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This is our fifth study in this series. Let me just recap for you - I gave the titles for the first time last week, because I hadn't got them yet, and all of a sudden it dawned on me what they should be as the theme progresses as we go through this little prophesy. The first study that we looked at was 'Malachi's Modern Message on Love', the love of God, the divine love of God that was shown to His children Israel not just in His practical present love, but in a past love that was demonstrated in election - that God chose Israel not because of the fact that they were a mighty nation, for they were not, or that they were particularly holy, for they were not; but He chose them purely by grace, undeserved favour. That was the love, an everlasting love wherewith God loved His people Israel. Then we saw 'Malachi's Modern Message Concerning the Service of the Priests'. He had a great message as to how they were serving God without their hearts, it was mere empty formal religion without the real spirit and power that ought to be behind the word - the spirit was missing. Then we saw the next week his 'Message on Discipline', the discipline and the judgment that would come to those priests because of their sinfulness in their service toward the Lord. Then last week we looked at 'Malachi's Modern Message on the Subject of Marriage', how they had not only broken their Levitical covenant as priests, and broken their marriage covenant with Jehovah, married to the nation there at Mount Sinai at the giving of the law, but they had also broken their covenant with God and with the wives of their youth in divorcing their Jewish wives and marrying pagan ones, and by inference following the pagan gods of those wives.

In this portion that we're looking at this evening, they began to question whether God was really holy. Imagine that!

Now we come today to chapter 2, the last verse of chapter 2, and the first six verses of chapter 3, and we're looking at 'Malachi's Modern Message on Messiah', or on the coming of Messiah. Verse 17 of chapter 2: "Ye have wearied the LORD with your words. Yet ye say, Wherein have we wearied him? When ye say, Every one that doeth evil is good in the sight of the LORD, and he delighteth in them; or, Where is the God of judgment? Behold, I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me: and the LORD, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to his temple, even the messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in: behold, he shall come, saith the LORD of hosts. But who may abide the day of his coming? and who shall stand when he appeareth? for he is like a refiner's fire, and like fullers' soap: And he shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver: and he shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer unto the LORD an offering in righteousness. Then shall the offering of Judah and Jerusalem be pleasant unto the LORD, as in the days of old, and as in former years. And I will come near to you to judgment; and I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers, and against the adulterers, and against false swearers, and against those that oppress the hireling in his wages, the widow, and the fatherless, and that turn aside the stranger from his right, and fear not me, saith the LORD of hosts. For I am the LORD, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed".

You will remember, if you have been with us on previous weeks, that when she returned to the land, Judah, well, she was let down. Her expectations were not realised. Religiously, politically, socially and culturally she expected prosperity, she expected glory, she expected a return, a reformation, a revival of the days of Solomon, that golden age of the reign of peace and prosperity. The fact of the matter was, when they reached the land again, and in spite of the promises that God's prophets had given them - and we must mark that, God had promised them further days of prosperity - that prosperity was not realised. In fact, the opposite seemed to be the case: God's righteous people seemed to be the ones who were suffering. Religion seemed to be at a low ebb, yet wickedness seemed to prosper, and the wicked seemed to live in prosperity and success while Judah, God's people, were suffering privation. Now that caused the question to arise in the heart of God's people - and it would do well for us to remind ourselves of this every week that we look at this short prophecy - they began to question the righteous justice of God, the faithfulness of God to His people, and to the promises that He uttered in Holy Word.

In fact, specifically in this portion that we're looking at this evening, they began to question whether God was really holy. Imagine that! The Israelites who, out of all the nations of the world, had the living God revealed to them as the true living God who was known naturally by His holiness, that they of all people should question that God was holy. Not only did they question that He was holy, but they questioned whether or not He was just, whether He was administering justice to the wicked Gentile nations who were Israel's enemies, and whether He was being just toward them in the promises that He had spoken but seemingly had failed to fulfil. As far as they were concerned, they came to the conclusion - they felt they could come to no other regarding the environmental circumstances that were round about them - that God was not holy, that God had not been just regarding them. That plunged them, as you could imagine, into deep despair, and into a despondent disillusionment - not only with God's word, but with God Himself.

We're perhaps beginning to say to ourselves: 'Where is our God?'; like Gideon, 'Where is our God that our fathers told us of? Where are the miracles that they spoke to us of?'

