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THE SUN OF RIGHTEOUSNESS WILL RISE

Malachi 3:13-4:6
Key Verse: 4:2

In chapter 3 God promised to send his messenger who would prepare the way before him and to send the Lord, the messenger of the covenant, the desired of all nations. The messenger of the covenant would purify his people and refine them, but judge all unrepentant sinners. In today’s passage the day of his coming is more closely and repeatedly expressed. The day will be the day all evildoers being set on fire and the day the sun of righteousness rising for those who revere God. Let’s think about the deeper meaning of the Messiah’s coming based on this last chapter of Malachi.

First, God’s distinction (3:13-18). In verse 12 God’s promise to the Israelites was wonderful: “‘Then all the nations will call you blessed, for yours will be a delightful land,’ says the LORD Almighty.” However, this precious promise of God had no place in their hearts. In the previous passage they had wearied the LORD with their words. Now they spoke harsh things against the LORD. In verse 14. “You have said, ‘It is futile to serve God. What did we gain by carrying out his requirements and going about like mourners before the LORD Almighty? …’” They spoke against the Lord with the words of unbelief and pride. They said that serving the Lord and obeying him did not give any benefit to them. They measured serving the LORD according to their pragmatic idea. They became cynical, calling the arrogant blessed and saying, “Certainly the evildoers prosper, and even those who challenge God escape.” Again, these people did not know how to bear hardships. They did not know God’s disciplining love. They were disappointed and tired in life, not knowing God’s leading and purpose upon them. They were short-sighted and spiritually blind.

Actually what we speak is very important. The Israelites in the desert, after hearing the bad report about the promised land from the unbelieving reporters, grumbled against Moses and Aaron, “If only we had died in Egypt! Or in this desert! Why is the LORD bringing us to this land only to let us fall by the sword?...Wouldn’t it be better for us to go back to Egypt?” Then God said to Moses and Aaron: “How long will this wicked community grumble against me? I have heard the complaints of these grumbling Israelites. So tell them, ‘As surely as I live, I will do to you the very things I heard you say: In this desert your bodies will fall...’” (Num 14:2-4, 26-27). Indeed they were all dead in the desert. The ears of the LORD are sensitive, more sensitive than any human ears. He counts all the words we speak. We should really be careful of what we speak. We should speak in the awareness of God.

Yet, there are a different kind of people. Look at verse 16. “Then those who feared the LORD talked with each other, and the LORD listened and heard.” There were God-fearing people and they were friends to one another in that ungodly time. A Psalmist said in 119:63, “I am a friend to all who fear you, to all who follow your precepts.” What a confession! What a friendship! Their talking topic was different from the others. Probably they talked about how God worked in each one’s life testifying to the grace of God, i.e. how God had helped them to overcome difficulties in life, when they kept their faith in him patiently with the reverence of him.

With his sensitive ears God also listened and heard what they had talked about. Then verse 16b says, “A scroll of remembrance was written in his presence concerning those who feared the LORD and honoured his name.” “A scroll of remembrance” is an interesting expression. In this world there are so many books, including history books, books written correctly and books written deceptively. This scroll of remembrance could be a sort of God’s history book, and it was absolutely correct without any falsity for it was written in his presence. Since this scroll of remembrance was written concerning those who feared the LORD and honoured his name, this scroll probably is related to the book of life. Psalm 69:28 says, “May they be blotted out of the book of life and not be listed with the righteous.” Daniel 12:1 says, “…There will be a time of distress such as has not happened from the beginning of nations until then. But at that time your people—everyone whose name is found written in the book—will be delivered.” And Revelation 20:15 says, “If anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.” In this world there is so much lying and deception and falsity, but we believe that God’s ears and record are perfectly correct. So those who fear God and honour his name are truly blessed in the end.

And in verses 17, “‘They will be mine,’ says the LORD Almighty, ‘in the day when I make up my treasured possession. I will spare them, just as in compassion a man spares his son who serves him.” Those who fear God are so precious that they are his, his treasured possession. And he is making up his treasured possession. No one can sweep them away, for he spares them in compassion as his sons and daughters. Psalm 103: 13 says, “As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him” And in verse 18, “And you will again see the distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between those who serve God and those who do not.’” We need to understand God’s universal love and his distinctive love as well. Jesus said in Matthew 5:45, “…He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous” and in Luke 6:35, “…he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked.” Because of his universal love it is easy to ignore him and abuse his love. As we have considered, his ears are sensitive and distinctive. So is his love. His love is distinctive. When the king of Egypt Pharaoh hardened his heart, God made a distinction between Goshen where the Israelites and all the other land in Egypt. Exodus 9:25, 26 says, “Throughout Egypt hail struck everything in the fields—both men and animals; it beat down everything growing in the fields and stripped every tree. The only place it did not hail was the land of Goshen, where the Israelites were,” and 10:22, 23, “Moses stretched out his hand toward the sky, and total darkness covered all Egypt for three days. No one could see anyone else or leave his place for three days. Yet all the Israelites had light in the places where they lived.” Here it is clearly stated, “you will again see the distinction…between those who serve God and those who do not.” Many young people may say, “I want to serve the LORD when I become old.” But they are greatly mistaken. Solomon said in Ecclesiastes 12:1 says, “Remember your Creator in the days of your youth.” Remembering our Creator and serving him in the days of our youth is a truly blessed life. Apostle Paul said in 1 Corinthians 15:58, “Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labour in the Lord is not in vain.”

