November 18, 2018 [Last Judgment]    Malachi 4:1,2a      J.D.Roekle

 

“Surely the day is coming; it will burn like a furnace. All the arrogant and every evildoer will be stubble, and that day that is coming will set them on fire," says the LORD Almighty. "Not a root or a branch will be left to them.  But for you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings.” 

 

Surely the day is coming!

 

Dear Friends in Christ,

          Surely the day is coming!  If you live in the heavily forested areas of California, you know that it’s coming at some point.  It may not be in your lifetime, but it’s bound to happen.  I’m talking about forest fires.  Recent fires have been raging for quite a while now, and the threat always seems to be there.  We probably can’t imagine the size of these fires, because we don’t have much to compare it to around here.  Take for example the so called “Camp Fire” which is an active fire north of Sacramento still blazing since November 8.  It is the deadliest and most destructive wildfire in California history.  146,000 acres have been burned.  Nearly 12,000 structures – including homes – have been burned.  There have been 71 killed in the fires.  And it is still only about half contained. 

          Surely the day is coming!  It is the day on which our Lord returns.  Judgment Day.  It will be a day of extremes.  It will be a day characterized by destruction, sorrow, weeping and despair.  But it will also be a day of rebirth, joy, celebration, and everlasting contentment.  No wonder that Malachi, in a later verse, calls Judgment Day:  “that great and dreadful day of the Lord.” 

          What are your feelings about that day?  Are they feelings of dread?  Or do you look forward to that day?  Some of the things associated with that day may put fear in our hearts.

          Malachi says that this day “will burn like a furnace.”  The idea of a destructive fire immediately hits us.  When we think of hell, we think of fire the Bible associates with it.  But the reference here is to that of a refiner’s fire.  When something such as gold or silver is refined, it is done to get rid of all its impurities. 

          On the last day, the Lord will get rid of all the impure.  Who are those impure?  The Lord explains:  “All the arrogant and every evildoer will be stubble, and that day that is coming will set them on fire," says the LORD Almighty.” 

          God’s judgment will be on all the arrogant and every evildoer.  There are many people who display arrogance by challenging God. At times, we can see why they might.  Often times, it seems that wickedness goes unchecked.  They think along the lines that the Psalmist writes:  “God has forgotten; he covers his face and never sees.” [Psalm 10:11]  They think:  God isn’t going to do anything about it!  I’m doing fine – in fact, I’m doing better than that person who isn’t indulging himself in these sinful activities.  Because their sinful activities are not immediately judged, they mistakenly think that God is going to do nothing about defying him. 

          But God makes it clear that these evildoers will not get away with anything.  God promises that he will rid himself of all the impure.  He says that they will be “set on fire”.  Yes, they will be judged, and God will rid himself of them.

          Those who defy God, those who reject his grace and mercy will be separated from God; purged from God’s sight.  They will be sent to the continual fires of hell.  And this won’t be a partial judgment:  God will do a complete job.  Malachi:  “Not a root or a branch will be left to them.” 

          If you have ever cut down a large tree, you know how difficult it is to take out the whole system of roots, since they go so deep and are so widespread.           God doesn’t have that problem in his judgment.  God will completely destroy all who are impure.  God’s judgment of evil will be complete.  No longer will evil or evildoers exist in his presence!

                    Maybe that frightens us.  After all we know that we do evil in the Lord’s sight with our every sin.  Are we really that much different from the murderer or robber?  Don’t we also defy God when we sin?  We are not always kind and considerate to everyone, and especially to the ones closest to us.  There are sinful things that we did in the past that come back to haunt us and still irritate us and make us feel guilty.  As long as we live here on earth, sin is unfortunately a close companion of ours.

These things may frighten us when we think of Jesus’ return.  Is he going to punish us when he returns?  Is God going to judge us and separate us from himself?  That’s when we need to remember the other side of judgment.  While he casts some away from himself, others he will keep close to him.

          Who does he keep close to himself?  The Lord says in our text: 

“But for you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings.”  Those who revere, who respect, who fear the name of the Lord Almighty will be spared in his judgment. 

          And why?  Because of that sun of righteousness that rises.  Where there was once darkness because of our sin, a sun has risen.  The Son has risen and brightened up our lives.  You know who that Son is – it is Jesus Christ. 

          And on Judgment Day, that Son will mean great things for us.  After John the Baptist was born, his father Zechariah sang a song which included these words:  “the rising sun will come to us from heaven to shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the path of peace.” 

          This Son, Jesus Christ, did exactly as Zechariah predicted.  He brought us out of darkness, and out of the threat of eternal death, and at peace with our Heavenly Father.  All who are in the rays of this Son as he shines, are healed of their sin, and don’t need to fear God’s judgment. 

          How does this Son heal us?  Listen to Isaiah (53:5)  “But he (this Son) was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.” 

          He healed us of the damage we did to ourselves with our sins, by taking on the punishment for us. The hymn writer describes this healer:  

There is a Balm in Gilead

 to make the wounded whole.

 There is a Balm in Gilead,

 to heal the sin-sick soul.”

          Thank God that you know and trust that balm.  Thank God that you can rest securely under the rays of the Son of God, who heals you with his life and death, putting his own righteousness in your account. 

          Who do you know that needs that balm?  Who needs to hear the truth that the Savior Jesus has come to heal them of their sin-sick soul?  You can lead them to the healing that they need.  You can point them to the Balm in Gilead.  You can tell them about Jesus and his love and what he has done for them. 

          The time to do that is now.  Why?  Surely, the day is coming!  Like the forest fires in California, we can’t predict exactly when, but it is certain.  We have God’s own Word on it.  Knowing that day is coming, makes the message we have urgent.  We need to get it out. 

          Again, how do you feel about Judgment Day coming?  I pray that you are looking forward to it.  That’s when our Savior returns for us!  Isn’t that exactly the confidence you want that unbelieving friend or relative to have?!  So that they too can stand with you in awe of the Savior who has healed you so that you can spend eternity with him.  Amen.