Two-year-old Ransom doesn’t do time. Whenever I say I’m coming to see him, he expects me to walk in the door that same minute. If his family is getting ready for a day at the park, nevermind grabbing the snacks or stroller: he wants to go now. Waiting doesn’t make sense to him.
It doesn’t make sense to me either. Who wants to wait?
As a child, it was hard to wait the long month of December for Christmas. As a pregnant mama, it was hard to wait 9 long months for a baby. John, who writes Revelation, is so jazzed by the time he gets to the end of it that he, too, cannot wait for what he’s written that’s going to take place, and he erupts with, “Let’s get this party started!”
OK, not exactly. I’ve paraphrased. What he literally says in response to Jesus, who says, “I’m coming soon!” is “Amen. Yes, come, Lord Jesus!” (emphasis added). In today’s vernacular, I’m hearing, “Bring it.”
But I’m getting ahead of myself. Malachi comes first, and his message is personal.
With the end of the year, we’re at the end of the Old Testament, and God is giving his people the 411, four hundred + years before it happens, (See “Who Was Malachi in the Bible? at gotquestions.org).
God tells the exiles, who have returned from Babylon and rebuilt the temple, that he’s coming to judge them for trading up their old wives for pagan hotties and withholding their money and grumbling against him, so he’ll be sending someone, a Messenger, to get them ready for him, Mal 3:1, 8-15.
Sometimes God’s idea of time is a little skewy, humanly speaking, and it gets confusing here, because it will be hundreds of years in the future, not next month, before the Messenger actually comes. So while God has words for them about how to return to him in Malachi’s day, he’s also talking to everyone since then who refuses to live God’s way, Mal 3:2-4, 6-7.
God says the Messenger’s job will be to inspire repentance and faith in everyone who hears him, particularly the priests, who were filthy. John the Baptist was this Messenger, and his preaching amounted to, “Clean up your act!” His point being, before Jesus comes, folks must repent to be ready for him, Mal 3:2-4; Mt, 3:1-6, 17:11-13.
What were the sins of Israel that God’s pointing out? Malachi’s list includes heavy hitters, like sorcerers and adulterers, but it mainly includes your everyday, sandlot-sort of sinners–liars, wage withholders, exploiters of those on the bottom of the ladder, blind-eye-turners to the guy with his hand out on the corner, Mal 3:5, MSG. These are more or less the sins of every culture, generation, and person.
God tells them it’s a good thing he doesn’t change—his mercy, for one thing—otherwise, Israel would’ve been wiped off the planet, since they have a habit of ignoring him, “I am God–yes, I AM. I haven’t changed. And because I haven’t changed, you, the descendants of Jacob, haven’t been destroyed,” Mal 3:6, MSG. Since “the descendants of Israel” includes all believers since Jesus, this applies to us, too.
It’s another good thing that forgiveness and grace mark God’s face and that saving us has never been because we deserve it. It’s been because God and his love for us never ends. Being saved has always depended on the relentless kindness of the Father, who does not change, and the Son, who came to claim us.
Malachi’s message has everyone’s name on it. Will we read it and respond? That’s all repentance is. It’s responding to the humbling truth that I haven’t done what God says. It’s responding to the confounding truth that I need a Savior. It’s saying to God, “I need a clean up on aisle me.” That was the message of Moses and Malachi, John the Baptist and Jesus, Mal 3:6-7, 4:4-5, Mk 1:14.
It’s impossible to please God, really. At the end of Malachi, God points out the commands he gave Moses, and he tells them to keep all of them. And my heart sinks. Have you read Leviticus? But then I remember that God himself said he would take care of our wanderings and weaknesses. Without him, we’re wrecked by our sin. But with him, we’re washed in his blood, given new hearts and his Holy Spirit, and set on the front seat next to Jesus while he drives the jeep. He even teaches us how to love him again if we’ve run off and left him, Ex 24:8; Ez 11:19, 36:26; Ho 2:14-23; Mal 4:4; Mk 1:8; Jo 20:22; 1 Jo 1:7; Re 7:14.
God does all that we need, while we simply open our hearts to receive him.
Maybe the history of Israel–and of all of us, really–simply shows us how badly we need Jesus and the lengths God will go to, to scrub us off and bring us home to him. It’s the happily-ever-after ending we all long for, to be loved this much, and it happens as soon as we “repent and believe,” Mk 1:14; Lk 15.
