“Ah Yes, I REMEMBER It Well” – Do You?

~ Fourth and Final Commentary In The Series On The Book Of Malachi

MALACHI 4:4-6 (NLT)

[4]  “Remember to obey the Law of Moses, my servant-all the decrees and regulations that I gave him on Mount Sinai for all Israel.

[5]  “Look, I am sending you the prophet Elijah before the great and dreadful day of the LORD arrives. 

[6]  His preaching will turn the hearts of fathers to their children, and the hearts of children to their fathers.  Otherwise, I will come and strike the land with a curse.”

With only three verses to look at, I thought this particular word investigation would be fairly short.  Well, it didn’t turn out that way and there are many reasons why this final chapter commentary is longer than I expected. 

The Book Of Malachi certainly serves as a bridge from the past to the future for the Israelites during Malachi’s day.  And for him and for us, as the last book of the Old Testament, it also serves as a bridge to the New Testament.

So let’s use the theme ‘s statement as an outline which we can examine this passage of Scripture:  WE NEED TO LEARN FROM THE PAST – “Remember it well!”

In verse 4, God commands the people to remember the law of His servant, Moses.  The entire book of Malachi has shown us a covenant-keeping God who still loves and pursues His people even though they haven’t remained faithful to Him.  It’s not surprising that the final command of the book is to remember the Law of Moses which the people who had come to pay little attention to.

But the word “remember” conveys much more than just mental recognition:  “remember” (Heb. “zokar”) means “to bring to mind and act accordingly.”  So when God commands His people to remember the law, He’s calling them to once again become a covenant-keeping people who not only know the Law but also puts it into practice.

The idea of remembering is a common theme in the book of Deuteronomy.  The command or admonition to REMEMBER is found 14 times in that book alone and the majority of those verses are connected with the need to obey or keep God’s command.

The Book Of Deuteronomy also uses some form of the same phrases that I’ve found here in Malachi – “the statutes and rules” – 17 times in the book of Deuteronomy including this very relevant passage:  (Deut. 6:1-3)

There’s no mistaking here that the purpose of knowing and remembering the law so that the people can put it into practice.  That principle is certainly just as applicable today to New Testament Christians as it was to the Israelites of Malachi’s day.

As we know, keeping God’s law isn’t a requirement for SALVATION – which can’t be earned but completely an act of God’s grace – but it should be a result of that salvation.

LEARNING FROM THE PAST –

While reading the Scripture, we’re not only exposed to God’s LAW so we can know and understand what that law is, but we also read the historical accounts and demonstrate the blessings of obedience and the curse of disobedience.  So we look back to learn from the past as we remember God.  And once we do that, we can move onto the next step – WE NEED TO LIVE IN THE PRESENT – “TURN”

I spent a lot of time contemplating the first part of verse 6, where Malachi describes that Elijah will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of the children to their fathers.  And frankly, I’m still somewhat up in the air – confused!  But with the help of a couple other passages that shed some light on that verse, I think I can at least develop some useful applications we can use in our lives.

There seem to be two major camps when it comes to VERSE 6 –

In reading several commentaries I found some hold that the fathers here are the fathers of FAITH, like Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and Moses.  Certainly the idea of the Israelites turning back to the faith of their spiritual ancestors would be consistent with the idea of REMEMBERING the commands given to Moses.  But the problem with that position is it really doesn’t explain how the hearts of the fathers are turned to the children.

The other major position if this verse deals with God restoring relationships of the family – particularly the relationships between fathers and children.  But to me, the weakness of that viewpoint is that it doesn’t fit into the ending of Malachi’s prophecy that deals with the much larger issue of the whole nation’s rebellion against God and His law.  Obviously, that impacts relationships within the family, but it doesn’t seem to be the main point of the prophecy.

Since I adhere to the idea that Scripture is always the best commentary on Scripture, we need to look together at a couple of other passages in the Bible that gives additional insight, a practice we should stay with when looking for answers in the Bible.

I have already looked up one of those passages –  Deuteronomy 6, lets notice and underline verse 2 – the purpose of observing the statutes and rules is to “FEAR GOD” – and we have seen that idea frequently if you’ve been following along in the series on Malachi [See previous Word Detective posts, 1, 2, and 3.].  And you’ll also notice here that “you and your sons and your son’s son” keep the law.  So the idea planted here is that successive generations of Israelites are to keep the Law as the law is constantly passed down from father to son.

Oh, and if you’re wondering how that’s done, the next part of Deuteronomy 6 goes on to give some wonderful guidelines on how fathers are supposed to do that.

