Sermon on Malachi 4:1-2a
Text: “Surely the day is coming; it will burn like a furnace. All the arrogant and every evildoer will be stubble, and the day that is coming will set them on fire,” says the LORD Almighty. “Not a root or a branch will be left to them. 2 But for you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its rays.”
Fire can be both a friend and a foe. We use fire in a positive way as we heat or cook our food. We use fire to heat our homes. Many enjoy a roaring fireplace when the winter winds blow outside. Fire can be a friend, but it can also be a foe, as it wreaks havoc on people’s lives. Fire can destroy homes or other buildings. Fires destroy acres of forest before it is stopped. This morning, as we study this portion of God’s Word, we are going to look at THE FIRE OF JUDGMENT DAY. First of all, we are going to look at 1. The Consuming Furnace and then 2. The Healing Sun.
The book of Malachi was the last book written in the Old Testament, written some four hundred years before Jesus’ birth. In the book, God calls his people back to himself. By means of a series of questions, God calls them to repent of their sins and to turn back to him. The book points ahead to Jesus’ birth. The last verses point ahead to the forerunner of Jesus, John the Baptist. Now, as the book closes, God speaks of an upcoming day, Judgment Day.
There will be two very different reactions to that day, for there will be two very different things that will happen. We read verse one, “‘Surely the day is coming; it will burn like a furnace. All the arrogant and every evildoer will be stubble, and the day that is coming will set them on fire,’ says the LORD Almighty. ‘Not a root or a branch will be left to them.’” For this first group of people, it will be a day of great terror. Who is in the first group? It is “all the arrogant and every evildoer.”
The arrogant are those who are boastful and proud. They feel that they need nothing, that they rely on no one. This does not only apply to people who are proud of their accomplishments. It fits many people today, who rely, at least in part, on themselves for their salvation. What arrogance to think that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, didn’t do everything necessary for your salvation, that you have to help him out. You help God out in your salvation? Note that this group is lumped together with “every evildoer.” God says that, if we are going to go without him for our salvation, we have to keep all of the Law perfectly. These people who are so proud of all that they have done for God, or maybe they weren’t as resistive as others, have still broken God’s commands.
Look at the punishment that awaits them on that day. It says, “it will burn like a furnace . . . the day will set them on fire.” This is obviously a reference to hell. Throughout the Scriptures, we read of the fires of hell. In the story of the rich man and poor Lazarus, the rich man begs that Lazarus be allowed to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool his tongue, because of the agony he was in. At times in our lives, we have all burned ourselves by accidentally touching something that was hot. We only touched it for a second, but the pain goes on and on. Now, imagine that pain lasting for all eternity. We learn from the book of Isaiah that “The fire that burns them will not be quenched.” (Isaiah 66:24)
God uses the picture, “Not a root or a branch will be left to them.” He pictures a tree that is completely uprooted and thrown into the fire. This will be a complete and total destruction. As horrible as the physical pain will be, there will be an even greater pain. That pain is the eternal separation from God. Jesus, in speaking of Judgment Day in Matthew 25, tells us the verdict that will be pronounced on the ungodly. “Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.” (Matthew 25:41) In essence, what Jesus will say to them is, ‘You wanted to be without me during your lifetime. Now, be without me for all eternity.’ Right now, even the most ungodly person on the earth enjoys some measure of God’s love, in the providing for his physical needs. However, in hell, there will be no love shown to its inhabitants. They will only feel God’s just wrath against them for their sins.
For this first group, Judgment Day will be a day of great terror. By all rights, we would belong to this group, for we have also sinned. We are “evil doers.” Look at all of the things that we do every single day that are out of line with what God demands that we do. When we manage to not fall into this trap, then we often fall into the other, that being “arrogance.” ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people.’ We puff ourselves up, failing to recognize that our sins, also, rightly condemn us. We deserve to be in the first group, which dreads Judgment Day.
However, we don’t have to fear it. Instead, we can look forward to it. We belong to the second group, those who are spoken of in verse two, “But for you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its rays.” Who are those who revere God’s name? To revere means to “regard with awe or devotion, to worship.” We have been brought to worship God, because of the working of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit creates faith in our hearts. Through this faith, we receive the benefits of what Jesus Christ has done for us. He is the “Sun of righteousness that rises with healing in its rays.”
What is this righteousness? Righteousness means to be in a correct relationship with God. Jesus lived a perfect life, according to his Father’s Law. Jesus took upon himself, not only the punishment due for our sins, but also the guilt. When God saw his Son on the cross, he saw all of the sins of the world, including your sins and my sins. He punished his Son in our place.
Now, as the sun rises in the morning, and spreads its rays, warming the earth, so also the Sun of righteousness has risen in our hearts with his healing rays. Jesus, the Great Physician of our souls, has healed us from our fatal disease. Because of his life, death and resurrection, our sins have been paid for. We are now whole and healthy. We have peace: peace with God because our sins have been forgiven; peace of mind and conscience in knowing that God no longer holds us accountable for our sins. This peace comforts us in our darkest hours, knowing that God will not forsake us. This peace even comforts us in the face of death, because we know that we will be in heaven. So you see, we don’t have to wait until Judgment Day to feel the healing rays from our Sun of righteousness.
Right now, we only enjoy this in part. Right now, we still face times of hurt and sadness. Our greatest joys are often tempered with tears. However, Jesus will come again. He will take us to himself and we will enjoy the bliss of heaven. God uses a picture just after our text to show the joy that will be ours, “And you will go out and frolic like well-fed calves.” (Malachi 4:2b) Can you see the picture of a calf that has been cooped up in his stall for sometime? Then, it is released. The calf leaps. It runs and jumps. Finally, it is free from its confinement. That is a picture that God uses to express the joy that we will feel on the Last Day. We will be permanently freed from all of the worries and hurts of this life. Gone is the sadness, the loneliness, the pain, etc. We will be released from sin, both its effects and its consequences. We look forward to the dawning of this new day, this Judgment Day, when Jesus will come and take us to himself.
At times, it may seem as though Judgment Day will never get here. The world seems to continue the same way it always has. Sometimes, we might get caught up in a false sense of security, thinking that we can do whatever we want to do, because there will always be time for repentance later on. However, realize this. No one knows when exactly this will happen. Jesus tells us in the last chapter of Revelation, “Yes, I am coming soon.” (Revelation 22:20) May we always be ready to welcome him back.
If you’ve been up at sunrise, you can sit and watch the sky change. It gets brighter and brighter, until the sun peeks over the horizon. Dear Christian friends, realize this. The sky is becoming brighter all the time. Jesus will surely return to the earth. Judgment Day will happen. On that day, those who rejected Jesus will feel the flames of God’s wrath against their sin. However, for us, we will feel the warmth of those healing rays, soaking through our tired bodies and aching joints. Jesus said, “Yes, I am coming soon.” To this, we reply, “Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.” (Revelation 22:20) Amen.
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