By David Faust
As December winds down, how do you feel about the passing of another year? Does it stir your emotions when a well-made movie ends, the music swells, and the credits roll across the screen? Do you stand and cheer when an accomplished athlete plays his last game and heads to the sideline? Have you watched a colleague retire after a long career and walk to the parking lot on her last day of work?
How should Bible readers feel when we come to the end of the Old Testament? The 39 books and more than 600,000 words of the Hebrew Scriptures take us on a winding journey through the B.C. centuries. They tell about tenacious faith (Noah, Abraham, Ruth) and disappointing failures (Samuel’s sons, King Saul). We admire the heroism of Moses, Elijah, and Jonah, and we relate to their struggles with anger, discouragement, and self-pity.
Throughout the Old Testament God nurtured and protected the nation of Israel even when his people seemed bent on self-destruction. David’s triumph over Goliath inspires us; his adultery with Bathsheba cautions us. Orphans became royalty (Esther). Wise kings lost their way (Solomon). Prophets preached unpopular messages. God’s plan unfolded.
Would you expect the Old Testament to conclude with a grand finale? Here’s how it ends: “See, I will send the prophet Elijah to you before that great and dreadful day of the Lord comes. He will turn the hearts of the parents to their children, and the hearts of the children to their parents; or else I will come and strike the land with total destruction” (Malachi 4:5, 6).
A Promised Forerunner
Like other prophets, Malachi foresaw a time of reckoning when God would judge evildoers (v. 1), but he also predicted messianic blessings: “But for you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its rays. And you will go out and frolic like well-fed calves”
Before the “great and dreadful day of the Lord,” God would send the prophet Elijah (v. 5). According to Jesus, John the Baptist fulfilled this prophecy by paving the way for Christ (Matthew 11:13, 14). John went “before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah” (Luke 1:17). Like Elijah, John lived in the wilderness, preached uncompromising truth, incurred the king’s ire, and served faithfully till God called him home.
A Mended Family
Genuine repentance impacts others around us. God turns “the hearts of the parents to their children, and the hearts of the children to their parents” (Malachi 4:6). On the cusp of a new year, is there a relationship in your family that God wants to mend? Sometimes peace on earth begins with hugging a son, daughter, mom, or dad.
A Solemn Warning
Lest anyone might ignore the call to repentance, Malachi’s final sentence presents a sobering “or else” from the Lord: “Or else I will come and strike the land with total destruction” (v. 6). Aren’t you glad the Bible doesn’t end there?
Compare Malachi’s final sentence with the last verse of the book of Revelation: “The grace of the Lord Jesus be with God’s people. Amen” (Revelation 22:21). The Old Testament ends with a warning; the New Testament ends with a blessing. The Old Testament ends by threatening destruction; the New Testament ends by highlighting grace.
God’s Word shines brightly as another year fades away. The eternal God will be with us in the year ahead.
1. How has God guided your steps this past year?
2. How can you follow him more closely next year?
David Faust serves as the Associate Minister at East 91st Street Christian Church in Indianapolis, Indiana.
Based on International Sunday School Lesson, © 2012, by the Lesson Committee. Scripture quotations are from the New International Version ©2011, unless otherwise indicated.
The Lookout’s Bible Reading Plan for December 27, 2015
Use this guide to read through the Bible in 12 months. Follow David Faust’s comments on the highlighted text in every issue of The Lookout.
Haggai 1, 2