In the Hebrew language, Malachi 4:6 seemed to be confusing at first reading.  Most of the English translations tend to translate the verse, “And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers..” (NIV).

But it’s also possible to translate that phrase like this:  “And He will turn the hearts of the fathers together with those of the children [to Me], and the hearts of the children with those of their fathers [to Me].”  That seems to be consistent with Deuteronomy 6 and consistent with what is seen earlier in the Book of Malachi 3:7…

The word “RETURN” in the above verse is the same word that is translated “turn” in Malachi 4:6, another connection that seems to support the alternate translation which focuses on ALL the people turning their hearts toward God rather than toward each other.

Back to my last blog-post, the third in the series, Malachi 3:1, that prophecy is multi-layered.  The “messenger” was fulfilled at the first coming of Jesus by John the Baptist, and Jesus confirmed the prophecy with these words:

“For all the Prophets and the Law prophesied until John and if you are willing to accept it, he is Elijah who is to come.”  (Matthew 11:13-14)

Jesus is clearly connecting John to both Malachi’s and Isaiah’s prophecies about the forerunner to be like Elijah. (See Isaiah 40:3-4). 

During his day as a prophet, Elijah had turned the Israelites back to God at the time of their worst apostasy when Ahab and Jezabel made Baal worship part of Israel’s worship.  John had a similar ministry.

But notice that Jesus indicates here in Matthew that since Israel wasn’t willing to accept Him as Messiah, and also refused to accept that John was the forerunner who had been prophesied in the Old Testament, so because of that, there will be a second Elijah who will precede the second coming of Jesus and he is the one who will bring to its final fulfillment of this prophecy of hearts being turned.

The angel who comes to Zechariah informing him of the coming birth of his son John, almost certainly had Malachi’s prophecy in mind when he spoke these words about John:

And he will turn many of the sons of Israel back to the Lord their God. It is he who will go as a forerunner before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers back to the children, and the disobedient to the attitude of the righteous, so as to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.

Although the angel mentions the turning of the hearts of the father to the children, the main idea here is that John’s role is to turn ALL hearts – fathers and children – to the Lord their God.

So even if Malachi is focusing on the relationship of fathers and children, the way reconciliation occurs in the family when ALL the hearts are turned back to God.  Our horizontal relationships with other people should never surpass our vertical relationship with our Heavenly Father.

So regardless of our views of Malachi 4:6, the bottom line is that it all comes down to our hearts being turned to God.

THE KEY to living in the present then, according to the passage of scripture in Malachi, is to “turn our hearts.”

I’ve already pointed out the underlying Hebrew word “to turn”, but it also can be translated “return.”  That same Hebrew word in the OT is frequently translated “repent”, which isn’t surprising and given that repentance is the idea of turning our hearts from sin and turning then back to God.

Repentance, or turning back to God, isn’t just something that we do once in our lifetime and then forget it.  It’s something that we must do every minute of every day.  The people of Malachi’s day had forgotten that and look where they ended up.

It’s easy to criticize the Israelites who had descended into lukewarm worship by merely giving God the leftovers. But the fact is, we are in danger of ending up there ourselves if we don’t guard our hearts and consistently turn them from evil and turn back to God.

LIVING IN THE PRESENT –

We learn from the past as we remember God’s law – We live in the present by turning our hearts to God.

Finally…We need to look to the future – “behold”

The word “behold” is used in the prophets to grab our attention.  It’s like God shouting to the people here to take notice of what He’s about to say.  And what follows is a message of God’s grace and mercy.

Yes, the great and awesome day of the Lord Jesus is coming!  And as we’ve seen it’s not going to be a pleasant time for those who’ve rebelled against God and refused to turn back to Him.

Before He does that, he’s going to send his messenger, either Elijah himself or someone else like John the Baptist, to minister like Elijah in giving people one last chance to turn to Him.

Although there’s certainly not enough biblical evidence to definitely identify this forerunner with one of the two witnesses in Revelation 11, that’s certainly one possibility.  There in Revelation, those two witnesses preach God’s Word for 3 1/2 years prior to the second coming of Jesus.  But regardless of the identity, God’s purpose is made clear.  His aim is to spare people from being cursed – separated from God’s glory; His person and the coming wrath.

So before Jesus returns to the earth one more time to carry out swift justice to those who have rejected Him, He’s going to give people one last chance to return to Him.  And the good news is…at least some people are going to have their hearts turned toward God as the result of his ministry.

What Malachi makes clear here is how we view the future is dependent on how well we’ve remembered the past and turned in the present.

If you remember God’s law (His Word in the Bible) by seeking to understand it and do it, and if your heart is turned toward God, then you can look to the future with great hope and anticipation, knowing God’s faithful remnant who will be spared from God’s wrath will spend eternity in God’s presence.

