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Repentance Or A Curse?

Today we are going to finish our study of the book of Malachi.  We pick up in chapter 4 at verse 4.  This book ends with an instruction, a prophecy and an ominous warning.  If you look at the last words of the Old Testament you will see that they are about the earth being struck with a curse.  However the last words of the New Testament are, “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.  Amen.”  This is very fitting in that the Old Testament lays the groundwork for understanding and receiving the work of Christ that would bring grace.  Without Christ we would only know the curse that comes upon those who sin.  But with Him we can know the grace that He has obtained for us.  Thus Malachi is warning Israel of a curse that will be upon them if they do not obey the Lord.

Remember God’s Instructions

It is clear from the previous chapters that Israel was not doing what they should be doing and that they were doing what they shouldn’t.  They are called sins of commission (commit) and sins of omission (omit).  They needed to go back and remind themselves of God’s instructions through Moses and the prophets that followed after him.  We could say that the Law of Moses was the commands and the prophets that followed were corrective instructions about the Law of Moses.  These corrective reminders are not correcting God’s Word, but rather correcting the actions and mindsets of the people who were supposed to be obeying it.

The command to remember the law is not so much about actual memory and more about the resistance in our heart that has caused us to move away from obedience to God’s command.  Sin pulls us away from God’s instructions through doubt, fear, and temptation.  We accept or create rationalizations for why it is okay for us to not obey God’s word, until we don’t even think about it anymore.  God in His mercy if faithful to send prophets who will shake us out of our lethargy and call us to remembrance of what God’s Word says.  Thus we are called to remember in order to obey.

Another reason remembering is important is because we may not receive another word for a long time.  Israel would go 400 years without hearing from the Lord again.  So it would be important for them to heed the command to actively remember God’s Word.  It is in these times of God’s “silence” that we can begin to doubt the importance of God’s instructions.  Or, we can fear those who have cast off all restraint and arrogantly flaunt their power.  Or, we can be tempted to join them.  However, Peter in 2 Peter 3 tells us that the world willfully forgets that the earth existed in the water by God’s Word and then perished in the flood at His command.  This willful forgetting may sound like an oxymoron, but it is what we do when we ignore what we know.  Peter also warns us that the present heavens and earth are reserved for a fiery destruction by God’s command.  We cannot afford to ignore God’s Word to the point of forgetting.  Many today believe that they can ignore God’s Word and still claim to believe in Jesus.  God forbid that we think such a rebellious attitude will be called faith.  In this age of changing definitions we forget that God will not be swayed by such flimsy techniques.  We will not get off on a technicality with God.

God Helps Us Remember

Now, God knows our weakness as humans.  He is faithful to remind us even though we may have fallen into unfaithfulness.  He sent Noah to the ancient world.  He sent Moses to Israel.  He sent Jesus to Israel and His apostles to the nations.  Thus he always sends His prophets and prophecy.  The Old Testament is filled with far more books of reminders and correction than it is with commands or instructions.  God also gave His prophets predictive prophecy that would verify the prophets were really from God.  The final Word from God until judgment is what He has given through Jesus and His Apostles.  It is an instructive Word and it is accompanied by predictive prophecy.  So as we see these prophecies fulfilled and lining up to be fulfilled, we can be encouraged in our faith to trust God’s Word, rather than jettisoning it.

Now Malachi gives a prophecy.  He says that Elijah would come before the Day of the Lord and remind them of the Law of Moses.  Particularly by turning their hearts back to one another.  Notice how remembering the Law is connected to relationships.  If you take the rules God gave you can put them in one of two categories: rules about our relationship with God and rules about our relationship with others.  In fact all relationships flow out of our relationship with God and His Word.  When we turn from God and His instruction it will lead to us sinning against one another, which then leads to a death of the relationship.  We are seeing this same breakdown in our own nation.  As we walk further and further away from God’s Word, our nation is seeing a breakdown in relationships at every level.  However, the bedrock relationships are those within the family.  A hallmark of American society in the 1900’s has to be the rising turbulence with the family.  Movements and ideas pitted husbands and wives against each other.  Children and parents are plied against each other.  Of course siblings have always struggled to love each other, but this is even further destroyed as a spirit of selfishness takes over the land.

