Summary: Will a person Rob God? You can't really rob God. When you try to rob God, you are only robbing yourself. It is only God who can give you a future.
“They shall be mine, says the LORD of hosts, my special possession on the day when I act, …” (Mal 3:17 NRS)
The prophet Malachi, stands at the end of the Hebrew Bible (at least the Christian version of it), and he also stands on the threshold of a whole new world---the future that is still to come. “See, the day is coming….” (4.1). That’s how the prophecy concludes its final chapter. It is a prophecy full of expectancy, anticipation, and possibility about what is going to come next. No wonder early Christians made Malachi the final book of the Old Testament. It is a book that believes in the future and that the future belongs to God.
Today, it’s getting much harder to find Jews or Christians who believe in the future. It’s much easier to find people who tell us, like Chicken Little did in the children’s story that ‘the sky is falling’. TV preachers loved to get us all excited by telling us, showing us, and proving to us, that end is near and the signs of it are everywhere. Perhaps you’ve heard the story about what happen in Texas. A knock comes at the door. The man of the house answers. “Brother,” the visitor asks, “Are you ready for the judgment day? “ The uniformed man retorts with a question, “When is it?” The visitor responds, “It could be today, or it could be tomorrow!” Well, the uniformed man replies, “When you find out when it is going to be, just let me know, because I know my wife will want to be there for on either day!”
We laugh, because predictions about what is going to happen next needs to be laughable. If you want to make God laugh, the old adage says, “Tell him your plans”. Human wisdom, human predictions, human understanding of the future is bound to be unreliable. As the eternally skeptical preacher of Ecclesiastes writes, “fools talk on and on. No one knows what is to happen, and who can tell anyone what the future holds? (Ecc 10:14 NRS). No one knows the future, except for God, and neither prophet, nor Jesus knows the exact hour when the future will come. It could be that even God hasn’t set the date for it yet. “I have plans for you, says the LORD, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope.” The future is “coming”, and there are a lot of conjectures, speculations, and predictions about it. The calendar certainly keeps moving forward and you can’t go back, but exactly what the future holds, belongs to God.
So which is it? Does the world have a future? Do we? Are we only destined a final day of judgment that is coming sooner than we think? What does God have in store for this world? Whatever it is, it’s been a long time coming, hasn’t it? Or maybe it hasn’t. Maybe the world is moving along right on schedule. I say that because of how the book of Malachi begins. Malachi speaks of the unfolding of history, how Israel survives, but Edom is a wasteland (1: 2-4). We know that story from Genesis, don’t we? Esau traded his birthright for a cup of soup. Therefore, Jacob received the blessing and he became Israel. Malachi reminds, God does not stand still when he is rejected, and that is why “God loved Jacob”, but ‘hated Esau’ (Mal. 1.2). But now, Malachi tells us, God on the move again. He says: “Great is the LORD beyond the borders of Israel.” Do you grasp what he’s saying? God is on the move toward the future. He’s already moved beyond Esau and the land of Edom; and now, God’s about to go global, moving beyond the “borders of Israel”. That’s a very interesting way to end the Old Testament, isn’t it? God is still moving toward the future. Time doesn’t stand still, and neither its maker. As the song says, “He has loosed his fateful lightning of his terrible swift sword, HIS TRUTH IS MARCHING ON….”
But where is God’s truth marching? One of the most interesting images in the book of Malachi comes at the end, in his concluding promise that ‘before the great and terrible day of the LORD comes,” God says, through the prophet, “Lo, I will send you the prophet Elijah….” (4:5). When Elijah comes, God adds, “He will turn the heart of the parents to their children and the hearts of children to their parents, so that I will not come and strike the land with a curse” (4.6). It is no accident that these are the final words of the Old Testament. They point us to where God is going next. But where exactly is that? Elijah is the first of the prophets and God says he will also be the last. Biblical stories suggest Elijah never died, but was taken to heaven in a whirlwind on a fiery chariot (2 Kings 2.11). In New Testament times people identified John the Baptist or even Jesus, as the coming of Elijah. On the mount of Transfiguration, both Moses and Elijah appear alongside Jesus, and then God speaks from heaven, singling out Jesus and saying, “This is my beloved Son, listen to him.” (Mark 9.7). “Elijah has come…” Jesus says, but they still didn’t understand. Still today, when faithful Jews observe the Passover Meal, they leave a chair open for Elijah. The Passover meal remembers the blessing of the past, but it also looks toward the future; a future that belong to God.