But if you fail to remember God’s law – if you fail in repentance in turning your heart to God, then if you’re not fearful of the future, you certainly should be!  Because God is holy and just, He must judge those who have chosen to rebel against Him and that judgment is going to be swift, horrible and everlasting.  It truly will be the utter destruction that Malachi writes about at the end of his prophecy.

Several people in the past have asked me, “Teacher, how about giving us some practical applications from the Word Study?”  So I’m going to list three:

#1.  We must turn our hearts to God through faith in Christ Jesus.

God’s desire for us is to turn our hearts–body, mind, and soul–to Him.  But that’s not something that we can do on our own.  Trust me, for you will find yourself in frustration when you try to accomplish this on your own terms.  Although the word Messiah or the name of Jesus is never mentioned in the Book of Malachi, is the idea of a Messiah that comes first to save God’s people and then returns a second time to judge those who refuse to turn their hearts to Him is a central theme.  Because God is holy and we are not, then the only way we can truly turn our hearts toward Him is by placing our trust in that Messiah, Jesus.  By taking our sins upon Himself and dying on the cross to pay the penalty for those sins, He’s made it possible for us to have a relationship with God in which we are able to turn our hearts to Him.

#2.  We must consistently spend time in God’s Word.

The only way we can live in obedience is to know what God’s Word says!  That means that we have to be spending consistent time in God’s Word, reading, and praying over it on a consistent basis.  A half-hour once a week on Sunday morning will never be adequate to really know and understand the Bible.  And what I’ve been personally missing lately, and I’m not alone, and is necessary and valuable for all of us, is spending time with other believers each week, where digging into the Bible is benefitting from one another’s insights in the Scriptures.

#3.  We must be intentional, living, vocal witnesses for Jesus.

In light of the possible two destinies faced by every human being – eternal life for those who have placed their faith in Jesus and eternal punishment for those who have not, our witness for Jesus Christ is essential.

Our effectiveness in our witness –

It’s likely that God has brought some people into your life that has no one else in their lives that’s going to tell them about Jesus’ love for them.  For our witness to be effective, I want to throw out three adjectives to describe what that WITNESS is to be like.

First, our witness must be intentional.  

We must strategically pray for the people that God brings into our lives and then, with the guidance of the Holy Spirit, prepare, as Peter urges in 1 Peter 3:15…

That means being able to share my own testimony of my relationship with Jesus and able to use the Bible to explain how the other person can have the same type of relationship with Him.

Second, our witness has to be lived out.  Some call it Lifestyle Evangelism.

There’s nothing that will turn a person off when it comes to their relationship with God than someone whose life isn’t consistent with their words.  But at the same time, it’s not enough to just live for Jesus with the hope someone else is going to figure out your life is different than theirs.  That’s a great start, but at some point, we’re going to have to open our mouths.

In concluding this study on Malachi, the most important thing we should take away is to understand just how much God loves us.

He’s a covenant-keeping God, a promise-keeper, a God who loves us so much that He continues to pursue us even when we fail Him.  And if we’ll take and apply the principles He has given us in His Word, we’ll be in a much better position to pursue Him.

And in that same way remembering that God desires for me (and you) to pursue Him in the same way He pursued us!

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CREDITS:

Photo/Images:  Google Image Search; YouTube Music Video – I Remember It Well from the movie, Gigi.

Bible Translations Used:  New Living Translation (NLT); New International Version (NIV); English Standard Version (ESV); 

Word Sources:  Bible Hub:  NASB Hebrew Lexicon.

Commentary:  HEBREW WORD STUDY – FORETELLER OR PROPHET, by Chaim & Laura – Sept. 13, 2014 Devotionals; Coffman’s Commentaries on the Bible – Malachi 4 – StudyLight.org.

JESUS Is More Than An Image!

“Who Is JESUS, Really?”

[15] “[Now] He is the exact likeness of the unseen God [the visible representation of the invisible]; He us the firstborn of all creation.  [16] For it was in Him that all things were created, in heaven and on earth, things seen and things unseen, whether thrones, dominions, rulers, or authorities; all things were created and exist through Him [by His service, intervention] and in and for Him.  [17] And He Himself existed before all things, and in Him all things consist (cohere, are held together” (Colossians 1:15-17 AMP).

A Child’s Answer:

A Sunday School Class teacher once came up from behind a little girl busy drawing a picture.  She couldn’t make “heads or tails” of what the picture was revealing, so she asked the simple question:

“I can’t quite make out sweetie, the picture your drawing.  Could you give me a hint?”

