1. The first principle concerning our present hope of salvation is the problem of man (2:17)
2. The second principle concerning our present hope of salvation is the preparation by the messenger (3:1a)
3. The third principle concerning our present hope of salvation is the promise of the Master (3:1b)
Do you remember the old Heinz ketchup commercials? You remember the ones where the little boy would have his French fries all ready. They would be all ready and all he needed was some ketchup. So he would pick up that old glass bottle—yes, kids, ketchup didn’t always come in a squeeze bottle. And what would happen when he turned that bottle upside down over his fries? Nothing. Nothing except that song—anticipation. That boy wanted that ketchup so bad, but it seemed like it would never come out. That’s kind of the way it is this time of the year—especially for kids. The decorations start to go up, the trees get put up, the presents start getting wrapped. The air is full of anticipation for Christmas. The thing about Christmas is that it happens every year at this time. We know when it’s coming—there’s no surprise. Think back to the Old Testament times for a minute. They knew that God was going to send them a Messiah—a Savior. They knew, because God continually told them through the prophets. He continually told them and they continually ignored Him. Sometimes they would listen for a minute, but then they would go ahead and ignore Him anyway. They ignored it so many times that finally, God stopped speaking to them. His message to them through Malachi was the last time He spoke to them for 400 years. But what message had they ignored that caused God to not speak to them for so long? They were ignoring God’s message of hope. His message of hope for their salvation. His message of hope for the world’s salvation. That message of hope hasn’t changed. Tonight as we look at God’s last message of hope in the Old Testament, I want each of us to rejoice in our present hope of salvation. In order to do that, Malachi will show us three principles concerning our present hope of salvation. The first principle is the problem of man.
The problem of man. It doesn’t take a very deep reading of the Old Testament to figure out that Israel had some problems. Almost immediately after God led them out of their bondage in Egypt, they started complaining. God parted the Red Sea and they wanted water to drink. God fed them with manna and they wanted meat. God gave them the promised land and all they could see were the giants. So God made them wander for 40 years. After God finally let them cross the Jordan into the Promised Land, they still didn’t listen to Him. They were supposed to conquer everything and kill everybody. But they didn’t. They let most of them live. And they’re still having problems with those folks even today. That crazy guy in Iran who wants to wipe Israel off the face of the map is one of them. But back to history—even after they entered the promised land, Israel continued to disobey God during the time of the judges, the kings, the divided kingdom, and eventually the exile. Even after the exile—after God allowed Nehemiah to rebuild Jerusalem and some of the Jews returned. Even then—after all the Jews had been through because of their disobedience. Even then, they didn’t obey God. Not only did they disobey God, they tried to justify their disobedience. When Malachi told them in verse 17 that God was tired of their words, they argued with him. They said, “how have we wearied Him?” and went on to attempt to justify their evil by saying that God approved of it. Not only did they say He approved of it, they said He delighted in their evil. “God delights in us. He’s a God of love—He doesn’t judge us.” Because of that attitude, God quit talking to them. Scriptural writings and prophesy ceased for 400 years after Malachi. Sometimes we look at the Jews and think—how stupid and hard-headed could they be? The Bible’s favorite term is that they were stiff-necked. I mean, they had the presence of God right there in their temple. They had His word passed to them through the prophets. They had seen God’s awesome works in Egypt, the Red Sea, and the Jordan River. How could they have been so stiff-necked? But then again, how can people today be so stiff-necked. Looking in the Old Testament at Israel is almost like looking into a mirror at our own society. America has been the most materially blessed nation in the history of the world. Even our poorest citizens live well compared to people in many other countries. God has protected us. He’s provided for us. And he’s prospered us. But have we obeyed Him in return? I’m not telling you anything you don’t know when I say that drug and alcohol use is running rampant. Gambling and pornography are everywhere. Homosexuality is being looked at as normal. I saw a statistic last week that said 40% of babies are now being born out of wedlock. And that just speaks of the ones being born. What about the untold numbers of babies murdered in the womb each year in this country. The problem is awful. Every bit as awful as Israel’s was. And we are wearying God with our words the same as they did. We weary Him when we stop calling sin what it is and start calling it a personality disorder. When we live like we want to live and want God to endorse our lifestyle. When we treat God like a warm fuzzy teddy bear and ignore the fact that He demands a changed lifestyle. The problem is enormous. The prognosis is not good. The outcome is bleak. Now imagine if God had left Malachi’s prophesy off there. How utterly hopeless would the next 400 years have been. But thank God He didn’t. Because the God of the Bible is a God of hope. You see, the first principle concerning our present hope of salvation is the problem of man, because we can’t know hope unless we first see our utter hopelessness. And that’s what we’ve seen. We’ve seen the problem. But God didn’t leave us with only the problem. He gave us hope for a solution. The second principle concerning our present hope of salvation is the preparation by the messenger.