If we are honest with ourselves, and I hope that we are when we come to look into the mirror of God's truth, we can fall into the same pit as the Israelites did. When we look around us in the day and age in which we live, and maybe in our own personal lives we feel that God doesn't seem to be answering our prayers, or at least doing it in the way that we would like Him to. Maybe we don't see God blessing in our ministry, whether it's in our evangelism or in our own personal testimony. We're not seeing God save our loved ones the way we long to see it happen, maybe we haven't seen God heal us or another in the way that we feel is our right. Maybe God hasn't helped us, we feel that we've been in the hour of need, and God has said: 'Call upon me in the day of trouble, and I will answer thee' - but He hasn't. For so long we have heard so many people, like the Psalmist, saying to us: 'Where is your God?'. We're perhaps beginning to say to ourselves: 'Where is our God?'; like Gideon, 'Where is our God that our fathers told us of? Where are the miracles that they spoke to us of?'.

Now Malachi warned Judah that if they kept questioning God in this vein, God's patience was going to wear thin. Let me just pause there for a moment, because that's a novel concept in itself, isn't it? God's patience wearing thin! We are so accustomed to talking about the long-suffering of God, the patience of God, the tender mercies and compassions and loving-kindness of God. But here Malachi is coming and he is telling us, revealing to us that God's patience is not unchangeable in the sense of His other attributes, that it will never run out - that is not God's patience and long-suffering. Here is a warning for us all, I believe even in the New Testament dispensation, that we ought to never presume upon the long-suffering of God. I wonder at times do we? We carry on in our own sinfulness, our own lukewarmness, our own backsliddenness, and we think it's alright because if we keep short accounts with God and confess our sins, He's faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. But I wonder, at times, if that is not presuming on the long-suffering of God.

I ask the question to you: can any of us presume on anything that comes by grace? Grace is unmerited favour, that means it is not our right, it is not our just desserts - our just dessert is hell, and if we want to plead for our rights before the throne of God, that's what we will get! Let us never presume, although we have many promises according to God's faithfulness. Let us never continue in sin, as Paul says, that grace may abound. Now that was exactly Judah's sin: 'We are God's people, we're the commonwealth of Israel, we have His promises, we're married to Him, we're the Levites', specifically these priests that Malachi is addressing would say, 'We have our father Phinehas, and our father Levi, our father is Abraham'. Yet what they're doing in this passage is, and right throughout this book, they're betraying a typical characteristic of human sinfulness. They are swift to see sin in another and not in themselves, but the awful terrible truth of this passage of Scripture and the whole book is that they are actually swift to accuse God of apparent injustice in the face of their own sin! If they were only as fast to recognise their own failure as they were to throw at the front door of God's heaven their particular accusations of His transgression of His promise, well, they would be a fitter people to bear the testimony of God upon the earth. They were so swift to accuse God of a lack of holiness, a lack of justice, that they didn't see that their own sin was the very cause of their lack of blessing.

They were so swift to accuse God of a lack of holiness, a lack of justice, that they didn't see that their own sin was the very cause of their lack of blessing...

Now please feel the weight and import of what we are saying here: this is not a man that we would have in the Sermon on the Mount, a brother who sees the splinter in his other brother's eye, but apparently doesn't see the plank in his own. That's not what we're talking about here, we're talking about a man of God, a child of God, who sees a plank in God Almighty's eye, and doesn't see that there is a forest in his own, a great foreign body in his own sight! Because of this, this continual accusing, questioning, doubting God, and not seeing their own faults, God says through His prophet: 'Ye have wearied the LORD with your words'. Remarkably, though it'll be no surprise to those who have been here week after week, Judah still doesn't see their problem. In verse 17, after the prophet says that God is wearied with their words, they say: 'Every one that doeth evil is good in the sight of the LORD, and he delighteth in them; Where is the God of judgment?'.

They are ignorant of God's charge against them, and even question God, not themselves. They question God's holiness, they question God's righteousness, and they actually ask the question back to God: 'In what way have we wearied You?'. The insolence of it! Robbie Burns penned those immortal words: 'O would some power the giftie gie us, to see ourselves as others see us'. But oh, the gift of grace to see ourselves as God sees us! This is where Judah were falling down. James in his epistle talks of a man who sees himself in the mirror of God's word, and then walks away and forgets what he looks like - but here's a people, and now we're talking about the people of God, and they haven't even seen themselves in the mirror of God's word, let alone forgot it! I ask ourselves, as we try and apply Malachi's Modern Message, when we look into the mirror of God's word, do we see ourselves as we really are, as God sees us? Perhaps more specifically, I ask you here in the meeting tonight: are you here, you're present in this place, with an abject sense of your deep need before God and before His word?