And without looking up from her drawing she said,

“I’m drawing a picture of Jesus.”

Taken back by the little girls answer, the teacher said in a soft but authoritative voice,

“No one has seen Jesus, so you can’t really know what He looks like.”

“Really”, said the young girl.  Without a pause and her head still down, she went on to say,  “Well, after I finish coloring my picture, they will know what God looks like then!”

How Many Times Do We Color Our Own Images Of God?

People have seen Hollywood’s images of Jesus and famous artist renditions of Jesus, and with the replicas hanging on our walls.  We base those images on who we think He ought to look like; when we see His face in eternity.  We do this rather than what He is really like.

How many times do we make Jesus out to be something that He really isn’t?  Many people throughout our nation say that they love Jesus, but have no real idea who JESUS is!  So my question to you who are reading this blog today is this…WHO IS JESUS TO YOU?

I  am amazed at the answers to that specific question:  “Who is JESUS to you?”  Some people think he was a “great teacher”, a moral example, and some think that he was a prophet.  In fact, JESUS Himself asked this same question to His disciples,  [13] “Who do people say the Son of Man is?  [14] And they answered,   Some say…   [15] He said to them, But who do you [yourselves] say that I am?  [16] Simon Peter replied, You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”  (Matthew 16:13-16 AMP).

But most people won’t answer the question, tending to deflect as if they were running for some political office.  They talk about what a good person they are.  Tell you what church they are a member of or talk about all the deeds they’ve accomplished and charity work they have performed in the community.

Some people will tell you that when they turned nineteen years old, they spent 2 1/2 years on their churches appointed mission field.   Sometimes I feel like acting like a judge in the courtroom.  I feel like saying,  “OBJECTION–just answer the question.  “Who is JESUS to you?”

The Apostle Paul answers this exact same question to the Church at Colossae.

Epaphras went to Paul while he was in prison in Rome asking for help in the newly established church.  So Paul wrote this letter not only remind the Colossians, but also to us in the church today who JESUS is.

JESUS IN HIS RELATIONSHIP TO HIS CREATION:

I need to clear up a little language first.  I found it interesting to know Paul wrote this letter to warn the church of the false teaching about JESUS.  It’s interesting because many false teachers today use this very same verse 15 to support their false teaching about JESUS.

The Mormon Church and Jehovah’s Witnesses misuse Colossians 1:15 in making it say what it doesn’t say; to support their false doctrines, that JESUS isn’t God.  Their explanation and use of the Word of God is WRONG!

Here’s what the verse means:  Just as the invisible Father is God, so is the Son who came to earth, a visible flesh; God incarnate.  The Amplified Bible uses “exact likeness”, while the NIV, NASB and the KJV use the English word “image.”

Greek Word “eikon”

The Greek Word “eikon”:

The Greek word was used to describe a STAMP, specifically used in displaying the image of Caesar on documents and other articles.  People in the Roman Empire knew when they saw the stamp, it was from Caesar personally from the “image stamp”.

In other words, JESUS is the exact representation, the exact likeness of God.  Is it something we can ever understand fully?  No.  If we could, we would be saying that are “little brains” are big enough to contain the thoughts of God Himself.

No matter how smart you think you are–Scripture says your thoughts are not His thoughts–your ways are not His ways.  You and I will never completely figure God out!

Verse 15 also tells us…“JESUS is the firstborn of every creature.”

Those same false teachers of our day say…‘that proves that JESUS was created’.  They say that because they don’t know their Scriptures.

FIRSTBORN can mean one of two things:

It can mean born chronologically, like our daughter Karen.  Karen is our firstborn child because she was born before Kristin and Kevin.  That is not the sense here.  Even though JESUS was born of a virgin, that’s not where He began.

John 1:1 says,  “In the beginning [before all time] was the Word and the Word was with God, and the Word was God  Himself.”

In John’s vision (Rev. 19), he sees Christ Jesus returning as Warrior-Messiah-King, and “the title by which He is called is The Word of God…and Lord of lords”  (Revelation 19:13, 16).

The Gospel of John goes on to say,  “And the Word became flesh (human, incarnate) and tabernacled (fixed His tent of flesh, lived awhile) among us”  (John 1:14 AMP).  JESUS wasn’t first-born in the chronological sense.  He couldn’t because He was without beginning or endAs God, He is eternal.

JESUS was born in the other sense of the word–JESUS was born according to His rank.