Second, the sun of righteousness (4:1-6). Look at verse 1. “Surely the day is coming…” Now notably, it is written, “Surely the day is coming.” The tense is present-progressive. We need to know that in the perspective of the future, the first and second comings of the Christ are viewed as one event. And it is good to know that Jesus’ first coming is the beginning of the last days. Verse 1 says continually, “…‘it will burn like a furnace. All the arrogant and every evildoer will be stubble, and that day that is coming will set them on fire,’ says the LORD Almighty. ‘Not a root or a branch will be left to them.” What a judgment! The world will burn like a furnace on the day of God’s righteous wrath, the Day of Judgment. All proud people and all evildoers will be set on fire like hay stubble in a field. This judgment will be completed at Jesus’ second coming. Yet, it already began at his first coming. So John the Baptist said concerning Jesus in Matthew 3:12, “His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor, gathering his wheat into the barn and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire.” And Jesus said in John 3:18, “Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.” Again, the world will burn like a furnace. And Apostle Peter also said in 2 Peter 3, “The elements will be destroyed by fire,” and “the elements will melt by the heat” (3:11, 12).

Look at verse 2. “But for you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings.” In chapter 1 the coming Messiah is described as the Lord and the messenger of the covenant, specifically of the new covenant, and now here as the sun of righteousness. In Luke 1:78-79, anticipating the birth of the baby Jesus, Zechariah prophesied concerning him, “because of the tender mercy of our God, by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven to shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death…” So this sun of righteousness refers to Jesus. Jesus is the sun of righteousness described in the last chapter of the Old Testament. This description has a very significant meaning. It is written in Jeremiah 23:5-6, “‘The days are coming,’ declares the LORD, ‘when I will raise up to David a righteous Branch…This is the name by which he will be called: the LORD Our Righteousness.” Apostle Paul said in Roman 1:17, “For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed…” and in 1 Corinthians 1:30, “…Christ Jesus…has become…our righteousness, holiness and redemption.” Jesus is a righteous Branch to David, a righteousness from God and our righteousness.

Unrighteousness is the fundamental problem to all unrighteous human beings. All unrighteous sinners are under the condemnation of the law by the righteous God. Romans 3:10 says, “As it is written: ‘There is no one righteous, not even one” So every mouth is silence and the whole world is held accountable to God (Ro 3:19). And Isiah 64:6 says, “…all our righteous acts are like filthy rags.” No one can escape the righteous wrath of God. So the truly good news is that Jesus is our righteousness. At the time of Jesus’ death the Roman centurion, who participate in the execution of Jesus, seeing what had happened, praised God and said, “Surely this was a righteous man.” Before God Jesus was the only righteous man (Lk 23:47), but he was crucified and put to death. It was because all the righteous wrath of God was poured out upon him in the place of all unrighteous sinners. In this way he is our righteousness.

And Romans 3:21, 22 says, “But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made know…This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe.” Those who revere God and believe in Christ Jesus are clothed with him who is our righteousness (Gal 4:27; Ro 13:14). Through faith in him we are regarded as righteous before God, as Abraham believed God in a humanly impossible situation, and it was credited to him as righteousness (Ro 4:3). For through faith in him his righteousness is imputed to us. As a result we have a right relationship with God. Jesus is our righteousness and the sun of righteousness. We know that the sun powerfully shines. Jesus the sun of righteousness shines, bestowing his righteousness on all those who believe, each and every believer. So Paul wrote in Romans 1:16, “…the gospel…is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes.” Certainly righteousness means redemption and salvation, as it is written “he is our righteousness, holiness and redemption” (1 Cor 1:30).

In verse 2, “the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in his wings.” All unrighteous sinners are sin-sick and wounded in their souls and are to be plagued with death and finally to be plunged into the gigantic furnace, the fiery lake of burning sulfur. eternal death. But there is healing of sin-souls and salvation in Jesus. The prophet Isaiah said in 53:5, “But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.” As for Isiah, his unclean lips were healed. Then he could proclaim the message, “God reigns” and spoke the wonderful words of God about the coming Messiah as a suffering servant. Later on, Apostle Peter said in 1 Peter 2:24, “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed.” Apostle Peter was deeply wounded in his soul because of his sin, particularly sin of denying his Jesus three times in fear totally against his wishes. But he was healed by Jesus, who bore all his sins on the cross and became a courageous witness of Jesus, who encouraged the suffering early Christians, saying, “Rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ.” My soul was also deeply wounded in my sin of fear and fatalism. But I have been healed, being saved from dreadful judgment in his mercy, and now I believe and speak the word of God as a matter of life and death.

