– CliffsNotes. CliffsNotes was started by a Nebraska native named Clifton Hillegass in 1958. He was working at Nebraska Book Company of Lincoln, Nebraska. Hillegass and his wife started the business in their basement with sixteen William Shakespeare titles. CliffsNotes now exist as a multi-million dollar industry with hundreds of works that provide both plot summaries and concise commentaries on literary classics. They have spared procrastinating students and saved thousands of hours from long pages of reading. However, some college university campus bookstores have banned the sale of CliffsNotes, describing them as an inappropriate crutch for learning and education. In each of the slender pamphlets, Mr. Hillegass included a note to readers with his signature at the bottom, ”A thorough appreciation of literature allows no shortcuts.” Personally, I may or may not have been one of those procrastinating students in past academic study. And I am not necessarily endorsing or promoting the use of such materials…
OR you may have had a long, drawn-out, extended conversation with someone that took way longer than it needed. And, then when you get to the end there’s a simple statement that sums up and clarifies the entire conversation, and you think, “Why didn’t you just say that?!?”
THIS idea is reflective of the most of the OT Prophets. If you read one of the prophetic books, you can catch an understanding of the entire OT. In some sense, the Prophets can be like CliffsNotes for the OT. If you read one of the prophets, you can catch the ideas, themes, and purpose of all the OT books. Yet, I’m not recommending ONLY reading 1 prophet… just like those CliffsNotes.
Today we start a 2 week series “Sons & Daughters” from two minor prophet books: Malachi and Joel.
– Sons & Daughters Unite (Malachi 4:4-6)
– Sons & Daughters Dreaming (Joel 2:28-31)
– 2014 series on Malachi at SPBC
– Ma-la-chi: was he an Italian prophet? J
– Malachi’s name means “God’s Messenger”… Paxton baby Nathan Malachi… I have to be careful which books I preach!
– Prophets were messengers of God but they had a profound burden to speak God’s words.
o That’s what the opening word “oracle” is – a burden, or weight. God’s word is a holy burden – a weighty responsibility to share the truth with others.
o In 4 chapters, approximately 50x, Malachi refers God’s words – “Thus says the Lord”.
o Following Malachi, there would be 400 years of silence from God until the birth of Christ.
– Malachi was Israel’s last prophet who served around 430BC.
o Malachi was a contemporary of Ezra – Nehemiah, which means the time followed Israel’s exile and return from Babylonian captivity. Israel was back in and around Jerusalem but they still faced a prolonged period of social, economic, and physical hardship under Persian, Greek and Roman governments.
o So the last book of the OT, with the last propthet & book, the last chapter, the last verses is what we consider today
“Remember the law of my servant Moses, the statutes and rules that I commanded him at Horeb for all Israel. Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome day of the Lord comes. And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers” (Malachi 4:4-6)
Sons & daughters must trust God’s law.
God, through Malachi, calls Israel to remember the law of Moses. The law/statutes/ordinances is often a summary term for the 10 Commandments and more, the Pentateuch (first 5 Bible books) as a whole. Likewise, the name Horeb is an alternate name for Sinai.
Further, the act of remembering was a frequent (over 100x) command throughout the OT. And the biblical command “to remember” meant far more than to think about a past event; it always involved action – recall & respond.
In essence, Malachi called the people to trust God’s law. Remember and believe God’s word and ways are wise and for our good.
Our biggest challenge as humans is that 1) We doubt God’s competence. We won’t say that, but that is how we live. We think we know better than God, so we live and make decisions based on our own (limited) experience rather than God’s expertise.
2) We doubt God’s care. We think God doesn’t fully care for us because either a) we feel guilt/shame of our past, of b) we simply don’t trust God based on how our life experiences and circumstances have shaped our faith.
So, how do we overcome our doubts of God’s competence or care?
◊ We must remember – recall God’s past actions and respond with present faith. Remembering involves both positive and negative. We are to remember God’s greatness and grace. God was powerful to rescue Israel and defeat its enemies. Likewise, we must remember our shortfall and sin.
o Ex 13:3 Moses to Israel, “Remember this day in which you came out from Egypt, out of the house of slavery, for by a strong hand the LORD brought you out from this place.”
o Dt 5:15 “remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the LORD your God brought you out from there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore, the LORD your God commanded you to keep the Sabbath day.”
o Dt 8:2 “And you shall remember the whole way that the LORD your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, that he might humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep his commandments or not.”
o Dt 9:7 “Remember and do not forget how you provoked the LORD your God to wrath in the wilderness. From the day you came out of the land of Egypt until you came to this place, you have been rebellious against the LORD.”
o 1Chr 16:12, 15 “Remember the wondrous works that he has done, his miracles and the judgments he uttered… Remember his covenant forever, the word that he commanded, for a thousand generations.”
o Psalm 78:42 “They did not remember his power or the day when he redeemed them from the foe”
Ø Older Gen: The “good ol days” may bring nostalgia but in reality the past has just as much nauseous social ills as the present. Therefore, remembering God’s law must include more than recall but response of obedience toward God. I’d like to encourage our older generation to stay engaged not just personally walking with the Lord but publicly by helping others walk with the Lord. Share your mistakes and your wisdom. Serve faithfully to continue setting the example that others can follow.
o Malachi 3:15 God seeks godly generations
o Psalm 145:4 “One generation shall commend your works to another”
Ø Young Gen: While tunnel vision can be good with passion and single-minded focus, it can also hinder you from not allowing the influence and help of others. Therefore, remembering God’s law must include to be humble for accountability and hungry for the right things. Many of our young couples and youth are to be commended for their passion but not their priorities; we have to be passionate about the right priorities. Satan wants our families tired, tense, and worn thin. He wants our plates full but our hearts empty of contentment in Christ. He wants families fighting over the ways we spend our time, talent, and treasure. He wants us to doubt God, be in debt from worldly greed, and discouraged from life. He wants our compassion and love to be “self-focused, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, [having] disobedient children, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness but denying its power” (2Tim 3:2-5). Mal 1:13; 3:14 Religious offerings out of obligation not devotion.
o A contemporary of Malachi – Nehemiah Neh 4:14 Nehemiah to Israel “Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your brothers, your sons, your daughters, your wives, and your homes.”