He is above ALL of creation and He has ALL the rights, privileges and responsibilities of His Father.  To say that He is the Firstborn of all creation carries the exact same meaning when Scripture tells us JESUS is seated at the right hand of the Father.  He occupies the position of prominence.  And as God of very God, verse 16 tells us JESUS created ALL THINGS:

“For it was in Him that all things were created, in heaven and on earth, things seen and things unseen, whether thrones, dominions, rulers, or authorities; all things were created and exist through Him [by His service, intervention] and in and for Him.”

When you read the creation account in Genesis 1, JESUS was with God and JESUS was God as God created the heavens and the earth.  Nothing exists that JESUS didn’t create and nothing continues to exist that JESUS doesn’t sustain.

Atheists say “God is Dead!”

GOD is not dead, JESUS is not dead!  The only reason an atheist is able to say, “Jesus never existed”, is because JESUS is alive and well!

Verse 17 tells us that by ALL THINGS consisthold together:

“And He [JESUS] Himself existed before all things, and in Him all things consist (cohere, are held together).”

If JESUS was to remove His sustaining hand from creation for one brief moment, everything would collapse and cease to exist.  His relationship to His creation is as our creator and our sustainer.

The Christmas Exchange–

Most of us know why we celebrate the Christmas season: To celebrate JESUS’ birth, the giving and receiving of gifts, the decorations, and the smells of Christmas.  But when it comes to the exchanging of gifts to the stores on the day after, that is a different story.  All the stores are a disaster; shopping cart after shopping cart full of things people are exchanging.  Clothes that don’t fit, the wrong color or style of choice.  People line up at the customer service desk trying to exchange things.  But let me cheer you up with the exchange JESUS made for you and me:

“And God purposed that through (by the service, the intervention of) Him [the Son] all things should be completely reconciled back to Himself, whether on earth or in heaven, as through Him, [the Father] made peace by means of the blood of His cross”  (Colossians 1:20 AMP).

Over 2000 years ago, JESUS exchanged His life for yours and mine.  But not only did He exchange His life for yours, He exchanged His death for yours.

Man’s Fall Into Sin–

“Therefore as sin came into the world through one man [Adam], and death as the result of sin, so death spread to all men, [no one being able to stop it or to escape its power] because all men sinned”  (Romans 5:12).

We were all born into sin, sworn enemies of God according to His Word.  The only thing that man deserved was the total wrath of God.  Our relationship with our Creator was irreconcilable, sort of like divorce proceedings in America– by irreconcilable differences.  That was how things were on earth until JESUS paid the price to reconcile, to redeem us back into the relationship by His blood on the Cross.

The Two-fold Purpose of Reconciliation

“Yet now has [Christ, the Messiah] RECONCILED [you to God] in the body of His flesh through death, in order to present you holy and faultless and irreproachable in His [the Father’s] presence”  (Colossians 1:22 AMP).

1.  To take away your unrighteousness.

JESUS’ perfect sacrifice accomplishes that for you.  But of that was all there was, it still wouldn’t reconcile you to God.  It would just bring you back to neutral and take away His wrath.  His wrath would be gone, but you would still be empty, without eternal purpose, an interrupted relationship. 

2.  JESUS’ perfect life clothes you in righteousness. 

While His perfect sacrifice takes away your sins, His perfect life can clothe you in righteousness.

A PICTURE OF DIRTY LITTLE HOMELESS CHILDREN–

World War II Picture

I want you to visualize a picture of a dirty little homeless boy (or girl), living in filth and poverty out in the streets.  A servant of the king invites him off the streets and to come into the palace of the king.

In order that the boy to stand in the king’s presence, the boy must be washed of all the filth accumulated on the street.  But not only bathed, he must put on new clothes.

That’s the picture of what JESUS does for us in salvation.  He washes away all the dirtiness by His spilled blood–ALL of our sins– and gives us new clothes; He clothes us in His righteousness so we can stand reconciled before Him as our King.

Going Back to the Question, “Who is JESUS to you?”

JESUS SAVES you for a purpose; to die to the flesh and live for Him.  The question is, “do you know the real JESUS?”  Or…have you been dealing with a cheap imitation?

If you have never trusted JESUS as your Lord and Savior, then now is the time for you to come out of the streets of squalor.  Begin to make your calling and election sure and start serving Him where you are today.

If you know Jesus for sure, that He is your Savior, but have turned your back on His lordship, then turn back to Him today.  For when you do so, this is what JESUS will immediately do:

“…present you holy and faultless and irreproachable…  [23] [And this He will do] provided that you continue to stay with and in the faith [in Christ], well-grounded and settled and steadfast, not shifting or moving away from the hope [which rests on and is inspired by] the glad tidings (the Gospel),  which you heard and which has been preached  [as being designed for and offered without restrictions] to every person under heaven…”     (Colossians 1:22b-23 AMP).