The Sun of Righteousness

by LA UBF   05/10/2009     0 reads


The Sun of Righteousness���

The Sun of Righteousness

Malachi 1:1-4:6

Key Verse 4:2

“For you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings. And you will go out and leap like calves released from the stall.”

Through the passage for today we would like to have our hearts ready for Jesus Christ the Savior. The Prophet Malachi spoke about 5 centuries before Christ. In Hebrew Malachi means “my messenger.” 

How does the Lord want us to be ready? The key verse for today tells us that the point of which we must be prepared is righteousness. God wants us to be ready for a special garment called “righteousness.” The title, “The Sun of Righteousness,” is Jesus’ nickname. So let us stop for a moment and think about “righteousness.” What is righteousness? In the Bible, righteousness (which denotes God’s essential characteristic) is expressed as the beautiful garments our heavenly Father wants his children to wear. Speaking of the same truth, the Prophet Isaiah confesses in Isaiah 61:10, “I delight greatly in the Lord; my soul rejoices in my God. For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.” With this in mind, let us think about the words spoken by Malachi, the Lord’s messenger.     

Part I. I will be quick to testify against the wicked (1:1-2:17)

The Book of Malachi can be divided into two parts: 1:1-2:17 and 3:1-4:6. Mainly, the first part talks about how the Israelites lost their spiritual garments called “righteousness.” Figuratively speaking, they became like a bunch of orphans abandoned on the streets wearing filthy garments. 

But in the day of Malachi the Israelites were not orphans. They had God the Father who wanted to give them new clothes, but they stubbornly refused to take off their filthy garments and receive what is new. How did they become like this? In Malachi 1:1-2:17, Malachi describes that their spiritual condition digressed to a totally filthy and then naked condition, in four steps:

First, they doubted Gods’ love for them. (1:1-5)

There is a Japanese saying that goes, “The one who gets deceived is worse than the one who deceives.” The history of human downfall as described in Genesis 3 also affirms this truth. Satan deceived Eve, and then Eve lured Adam, so we came to suffer from the consequences of their disobedience. 

History repeats itself. Let us read Malachi 1:1-5. At the outset of the passage the Lord says, “I have loved you,” but they (the people of Israel) ask, “How have you loved us?” The fact is that God loves them. But they doubted God’s love. Why did they become like this? Obviously, they were duped by a deceiver, the devil. But the cause was pretty much inside of them. They had worldly desires. They entertained negative thoughts about God’s love. This was the beginning of them losing the beautiful garments of their souls woven by the Lord God. 

Their case reminds me of a story written by Hans Christian Anderson, The Emperor’s New Clothes. In the story two swindlers deceive the Emperor into believing that invisible clothes are visible only to the wise. Due to their deception the Emperor ended up parading in a royal procession naked. Children started making fun of him. At the outset of the story, however, Hans Christian Anderson points out that the cause was pretty much inside of the emperor: he loved fashion. He was a man of Vanity Fair. The emperor’s stupidity reminds us of what the Apostle John says in 1 John 2:15, “Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.”     

Second, they abandoned the mission from God. (1:6-2:9)

In order to know God better and remain in a right relationship with him, the first thing we need to ensure is to be certain of God’s love for us. The second thing we need to secure is to remember the purpose of his calling and do the work he has called us to do. This is like a husband and a wife striving to achieve one noble purpose, and in the course of working together they come to know and love each other better. The same is true in one’s relationship with God. As one does God’s work and even suffers from it, one comes to know God’s goodness and holiness far better than ever and thereby remain clothed with God’s glorious character. 

Knowing this truth, the Lord God blessed the Israelites not just by choosing them as his bride, but by also giving them a holy mission – the call to live as a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. For this purpose, upon calling them out of Egypt, the Lord God revealed to them the purpose of his calling saying, “‘Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words you are to speak to the Israelites” (Exodus 19:5-6).

