Today’s Bible reading

Read Malachi 4

“See, I will send the prophet Elijah to you before that great and dreadful day of the Lord comes. He will turn the hearts of the parents to their children, and the hearts of the children to their parents; or else I will come and strike the land with total destruction.” – Malachi 4:5-6

More thoughts for meditation

Jesus’ Advent, his arrival, is dreadful to those who are comfortable with the way things are. The religious people of John’s day may have revered the prophet Malachi, but based on how John talks to them, they didn’t act from any real understanding of the prophet, so John and Jesus were dreadful to them, too.

“But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to where he was baptizing, he said to them: “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not think you can say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham.” (Matthew 3:7-9)

We need an intervention still. Jesus does not save us from the need to produce fruit in keeping with repentance. No, Jesus gives us the assured hope that our fruit production efforts are not in vain. Despite the setbacks, the obstacles, the failures, and the sheer amount of transformation we know the world needs, our hope is not in vain. 

The day of the Lord is dreadful to all those who have carved a kingdom of satisfaction in their own thinking. Those in power fear their loss of power. It is hard for them to fear anything else. The way the world works for those who made it work for them is not going to stand forever. The dominators are accountable for the mess they have made and now maintain. We, the children who have turned our hearts to our heavenly parent, are responsible for seeing the snakes for what they are and telling them who they are if God tells us to do so. We can do this because we are not ultimately constricted by their coiling power. Jesus gives us the strength to resist and the hope to restore. 

Malachi finds comfort in the dread he knows the dominators and self-protected religious people feel. That dread means they know they are in danger. Whenever self protecting power raises its head to strike, the rattle of snake-tailed sabers is actually the samba beat of God’s inevitable victory. From long ago God has seen the gripping scales for what they are, and he promised their total destruction.

Suggestions for action

Don’t stay too long in the us/them split here. Self protecting power drives a lot of your actions too. And some of the Pharisees who went out to see John in the desert ended up coming to Jesus (like Nicodemus in John 3). John’s exhortation is not just rhetorical, he wants people to respond, the vipers, too.

What good fruit are you producing? Don’t ask the question like you aren’t. John’s fire could just condemn you, but it was meant for your response, too. Identify your work and apply yourself to it. You can do it.

Pray: Lord, protect me from my self-protection. Give me a taste for the fruit we are producing together.

Bonus: Go back and read the posts on Malachi on Daily Prayer::Water for even more understanding.