Now that we’re ready, Revelation comes next, and its message is glorious.
In this chapter, we’re at the end of the book of Revelation and the end of the New Testament and the end of the entire Bible, so I’m paying attention to what’s gotta be a bottom line sort of summing-up of everything God’s wanting to say to us–the “swing thought” if you will, our takeaway. It’s been a long year reading a lot of stories and commands and laments and praises and prophecies, and it’s overwhelming as I look back, to be honest.
But the word that keeps coming at me in Revelation 22 is come. Jesus says three times in this chapter, “I’m coming soon!” In verse 17, come is written four times in the open invitation to anyone who will listen, to anyone thirsty who wants what God’s offering–the living water that is life-giving. And John’s enthusiastic response to Jesus’ words of coming–“Yes! Come, Lord Jesus!”—can’t be missed. They’re downright effusive.
What’s with all the coming?
It’s this: God comes to us, and his reciprocal offer has always been, “Come to me.” This is the end of everything he’s been saying throughout the Bible: I want a relationship with you—choose me! Mt 11:28, Re 22:17.
God comes to Adam and Eve for a walk in the garden, even after they’ve eaten what he’d forbidden. He comes as an ark on floodwaters. He comes through visions, through dreams, through prophets and plagues, through mountains shaking and laws on tablets and burning bushes and a donkey talking.
God comes as a golden ark, on cherubim wings, as a temple with offerings. He comes as a big fish, as a budding staff, as a gushing rock, as a boy with a sling. He comes as a dry walk through the ocean, as a voice in the darkness, as quiet as a whisper, as the roar of rushing water.
God comes as fire from heaven, as a ram in a thicket, as a baby in a basket, as One walking on water. He comes as the 5,000 people-feeder, as the leper-healer, as the demon-caster, as the Holy Spirit-giver. He comes as the still, small voice inside achey hearts and as the Almighty who busts out of his tomb, through walls and into rooms, to meet up with believers and doubters. He’s God’s Word Made Flesh, God’s Word on the page, God’s Word in creation that’s declared in the heavens.
God has always come to us, come for us, even come inside us, down through the ages and throughout the centuries, up until this present minute. Coming for us is what he does in all the little and big moments of our days. Are we paying attention?
Jesus will one day come back for us, the sky be rolled back, the trumpets sound, and though his timing, like his Father’s, may feel skewy, he certainly means what he says, “I’m on my way! I’ll be there soon!” Said three times at the end of everything else in the Bible is no empty promise, Re 22:7, 12, 20. I’m guessing that the guy who willingly came the first time to die for us will not miss the chance to come back to live with us and to bring heaven to earth while he’s at it.
What do we do with our busy schedules, our closed wallets and fists, our willful ignorance of the suffering of others in our cities and in our own circles between now and then? Malachi, Moses, and John the Baptist have all said, “Repent!” Jesus does, too, as well as, “Come…I’ll take care of it,” Mt 11:28, paraphrased.
So we ask Jesus to come to us today and reorder us, sitting wherever we are on our couch or hard chair, to reorder our priorities, to reorder our loves. The burning and scrubbing in the furnace and in the washer are both painful and joyful and are well worth what they cost us.
God, make “Come, Lord Jesus!” the cry of all hearts on earth. Let every knee bowing when you return be true because of our regular repenting and growing faith in you. Let the good news of Jesus and the peace he brings be more real and precious than any person’s ability to refuse it.
While I read and believe that judgment is looming, I really want to believe that you and your love are just too darn irresistible for anyone to remain hardened. Keep shaking us ’til we rest our wobbly souls in you. Help us repent and believe. Thank you for delaying Jesus’ coming ‘til we do.
I cannot imagine a grander finish than this to your story of us or more glory for yourself than praise from the lips of every murderer, swindler, liar, deceiver, cheat, adulterer, sorcerer, idolater, thief, drunk or glutton, or anybody else who doesn’t honor you, which includes all of us, for that is what we all were, and now are not, thanks to you.
“‘Come!’ say the Spirit and the Bride.
Whoever hears, echo, ‘Come!’
Is anyone thirsty? Come!
All who will, come and drink,
Drink freely of the Water of Life!”
Revelation 22:17, MSG
Malachi 3-4 and Revelation 22 are selected for today in The One Year Bible.