à We fight for family by trusting God’s law.
Sons & daughters must turn to God’s redemption.
Malachi not only looks backward to God’s law, but looks forward to God’s plan of redemption. Israel was always unfaithful and falling short. God promises to send “Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome day of the Lord.” The Day of the Lord is a phrase used to describe end times of Jesus’s 2nd Coming. Malachi says it will be “a great and awesome day,” or literally “great and dreadful/fearful.”
God, through Malachi, isn’t promising to resurrect the prophet Elijah but one like him. The NT opens with this occurring through the ministry of John the Baptizer (Luke 1:16-17). Elijah was a unique prophet who boldly challenged the cultures gods and his contemporary fellow believers. He resurrects a dead widow’s son (1Kings 17:21-23); He confronts an evil king and called down fire from heaven to judge and kill those who worshiped false gods (1Kings 18:36-40); he prayed for rain after an extended famine (1Kings 18:41-46); he escapes death by going to heaven on a chariot of fire (2Kings 2:11). Thankfully, God has sent and continues to send Elijah like people who confront us with God’s truth.
In Malachi, before a 400 year period of silence, God’s parting words to Israel was to trust God by remembering His laws and to turn to God’s redemption plan. Elijah has come pronouncing judgment upon all who fail to repent and enter the kingdom of heaven (Luke 3:3-18). And apart from God’s promise, not only will redemption be absent but so will reconciliation of families.
I find it interesting that the last words of the OT relate to reconciliation in the family and a curse upon the land. Indeed, our nation is cursed because of absent and abusive fathers. While a mother’s role and work in the family are monumental, it is father’s who are generally not fulfilling their God-given role.
A Father’s Impact
63% of youth suicides are from fatherless homes
90% of all homeless and runaway children are from fatherless homes
80% of rapists motivated with displaced angers come from fatherless homes
71% of all high school dropouts come from fatherless homes
85% of youth in prisons grew up in fatherless homes
75% of all adolescent patients in drug treatment centers come from fatherless homes
Children from fatherless homes are 5 times more likely to commit suicide
Children from fatherless homes are 32 times more likely to run away
Children from fatherless homes are 20 times more likely to have behavioral disorders
Children from fatherless homes are 14 times more likely to commit rape
Children from fatherless homes are 9 times more likely to drop out of school
Children from fatherless homes are 10 times more likely to abuse chemical substances
Children from fatherless homes are 20 times more likely to end up in prison
The family is the foundation for nations and society. As goes the family so goes the church, and as goes the church so goes our communities, and as goes our communities so goes our nations and our world. A fractured family impacts the world. Therefore, it’s vital that we engage and equip families with the gospel and God’s word.
◊ Fathers need turned hearts.
o Turn from laziness to love through cherishing your wife (cf. Mal 2:13-15; 1Pet 3:7).
o Turn from distraction to devotion through the priority of your time. Know your children so that discipline becomes sustaining instruction and not just short-lived intimidation.
o Turn from independence to intentionality with your faith. Yes, you can have hobbies and trust your wife to nurture faith in the children, but men if you fail to lead intentionally in this area your children will follow your example, not your wife’s. “Do as I say not as I do” never works.
◊ Children need turned hearts.
o Turn from isolation to integration. – Facing challenges and conflict teaches problem-solving. – Interacting with multigenerations and multiethinic and even multifaith creates healthy children. We must stop sheltering our children and learn how to shape them in the faith and then send them into the world as salt and light. – Integrating and not compartmentalizing faith… moving beyond fashionate to passionate & beyond slack-tivists to activists. Causes are more than just a trend
o Turn from victims to vision.
– Learning how to view circumstances
– Being a driver understands your role becomes about the destination and not just the journey. Passengers can claim they are victims, but drivers must own the responsibility
o Turn from cyber-world to community through valuing people over screens. – We can all enjoy technology, but tv, phones, gaming all provide a fantasy land that ill-prepares and actually de-equips you for real life. When technology bores or bothers us, we can “delete it, stop it, block it, or log off. This is nothing like the real world…”
v Come to the Father… longing for your return.
o We emphasize Jesus the Son for love, forgiveness, grace, but the Son brings us to the Father for reconciliation and lordship!
o We emphasize the Spirit for freedom, passion, feeling, but the Spirit exalts the Father for holiness and mission.
 See E. Ray Clenden, Malachi. The New American Commentary, p.242.
 Baldwin, J. G. (1972). Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi: An Introduction and Commentary (Vol. 28, pp. 276–277). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press. Specifically, see Lev. 26:46; Deut. 4:1, 5, etc.; Ezra 7:10, 11; Neh. 1:7; Ps. 147:19
 Ibid. cf. Exodus 3:1; 17:6; 33:6, and Sinai occurs in Deuteronomy 33:2
 Ralph L. Smith, Word Biblical Commentary: Malachi 4:4
 (cf. Isaiah 13:9-10; Joel 2:31; Matthew 24:29-31; 1Thessalonians 5:2; 2Thessalonians 2:2; 2Peter 3:10).
 Source: It’s Better to Build Boys than Mend Men. S. Truett Cathy.
 Tim Elmore, Artificial Maturity, p.35.
 Tim Elmore, Artificial Maturity, p.20.