Reaching for Malachi, marching forward

MALACHI - First in a series

The Hebrews lived as slaves for many centuries before the Exodus. In that epoch, did they feel chosen and special? Did they consider that Abraham had really been a friend of God? Or, did memories and hearts fail?

This brings up a good question: How many years can a collective memory be retained? Or, for us today and for the Jews, a better question is: How long can we continue to believe the promises?

The question speaks to our human frame, not to the essence of God's Word which will stand forever. (1 Pet 1:23) The answer is: But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us. (2 Cor 4:7) Yes, we can continue to believe as we wait for Christ to return, but only by his help.

God promised Abraham (Abram) his descendants would be afflicted in Egypt for 400 years but would emerge with treasures, so perhaps it was not too hard for them to wait, since they had been apprised how long their affliction would last and that it would end well. (Gen 15:13) Easy for us to say.

When we feel the days are stretching thin as we look for Christ's second coming, we have the written Word for help. We can read and hear Peter saying,

Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts, And saying, Where is the promise of his coming?…But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. (2 Pet 3:3-8)

About a thousand years passed from the giving of the Law to the last of the Old Testament prophets, Malachi. This "moment" for the Hebrews had been an eternity of learning, backsliding, relearning, and finally exile from their homeland and then return.

From Malachi's words to the birth of Christ, roughly 400 years would pass. Perhaps they would wonder over those centuries, Are we thinking right about God's words? Did we miss something? Or, did they think back to their time in captivity: That phase had lasted 400 years— Will this one too?

The Lord preserved them between the Testaments; the "collective memory" was maintained and communicated to their descendants. Those who met Jesus still recalled Malachi's words, and asked: What then? Art thou Elias? And he saith, I am not. Art thou that prophet? And he answered, No. (John 1:21)

And what about you? Are you looking for Elijah to return as a portent of Christ's second coming? Or, do you view Malachi's prophecy as pertinent only to Christ's first appearance? Are you waiting patiently, anxiously, or not at all for the return of the Lord?

Christ understood how it would be in the 21st century. He framed a parable to analogize to it.

There was in a city a judge, which feared not God, neither regarded man: And there was a widow in that city; and she came unto him, saying, Avenge me of mine adversary. And he would not for a while: but afterward he said within himself, Though I fear not God, nor regard man; Yet because this widow troubleth me, I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me. And the Lord said, Hear what the unjust judge saith. And shall not God avenge his own elect, which cry day and night unto him, though he bear long with them? I tell you that he will avenge them speedily. Nevertheless when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth? (Luke 18:2-8)

The purpose of that challenging question was to stress to us how very difficult it will be in the end times to maintain faith.

Jesus predicted: And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold. (Mat 24:12). He also warned: And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect's sake those days shall be shortened. (Mat 24:22)

Can Malachi help us to keep the faith, as he did those who earnestly looked for the Lord to suddenly appear in his temple? (Mal 3:1)

In this series we will seek that help.