The preparation by the messenger. When God brings hope of salvation, He always sends a messenger to prepare the way for that hope. The messenger that He’s talking about in this passage is John the Baptist. As we prepare for the Christmas season this year, and as we look at the birth of Christ over the next few weeks, let’s not forget that God sent one before Him to prepare the way. In those days, when a king would travel, a herald would precede him to announce his coming. That custom is carried over into our modern courtrooms. Before the judge walks into the courtroom, the bailiff calls the court to order and tells everyone to stand. He prepares the way for the judge. That was what God sent John the Baptist to do. Keep your finger in Malachi and turn with me to Luke 1. After 400 years of silence, God spoke. Through the angel Gabriel, God told Zacharias that he would have a son. Look with me at Luke 1:13-17.
After 400 years of silence brought about by Israel’s continuing rebellion, God sent a messenger. He sent a messenger to make ready a people prepared for the Lord. And what was his message? How did he prepare the way for the Lord? He prepared the way by preaching. He preached and his message wasn’t pretty. I don’t think he would have made it through a search committee. He preached a message of repentance. Matthew 3:1 says he preached, “Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” But when you look at it, his message was two-fold. The first part was harsh. He called the Pharisees a brood of vipers and told them to repent. That was harsh. But the second part was hope. He told them that the kingdom of heaven that had been promised by God through all the prophets was finally here. The promise was here and He was a person. A person whose sandal strap John wasn’t even worthy to untie. In the midst of a rebellious nation who had turned their back on God and tried to justify their sins, God sent a messenger. God’s hope of salvation was preceded by a messenger who prepared the way. He does the same thing today. In the midst of our rebellious and sinful generation, He has sent you and me as His messengers. We are the messengers He sends before Him to prepare the way for Jesus Christ. Our message needs to be the same as John the Baptist’s. Part of it is harsh. People don’t know they need a Savior unless they know what they need to be saved from. But the harshness paves the way for the hope. The hope of salvation by the blood of Jesus Christ. By grace alone, through faith alone. 2000 years ago, God prepared the way for His Son by John the Baptist. Today, He prepares the way for His Son in a lost and dying world by using us as His messengers. But the preparation of the messenger is only a message of hope if it answers the problem of man. It’s only a hopeful message if it answers the problem of sin and rebellion we talked about earlier. So, the third principle concerning our present hope of salvation is the promise of the Master.
The promise of the Master. The Messiah will come. This was the promise that rang in Israel’s ears for 400 years as Scripture was silent. The solution to the problem of their sin and rebellion was coming! Malachi says something ironic here. He says, “the Lord whom you seek will come. Malachi said that, but Israel wasn’t seeking after God at all. They were too busy trying to recreate God into their own image. Trying to get God to endorse their sinful ways. But even though Israel wasn’t seeking Him, He came and sought them anyway. He does the same today. Romans 3:11 says: “There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God.” No one seeks after God on their own. God uses the message preached through you and me to draw people to Him by His Holy Spirit. Romans 5:8 says: “But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” He died for us while were neck-deep in the problem and didn’t care. We were just like Israel when Jesus came. They were neck-deep in fulfilling Malachi’s prophesy from verse 17 and could care less about their Messiah coming. But He came anyway. He came just like He promised in verse 1. He also came suddenly. When he uses the word “suddenly”, he means unexpectedly. Israel had been looking for their Messiah for hundreds of years. But He showed up when they least expected it and in a way they could have never imagined—in a feeding trough in a barn in a one-horse town called Bethlehem. Galatians 4:4-5 says: “But when the fullness of the time was come, God sent forth His Son, made of a woman, made under the law to redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.” Jesus came the first time according to His time table, not Israel’s. He came when they least expected Him. But the point is, He came. It’s a fact of history that even the atheists can’t deny. They can deny the nature of His coming, but they can’t deny the fact that He came. God promised He would come and He came. God also promised He would come again. Just as we look back with thanksgiving at Jesus’ first coming, we look forward with anticipation to His second coming. Most people are like Israel was when Malachi prophesied—they’re not seeking His return. But just like He came the first time, He’ll come again whether we are seeking Him or not. And He will come suddenly—unexpectedly. No one knows the day nor the hour of His return, so it doesn’t do any good to speculate about it. What we need to do is be ready for it. We need to be ready for it just like Simeon was ready for Jesus’ first coming. After 400 years, God broke the silence with the cry of a baby. Most of Israel wasn’t ready—but a man named Simeon was.
During those 400 years of silence, there was a remnant of people like Simeon who didn’t ignore God’s message of hope. They anticipated it even more than the boy in the ketchup commercial anticipated ketchup on his fries. Just like Israel, we see the problem of man. We see the problem and we’ve heard the preparation by the messenger. The question is, what are we doing with the promise of the Master? The promise that says, “if you confess your sins, He’s faithful and just to forgive your sins.” The promise that says, “I’m coming back—you need to be ready.” After seeing the problem of man and hearing the preparation by the messenger, are you prepared for the promise of the Master? Are you prepared for His return?