Malachi 3: 1 – 4 (Advent 2 – 2015)
“The Messenger Cleans Us Up For Advent”
Malachi is a purposeful “play on words” in this book. The Word itself means “messenger”. It is the Old Testament word for “angel.” It also was a common name for men during the time of Malachi. So in these few verses the word is used several ways. Malachi, the prophet, speaks about two messengers: John the Baptist, “who will prepare the way before me;” and Christ Jesus, “the messenger of the covenant, whom you desire.”
One of Christ’s duties as the Son of God was Prophet. God’s prophets to Israel had one clear job: to speak the Word of the Lord given to them. It was not always a simple job. But it was a simply defined job. They were to speak the truth. The people did not always like what the prophet had to say. God often gave words of rebuke to his people.
Malachi was the last of God’s prophets to speak before the coming of the Messiah. He spoke at a time when the Levities and priests had neglected their duties and spiritual leaders. He spoke to them at a time when the love of God’s people had grown cold. Their sense of urgency toward being God’s chosen people, people through whom the redeemer would come, was all but lost on idolatry and complacent attitudes.
Hence the question is posed: “Who can endure the day of his appearing? Who can stand when he appears?” Malachi, like all the others was called to preach repentance to God’s people to prepare them for the coming Savior. This was four hundred years before Christ was born in Bethlehem. What was his message? Clean up you act. Those who won’t be clean will be cleansed by Christ himself.
Remember Isaiah? He confessed himself to be “a man of unclean lips … among unclean people.” The sight of the purity of God’s glory forced his face to the ground in fear. The repeated requirements of the Ceremonial Law are about cleaning away the filthiness of mankind in the presence of God’s holiness. We are dirty. God is constantly making that point to Israel and us. We lie, we cheat, we hate, and we disobey. We covet things that steal our relationship away from God. Those are all sins. But we commit sins because we are sinful. We are not just filthy on the outside. We are sinfully polluted through and through.
What is the prophet’s message? John, the messenger says, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near” (Matthew 3: 2). Jesus himself, says, “Repent and believe the Good News” (Mark 1: 15). The prophet is going to clean us up. “He will be like a refiner’s fire or a launderer’s soap. He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver; he will purify the Levites and refine them like gold and silver.”
Look at Jesus’ ministry as prophet. He will sit in the temple as a twelve year old boy with a wholesome thirst and understanding for God’s Word. He will dash down the money lending tables and cleanse his Father’s house of prayer. He will sit in judgment over false teachings. He will clean up the doctrine of the Sadducees and Pharisees. He will teach with authority, clarity, wisdom, color, and truth. He will draw crowds by the thousands and tirelessly teach them the truth. His preaching and teaching ministry will clean things up in Jerusalem and all across the countryside.
The true purification will come when Jesus gives his life for the sake of the truth. As they refused to listen to the prophets before him, many and Israel refused the truth that Jesus was the Messiah, the Savior. As they rejected Amos and sent him away, they rejected Jesus, the True Prophet. As they plotted the death of Jeremiah, they plotted his death. As Herod slaughtered John the Baptist for the sake of the truth, wicked people slaughtered Jesus for the sake of the truth.
And in the shedding of his blood, the true purification process takes place. His true teaching refines us and clarifies our faith and understanding. How much more doesn’t “the blood of God’s Son purify us from all unrighteousness?!” (1 John 1:8). His blood is the true laundry soap, the fiercest of refinement. Not only does he take away our sins. He truly cleanses us through and through. What was dirty from inside out is cleaned up. In Baptism he washes away sin and guilt. As Peter says, “Baptism now saves you also - not just the removal of dirt from the body, but the pledge of a good conscience toward God” (1 Peter 3:21). The Messenger cleans us up for Advent.
There is a phrase and an activity that happens in our school all day long: “Wash your hands!” The kids wash hands after recess, before snack, after using the restroom, before eating lunch, etc. We can’t help but think of the great Advent Psalm: “Who may ascend the hill of the Lord? Who may stand in his holy place? The one who has clean hands and a pure heart” (Psalm 24: 3-4). There is a more vital activity that happens in our school throughout the day. It is the spirit call to hear and know and learn of Jesus who washes away our sins. The messages of the messenger Jesus fill the rooms and halls day by day. So it is with your homes and lives.
Jesus, the true cleansing Messenger has cleaned you up for Advent. Take with confidence the advice of Paul “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, jus as in Christ God forgave you” (Ephesians 4: 30-32). “Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things” (Philippians 4: 8).
Malachi explains that when Christ cleanses his people then their offerings are “pleasing to the LORD.” God’s people who know and believe that Christ has forgiven them and sanctified them through his message, then the fruits of our faith are also acceptable offerings before his throne of mercy. Cleansed people with cleansed hearts know how offer their whole lives as responses to his grace. God sent his Son to speak the truth in love. His true teachings have cleansed us our thoughts, our words, and the actions of our lives which speak his name and give him praise.
The sacrifice of Christ Jesus has cleaned us up. His righteousness is our purity before God. He has indeed prepared us to meet the Savior in Bethlehem. He has cleaned us to bring fruits of righteousness to his house and into our lives of faith. The Messenger has cleaned us up, that we also might speak his truth to others. More importantly he has cleansed us so that we can stand in his presence, as we greet him in the manger and when we stand before him in glory.
Then cleansed be every life from sin
And furnished for a guest within,
And let us all our hearts prepare
For Christ to come and enter there (CW 16: 2.) Amen.