If you don't come into the presence of God and under the sound of God's word with an abject sense of your deep need of God, you have not got a biblical self-image. We hear a lot about self-image today, don't we? The book stores and shops are filled with books on how to get a better one, and all the problems in the world psychologically and emotionally are often put down to a low self-image. That may be true in some rare circumstances, but I'll tell you what is truer: most people have too high a self-image. I tell you, Christian today, that if you don't see yourself in need of everything, having nothing of yourself to commend you to God as a Christian - we're not talking of the Gospel now, we're talking about everyday Christian discipleship - you do not have a healthy biblical self-image, what you may have is a Laodicean self-image which says: 'I have need of nothing, and I am rich, I am healthy, I am increased of goods, I have need of nothing'. This is what God's word is saying right back in Malachi's prophecy: it wearies the Lord when the people of the Lord cannot see their own problems! They were very quick to accuse God of not honouring His promises, or not doing anything in their lives or in the life of their community, yet they will not to look to their own door to see were the fault lies! God says: 'Because of that, your words are starting to weary me'.

Now let's contemplate this - I don't want to push you too far too quickly - but could it be possible that at times our words weary the Lord? Is it a possibility in the New Testament era that our songs weary the Lord? Is it possible that our prayers weary the Lord? I drive by a wayside pulpit on the way home from this meeting every night, and from time to time there's something interesting on it, and there was a slogan recently put on it: 'If you could only hear your prayers, you would sympathise with God'. We might think that that's a little bit sacrilegious, but it would fit in with what God was saying through Malachi: 'If you could only hear your prayers, you would know why I am wearied'. You might say: 'What could weary God in prayer? What could weary God in songs? What could weary God in words?'. It is simply this: the people were drawing near to God with their mouths, and honouring Him with their lips, but their heart - their heart! - was far from Him!

The people were drawing near to God with their mouths, and honouring Him with their lips, but their heart - their heart! - was far from Him!

You might say these things were blessings, the words that they used - they were, their songs were blessings, I'm sure they were even inspired Psalms of God, and their prayers, oh what a blessing the gift of prayer is - these things that we avail ourselves in the church of today. But could it be that these things that have been given to us by God to be blessings to us, God says: 'I will make those blessings a curse to you, a burden to you, because you're honouring me with your mouth - but where is your heart? It's a million miles away!'.

In verse 17 he specifies three false complaints that they uttered against God. Here's the first, they said: 'Every one that doeth evil is good in the sight of the LORD'. This was their accusation that God was unholy. The leaders were reasoning that if the Lord was prospering wicked people with wealth, that must mean that He liked them, that must mean that He was saying that it's good to be wicked. These people are actually saying: 'God has changed His morals'. We can say this in society today, but imagine saying this of God, accusing God of saying that black is white and white is black, and good is evil and evil is good, and bitter is sweet and sweet is bitter. This is what they're doing: 'God's not holy. The wicked must be considered good in God's eyes!'. Their second accusation was that He actually takes delight in them, verse 17 - He not only prospers them, but He actually takes pleasure in doing so, He enjoys the wicked and their ways. Thirdly their accusation is in the form of a question: 'Where is the God of justice?'. In a sarcastic, skeptic tone, they question whether God is even predisposed to act against injustice and sin in the lives of the wicked.

Now we may frown at their threefold accusation, but the fact of the matter is this has always been a perplexing question to God's people: why is it that wicked people seem to prosper and the righteous suffer? Why does God allow evil things to happen to His own people, when it seems that the most wicked people in the world get away literally with murder? If you don't ask those questions, well, you're not among some of the godliest men that ever lived, because Job asked the question, David asked it, Solomon asked it, Jeremiah asked it, Habakkuk asked it, and many others after them. Especially the Old Testament saints asked this question, because in the Old Testament material prosperity was seen to be the way, or at least one way, that God showed you a sign that He was pleased with you, and that He was blessing you. Now we New Testament Christians have the privilege of knowing from the teaching of the Lord Jesus and the apostles that God's blessings come to the righteous and the unrighteous. The rain falls on the good and the bad, the sun shines on the good and bad, but we still can fall into this pit of disillusionment, despondency and despair if we enter into the difficulties of life and we start to conclude: 'Is God just at all? Has God forgotten to be merciful? Has God changed His morals some time in the middle of the night when I was asleep, and I just didn't realise it?'. And we may even get to the extent of saying, as these Judeans did: 'What's the point in being righteous, for it doesn't pay you anything in this world?'.

