Summary: Christmas condemns all who have rejected Christ, but it offers hope should such people turn in faith to the Son of God.
“Behold, the day is coming, burning like an oven, when all the arrogant and all evildoers will be stubble. The day that is coming shall set them ablaze, says the Lord of hosts, so that it will leave them neither root nor branch. But for you who fear my name, the sun of righteousness shall rise with healing in its wings. You shall go out leaping like calves from the stall. And you shall tread down the wicked, for they will be ashes under the soles of your feet, on the day when I act, says the Lord of hosts.
“Remember the law of my servant Moses, the statutes and rules that I commanded him at Horeb for all Israel.
“Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome day of the Lord comes. And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the land with a decree of utter destruction.”
“Utter destruction!” I think you would agree that this is an unusual way in which to begin an Advent Message. However, these final words of the Old Testament provide the foundation for our celebration of the coming of the Son of God. However, these shocking words will eventuate in hope and joy. Let’s focus on the concluding words of Malachi’s powerful message.
Some translations end with the warning of a curse on the land. The text I use, the ENGLISH STANDARD VERSION of the Bible, translates this Hebrew term with our English words, utter destruction. I should think that utter destruction would qualify as a curse. This was God’s final Word to Israel for over four hundred years. “Utter destruction.” Indeed, this is a frightful way in which to conclude a prophetic message. In fact, this phrase (or word, in Hebrew) is the final word of the canon of the Old Testament.
We don’t like our literature to end in this manner. We think novels should end with the notation that “they lived happily ever after.” Likewise, we would expect that God’s great plan of creation and redemption should end on a victorious note.
Doctor James Boice writes, “The Masoretes, who have given us most of the copies of the Hebrew Old Testament we have and who added the vowel points to the Hebrew text, were so bothered by this [unhappy ending] that they repeated the next-to-the-last verse of Malachi after the last verse. Similarly, the Septuagint reverses the last two verses so the Old Testament ends, not with a curse, but with a blessing.”
It is appropriate that the Old Covenant should end in this fashion, however. Hidden behind these dreadful words is something which is less apparent—divine love. God did not wish to destroy His beloved people, and therefore He sought to grab their attention by concluding on a dark theme which would arrest them in their mad rush toward certain destruction. Destruction need not come, however, if the appalling words are taken to heart to effect a needed course correction.
Some people suggest that last words are important, if for no other reason then that they point to what is most important in the speaker’s life. If that is so, then surely the final words of the True and Living God must bear grave significance. Consider God’s last Word until the days of Christ as recorded in the New Testament.