The Stupefying Word: Malachi 4:4-6

Malachi: REFOCUSED
The Stupefying Word: Malachi 4:4-6
Pastor John Weathersby
Sunday December 5, 2021

Notes, Not a transcript

Last week, Pastor John Nicholas taught us from Malachi 3:13-4:3. When we turn to Malachi 4:1-3, looking back as New Testament believers, we see encouragement that God, through His prophet Malachi was outlining how His Messiah would come, the Sun of Righteousness.

They who feared the name of God, those who knew Him in truth and because of that proper knowledge of God lived differently than the world around them. More importantly, those believers lived differently in the world because they know God in truth and live now differently than BEFORE they knew Him. Malachi reveals that those who believe they will go leaping like calves from the stall will be victorious in life. Our passage is forward-looking to life after the Sun of Righteousness rises when God reveals his fuller plan for redemption to all the world.

There is a forward-looking promise about that sun. It isn’t as though they don’t have a sun today. They do, but a newly revealed version of something they are familiar with in a new way. This sun will light their understanding freshly, how they know Elijah, following and worshiping God and how they find their way to God. The close of Malachi picks up in chapter 4:1-3 and is carried to our passages and starting up with this bottomless energy flowing from the Sun of Righteousness.

Malachi 4:4–6 (ESV)

4 “Remember the Law of my servant Moses, the statutes and rules that I commanded him at Horeb for all Israel.

For those of us who live now, in Christ, this feels deflating for Israel. They get a glimpse of the freedom found in Christ, rather than bondage to the Law described as:

Malachi 4:2–3 (ESV)
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.

Alas, this hasn’t happened for them yet, so the leaping and the treading wicked will be a future promise, and they will now return to fearing God’s name and observance of His Law.

The prophets have come. They’ve returned Israel to God, repointed the people to fear Him, given warnings and revelation of what would happen to them both nationally and individually if they’d not repent. Now by way of lasting instruction, God, through Malachi, this last prophet, says this:

Malachi 4:4 (ESV)
4 “Remember the Law of my servant Moses, the statutes and rules that I commanded him at Horeb for all Israel.

Why?
In reaction to the truth we just talked about, this was the last of the prophets. So how would they “hear from God” going forward? The same way we “hear from God” today, in His word. There was an intertestamental period and an early church period. During this time, God sent Apostles to help establish this new priesthood’s worship of God and to establish the last age before He returns. Today we have His Word, His Son, and His indwelling Spirit as our guide.

Church, we don’t appreciate this enough, I promise you. Your Bible was written over 1,500 years, across 66 books 27 New Testament 39 Old Testament, written by over 40 authors, on 3 continents and in at least 3 languages.

This book is stupefying.
This book is life-changing.
This book is life-giving.

They’re encouraged to remember the Law of Moses. Remember that statutes and rules will keep them aligned to and fearing God, saving them from drift. We indeed drift our attention idly not towards God but anything but God, and our intentions follow our attention.

If we don’t spend time in a relationship with God, in this stupefying, life-changing, life-giving Word, our minds will not find transformation to truth, but dumbly following after lies and more than lies sin, which is hatred of God.

Scripture reminds us in Romans 12:2

Romans 12:2 (ESV)
2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern the will of God, knowing them what is good, acceptable, and perfect.

The active renewing of our minds transforms us. Transformation starts with the stupefying, life-changing, life-giving Word and is binary. It is either happening, or it is not happening. There is no halfway.

So, the prophet Malachi returns Israel to the Law (not the prophets). This is because the prophets, in doing their job, left behind the Law in the Word, those 39 books we mentioned in the Old Testament.

5 “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome day of the Lord comes.

I will send Elijah.

