Behold, I Send My Messenger
Topic: Biblical Verse: Malachi 3:1–3:7b
The Second Sunday in Advent
December 5, 2021
“Behold, I Send My Messenger”
We live at a time when there are lots of choices about how to get a message to someone. It could be email, text message, phone or voicemail, social media private messaging, or even the rare handwritten message! In certain situations, an in-person message is the best way to go, though it may not be the easy way to go. It’s always a little daunting to serve as a messenger, especially if the message that you’re bringing is not good news. When that is the case, we understand in a whole new way what that old phrase means: “Don’t kill the messenger.” That phrase goes back to the days when couriers and messengers hand-carried important news, good and bad. It was known to happen that if the message was particularly bad, the messenger was actually killed simply because he was the one who delivered the unwelcome news. Today on this Second Sunday in Advent, we encounter two messengers: one who was inspired by the Holy Spirit to write the book that bears his name, part of which is today’s Old Testament lesson (Malachi 3:1-7b), and the second who fulfilled that prophecy as we hear about this in the Gospel lesson (Luke 3:1-20). Our Advent preaching series continues today under the theme, “Behold, I Send My Messenger.” May the Lord’s rich and abundant blessing rest upon the preaching, the hearing, and the living of his Word for Jesus’ sake.
Malachi – his very name in Hebrew means, “my messenger.” In this final book of the Old Testament, written some 500 years before the time of Jesus, we hear the promise of that forerunner who would prepare the way of the Lord. The promise given by God through Malachi is actually a double promise as this is not just for one, but two, messengers. Promise #1 is found in that opening verse from the Old Testament lesson: “Behold, I send my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me” (Malachi 3:1a). Promise #2 is what comes after: “And the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple; and the messenger of the covenant in whom you delight, behold, he is coming, says the Lord of hosts” (Malachi 3:1b). Promise #1 was fulfilled in the person of John the Baptist, called by God to do as Isaiah the prophet had foretold: “Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight” (see Isaiah 40:3-5). Promise #2 was fulfilled in the Person to whom John pointed; as he said, that One “whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire” (Luke 3:16).
As messengers sent by God, both Malachi and John the Baptist point us to the One who is not just the final Messenger, not just the fulfillment of God’s promises, but is the Message itself; the embodiment of Good News. They point us to Jesus. As the sinless Lamb of God (John 1:29; Revelation 5:6-14, 14:1-5, 19:6-10, 21: 22-27; 22:1-5), Jesus has sealed God’s covenant with us not with the blood of sacrificial animals, but with his own holy and precious blood shed on the cross when he gave his life as payment for our sins (see Hebrews 9:11-10:18; 1 Peter 1:18-19). Because of this, Jesus is more than able to remove the impurities from our lives, removing “every weight and sin which clings so closely” (Hebrews 12:1), purifying and refining us for God’s gracious purposes. And so that question asked in today’s Old Testament lesson, “But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears?” (Malachi 3:2a), points us to faith and trust in Jesus and all that he has done for us. It is only faith and trust in Jesus that will enable us to stand before him without fear or shame at his final coming. As Malachi describes the saving and purifying work of salvation which Jesus has done for us: “For he is like a refiner's fire and like fullers' soap. 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, and they will bring offerings in righteousness to the Lord” (Malachi 3:2b-3). Those offerings in righteousness that we present to the Lord are the fruits of faith in Jesus: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). Through these fruits of faith, others see Jesus in us, and so our lives point others to him. Even more, through faith in Jesus our bodies, our selves, our very lives, become a living sacrifice to the Lord (see Romans 12:1). And so through our Baptism into Christ’s death and resurrection, we are all called to be his witnesses, his messengers, in our generation as we wait and watch for his coming again. Until that day, we have an amazing and wonderful message to bring to the world. This is a call for all of us to recognize those “messenger moments” that come up in each of our lives, that the Lord places before us, especially in these days leading up to Christmas. How would the Lord use us as his messengers in this busy season?
Not too long ago, a member shared with me that he is on a couple of Facebook groups centered around the local history of Springfield, Virginia. One of the groups is called “Friends of the Springfield Independent.” The Independent was the local newspaper founded back in the 1950s, and in one of the old newspapers was a section called “Where We Worship” with information from local churches. From the April 10, 1957 edition of this newspaper was an advertisement about our own congregation, while services were still being held in nearby Franconia Elementary School. Note especially what appears at the bottom of the ad: “A Changeless Christ in a Changing World.” This came from The Lutheran Hour, the radio and TV broadcast ministry at that time. This reminds of the truth which God’s messenger of old, Malachi, conveyed to the people of his day: “For I the Lord do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, are not consumed” (Malachi 3:6). Because of the Lord’s great mercy and patience, because the Lord is true to his Word, because the Lord “is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love” (Exodus 34:6; Nehemiah 9:17, 31; Psalm 86:15; Joel 2:13) we are not consumed. Thanks be to God that in the midst of our constant changeableness and instability in faith, we have a changeless Christ in a changing world.
That is a message worth sharing. My fellow Advent messengers, let that message go forth not only from our lips, but from our very lives. “Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!” (Revelation 22:20b). Amen.