearing men, the Judge is the healing Sun of Righteousness!

The Day of Judgment will be a hot day for haughty people. The Day of Judgment will be a healing day for holy people. The Day of Judgment will be an honorable day for heavenly people.

Prepare to meet your God! (Amos 4:12). It was in the context of coming judgment that the Prophet Amos told Israel of old to—“Prepare to meet thy God!”
Our text this morning, the Holy Spirit, and the uniform teaching of Scripture calls all this morning to be certain that we are prepared to meet our God!

James 4:14 reminds us, “yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.” We have no guarantees about tomorrow. Some of the earthly things we anticipate may never come to pass! But we can be certain, based upon the teaching of God’s Word that Judgment is real!

Remember our quote from Jerome?

“Whether I eat or drink, or in whatever other action or employment I am engaged, that solemn voice always seems to sound in my ears, ‘Arise, ye dead, and come to judgment.’ As often as I think of the Day of Judgment, my heart quakes, and my whole frame trembles. If I am to indulge in any of the pleasures of the present life, I am resolved to do it in such a way that the solemn realities of future judgment may never be banished from my recollection.”

May it be our goal, our resolve to live in such a way that the solemn realities of judgment are never banished from our thoughts. In that day then, the final day…”when we all get to Heaven—What a day of rejoicing it will be!”

The Day of Judgment is a dreadful day for those in rebellion against the Lord. The Day of Judgment will be a liberating day for those in a right relationship to the Lord. What kind of a day will it be for you? Will it be a dreadful day of Divine Wrath? Or will it be a day of forgiveness, joy, and triumph?

The message is clear for all of us! We must be certain of our relationship to God through faith in Christ. Judgment is not fantasy but a present reality that culminates in the finality of Eternal blessing or wrath. The Lord has shown great mercy to us in Christ through His provision for our eternal healing at the cross. Have you received that mercy?

Are you prepared?
 
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