[July 03]—Day of the Lord

Malachi 4:1-3

            Here’s something to keep in mind when you’re reading the Bible. This is very important: The verse and chapter divisions are not inspired. The original scrolls on which the prophecies of Malachi would be written wouldn’t have anything but the words all strung together, often with no divisions even between words. That’s why in the NIV the note on 4:1 says that in the traditional Hebrew text the passage above is just a continuation of 3:13-18. Even though the prophet doesn’t use the term “Day of the Lord” in vs. 18, it’s obvious that this is what he’s talking about. On that Day, the Lord will make a great separation—in Jesus’ terms he’ll divide the “sheep” from the “goats.” The Lord already knows who belongs to him and who doesn’t, but on that Day it’ll be public.
            So today we get a few details that the Spirit-inspired prophet wants to share with us. The word that sticks in my mind here: “Heat.” Both the righteous and the wicked will experience heat on that day.
            To the lost, those who refused to do things God’s way, this heat will be like a blasting furnace. Think the flaming furnace which Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego faced was hot? It was so hot that the soldiers who threw them in burned to death. What the “arrogant” will face that day will make that furnace seem like a breeze off the ocean by comparison. Normally in a drought or extreme heat, plants’ branches will wither on the vine. That’s common. But for the roots to dry up and die---that’s heat. Everything will be turned to ashes, from top to bottom. Nothing will be spared.
            But here’s the irony. Remember, this is the mystery of heat: The same heat has different effects on the different substances it strikes. It softens wax and hardens clay. It consumes dross and purifies gold. For those who arrogantly reject the Lord, that Day will consume them like stubble. But for those of us who belong to him, those who revere his Name, the “Sun of Righteousness” will rise for us. Of course, it’s pretty obvious who this “Sun of Righteousness” is: Zechariah (father of John the Baptist) said that his son John would prepare the way for “the rising sun [who] will come to us from heaven to shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the path of peace.”
            For those of us who belong to him, this heat which consumes the arrogant will be like a warm summer’s day after a freezing winter which seemed like it would never end. The image is that of a young calf who’s been cooped up in a stall for waaaaaay too long. Maybe the poor little guy has had to stay inside a cramped little shelter because of the harsh winter. But then—finally!—the sun comes out, melts the snow, and the door is opened. The calf steps out, stretches its legs, and then starts. . . skipping. And frolicking. And leaping. And running. As Lewis put it in The Last Battle, “The [school] term is over: the holidays have begun. The dream is ended: this is the morning.”
            And those who’ve persecuted God’s people? Who’ve trampled on the humble? Turnabout will truly be fair play, as his people trample on the ones who’ve hurt them. That incredible heat which Malachi described in verse one will have burned them to ashes, so verse three is only the final culmination of the victory God’s already claimed over them.
            Once again, the prophet’s presenting a choice to us. When this Day comes, which side will you be found on? If you’re not sure, please read this.
            And if you’re on the right side of all this, then this should motivate you to share the Good News with someone who needs it. Right?

Lord Jesus, I am so looking forward to that Day. By your grace, help me to bring just as many people into your Kingdom as I can. And help me to be ready. 

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