Malachi 4:1-6 Malachi prophesied in those years after the return of the Israelites from
Babylon. God keep his promise to bring them home. He was faithful. But in very short order their faithfulness to
the Lord who delivered them began to falter.
They became more interested in their own homes and businesses than rebuilding the house of the Lord. They didn’t bring their best offerings to the Lord and simply went through the motions in worship. They couldn’t understand why God wasn’t blessing them—why the evil seemed to be doing just as well as they were doing. And the Lord spoke through his messenger:
"Behold, the day is coming, burning like an oven, when all the arrogant and all evildoers will be stubble.
God had not forgotten about justice—he had not abandoned his expectations for how people should live their lives—evil would not win out in the end-- for the day of fiery judgment was coming.
Very few things are as clearly taught in the Bible as eternal punishment by fire. Human beings are terrified of being burned in a fire—the pain is unbelievable. To think of eternal torment in the fires of hell is horrible. It’s meant to be.
Hell was prepared for the devil and his angels and not for men. There is absolutely no reason for any person to go to hell. But that punishment will most certainly await the arrogant and the evildoers. Malachi says they are ripe for judgment like stubble that quickly catches on fire.
It is important to note that besides evildoers, the arrogant will also go into the fires of hell. We would expect the evil to be cast into the fire. All of us can picture Hitler and Stalin receiving the just punishment of their evil deeds. But the arrogant?
That hits a little close to home. The Lord had a warning for the people of Malachi’s day who thought that their homes were more important than the Lord’s house—who thought that the Lord ought to be satisfied with their worship when their hearts weren’t in it—who questioned the ways of the Lord—the message was: you too will go into the fires of hell with all of those who do evil. Malachi said:
The day that is coming shall set them ablaze, says the LORD of hosts, so that it will leave them neither root nor branch.
It is important to note whose words of judgment these are. Malachi is the one who is speaking them—but they are the Word of the Lord—the Lord of hosts. This title means the Lord of heavenly armies—the Lord who cannot be conquered—the Lord of power and might who will utterly destroy his enemies.
We will listen to this warning or not-- but there should be no confusion on anyone’s part who it is that is speaking these words to us tonight.
The judgment and punishment for the evil and arrogant will mean the destruction of everything they hoped for—destruction so complete and final that they cannot rise again. Evil was not a part of God’s good creation in the beginning-- and it will not be part of his new creation at the end.
The evil and the arrogant and all of those who stand against God’s ways will be separated from the Lord and his people by a fiery chasm that no one can ever cross for all eternity—a place of torment and weeping and gnashing of teeth.
Because of the certainty of that day, because of the eternal consequences of that day, there is one thing that we need to know and that is: how to avoid the punishment to come. The LORD said:
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.
When we recite the Ten Commandments we begin with: You shall have no other gods before me. But these are not the first words that Moses heard on Horeb. God gave the law to Moses beginning this way: I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of
, out of the house of slavery. I am the LORD. Egypt
Before Moses went to
he asked God his name and God answered:
I AM. The God who was and is and
always will be. Yahweh. Jehovah.
The LORD. God’s name is not just
some title—it is who he is in his very essence.
I take time to explain this because it is only those who fear the Lord’s name who will greet the day of judgment with gladness—it is only those who know God as their Savior who will experience healing rather than punishment on that day—it is only those who fear him who will know that day as glorious light rather than deepest darkness.
It was the great I AM who delivered the Israelites and set them free from Egypt and it was the great I AM in the person of Jesus of Nazareth who delivered the world and set us free by his death and resurrection.
During his earthly ministry Jesus wanted to make sure that everyone knew who he was. He said: I AM the bread of life. I AM the light of the world. I AM the living water. Before Abraham was—I AM.
Those who believe in him and trust him and receive him in faith as their Savior and stand in awe of the holy name of Jesus: The LORD saves—have nothing to fear on the day of judgment. There will be healing and restoration and new life for us on that day—a day of eternal vitality and gladness where death will be destroyed and all that is broken, healed.
Malachi says that on that day when the evil and arrogant are cast into eternal fire, we who fear the name of the Lord will be like calves let loose from the stall—no longer constrained by the hardships of this life that pen us in—no longer confined by the darkness of this dying world--but free to live in the brilliant sun of an everlasting day.
That day will not only be vindication for the Lord but victory for us. Malachi said that all who fear the name of the Lord:
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.
Throughout the world today there are people in positions of power and influence who misuse and abuse God’s people. Christians are imprisoned and killed for their faith—pastors’ lives are made miserable for speaking the truth—decent, hardworking folks are defrauded and robbed. None of this escapes the eyes of the Lord.
And while the child of God is called upon to follow in way of the cross in this world, not avenging ourselves of the wrong done to us—there is a day of vengeance to come when we will see all of those who have used wealth and power and influence to misuse and mistreat us-- not only kneel before the Lord as he pronounces eternal fiery punishment—but we will see them as ashes under our own feet.
These words of warning must lead us to ask ourselves: Do I truly fear the name of the LORD or am I deceiving myself and others? Will I stand victorious on that day or will I be ashes under the feet of the righteous? The only way to know the truth about whether or not our faith is real is to ask ourselves how we are living our life. Is our faith shown in what we say and do and how we treat others? The LORD said:
“Remember the law of my servant Moses, the statutes and rules that I commanded him at Horeb for all
As we have already mentioned, when God gave the Ten Commandments at Mt. Horeb he began by reminding his people of his redeeming work—that it was because he had saved them that he was calling them to live a holy life, guided and informed and shaped by the statutes and rules he was giving them.
These words that call us to remember the Ten Commandments were words that the people of Malachi’s day needed to hear-- and we do too. We can fake fear of the Lord by sitting in pews and putting money in the plate—Malachi’s people did it-- and people still do today. We can deceive others and ourselves-- but we cannot deceive God.
God sees and knows the truth. Do we truly love him by worshiping him and honoring his name and putting him first-- or is our faith just pious sounding words? Do we love our neighbor by caring for their physical needs and making sure they have the necessities of life and speaking well of them to others-- or is our love empty words?
We have been delivered and set free from sin by Jesus Christ and are called to holiness of life—our thoughts, words, and deeds guided by the Ten Commandments so that our life with God is marked by an active, living faith-- rather than by empty words which will not stand on the fiery day of his return. The LORD said:
"Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome day of the LORD comes. 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."
Before God sent the flood that destroyed the world—he raised up Noah to warn the world of judgment and deliverance. Before God destroyed
he sent Jonah to warn them of God’s judgment and call them to repentance. And before God destroys the world on the last
day he has sent John the Baptist to call people to repentance and faith—warning
that the ax of God’s judgment was already laid at the root of the tree.
The message of God through these men was exactly the same: repent and look in faith to the LORD for deliverance and salvation. It is the same message you are hearing tonight.
Each of us has an opportunity right now—a moment full of God’s grace—in which to listen to the voice of God through his chosen spokesmen, repent of our sins, and trust in the one they all pointed to as the Sun of Righteousness: Jesus Christ. Amen.