4 “Then the offering of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to the LORD as in the days of old and as in former years. 5 “Then I will draw near to you for judgment; and I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers and against the adulterers and against those who swear falsely, and against those who oppress the wage earner in his wages, the widow and the orphan, and those who turn aside the alien and do not fear Me,” says the LORD of hosts. 6 “For I, the LORD, do not change; therefore you, O sons of Jacob, are not consumed. 7 “From the days of your fathers you have turned aside from My statutes and have not kept them. Return to Me, and I will return to you,” says the LORD of hosts. “But you say, ‘How shall we return?’
As God continues talking about the impending coming of Christ, He explains how Jesus will set things straight between man and God. He explains of the coming judgment, which usually is something we fear. But we see here in this explanation that it isn’t something we should necessarily be worried about, depending which side we are on. When Jesus redeems us, judgment is what we want! We have become too inclined to look at judgment from a negative perspective, but what about those of us who are covered by the blood of Christ? Daniel Harris, in his Advent devotional Wait, explains the biblical sense of judgment and why we should look forward to it:
When Christ returns, as the Apostles’ Creed states, “he will come to judge the living and the dead.” This is great news, because it means that the victory over sin that he won on the cross–– by taking the judgment against sin upon himself –– will be completed. Everything that destroys us will finally and fully be dealt with–– both the kinds of things that are outside of us which we lament in the news each day, and the ones that run right through our own hearts––everything will be made right when he comes as judge.
If we read the passage from Malachi again, we can picture God reaching out His arm and pulling us close while he swings His sword and wipes out all of those who have been coming against His children. This is why God tell His children (the sons of Jacob) that He never changes. He is reminding them that even though they have continually failed Him and turned their backs on Him, He still loves them and they are still His chosen people. This is why they will not be consumed. In Jeremiah 30 we find an often-repeated phrase from God to Israel throughout the Old Testament:
22 ‘You shall be My people, And I will be your God.’
Just because the people sway from time to time in keeping God as their God, He continues to remain firm in that they are His people. After Jesus, this extended to all those who believe in Him. Of course, referring back to what we discussed a couple days ago, this doesn’t give us license to sin. It is simply saying that God does everything for us, even though we continually fail Him in our end of the bargain. God’s grace and mercy, however, is revealed in verse 7. God exhorts His people to stop their evil ways and to turn back to Him so that they may be able to once again live in His presence and under the blessings He wants to pour out upon them. They have become so slack in their obedience to Him that they cannot even recognize what they have done wrong. Harris once again explains the beauty in this redemption and grace of God:
Of course part of that judgment will mean that those who refuse to allow God to be God will be granted their wish and finally be able to live free of him, with the kinds of consequences that we would expect whenever a proud child refuses the guidance of a knowledgeable and loving parent. As C.S. Lewis has described so masterfully in The Great Divorce, no one is dragged to heaven or hell kicking and screaming. Rather, God will simply allow us to have that which we have chosen.
We need to recognize two very important things about the character of God:
1) He never changes. He loves us and He wants us to live in communion with Him. Anything else different than this that we think or hear is a pure lie that contradicts who He is. Yes, He might get angry with us and we might have to live with the consequences of our actions in disobeying Him, but He still loves us. He is the Father we never had. He is stern and loving, always knowing what is best for us. His statutes aren’t there to control us (He could strike us dead at any moment, so thinking He is trying to manipulate us is just a silly concept). His statues are to keep us safe and help us live the life He designed us to live.
2) He will always give us what we need because of that love. He sent Jesus for us so we could live in freedom. He gave us what we needed to overcome the power of sinfulness in our lives so that we could be victorious just like He is victorious over it. This doesn’t just mean the victory over not sinning again, but the victory over our past sins that haunt us. This also means victory over the sins that others have committed against us. God judges our hearts so we can see these things that affect our daily lives and we can surrender them to Him to take care of it for us so we can live free from them.
When John the Baptist walked around declaring that the Kingdom of God has come, He was preparing the way for Jesus. He was helping the people recognize God walking with us and the redemption He was bringing. This is why John preached a baptism of repentance. This was God’s point in this passage of Malachi as well. He wanted us to prepare our hearts for the Lord’s coming because when Jesus arrived, it changed everything. We just have to recognize and accept it.