Sunday, December 19, 2010

The Promise of His Coming (19)

We've jumped forward a couple of hundred years as we come to the final promise in the Old Testament of the coming of the Lord Jesus before we begin to consider tomorrow the New Testament promises, and then after Christmas, we'll look at the reactions to Christ's arrival.

The prophesied exile has taken place, Judah has fallen to Babylon, and the period of the exile has finished. The remnant have returned to the land of Israel, but times are hard. The temple has been rebuilt, to some extent, but the people of God are still not enjoying the blessings of life in the land of promise. Morals are lax, religious observance is poor, and so the prophet Malachi is sent by God to challenge those who need challenge, and to comfort those who need comfort.

One of their popular questions was: 'Where is the God of justice?' It seems that this wasn't in a crying out for justice way of asking, but rather in a we'll do what we like kind of way, because God obviously doesn't care, and God isn't going to do anything about it. Where is the God of justice?

Behold, I will send my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me. And the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple; and the messenger of the covenant in whom you delight, behold, he is coming, says the Lord of hosts. (Malachi 3:1)

It sounds like good news, doesn't it? Back when Ezekiel was prophesying, he saw the glory of the LORD depart the temple, and had foreseen its return. Now that the temple has been rebuilt after the exile, there hasn't yet been the return of the Shekinah glory. Will that now happen? Will it be another day of celebration, like the dedication of the temple in Solomon's day?

Not exactly. Actually, the promise of his coming isn't good news for these spiritual layabouts. As the promise continues:

But who may endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears? For he is like a refiner's fire and like fullers' soap. He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, and they will bring offerings in righteousness to the LORD. (Malachi 3:2-3)

The Lord will come to purify and cleanse, to deal with sin. While Jesus' first few visits to the temple are 'ordinary' (as ordinary as the blessing of Simeon and the staying behind to ask the religious teachers questions could be), the coming of Jesus means that the temple will be cleansed and superseded, made redundant and that 'a great many of the priests became obedient to the faith.' (Acts 6:7)

Come, O Lord, to your temple.

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