Now John the Baptist was a fulfillment of this Malachi prophecy.  They had gone 400 years without a true prophet and then John comes out of the wilderness crying, “Repent for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.”  We know this for two reasons.  First, the angel Gabriel told John’s father Zechariah about John before his birth.  In Luke 1:17 the angel says, “He will also go before Him [messiah] in the spirit and power of Elijah, ‘to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children,’ and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”  The “Him” here is of course Jesus the Messiah.  But also notice that the angel clearly quotes from the Malachi passage.  Thus, John was not actually Elijah at the DNA level, but he prophesied in the spirit and in the power of Elijah.  Second, we know John is the fulfillment of this prophecy because Jesus said so.  Matthew 11:13,14, “For all the prophets and the Law prophesied until John.  And, if you are willing to receive it, he is Elijah who is to come.”  Jesus couldn’t be any clearer.  Notice that He says the Law itself was prophesying.  Each time it was obeyed a person was acting out a prophecy about Jesus.  When Jesus says, “if you are willing to receive it,” He is not just talking about  their faith or lack thereof.  It is also a warning about what would happen if they didn’t receive it.

Refusal To Repent Brings A Curse

Just as the nation of Israel rejected John the Baptist, so they went on to reject the Lord to whom the Law of Moses pointed.  Clearly the majority did not keep themselves in remembrance of God’s Word.  Thus a curse came upon the land.  Now the first part of the curse is a spiritual thing.  It is what we do to ourselves when we refuse to believe over the top of God’s grace to help us remember.  If we turn the lights off when God tries to turn them on, we make it harder to obey the next time.  This hardening of our heart builds spiritual calluses upon our mind and heart.  Over time we can endanger our eternity.  Even today, God’s grace has raised up a nation of believers who are reminding the world to turn back to the Creator.  When such overtures of love are rejected it affects what we become.  It hardens us and takes us down a path of pride.

The curse is also seen in the natural.  Pride always leads to destruction, both spiritual and natural.  God will not let pride exalt itself forever.  Thus Israel’s leadership trusted in its own wisdom and righteousness and went on to be destroyed by the Roman legions.  However we see this same warning to the world in our days.  We are becoming increasingly hardened against God’s Word and persisting in our own wisdom and pride.  This means the future of this world and its present system is under a curse.  Spiritually it refuses to see and in the natural destruction will come upon it.

However a remnant did believe.  They obeyed the Word of the Lord and were spared through the curse.  In the period leading up to Israel’s destruction in 70AD the believers knew that Israel was under a curse for rejecting Messiah.  The fled the city and escaped its destruction.  They knew that God had a heavenly Jerusalem for them and could let go.  But those who had refused to follow God clung to the earthly Jerusalem and paid a dear price.  We are in this same position today.  Clearly only a remnant of the world will truly believe.  How big is that?  It is bigger than the pessimists think and less than the optimists believe.  The main point is that if you dare to believe God in these trying times, He will bring you through and you will not be under a curse, but rather, a blessing from God Himself.  Does that mean you won’t have a difficult time?  Early believers were dragged out of their houses and taken to jail, sentenced to death, etc…  Jesus promised us tribulation in this dark world.  But our blessing is that no matter what the world does to us, it can’t take away our inheritance and place in God’s family.

Thus, a greater parallel to Malachi 4:4-6 lies ahead.  The ultimate Day of the Lord has not happened yet.  Though Israel was judged, the nations of the world were not.  The book of Revelation is about the coming Day.  Notice that God will be faithful to send a witness of the Truth and though a remnant believes and is saved, the majority will reject the message and perish under the autocratic rule of The Antichrist, the Man of Sin.  Difficult days lie ahead.  But God has given you the Truth at how to be saved out of them and led into a glorious future.  Get back into the words of Christ and His apostles.  Study how they make sense of the Old Testament and put your faith in Jesus today, because you will never need Him more than you will in the days ahead.

Repentence or Curse Audio