Read Malachi 4.1-3
The promise of healing wings is real and yet it is contained within the context of a word about the coming day of the Lord, which is described as both great and terrible. The day is coming, says Malachi. The day of the Lord is coming and this means good news and bad news.
First, the bad news…for those who are arrogant, for evil doers who have taken root, who have become smug and unconcerned about the faith and the faithful. To these, says Malachi, the day of the Lord will come burning like an oven, leaving neither root nor branch, leaving only stubble-ashes. This frightening image is intended to shake up those who take for granted, who lose sight of God’s demands for justice and peace.
Malachi provides a word of warning, not to frighten us to believe, but to clearly present the dangers of taking faith for granted, of not loving and serving God. Some people respond better to the fear of punishment. If you know that if you show up late for work, your pay is docked and your supervisor lays into you, you are motivated to be at work on time. If you know that when you don’t show up for church, a member will visit or call and ask where you’ve been, you’re more likely to be in church on Sunday. Likewise, if you know the day of the Lord will come burning like an oven for those who are arrogant and do evil, you’re more likely to humbly serve God in your daily lives.
But if it is only fear that motivates us, we are not likely to serve willingly, much less joyfully. Thank God Malachi provides a hopeful image to move towards. The sun of righteousness shall rise, writes Malachi, and for those who revere the name of the Lord, it will come bringing healing in its wing. The joy that believers will experience will be like the joy of a calf leaping from its stall. We will burst from the confining walls of this world, and leap into the joy of God’s kingdom, everlasting wings.
This is the good news. Those who have revered God’s name, those who have served faithfully, who have taken the faith seriously and have lived the faith in the daily lives will burst out on the day of the Lord like a calf leaping from its stall. The sun of God’s righteousness will come with healing in its wings and restore the weak, the strength, the relationships, the power of those who have believed and trusted in the promises of God. This is the good news.
So, there is good news and bad news. The good news can give us hope; the bad news can motivate us to change.
The book of Malachi ends with two practical suggestions for persons who face desperate situations, whether that be impending surgery, the loss of a job or economic security, or just trying to make sense of an ever-changing world. The advice is both very simple and often overlooked.
First, remember the teachings of Moses-the sacred Scriptures. We would expand this to say-read the Bible, study it daily and look for ways that God is speaking to your situation. As we regularly study the bible, it becomes a part of our lives, guides our decision making, shapes our lives in faith even when we’re not aware of it. Regular, long-term Bible study allows God’s word and our lives to meet in ways that bring hope out of desperate situations.
The second word of advice is to listen for the prophetic voice among you. Malachi writes that before the day of the Lord comes. God will send the prophet Elijah to turn the hearts of parents to their children and the hearts of children to their parents. God will restore the people and build up the land.
It is sad, but true, that often when we are faced with desperate situations or decisions we can become isolated, closed off from family and friends who could help us the most. You may know people who have suffered from the loss of a job, their health, well being, their energy or hope, and instead of drawing on the love and support of others, they become bitter and closed off. Perhaps the most tragic thing is when people of faith, who once found church to be so life-giving, when faced with desperate times, can choose to stay away and remain off to themselves, fearing judgment from others, embarrassed about their situations, not wanting to ask for help.
What we know from God’s word and from the example of Jesus Christ is that all of us have wounds, all of us face desperate times, all of us need God’s healing touch. As we come together in faith, listen to each other and search God’s word, we can discover the hope-the sun of righteousness rising with healing in its wing – and the joy, leaping out like calves from the stall. This is the good news that far outweighs any bad news the world can bring us.