Now here's Malachi's point, Malachi says in verse 1 of chapter 3: 'Behold, I will send my messenger'. His point is: 'Look, although it looks like to you that the wicked are prospering, although they are entering into prosperity that the righteous have never known perhaps, they're getting away with all their crimes, the Gentile nations are the empires and the superpowers of the world - listen to my word: God's hand, one day, in judgment will come upon all men'. I challenge you, you look from Genesis right to the book of Revelation, the message is the same: God's hand of judgment ultimately will fall on them all - and if not now, in a day that is yet to come. But this is the crux of Malachi's message to God's people, the warning to them is this, and it encapsulated in that warning word 'behold', what Judah had failed to recognise was not only would God not wink at the Gentile's sin, but He wouldn't ignore their sin either! 'Behold, I will send my messenger'.

What Judah had failed to recognise was not only would God not wink at the Gentile's sin, but He wouldn't ignore their sin either!

Of course we know the Jews always sought Messiah, and these Jews were no different - but what they had forgotten was that the judgment they sought upon the heathen by the coming and advent of Messiah, would also include His judgment upon them. God's people who sin, verse 17 tells us, weary Him - whoever they are, not just wicked Gentile nations, but His own people who sin weary Him. They said: 'Where is the God of justice and judgment?', and God answered them in verse 1 of chapter 3: 'Behold, I will send my messenger, he shall prepare the way before me: and the LORD, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to his temple, even the messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in: behold, he shall come, saith the LORD of hosts'.

This is one of the simplest books I have found to apply in a New Testament light, for if you turn to 1 Peter and chapter 4 you have, I would say, almost a New Testament version of Malachi's sentiment. First Peter 4 and verse 14, now remember he's speaking to believers, he's talking to a church that is being persecuted. Peter says: 'If ye', verse 14 of chapter 4 of 1 Peter, 'If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye; for the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you: on their part he is evil spoken of, but on your part he is glorified. But let none of you suffer as a murderer', in other words, suffer for righteousness sake, don't suffer for sin. There's a lot of Christians running around, and they're always suffering and persecuted, and they just can't see that they're persecuted because of their personality, not because of their righteousness! Don't be persecuted or suffer as a murderer...'or as a thief, or as an evildoer, or as a busybody in other men's matters. Yet if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf. For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God? And if the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear? Wherefore let them that suffer according to the will of God commit the keeping of their souls to him in well doing, as unto a faithful Creator'. Judgment must begin at the house of God. In Ezekiel's day, where did the Shekinah glory start to judge? God started to judge in the temple, He began with the priests. Who is Malachi speaking to? The priests, the leaders of the people. Who does God want to deal with today in our New Testament era? It is the church!

Let's look in more detail at these verses tonight, and seek further to apply Malachi's Modern Message. I want to do it in the form of three questions, the first is: who is the messenger that is spoken of in verse 1? Who is the messenger? There's great divergence of opinion with commentators and preachers on this subject, and I'm not going to go into the full detail because I don't think it's profitable this evening in measure - but save to say that 'Malachi', if you go right back to our very first week's study actually means 'messenger'. That's what his name means: 'Malachi the messenger of the Lord', but his name actually means that in the Hebrew language. But I don't believe the messenger here is Malachi, because Malachi did not appear again before the Lord Jesus Christ, Messiah, came on the scene of time - and he would have had to if it was a fulfilment of prophecy. But the Hebrew word for 'messenger' also means 'angel', and there is a partial meaning of this that means 'the angel of the covenant' - theophanies and Christophanies - appearances of God in human or angelic form, or Christophanies, appearances of Christ in the Old Testament before Christ was born into the world. That is a partial meaning of 'the angel', or 'the messenger of the covenant'. But this messenger here would appear, verse 1 says, when Messiah, when God's Chosen One would come to His temple. So right away there is a clue: 'He shall prepare the way before me: and the LORD, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to his temple'.

