"Lo, I am sending my messenger to prepare the way before me"

 An Advent meditation by Jeanne Kun

Scripture:  Malachi 3:1-5; 4:1-6

1 "Behold, I send my messenger to prepare the way before me, and the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple; the messenger of  the covenant in whom you delight, behold, he is coming, says the LORD  of hosts. 2 But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears? "For he is like a refiner's fire and like fullers' soap; 3 he will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, till they present right offerings to the LORD. 4 Then the offering of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to the LORD as in the days of old and as in former years. 5 "Then I will draw near to you for judgment; I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers, against the adulterers, against those who swear falsely, against those who oppress the hireling in his wages, the widow  and the orphan, against those who thrust aside the sojourner, and do not fear me, says the LORD of hosts. [4] 1 "For behold, the day comes, burning like an oven, when all the arrogant and all evildoers will be stubble; the day that comes shall burn them up, says the LORD of hosts, so that it will leave them neither root nor branch. 2 But for you who fear my name the sun of righteousness shall rise, with healing in its wings. You shall go forth leaping like calves from the  stall. 3 And you 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.  4 "Remember the law of my servant Moses, the statutes and ordinances that I commanded him at Horeb for all Israel. 5 "Behold, I will send you Eli'jah the prophet before the great and terrible day of the LORD comes. 6 And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the land with a  curse."
Meditation: Malachi prophesied in the days after the exile and the rebuilding of the temple, but before the sadly needed reforms initiated by Ezra and Nehemiah.  Much of Malachi's message was against the corrupt practices of the priests, and against the divorce, oppression of the weak, and general ungodliness carried on by the people (see Mal. 1-2). He summoned the nation to repentance and urged the people to purify their worship, pay their tithes in full, and obey God's law, promising that God's blessing would then once more be on them.

Malachi proclaimed that a day of judgment was to come, bringing purification by burning away sin as in a refiner's fire (verses 2-3).  But before this "day of the Lord" (which was commonly associated with the coming of the Messiah), God would send a messenger to prepare the way (verse 1).  Verse 23 identifies this messenger with Elijah, whose departure to heaven in a chariot of fire (2 Kings 2:11) generated much speculation about his return in Jewish literature and tradition.  The synoptic gospels saw the fulfillment of this verse in the person of John the Baptist, whose role was to preach repentance and conversion of heart.  Jesus himself described John as the messenger foretold in Malachi 3:1 (Matt. 11:10; see also Matt. 17:12-13) saying of him, "If you are prepared to accept it, he is Elijah, the one who was certain to come" (Matt. 11:14).

  For reflection:  Ask the Holy Spirit to show you what areas in your life need to be purified.  Ask for God's grace and help to repent of your sins.

  Prayer starter:  Come, Holy Spirit, with the refining fire of your love.  Purify my heart and cleanse me of my sins.

This meditation originally appeared in God's Word Today,
Volume (13), Number (12), December 1991, published by The University of St. Thomas, St. Paul, MN.

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