Text: Malachi 4:1-6
It was three Sundays ago, on the 2nd to Last Sunday of the Church Year, that we heard from St. Peter’s second epistle. He wrote to us, “[Know] this first of all, that scoffers will come in the last days…they will say, ‘Where is the promise of His coming?’” – referring to our Lord’s return. St. Peter continued, “Do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slow to fulfill His promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you.” (2 Peter 3:3-4, 8-9; English Standard Version) Peter went on to explain that, although the Day of the Lord seems to us a long time in coming, it will certainly come – like a thief in the night.
St. Peter touched on an experience that has been common among the people of God throughout time: the experience of waiting. The Lord is not man like we are, who live fast-paced and time-conscious lives. We are bound and subject to the passage of time; we experience reality through it. But the Lord is not so bound. And, even though He is not bound, yet He chooses to bless us through certain events that happen in time. In our text, the prophet Malachi spoke of a Sun of Righteousness with healing in His wings. Friends, Jesus is that sun and He has risen upon us, even as we await His full shining on the Last Day.
Like we said, the experience of waiting for the gracious activity of the Lord has been common to all His people throughout time. Scripture abounds with examples for us to learn from. Abraham, for example, waited 20 years from the time the Lord promised him a son until the time Isaac was born of Sarah. It was about 30 years between when David was first anointed by Samuel until he finally reigned as king in Jerusalem. Joshua and Caleb wandered in the wilderness with the children of Israel for 40 years. When Israel returned from captivity in Babylon after 70 years, it says that some men were there at the laying of the foundation of the new temple who had seen the original. Waiting is a common experience among God’s people.
The difficulty with waiting, though, is that you get tired of it. We will witness this among our children as Christmas nears. The prophet Malachi’s ministry was after the return from exile and, evidently, a decent distance from the temple being rebuilt and regular worship being reestablished. However, all was not good. The priests, in particular, had grown weary of waiting for the Lord, for the Messiah. In fact, they pretty much concluded there would be none. Instead of worshipping the Lord according to His instructions, they offered blemished and sick animals in sacrifice. They no longer made distinctions between true and false doctrine and were loose with the Word of the Lord. The people, in turn, behaved the same. Adultery and divorce, specifically, are called out among God’s people through Malachi. The laity robbed the Lord by refusing to give the whole tithe. Finally, this was the conclusion of God’s people: “It is vain to serve God. What is the profit of our keeping His charge?” (Mal. 3:13)
Last week we said that we are in the same position as God’s people of old. We always have this temptation to look back at God’s people then and pretend we’d be better. The fact is, we’re not. The same temptations the people had in Malachi and the sinful things they did, we have done and still do. Our commitment to the Lord’s teaching is not as strong as it should be. Our giving patterns show that we are not fully given to support the spread of the Gospel here and abroad. Our laxity as a whole when it comes to regular attendance at the Divine Service throughout the whole year is evidence, too, of our sinful hearts. Times change, we don’t; waiting for the Lord is hard.
“Behold, the day is coming, burning like an oven, when all the arrogant and all evildoers will be stubble. The day that is coming shall set them ablaze, says the Lord of hosts…But for you who fear My name, the sun of righteousness shall rise with healing in its wings.” (Mal. 4:1-2) The experience of waiting is common to all of God’s people, as is bearing the weight of sin and battling against the temptations of the devil, the world, and our own sinful flesh. The things that I mentioned just now are not things that we’re proud of. We know that our devotion to the Word fails, along with our zeal in giving and to attend worship together. And we know, from the Commandments, that these are sins by which we merit God’s present and eternal punishment. Let us not just know our sins, but repent of them also, that we might be comforted by the Sun of Righteousness.
This Sun promised by God, would be His own Son, Jesus Christ. The healing that He brings is the forgiveness He earned for us by His perfect keeping of the Law and by the giving of His life in trade for ours. The healing He gives is the free, full, and complete forgiveness of sins. No matter what sin you’ve committed, no matter how bad you think it is – Jesus died for it. That forgiveness, He gives to you freely through His Word, in Baptism, in the Absolution, and in the Holy Supper. When we hear His Word in faith and, by grace receive the Sacraments, we receive the complete forgiveness of our sins. By faith in His promise, we receive this great healing, and we go out leaping like calves from the stall when we realize that we are loosed from the bonds of sin and death. Christ is the Sun of Righteousness, and He has risen upon with the healing of forgiveness.
But if the Sun has risen on us, what are we waiting for? I don’t think I need to tell you we’re waiting for something. We are all here, after all; living the lives in which God has placed us. A while back we talked about the concept of “now, but not yet.” This week is another reminder of that. The Sun of Righteousness has risen upon us in the life, death, and continued presence of Christ in Word and Sacrament. We have not yet reached the day where all who have despised the Lord and His Word are reduced as to stubble and ash, when they are left neither root nor branch. Even though we have forgiveness and life now, we have not yet tread Satan underfoot. As we have heard in recent weeks, that day will come. And, until then, we wait.
How shall we wait? Not like the people of Malachi’s time. The Lord said, “Remember the law of My servant Moses.” (v. 4) By this, He encourages us to be wholly given to His Word. In the Word we find the balm to heal all our ills of flesh and soul. It it we are reminded of all that Christ did and suffered for our sake. In the Word we are reminded of those things which are good and right. In it we learn how best to serve God and our neighbor. By the Word, we receive the strength to wait with patience for the coming of the Lord. The Lord is not slow to fulfill His promise; He is patient with us. Even still, the day is coming when the sun will fully rise, and we who fear and love God’s name shall eternally leap like calves from the stall. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.