Now the temple here is Zerubbabel's temple that was rebuilt post-exile. It had not the physical glory of Solomon's Temple, people lamented at that even though they had been told that the glory of the latter house would be greater than that of the former, they couldn't understand it because it obviously wasn't, and the Shekinah glory wasn't in it. But there is a further clue to how this glory would return to the temple when we see, read on, that the way would be prepared before the Lord. Someone, this messenger, shall 'prepare the way before me', or 'before Messiah'. Now when we go to Isaiah 40 and verse 3 we almost find the same verse: 'The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the LORD, make straight in the desert a highway for our God'. When you go into the New Testament it's blatantly obvious that this verse is prophetically speaking about John the Baptist. John the Baptist is the first messenger that we find in chapter 3 and verse 1.

Let me just say that there are a very interesting three undeniable proofs here of the deity of our Lord Jesus Christ...

If you turn with me to Matthew, just to prove this for you, Matthew 3 and verse 3 - verse 1: 'In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judaea, And saying, Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. For this is he that was spoken of by the prophet Esaias, saying, The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight'. I think that's clear enough - you find the same reference in Mark 1:3, Luke 3:4, and in John 1:23 the fourth evangelist actually testifies that John the Baptist said: 'I am he', personally. Then when we come to Matthew 11, if you turn to it a few pages over, the Lord Jesus Himself gives His signature to this acclamation that John the Baptist was this messenger, chapter 11 verse 10: 'For this is he, of whom it is written, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee'. In verse 14 we find He actually equates John the Baptist with the fulfilment that Elijah would come again: 'And if ye will receive it, this is Elias' - Elijah - 'which was to come'.

But if you look at chapter 3 and verse 1, you find that Malachi seems to shift now from speaking about the messenger that would prepare the way of Messiah to actually Messiah as a messenger Himself. Look at the verse: 'I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me' - 'me' being the Messiah - 'and the LORD, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to his temple, even the messenger' - that's the same as the 'me', the Lord coming to his temple - 'the messenger of the covenant', which is the name of Messiah, 'whom ye delight in', they delighted in the prospect of Messiah, 'behold, he shall come, saith the LORD of hosts'. So there are two messengers here in this verse: there's the messenger, John the Baptist, who would prepare the way of the Lord; and there's the messenger of Messiah Himself, whom the people of Israel delighted in, who would come suddenly to His temple - the messenger of the covenant.

Now before I go on any further, let me just say that there are a very interesting three undeniable proofs here of the deity of our Lord Jesus Christ - the deity of Messiah that is found in Old Testament scripture, and the Jews need to look at this, the Jehovah's Witnesses need to look at this, the Mormons need to look at this, and all the false cults that deny the deity of our Lord Jesus Christ - because we see first of all that the Lord Jesus is identified with the Lord God. 'He shall prepare the way before me, saith the Lord of hosts'. Secondly, He is the owner of the temple, 'He will come suddenly to His own temple'. Whose is the temple? It is the Lord's, but it's also equated with being the messenger's. So He's not only associated with God, but He owns the temple as God, and He is actually called here 'the Lord, the Lord whom ye seek'. How can anyone deny the deity of our Lord Jesus Christ?

Two messengers, the second would be God's Son, but please don't miss the point of Malachi's Modern Message, for what Malachi is saying is that the very one whose absence these Judeans lament, whose glory they evidently observe has departed and they feel the loss of, He will come suddenly! But here's the question that is implied in Malachi's statement: Will you want Him? You're crying out for His glory, you look for His person, He is the one you delight in, He is the one whose promises you want to see fulfilled, but when He comes He will come suddenly to judge you in your waywardness.

The very one whose absence these Judeans lament, whose glory they evidently observe has departed and they feel the loss of, He will come suddenly! But here's the question that is implied in Malachi's statement: Will you want Him?