2 Kings 2:9–12 (ESV)

9 When they had crossed, Elijah said to Elisha, “Ask what I shall do for you, before I am taken from you.” And Elisha said, “Please let there be a double portion of your spirit on me.”
10 And he said, “You have asked a hard thing; yet, if you see me as I am being taken from you, it shall be so for you, but if you do not see me, it shall not be so.”
11 And as they still went on and talked, behold, chariots of fire and horses of fire separated the two of them. And Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven.

So that is Elijah – he didn’t die but was “taken up.”

Elijah came as a prophet when the people’s worship of God was twisted and evil, and they weren’t worshipful of God. They were lost. The people were being ruled by a wicked king and worshiping Baal. He appears in 1 Kings 17:1. From this point on, we see Elijah radically provided for by God. Later there is this incredible standoff where Elijah calls out the worshipers of the evil Baal and calls for competition. Read it yourself 1 Kings 18:17-40.

1 Kings 17:1 (ESV)
Elijah Predicts a Drought
17 Now Elijah the Tishbite, of Tishbe in Gilead, said to Ahab, “As the Lord, the God of Israel, lives, before whom I stand, there shall be neither dew nor rain these years, except by my word.”

1 Kings 18:17-40 (ESV)
17 When Ahab saw Elijah, Ahab said to him, “Is it you, you troubler of Israel?”
18 And he answered, “I have not troubled Israel, but you have, and your father’s house, because you have abandoned the commandments of the Lord and followed the Baals.
19 Now therefore send and gather all Israel to me at Mount Carmel, and the 450 prophets of Baal and the 400 prophets of Asherah, who eat at Jezebel’s table.”
The Prophets of Baal Defeated
20 So Ahab sent to all the people of Israel and gathered the prophets together at Mount Carmel.
21 And Elijah came near to all the people and said, “How long will you go limping between two different opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal, then follow him.” And the people did not answer him a word.
22 Then Elijah said to the people, “I, even I only, am left a prophet of the Lord, but Baal’s prophets are 450 men.
23 Let two bulls be given to us, and let them choose one bull for themselves and cut it in pieces and lay it on the wood, but put no fire to it. And I will prepare the other bull and lay it on the wood and put no fire to it.
24 And you call upon the name of your god, and I will call upon the name of the Lord, and the God who answers by fire, he is God.” And all the people answered, “It is well spoken.”
25 Then Elijah said to the prophets of Baal, “Choose for yourselves one bull and prepare it first, for you are many, and call upon the name of your god, but put no fire to it.”
26 And they took the bull that was given them, and they prepared it and called upon the name of Baal from morning until noon, saying, “O Baal, answer us!” But there was no voice, and no one answered. And they limped around the altar that they had made.
27 And at noon Elijah mocked them, saying, “Cry aloud, for he is a god. Either he is musing, or he is relieving himself, or he is on a journey, or perhaps he is asleep and must be awakened.”
28 And they cried aloud and cut themselves after their custom with swords and lances, until the blood gushed out upon them.
29 And as midday passed, they raved on until the time of the offering of the oblation, but there was no voice. No one answered; no one paid attention.
30 Then Elijah said to all the people, “Come near to me.” And all the people came near to him. And he repaired the altar of the Lord that had been thrown down.
31 Elijah took twelve stones, according to the number of the tribes of the sons of Jacob, to whom the word of the Lord came, saying, “Israel shall be your name,”
32 and with the stones he built an altar in the name of the Lord. And he made a trench about the altar, as great as would contain two seahs of seed.
33 And he put the wood in order and cut the bull in pieces and laid it on the wood. And he said, “Fill four jars with water and pour it on the burnt offering and on the wood.”
34 And he said, “Do it a second time.” And they did it a second time. And he said, “Do it a third time.” And they did it a third time.
35 And the water ran around the altar and filled the trench also with water.
36 And at the time of the offering of the oblation, Elijah the prophet came near and said, “O Lord, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, let it be known this day that you are God in Israel, and that I am your servant, and that I have done all these things at your word.
37 Answer me, O Lord, answer me, that this people may know that you, O Lord, are God, and that you have turned their hearts back.”
38 Then the fire of the Lord fell and consumed the burnt offering and the wood and the stones and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench.
39 And when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces and said, “The Lord, he is God; the Lord, he is God.”
40 And Elijah said to them, “Seize the prophets of Baal; let not one of them escape.” And they seized them. And Elijah brought them down to the brook Kishon and slaughtered them there.