Look at verse 2 again: “…the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings.” Here, the prophet evidently visualized the sunrays like the wings of a bird stretching over the earth. And we are reminded of Jesus, who stretched out his hands on the cross. And the sun’s rays reach every corner of the earth. According to scientists sunrays produce vitamin D in our body and thus kill bacteria. They work as a disinfectant. Likewise the rays of the sun of righteousness sterilizes all the cancer-like cells of sin, and heals us from depression, jealousy, hatred, lust, pride, ego-centricity, anger, defeatism and fatalism. As the sun of righteousness he can get rid of all the toxic deadly cells and vitalizes all the living good cells in our soul, as we come to him, for the rays of the sun of righteousness reaches each and every heart that shows faith in him.

Again, in verse 2, “For you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in his wings.” Those who revere his name are those who put their faith in Christ Jesus, whom God sent for our salvation. We are made righteous with faith in Jesus. And the way to keep this grace is to live by faith. Meaningfully the prophet Habakkuk before Malachi said, “The righteous will live by his faith” (2:4). And later Apostle Paul wrote in Romans 1:17, “…a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: ‘The righteous will live by faith.’” As we live by faith from first to last, we can be deepened in the grace of Jesus, the sun of righteousness and become his instruments to bring his rays and beams to shine on others. We praise and thank God that in this world there is the sun of righteousness that rises every day bringing healing in its wings. May we keep the sun of righteousness rise in our hearts and be used for him to shine upon U of T campus through us. We believe that the sun of righteousness drives out all the darkness of this unrighteous world and this world becomes the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ (Rev 11:15).

Look at verse 2b. “And you will go out and leap like calves released from the stall.” This is the description of joy and freedom in Jesus. That is why at the time of Jesus’ birth an angel of the Lord said to the shepherds in the field, “I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people” (Lk 2:10). It is as the hymn song, “Joy to the world”, describes, “Joy to the world! The Saviour reigns; Let men their songs employ, While fields and floods, rocks, hills and plains Repeat the sounding joy, Repeat the sounding joy, Repeat, repeat the sounding joy” (173, verse 2). May God fill us with joy through Christ Jesus at this Christmas.

Look at verse 3. “‘Then you will trample down the wicked; they will be ashes under the soles of your feet on the day when I do these things,’ says the LORD Almighty.” There is final victory in Jesus, especially victory over Satan. Paul said in Romans 16:20, “The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet.” At each time of spiritual battle we can claim in Jesus this victory over Satan in doing the work of God.

Look at verse 4. “Remember the law of my servant Moses, the decrees and laws I gave him at Horeb for all Israel.” Moses’ last words to the Israelites in Deuteronomy contain exhortations to remember the Law that the Lord had given them (Dt 31:13). Malachi closed his book, and God closed the OT with the same exhortation. The people of Israel had forgotten and disregarded God’s law, and Malachi had pointed out many specific instances of that. Now he urged them to remember and obey their Law.

And in verse 5, “See, I will send you the prophet Elijah before that great and dreadful day of the LORD comes. He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers; or else I will come and strike the land with a curse.” The mention of Elijah was to announce the Messiah’s arrival. According to Luke 1:17, John the Baptist would go on in the spirit and power of Elijah. Jesus said to his disciples concerning John the Baptist, “Elijah has come,” when they came down from the transfiguration mount (Mt 17:12; Mk 9:13).

Indeed John the Baptist came as the forerunner of Christ. His task would be the turning of the hearts of parents and children to each other certainly by turning their hearts first to God. The restoration of this most basic relationship in all relationships is of foremost importance in each generation to build a godly society and nation.

Verses 4-6 are the conclusion of Malachi, the Prophets and the Old Testament. Moses and Elijah whose names are mentioned here represent the Law and the Prophets, which are the Old Testaments. And Paul said in Romans 3:21, “But now a righteousness from God…has been made known to which the Law and the Prophets testify.” The law brings condemnation and curse. Yet the Law the Prophets testify to the gospel of Jesus Christ. In this way the Old Testaments set a stage for the gospel of Jesus in the New Testament that brings salvation and blessing through Christ Jesus. And in Christ Jesus the law can be truly upheld.

In this study we thought of God’s distinction and Jesus, the sun of righteousness. There seem to be many distinctions in the world. But before God there is only one distinction, and Jesus is the cause of the distinction as he is the cause of the falling and rising of many (Lk 2:34). Jesus is the sun of righteousness that rises with healing in its wings for those who come to him and listen to him and put their faith in him. May we indeed put our whole faith in and live by faith in him so that the grace of the sun of righteousness may abound in and through us. May we serve God with faith in the sun of righteousness in this generation.

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