That is who the messenger is. The second question that outflows from that is: when will He come? Well it says, obviously, suddenly, or unexpectedly He will come to His temple. Now this prophecy, like many Old Testament prophecies, combines the first and the second comings of the Lord Jesus. In Old Testament prophetic scripture, particularly the major and minor prophets, you find that references to the first advent of the Lord Jesus coming to Bethlehem and His second coming to the earth in judgment are often put together, and seem to flow together almost as if they were one coming. Here it is the same, but we find that ultimately the complete fulfilment of this prophecy will be in His second advent, when the Lord Jesus Christ appears unexpectedly to judge the world of sin. But of course, this was fulfilled in His first coming as well when Joseph and Mary brought the baby Jesus into the temple, and there was old Simeon. His heart missed a beat and leapt for joy as he saw with his eyes God's salvation. Now watch this: from Malachi to then, God never spoke a word - and now Malachi's prophecy is being fulfilled, the Christ is born, He enters as a babe, the Shekinah glory of God incarnate into the temple as Malachi has prophesied!

Then later in his ministry, at the very beginning of it, there is the cleansing of the temple, as the Lord Jesus goes into the temple and clears out all those traders who had made His house a den of thieves and robbers, when it should have been a house of prayer and worship. So that is fulfilled partially in His first coming, but if you look at this word 'suddenly', or 'unexpectedly', it's found at least 25 times in the Old Testament and all of those occasions except one is in reference to a sudden judgment and destruction that the Lord will bring one day. Do you know what that equates to? Another occasion spoken of in Jeremiah as 'the day of Jacob's trouble', Jacob of course being Israel, a day when Israel will be troubled and judged, and it's referred to in the New Testament as 'the day of tribulation', also 'the day of the Lord', or 'the day of Jehovah'. After the church of Jesus Christ is raptured - we read of that in 1 Thessalonians 4 - this period, Revelation tells us, for seven years will come upon the earth. At the end of that seven year period, when Israel has been refined and purified, as we were reading tonight in this passage, the Lord Jesus will come in His second coming to the earth and judge the world, slay Israel's enemies, redeem the people, the remnant to Himself, and begin a reign of a thousand years of righteousness on the earth. That's when He will come.

The third question that comes out of when He will come is 'Why is He coming?'. This is so important, because this is the weight of Malachi's message. Do remember that the priests in Malachi's day were party to placing obstacles in the way of God's people. It's astounding to us, but the fact of the matter is: the ones who were to lead the people and set an example to them, were the very ones who were causing stumbling blocks, spiritual stumbling stones that John the Baptist was going to have to come in his ministry and clear away to prepare a way unto the Lord. The very sins that Malachi is preaching against here in his prophecy are the embryonic forms of the Pharisaism and Saducee-ism that the Lord Jesus had to face.

Let me show you this in Matthew 3, if you turn to it, verse 7: 'When he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees come to his baptism, he said unto them, O generation of vipers', this is John speaking, 'who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance: And think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham. And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: therefore every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire'. What's he doing? He's clearing the trees away! He is preparing the way of the Lord! In biblical times, when a great leader or a King was coming it was customary to send men ahead of the King to smooth the road, to remove the obstacles, stumbling stones, to fill in the potholes so that he would have a clear smooth run into that city. What God's word is saying in Malachi's day, way back 400 years before Christ came, is that even then they were spiritually unprepared for Messiah's coming. I ask you tonight, what a modern message this is: for how many people in our lost world are unprepared for the judgment of the Lord Jesus Christ, when He will judge the world, when He will refine this place as a refiner's fire?

But of course, contextually, He's talking to Israel, His Old Testament people, and He's talking about how He will refine them as a refiner's fire, and cleanse them like a fullers', a washer's, a launderer's soap in the tribulation period when He brings out of that dead nation a people unto Himself, a remnant in which He will honour His name once more and fulfil all those Old Testament promises. We read that the sacrifices, offerings, will then avail again in that millennial reign to glorify God as they have never done before. The fact of the matter is, if this is really going to be a modern message to all of us, we need to ask ourselves the question: Are there stumbling blocks in our lives that need to be removed before the Lord comes? What if the Lord was suddenly to enter into your life tonight? Or, what if Jesus came to your house tonight, what would He find?

'If Jesus came to my house, what would He see?
What impression would He get coming unexpectedly?
What would be my language? What would be my mood?
What would be the attitude by which I'm understood?'

Are there stumbling blocks in our lives that need to be removed before the Lord comes? What if the Lord was suddenly to enter into your life tonight? Or, what if Jesus came to your house tonight, what would He find?

