Summary: The Lord Comes to Launder Lives 1) He purifies us from sin; 2) He restores our usefulness.
If you were going to design a Christmas card what would you put on the front cover? Would you draw a picture of the Christ-child lying in a manager as Mary and Joseph stand guard and a wide-eyed shepherd boy peers in on the little babe? Maybe you would sketch an angel next to the words “Peace on earth and good will to all”? Or perhaps you would illustrate Jesus with his sleeves rolled up carrying a box of bleach. What?!? You see, if you would have asked the prophet Malachi to design a card commemorating the coming of Christ that’s how he would have depicted the Messiah. God told Malachi that the Messiah would come as one who purifies and cleans with a launderer’s soap. While Malachi’s portrayal of the Messiah might seem bizarre it does provide a precise picture of what Jesus came to do. Our sermon text teaches us this morning that the Lord comes to launder lives by purifying us from sin, and restoring our usefulness.
The prophet Malachi lived about 400 years before Christ was born and was the last of the Old Testament prophets. 100 years had also passed since the Jews returned from exile in Babylon and in a sense God was starting over with his chosen people. He had purged from the ranks those who refused to worship him and was now going to use this new group to usher in the era of the Messiah. Things started out well as the returnees quickly dedicated themselves to rebuilding the city of Jerusalem and the Lord’s temple. Unfortunately this enthusiasm didn’t last as they decided that it was more important to build beautiful homes for themselves than to finish their house of worship. They also ignored God’s warnings not to intermarry with the heathen. They broke the Sabbath and their marriages. They cheated, lied, and embezzled funds. To top it all off the priests were guilty of many of these things.
With all that going on you would expect God to say, “Enough! I just can’t win with these people!” It’s true isn’t it? The Israelites had often displayed an unfaithful, ungrateful attitude towards the LORD. Think back to how they treated God after he rescued them from the Egyptians. Even though they had just witnessed God’s ability to part the sea so two million people and their possessions could cross over on dry land in a single evening they didn’t seem to think that this same God could, or would provide an adequate supply of food and water on their journey to the Promised Land. So they complained bitterly to Moses and were even so bold as to say that it would have been better for them to remain slaves in Egypt.
The story of the Israelites is often our story isn’t it? We too know that our God is all-powerful and is concerned about our well being, yet when we run into the first signs of difficulty we panic and accuse God of abandoning us! We think that if only we could be in charge of our life things would go much more smoothly. Of course we forget about those times when we did go out on our own only to mess things up. We also seem to conveniently forget that it was God who bailed us out of the mess we had gotten ourselves into.
How do you think God should deal with people who continue to second-guess him and try to go their own way all the time? After hearing about all the sins the Israelites were committing you would expect God to tell Malachi that he was going to send someone to punish the unfaithful Israelites. Instead God says that he is going to send the “messenger of the covenant” who would not punish but purify the hearts of his people.
There you have it – Jesus came as a purifier, not a punisher. And how did Jesus purify us from our sins? He didn’t use soap but his own blood which he shed on the cross. Jesus’ blood cleanses us from our sins because it is pure blood – blood that doesn’t contain any of its own sin and therefore absorbs all of our sinfulness like a big sponge. Therefore we can be confident that because of Jesus our sins are covered and hidden from God and we can trust that he won’t punish us for them.
But in spite of the wonderful work Jesus has done many people are not planning on standing behind Christ’s blood when they appear before God’s judgment throne. They either think that their life has been good enough or they simply don’t know about Christ’s work and therefore plan on standing before God on the basis of what they have and have not done. But that’s foolish. It’s just like the little boy who doesn’t think he needs to wear a toque while he’s playing outside in the -20 C weather. Without that toque it won’t take very long for the boys’ ears to become frostbitten will it? In the same way if we try to stand before God on our own merits we won’t last very long before God throws us out of his loving presence for daring to reject his Son’s work of salvation. Praise God for purifying our hearts through Jesus. Honour him by putting your trust in him for the forgiveness of sins.