Politics has always been a heated topic in the United States. This year there is a plethora of candidates and presidential hopefuls in one particular party. Last week those candidates had their chance to speak their piece in a televised debate and while I hadn’t intended to watch it, Jeff was interested to see how it turned out. So I ended up listening to it by default. While it appears the "experts" say there was no clear "winner", I on the other hand had a different opinion about who did well and who did not. At one point I said to Jeff, "If I hear one more candidate declare, "I’m the only one on this platform who… (fill in the blank)", I’m going to scream!" I wanted to quote Dragnet and say, "Just the facts sir! Just the facts", in response to all the self aggrandizement by the candidates who were compelled to repeat that phrase over and over again!
Political candidates are expected to address the issues of the day and offer a clear cut path which will resolve the immediate situation or be the basis of a once and for all solution in the future. Whether or not they follow through on those promised actions and beliefs seems to be a secondary aspect of what they have to say. As long as they’ve said it, they lay claim to it. This was not the case with the prophets of ancient Biblical times. There were strict guidelines to every aspect of prophecy starting with the character of the prophet all the way to the result of the words he spoke (or she spoke in a few cases: Miriam- Ex. 15:20, Deborah- Jud.4:4, Huldah- 2 Ki. 22:14). The prophets who truly spoke God’s words were to be listened to (Dt. 18:14-22, 34:10) because it was evident that the Lord’s Spirit was at work in that person for a special service to Israel (Num. 11:25-30).
The predominant opposition that any prophet battled was the test of whether or not their words were actually true. Many of them spoke of both judgment and blessing in times when false prophets were pronouncing only "good news". This caused the people to reject the Lord’s prophets. Knowing the fickleness of human nature, these false prophets were quite popular because their messages offered the people a false sense of security and the promise of an easy life. In order to prove a prophet’s authenticity, the Lord often gave them discernment concerning things that would happen in a relatively close time frame and things that would happen much later. When a prophet’s words came true, it should have given the people the wherewithal to sit up and take notice. Sadly, history bears out that they did not. (Of course we are never like that!)
Malachi is the last prophet to speak out for the Lord in the Old Testament. There is really nothing known about the man whose name means "My Messenger" and most scholars date his ministry somewhere between 465 and 430 B. C. That might be frustrating to us in this day and age where every minute detail in our information is exposed, but I believe this is to direct us to "hear" Malachi’s message which is more important than the messenger who brought it. Perhaps the greatest shock to us is that 400 years passed between Malachi’s final prophesy (Mal. 4:4-6) and its New Testament fulfillment (Mt. 3:1-12, 11:1-15; Lk. 1:12-17). That is a LONG WAIT for a culture that is geared to instant gratification! How did those successive generations deal with the years Malachi’s prophecy seemed to go unfulfilled? They lived with a certain expectation that at some point in time, God would fulfill it. And some were blessed to recognize it when it did (Lk. 2:22-32).
Malachi’s hope-filled promises (Mal. 3:1 with 4:4-6) and the time that passed between them and their fulfillment should be reassuring to us that similar promises made by Jesus are most certainly to come true (Jn. 14:1-3, 18; Ac. 1:6-11). How much time will pass between the Lord’s promise to return and its fulfillment which was described by Paul in 1 Cor. 15:52 and 1 Thes. 4:14-17? No one knows, although many like to predict it! Scripture tells us that the Lord’s return will be a complete surprise (Mt. 24:36-44; 1 Thes. 5:2-3). How will we live in the meantime (1 Cor. 9:24-27)? Will we give up hope or will we live each day with the expectation that His return is just about to happen (Mt. 25:13-30; 2 Pet. 3:8-13)? God’s Word tells us over and over again to be alert and be prepared (Mt. 25:1-13; Lk. 12:40, 21:36; Rom. 13:11-14; 1 Thes. 5:6; 1 Tim. 6:20; 1 Pet. 1:13; 1 Jn. 4:1). But I confess that sometimes this lengthy wait makes me lazy. I forget God’s timing is not the same as mine. Malachi challenges me to renew my sense of expectation because unlike the politicians who are vying for the White House, when the Lord makes a promise, He intends to keep it (Is. 55:8-11; 1 Thes. 5:24).
Ann H. LeFevre, M. Div.
Week of 8/9/2015