“Behold, I send my messenger and he will prepare the way before me” (Malachi 3:1a ESV). Advent is about preparing for our LORD’s coming. Malachi, whose name means “my messenger,” prepares us for this coming with the Good Word that he speaks! Today at International Lutheran Church we continue our Advent reflection on the Good Word of the prophets that speak to us today of our Savior’s coming. The prophet Malachi shares how God will come and the transformational change that this makes in us.
Malachi, the last of the Old Testament prophets, saw in his day the immanent nature of the LORD’s arrival. This prophet whose name means “my messenger” embodies the message that he was sent to God’s people to turn them back to the LORD. It is helpful to remember that Malachi’s message came at a time after the exiles had returned to Jerusalem from Babylon, and even after the temple had been rebuilt. We can read about some of these events in Nehemiah 9, 10 and 13. In this brief but poignant oracle, the messenger points to how the people who had been brought back by the LORD are now again turning aside from their vows and promises and falling into old patterns of false worship, or even no worship at all! Malachi calls for both the priests and people to turn from their neglect and failure to take seriously the very meaning of the temple worship. Here is where the graphic imagery of the refiner’s fire and the fuller’s soap point to how God Himself will purify His people and bring them back to Himself.Malachi foretells the work of John the Baptist who prepares the way for the LORD as told in Luke 3 and the other gospels. His calling was to “turn” our hearts once again to the One who would come after him, the LORD Himself. Just as preparation is key to the prophetic message, the One who was to come has come.
Malachi tells us the Good Word of the messenger - the Messenger that is our Savior Jesus Himself. He is the very WORD and MESSAGE of God in the flesh. He is the Way, the Truth and the Life through whom our hearts are turned and purified once and for all through His death upon the tree. The God who changes not is made to be sin for us that we would become the righteousness of God! This is the Good Word that we have now to share with all people.
Malachi tells of the amazing truth that Paul would later experience and remind the saints in Philippi that they are partners in the Good Word. We have become messengers but also part of the message as others see in us the grace and mercy of God at work in our lives. Paul reminded the church in Corinth that as often as we eat this Bread and drink this Cup that our LORD Himself instituted for us, we proclaim His death until He comes again. In a similar way, each day we speak to one another and to all people of the peace we have in Him. Yes, the peace we have with God – how our sins have been taken away by God’s own Messenger, Jesus – is also the peace we now freely share through forgiving each other.
“Behold, I send my messenger!” God sends you and me to a broken world, a world that needs His peace. Malachi, whose name means “my messenger,” speaks to us today the Good Word of God’s coming and the change that it makes in us as we are made to be “His messengers” and part of the message as well.