Don’t miss this; Elijah – cared for by God, called to bring about great victory, falls into a deep depression 1 Kings 19:1-18; God gave him a believer’s fellowship in Elisha, which encouraged him as he felt alone in a lost world. I want to encourage us in this. Reading scripture and being around believers is essential – God calls no one to lone- ranger Christendom. Finally, we return where we started 2 Kings 2:9-12.

1 Kings 19:1-18 (ESV)
Elijah Flees Jezebel
1 Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done, and how he had killed all the prophets with the sword.
2 Then Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah, saying, “So may the gods do to me and more also, if I do not make your life as the life of one of them by this time tomorrow.”
3 Then he was afraid, and he arose and ran for his life and came to Beersheba, which belongs to Judah, and left his servant there.
4 But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness and came and sat down under a broom tree. And he asked that he might die, saying, “It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life, for I am no better than my fathers.”
5 And he lay down and slept under a broom tree. And behold, an angel touched him and said to him, “Arise and eat.”
6 And he looked, and behold, there was at his head a cake baked on hot stones and a jar of water. And he ate and drank and lay down again.
7 And the angel of the Lord came again a second time and touched him and said, “Arise and eat, for the journey is too great for you.”
8 And he arose and ate and drank, and went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights to Horeb, the mount of God.
The Lord Speaks to Elijah
9 There he came to a cave and lodged in it. And behold, the word of the Lord came to him, and he said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”
10 He said, “I have been very jealous for the Lord, the God of hosts. For the people of Israel have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword, and I, even I only, am left, and they seek my life, to take it away.”
11 And he said, “Go out and stand on the mount before the Lord.” And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind tore the mountains and broke in pieces the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. And after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake.
12 And after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire the sound of a low whisper.
13 And when Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. And behold, there came a voice to him and said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”
14 He said, “I have been very jealous for the Lord, the God of hosts. For the people of Israel have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword, and I, even I only, am left, and they seek my life, to take it away.”
15 And the Lord said to him, “Go, return on your way to the wilderness of Damascus. And when you arrive, you shall anoint Hazael to be king over Syria.
16 And Jehu the son of Nimshi you shall anoint to be king over Israel, and Elisha the son of Shaphat of Abel-meholah you shall anoint to be prophet in your place.
17 And the one who escapes from the sword of Hazael shall Jehu put to death, and the one who escapes from the sword of Jehu shall Elisha put to death.
18 Yet I will leave seven thousand in Israel, all the knees that have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him.”

2 Kings 2:9-12 (ESV)
9 When they had crossed, Elijah said to Elisha, “Ask what I shall do for you, before I am taken from you.” And Elisha said, “Please let there be a double portion of your spirit on me.”
10 And he said, “You have asked a hard thing; yet, if you see me as I am being taken from you, it shall be so for you, but if you do not see me, it shall not be so.”
11 And as they still went on and talked, behold, chariots of fire and horses of fire separated the two of them. And Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven.
12 And Elisha saw it and he cried, “My father, my father! The chariots of Israel and its horsemen!” And he saw him no more.
Then he took hold of his own clothes and tore them in two pieces.

During the Seder dinner, which Christians seem to love – just like they love the Left Behind series (mainly because Nicholas Cage is a great actor, I think), Joel Osteen, and Max Lucado – a cup is poured for Elijah the door is opened. Children check to see if Elijah has come and if the cup has been drunk.