But Malachi 1:6-2:9 tells us that the Israelites abandoned the purpose of God’s calling. As members of the kingdom of priests they were supposed to dedicate themselves to learning from the Lord and teaching God’s words to all nations. But they quickly forgot (or simply ignored) the holy mission from God. In verse 6, the Lord characterizes his relationship with them [the priests in particular] as a “father-son” and “master-servant” relationship, and yet they forgot their position as God’s children and as God’s servants. The chief characteristic of a child is obedience to what parents say. So is the case with a servant, for a servant must take orders from the master, not the other way around. Have you seen a servant issuing an order to his master, saying, “Hey, master, do this and do that for me”? But the Israelites wanted to enjoy all the privileges as God’s chosen people, but neglected their duty as Bible teachers and prayer servants.  

Their condition reminds us of what is going on in the US. A study of the history of this nation indicates that the Lord God established this nation for a noble purpose, that is, to use her as the City on a Hill. And there are tons of evidences that tell us that this nation was founded on Christian doctrines and beliefs. But we are increasingly becoming a secularized nation. We are becoming a hedonistic country. Why? It is simply because we have not set our hearts on serving the Lord. We have turned away to seek something else. No wonder that we see so many ugly things happening in every sector of our society.

Third, they broke faith with one another. (2:10-16)

There is still a third reason which caused the spiritual profile of the so-called chosen people Israel to become totally filthy: breaking faith with one another. Let us read 2:10-16. This passage painfully points out that believers married unbelievers. They were like people in the day of Noah, who married purely based on what is physical (such as physical appearances). 

The passage also poignantly points out the breaking of marriage. “I hate divorce,” says the Lord. Of course there are some legitimate grounds for divorce. But even in cases where Moses permitted divorce, Jesus qualified Moses’ permission by pointing out man’s heart having become hard (cf. Matthew 19:4-6).

What is interesting for our own purpose is the order in which Malachi lays down the problems the people of his day had: he first talks about people doubting God’s love and thereby leaving God out of their life, then the rest of the problems come, such as abandoning the mission and the breakdown of the marriage. 

This order points us to the truth that marriage is God’s divine institution. As such, God established marriage for a holy mission, that is, to produce spiritual offspring. Referring to this purpose, that is, the need to produce spiritual children, we call marriage a “house church,” for that is exactly what a family is all about – a church where Jesus is the Lord and children are being nurtured according to Jesus’ grace and truth. 

But as the Israelites abandoned the mission, they naturally turned marriage into a personal tool for self-seeking purposes, such as rent-sharing or pleasure seeking or as a place to practice boxing matches. But a family is more than an entertainment center. It is a holy ground where the Lord God desires to produce godly offspring. 

Fourth, they fell into moral depravity (2:17)

The fourth and final reason why Malachi found the status of his people as unacceptably wicked is described summarily in 2:17. “You have wearied the Lord with your words. ‘How have we wearied him?’ you ask. By saying, ‘All who do evil are good in the eyes of the Lord, and he is pleased with them’ or ‘Where is the God of justice?’” 

This passage indicates that they became totally “senseless.” They became no different than unbelievers. Romans 1:18-31 describe the digression of people falling from grace into the pit of moral depravity. In verse 31 the Apostle Paul describes the final state of digression with four “lesses” – senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless. And of the four the first less is “senseless.” Likewise the Israelites lost the sense of what is right and what is wrong, what is good and what is evil. The Israelites were called to be the custodians of God’s word. And God’s word, such as Moses’ Ten Commandments, tell us clearly what is wrong and what is right, what is good and what is bad for life. These words all came from God, not from men such as Moses. Visible human beings like Moses were merely instruments for God to speak. These laws all reflect God’s standards. Ultimately, the Lord God is the standard. But the Israelites became confused. They say, “All who do evil are good in the eyes of the Lord; and he is pleased with them.” 1 Corinthians 6:9 asks, “Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders.” Is God pleased with the sexually immoral, idolaters, adulterers, male prostitutes, or homosexual offenders? But the people of day of Malachi thought that way.

Part II. I will come near to you (3:1-4:6)

In view of the Lord Jesus who was promised to come, to address all these problems, what should we do? In order to attain to a righteous standing and live as a blessed child of God, what should we do? In order to prepare our hearts for the Savior the Sun of righteousness, what are we supposed to do? There are three points to consider:

First, bring the whole tithe (3:1-12)

One of the clear signs of people becoming quickly like a heathen and then hedonistic is materialism. As you leave God out of your life, you end up becoming extremely materialistic. We can understand this very well when we think about the truth that man is limited. By nature we are not all sufficient. As we are, we are all deficient. We are sufficient only in the Lord (cf. Psalm 23). But when man loses faith in God, man remains condemned to rely on someone or something else. As one loses faith in God, one turns to human beings to seek this or that, but they get disappointed and say, “The more I see people, the more I like my dog.” Then they rely on money. So they become materialistic. They say, “Money is good,” or even, “Money is God.” “Money, oh, I love you.” 

