Edited by Mimi Rothschild
Malachi iv. 5, 6. Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord: And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers,
lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.
These words are especially solemn words. They stand in an especially solemn and important part of theBible. They are the last words of the Old Testament. I imagine that it was God's will that they should stand where they are, and nowhere else.
Malachi, the prophet who wrote them, did not know perhaps that he was the last of the Old Testament prophets. He did not know that no prophet would arise among the Jews for
400 years, till the time when John the Baptist came preaching repentance. But God knew. And by God's ordinance these words stand at the end of the Old Testament, to make us understand the beginning of the New Testament. For the Old Testament ends by saying that God would send to the Jews Elijah the prophet. And the New Testament begins by telling us of John the Baptist's coming as a prophet, in the spirit and power of Elias; and how the Lord Jesus himself declared plainly that John the Baptist was Elijah who was to come; that is, the Elijah of whom Malachi prophesies in my text.
Therefore, we may be certain that this text tells us what John the Baptist's work was; that John the Baptist came to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the hearts of the children to the fathers; or the Lord should come and smite the land with a curse.
Some may be ready to answer to this, 'Of course John the Baptist came to warn parents of behaving wrongly to their children, if they were careless or cruel; and children to their parents, if they were disobedient or
ungrateful. Of course he would tell bad parents and children to repent, just as he came to tell all other kinds of sinners to repent. But that was only a part of John the Baptist's work. He came to be the forerunner of the Messiah, the Saviour, the Redeemer.
John the Baptist did come to proclaim that a
Saviour was born into the world—provided only that you remember all the while who that Saviour was. John the Baptist tells you who He was. If you will only remember that, and get the thought of it into your hearts, you will not be inclined to put any words of your own in place of the prophet Malachi's, or to think that you
can describe better than Malachi what John the Baptist's work was to be; and that turning the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the hearts of the children to the fathers, was only a small part of John the Baptist's
work, instead of being, as Malachi says it was, his principal work, his very work, the work which must be done, lest the Lord, instead of saving the land, should come and smite it with a curse.
Yes—you must remember who it was that John the Baptist came to bear record of, and to show to
the Jews the Messiah. The Angels on the first Christmas Eve told us—they said it was The Lord, 'Unto you,' they said, 'is born a Saviour, who is Christ, The Lord.' 'The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord!' The Lord. What Lord—Which Lord? John the Baptist knew.Simeon, Anna, Nathaniel, all righteous and faithful hearts who waited for the salvation of the Lord, knew. The Pharisees and Sadducees did not know.
May God grant that we may all know, not only with our lips, but with our hearts, our faith, our love, our lives, who The Lord is.
Jesus Christ, the babe of Bethlehem, is The Lord. But who is He? The Bible tells us; when we have heard what the Bible tells us we shall be able better to understand the text.
'And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.' And who is God's image and God's likeness? The New Testament tells us—Jesus Christ. In Him man was made. He is the Son of Man, who is in heaven—the true perfect pattern of man: but He is also the image and likeness of God, the brightness of His
Father's glory, and the express image of His person. He is The Lord. He is the Lord who instituted marriage, and said, 'It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help-meet for him.'
He is the Lord who said to man, 'Be fruitful and multiply: fill the earth and subdue it.'
He is the Lord who said to the first murderer, 'Thy brother's blood crieth against thee from the ground.'
He is the Lord who talked with Abraham face to face as a man talks with his friend; who blest him by giving him a son in his old age, that he might be the father of many nations. He is the Lord who, on Mount Sinai, gave those Ten Commandments, the foundation of all law and right order between man and God, between man and man:—'Thou shalt honour thy father and thy mother. Thou shalt do no murder. Thou shalt not commit adultery. Thou shalt not steal. Thou
shalt not bear false witness in courts of law or elsewhere. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's property.' This is The Lord.
Not a God far away from men; who does not feel for them, nor feel with them; not a God
who despises men, or has an ill-will to men, and must be won over to change his mind, and have mercy on them, by many supplications and tears, and fear and trembling, and superstitious ceremonies. But this is The Lord, this is the baby of Bethlehem, this the One whose way John the Baptist came to prepare—of whom it is written, that He possessed wisdom, the simple, practical human wisdom, useful for this everyday
earthly life of ours, which Solomon states in hthe Proverbs, in the beginning before His works of old; and that when He appointed the foundations of the earth, that Wisdom was by Him, as one brought up with Him, and she was daily His delight; rejoicing alway before Him; rejoicing in the habitable parts of the earth; and her delights were with the sons of men.
This series is edited from a public domain book titled Sermons for the Times by Charles Kingsley.
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