Spoiler alert, I’ve got this kids. Take a seat. Leave the door closed. No one needs to check…

Matthew 11:12–15 (ESV)
12 From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and the violent take it by force.
13 For all the Prophets and the Law prophesied until John,
14 and if you are willing to accept it, he is Elijah who is to come.
15 He who has ears to hear, let him hear.

Elijah won’t be resurrecting to sneak into every Seder dinner and announce the coming of the Messiah. Jesus conceived at some point around 3 months into 1 BC, preceding him was John the Baptist – in the spirit of Elijah who came as a prophet like Elijah to a lost people that needed to return. Per Malachi (we don’t even agree on this book’s breakdown, the Hebrew Bible would say Malachi 3:23. Ours would say 4:5), Elijah precedes the great and awesome day of the Lord.

Some would argue that later in Matthew 17:10-11, Jesus still extends a future Elijah because it uses future tense, which would put a nail in the coffin of the way I see it:

10 And the disciples asked him, “Then why do the scribes say that first Elijah must come?”
11 He answered, “Elijah does come, and he will restore all things.

If Jesus’ thought stopped there, the problem with their argument is (as opinions often are) the Bible.

Matthew 17:12-13 (ESV)
12 But I tell you that Elijah has already come, and they did not recognize him but did to him whatever they pleased. So also the Son of Man will certainly suffer at their hands.”
13 Then the disciples understood that he was speaking to them of John the Baptist.

Your Bible was written over 1,500 years, across 66 books 27 New testament 39 Old Testament, written by over 40 authors, on 3 continents, and in at least 3 languages.

This book is stupefying.
This book is life-changing.
This book is life-giving.

In a conversation with someone, whether they are an atheist or they are wearing a short-sleeved shirt/tie at your door, colliding what you know to be the truth. They say, see, you’re wrong insist that you stop talking, open your Bible and look a few verses ahead and a few behind very often. This will relieve the perceived conflict.

God’s approach in Malachi 4’s warning into the future is consistent with His revealed character across all time. In wave after wave, God reveals Himself, goes to people, sends messengers, leaves His revealed Will in His Word, calls communities/nations, leaves behind believing people with a mandate to rescue others – and here He is casting forward the same; He by His Grace through Faith brings many to Himself.

The questions for everyone in every generation is, are you His by faith, do you trust the Hound of heaven?

If yes, then we respond to that call today by turning to Jesus, and by living as His people in the world, not outside aligned to objective truth as revealed across 66 books (27 New testament 39 Old Testament) written by over 40 authors, on 3 continents, and in at least 3 languages.

6 And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the land with a decree of utter destruction.”

What is this – we have to read carefully here what happens between the hearts of fathers and children. Two things are happening at the same time:

Hearts of:

Fathers —> Children
Children —> Fathers

It’s a bit circular. Neither the fathers nor children are the source of change rather. It is “he” who turns hearts. Their hearts are diverted from the outside towards one another, in mutual alignment, this action in the spirit of Elijah’s original calling.

As we close Malachi and remember that Israel experienced a great silence for more than 400 years, we can imagine the darkness this would have been. Generation after generation gripping to God’s faithful promise holding to ceremonial Law and shadows of the future – to now, what we enjoy in Christ.

Consider what the shepherds learned of on the night of Jesus birth announcement:

Luke 2:10 (ESV)
10 And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.

Great joy for all the people.

Your Bible was written over 1,500 years, across 66 books 27 New testament 39 Old Testament, written by over 40 authors, on 3 continents, and in at least 3 languages.

This book is stupefying.
This book is life-changing.
This book is life-giving.

Remember, transformation happens by the active renewing of our minds. It starts with the stupefying, life-changing, life-giving Word, and it is binary. It is either happening or not happening.

When in Christ, we have an impenetrable joy in all circumstances because we have purpose in Him in truth. Truth flows from the stupefying, life-changing, life-giving word. So let us be being transformed by it and not be found drifting towards lies. Let us be found tethering to truth and staying tight with our fellow believers, all the more as the day draws near.

Pray, Observe, Apply.

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