The same thing happened among the people in Israel in the day of Malachi. What does the Lord God say to them? Let us read Malachi 3:6-12. 

A lot of people (especially those pastors who want to raise church revenues) abuse this passage. But the point of the message is simple: God wants his people to acknowledge his lordship on materials, for God is in the business of blessing his children spiritually and physically. But just in case anyone is in doubt of this truth, he can bring the whole tithe and see how much God blesses him, not just in his own eyes but in the eyes of all. For example, Malachi 3:12 says, “‘Then all the nations will call you blessed, for yours will be a delightful land,’ says the Lord Almighty.” Some people are extremely rich. But a lot of people say of them, “Oh, he is so poor because he is stingy.” But it is not so with a man who is truly blessed by God. Even unbelievers will call him blessed. Furthermore, a lot of people who are rich live in constant nightmares. But a truly blessed man lives in a delightful land. 

Second, revere my name (3:13-4:3)

In 3:13-4:3 we see two categories of people mentioned – the wicked and the righteous. Who are the righteous? Essentially, they are no different from the wicked. But they are made to be different for they have one stark difference from the wicked, that is, they “revere” the name of the Lord. Let us read Malachi 3:16. This passage indicates that upon listening to the Lord’s rebuke through his servants, in reverent fear of and respect for the name of the Lord, they discussed among themselves their problems and reached a conclusion saying [in my opinion], “We are wrong. The Lord is right.” In this way they repented of their wrong views of life and of the Lord. In this way they regained their faith in the Lord. 

When they did this, the Lord promised that he would regard them as his own and gather them into his presence, and then the Lord will let people see the distinction between the wicked and the righteous.

Third, remember the Law of Moses (4:4-6)

Finally, the Lord God says that before sending the Savior he would send the Prophet [who would come in the spirit of] Elijah. What would Elijah [who turned out to be John the Baptist] do? Let us read verses 4-6. “Remember the law of my servant Moses, the decrees and laws I gave him at Horeb for all Israel. See, I will send you the prophet Elijah before that great and dreadful day of the Lord comes. He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers; or else I will come and strike the land with a curse.” As this passage says, John the Baptist came and asked people to repent and believe in Jesus the Lamb of God. 

In the same way, we must pray that we would all repent, not based on our human standards, but on God’s word, such as Moses’ Ten Commandments, and then turn to the Lord. Then Jesus, the sun of righteousness, will rise. Then the Lord will transform us into a new creation. 

One word: The sun of righteousness

Class Exercise:

1. In 1940, Earnest Hemingway published a novel entitled, For Whom the Bell Tolls. According to Malachi, however, for whom does the “sun of righteousness” rise?

2. In Malachi the word “name” [of the Lord] is repeated 10 times. Associated with this repetition are the following words: “revere,” “reverence,” “revered,” “respect,” and “honor.” What does it mean to “revere” [anyone’s name]?

3. In Malachi 3:1 the word “messenger” is repeated twice: “[my] messenger” and the “messenger [of the covenant].” “My messenger” refers to: _____________; “the messenger of the covenant” stands for: ________________

4, Malachi says that the messenger of the covenant will be like: 1) a refiner’s fire; 2) a launderer’s soap; 3) a refiner and purifier of silver. Who will he purify and refine? _________

5. According to Malachi, how can a mere man “rob” God? ___________________________

6. Malachi saw that in a heavenly realm “a scroll of remembrance” was [being] written in the presence of the Lord. What are the contents of this book? ________________ Why was it written? __________________________

7. Malachi 3:17 reads (KJV), “And they shall be mine, says the Lord of hosts, in that day when I make up my jewels…” In Hebrew the expression, “make up” (pronounced “Asah”), means to “work, labor, create, construct, build, constitute, or squeeze.” Explain in your words how jewels (precious stones) are made. ___________________________________________

The end