I could go on: but we are the temple of the Holy Spirit. Jesus need not just come into our homes, the Lord Jesus is meant to be in our lives, He's meant to be in our heart. What does He see? Is He at home in our heart? Does He rule in our mind? Does He rule in our emotions, in our volitional will? Does He rule in our affections? Does He rule in our intellect? Does He rule in all our spiritual life? Does He rule in our physical life? He is there, and the question remains to us in the light of 1 Peter 4: it's time that judgment began in the house of God. What's the end going to be of those that obey not the Gospel? We know it's going to be hell. If the righteous are scarcely saved, what will be the end of those who obey not the gospel, but what's your end going to be if the Saviour comes? How is He going to find you?

Malachi had to remind the people: this is the One that you seek, this is the One that you delight in, he says in verse 1. We, especially in our particular theological persuasion are meant to be those, and are apparently those who delight and profess to wait and watch for the return of our Lord Jesus Christ - but how would you feel if He came? I think that in certain ways, this truth of the second coming of the Lord Jesus Christ in some regards has been turned to a curse rather than a blessing. It was never meant to glue you on your seat, it was never meant to cause your eyes to look heavenward and forget about the earth. It was never meant to make you conclude: 'This is the Laodicean age, therefore just let it all go to hell, for I'm going to heaven'.

The illustration of fire and soap is so vivid, describing the purging which will come when Messiah returns. There are so many judgments I could talk to you about tonight, I don't have time to, but He will come in His second advent to the earth in judgment. Praise God, the believer's sins have been judged on Christ at Calvary, and Romans 8:1 says: 'There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus' - but there is a judgment of believers works! You'll never be judged for your sins, but that fire will rain down on you - and don't dilute it! If your house is built with wood, hay and stubble it will go in smoke - mine too - and that's a judgment you have to face. There's the judgment of the Great Tribulation for those Jewish people and the Gentile world; there is the judgment of the Gentile nations, before Him shall be gathered all the nations, and He'll separate them one from another as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats. There is the judgment of the wicked angels, God's spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell, delivered them into chains of darkness to be reserved unto judgment. There is the Great White Throne Judgment - if you're not saved here tonight, you listen to this very carefully. We read in Revelation that John: 'saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works. And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire'.

Do you know the sins that cause you to be there? Verse 5: sorcery - Malachi 3:5 - the occult, adultery, false swearing, false witness, lying, living a lie, those who oppress the poor, those who defraud of wages, those who rob the widow and the fatherless, those that turn aside the alien from their land, those who fear not me. And God says in verse 6: 'I am the LORD, I change not', and that means His justice, His holiness never change; and all men - saved and sinner alike - will face and experience the changeless law of sowing and reaping. Whatsoever a man soweth, he reaps, for God is not mocked - whoever they are. Don't say: 'Where is the promise of His coming?'. These who were desiring the presence of the Lord were now asking: could we abide the day of His coming? If the Lord came tonight in all of His presence, I'll tell you: you wouldn't be dancing down the aisle, you would be on your face in tears with a broken heart!

If the Lord came tonight in all of His presence, I'll tell you: you wouldn't be dancing down the aisle, you would be on your face in tears with a broken heart!

All things will not continue as they have always been, but 2 Peter chapter 2 and verse 8 tells us: '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. The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up' - and here is his climactic message: 'Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness, Looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God?'.

God is changeless in His holiness and His justice, He expects more of us in the New Testament than He did of His Old Testament people - but thank God that He's changeless in His mercy: 'I am the LORD, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed'. Do you know something? I deserve hell, every day of my life I deserve hell - but it is of the Lord's mercies that I am not consumed, because His compassions fail not. Paul says in Romans: 'Ought not the goodness of God lead you to repentance?'.

Our Father, we come to Thee again in great need. Who of us can say that we have need of nothing? Who would be arrogant enough to say that we have no need of Thee?

'O cross that liftest up my head,
I dare not ask to fly from Thee;
I lay in dust life's glory dead,
And from the ground there blossoms red
Life that shall endless be'.

Give us this life, we pray, in abundance to Thy glory. Amen.

Don't miss part 6 of the “Malachi's Modern Message” series: 'Message On Stewardship'

Transcribed by:
Preach The Word.
April 2005

This sermon was delivered at The Iron Hall Assembly in Belfast, Northern Ireland, by Pastor David Legge. It was transcribed from the fifth recording in his Malachi's Modern Message series, titled "Message On Messiah" - Transcribed by Preach The Word.

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