Today’s Bible Reading: Malachi 3-4:6; Revelation 22:1-21; Psalm 150:1-6; Proverbs 31:25-31
The book of Malachi (and the Old Testament) closes with prophecy about the coming Messiah. But before this person arrives God will send a messenger to announce His arrival (Malachi 3:1). This follows the ancient tradition of a king sending a messenger before him to announce his arrival to a certain location. Even today the President sends a delegation ahead of him when traveling to another country to prepare for his arrival. Here Malachi is predicting the ministry of John the Baptist.
Just like a refiner or a launderer, the Messiah was coming to make things (i.e. people) better (Malachi 3:2). A blazing fire removes impurities from metal. Soap removes dirt from clothes. Jesus came to remove sin from our lives. Fire and soap hurt and irritate yet make something better. This is also how God works in our lives.
We are made better by the trials and difficulties we go through – if we embrace them as such. When we seek only pleasure from this life while seeking to eliminate any instance of mental, emotional, or physical discomfort (which is pretty much how our culture behaves today) we don’t become better. We actually become weaker. I used to work with someone who, whenever something went wrong in the office, used to say “That which does not kill me makes me stronger”. That is certainly true, but only if your attitude is accepting of such trials.
God could easily have turned His back on all people due to our sin (Malachi 3:6-7). But He didn’t. Just like a teacher may take an interest in a certain student who is having trouble learning rather than give up on him, so too God continues to show an interest in us because we need Him to. This should be enough of a reason for us to turn to Him. His caring never ceases.
People object to believing in God because they mistakenly think He is too demanding. But that is not true. There was only one tree in the entire Garden of Eden Adam and Eve were forbidden to eat from. And God only demands that we give 10% (a tithe) of our income back to Him to support our local church. We can keep the remaining 90%. Ten percent isn’t much. Its much less than the government takes in income taxes. And its only just a little bit more than I pay in sales tax.
If we obey God in this financial matter He promises to bless us beyond belief (Malachi 3:10). He even challenges us to test Him on this. This is the only place in the entire Bible where God tells us to put Him to the test.
The people of Malachi’s day were a bit discouraged because they saw non believers prospering. They wondered why they should bother serving and obeying God (Malachi 3:14-15). But they were not looking at life as God does – from an eternal perspective. God is not as interested in our earthly, material comfort as He is in our eternal comfort. The life God calls us to live does not always provide immediate gratification. But the rewards last an eternal lifetime.
These last two chapters of Malachi will be the last recordings of God for over 400 years – until the Gospels are written after Jesus’ death. This time period is known at the “intertestamental” period – the time between the Old and New Testaments.
Our final chapter in Revelation describes heaven. Obviously we won’t know exactly what heaven is like until we get there. But this chapter gives us a motivational glimpse.
All the curses that God placed upon the earth due to our sin will no longer exist (Revelation 22:3). Most notably there will be no death. Notice that we will work for eternity. God is a worker and He designed us to be also. I doubt that God is finished creating. Perhaps we will serve Him in whatever He decides to create next, much like the angels do today.
In the 1990s “eye puzzles” were all the rage. They weren’t like normal pictures whose subject matter was obvious. These were images at which you had to stare for a very long time in order to see their actual contents. The Bible is similar. We can’t just gloss over the words and assume we understand their meaning.
Revelation 22:14 is a great example. Here God tells us that heaven will be a place for those who do His commandments. At first glance this verse might be implying that we get to heaven by being “good”. We do not. Doing God’s commandments is evidence that someone has been born-again and has become one of God’s children. It is not the “doing” of the commandments that allows someone to enter heaven. It is the change in their attitude towards God – they have acknowledged their sin, repented of it (agreed with God that it is wrong), and have been born-again. And that change leads them to want to obey God. Anyone else has chosen to live a lie (Revelation 22:15) and will not enter heaven.
A couple of times Jesus speaks in this chapter stating “I am coming soon” (Revelation 22:12, 20). When a parent tells their child “We’ll be eating dinner soon” she is speaking in terms of her own understanding of time. How a parent understands time is not how a child understands time. The child understands “soon” to be sooner than the parent understands it. Similarly, as creations of God our understanding of “soon” is not the same as His. Apparently 2,000 years is not “soon” according to God’s timetable. Jesus will return when He is ready.
But He will also return very suddenly (the Greek word translated “soon” also means “without notice”). These words from Jesus prophetically refer to His certain return. But they are also a warning to those who have not yet repented.
This concludes our reading of the Bible for 2013. I want to thank all of you who joined me and also want to thank you for your support throughout the year. I hope you enjoyed reading the Bible as much as I have. I think you’d agree that it has been an amazing experience. I’ve learned a lot and hope you have too. But there is still far more to learn. Understanding God is an eternal process so I will continue writing about the Bible in 2014. Please continue to visit my blog in the new year.
Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post.