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Second Sunday in Advent

Malachi 4:1-6

Rev. Andrew Eckert

Advent 2
Our Savior Lutheran Church  
Stevensville, MT

Sun, Dec 9, 2018 

The Lord of hosts says through His holy prophet Malachi, “Behold, the day is coming, burning like an oven.  All the proud, yes, all who do wickedly will be stubble.  The day which is coming shall burn them up, that will leave them neither root nor branch.”

Similarly, the mighty seer Isaiah said, “As the fire devours the stubble, and the flame consumes the chaff, so their root will be as rottenness, and their blossom will ascend like dust; because they have rejected the law of the Lord of hosts, and despised the word of the Holy One of Israel.”

Who are the proud people whom the Lord will strike?  They are those who are too arrogant to see their need for the Word of God.  They may attend worship to show how pious they are, as the pharisees did.  But in their hearts there is pride, not humility.

Problem is, there is the potential to be proud in each of us.  The source of arrogance is the sinful flesh, and if you are any human being besides the Lord Jesus, then you have the sinful flesh.  So you also can become as full of yourself as the worst pharisee.

Yet you will probably not realize that you are prideful.  Arrogance disguises itself in our consciousness, so you must diligently guard against it.

Are you the proud who do wickedly?  Of course not, Pastor!  Here we are on Sunday morning in the house of God!  Obviously we are not wicked!

To some extent, that is true.  Likely none of us here are living the life of an out of control sinner in open unrepentance.

Yet pride creeps in so easily, and with it, self-righteousness that needs no Word of God.  Then wickedness springs up, rejecting the law of God while thinking that we are more righteous than ever.

Therefore it is good to remind ourselves that we, in our sinful flesh, are wicked.  Although we struggle against it, it remains with us until the end, until the final Day of the Lord.  So we need to repent daily.  The day we think we do not need to repent is the day we are turning to arrogance and wickedness.

Any of us can become prideful.  So guard yourself and repent constantly.

What happens to the wickedly arrogant people?  Much the same that happens to vegetation in Montana.  If plants creep in where they are not wanted, they can pose a fire hazard.  So people burn them away.  You cannot simply give them a quick burn and leave it at that.  You have to make sure you get the whole plant.  Weeds grow back from a little remnant.  So you need to burn them all the way down and leave them nothing; no root, no branch, only ashes.  We do this because we want our land to be free of wildfires.

The Lord wants to create a world free of the wildfires of sin.  So He must burn away all the wickedness from the earth.  He will get rid of it so that there is not a single root of sin left in His new heaven and new earth.

“When will that day happen?” we wonder.  It would be nice if we could put the date on our planner.  We could get ready and clean up as much as we can in advance.

But the day comes without warning.  No calendar will have the correct date circled.  The day comes like a thief in the night.

So how are the wicked to avoid this day?  Quite simple.  Stop being wicked.  Of course, a wicked person cannot change their nature.  Nor do they really want to.  After all, they are proud of how good they are, because their sinfulness blinds them to their own wickedness.

To us whom God favors, He gives the gift of repentance.  He shows us our sin through the power of His Law.  Thus even us block-headed sinners can see our corrupt state.  Even now, we have trouble seeing the sins we commit.  Yet we know the truth, and we know what we deserve from God.  The Day that blazes like a burning oven should consume us as well.  Yet because we trust in Christ our Lord, we shall not be consumed.

Malachi says, “To you who fear My Name, the Sun of Righteousness shall arise with healing in His wings; and you shall go out leaping and grow fat like stall-fed calves.  You shall trample the wicked, for they shall be ashes under the soles of your feet on the day that I do this.”

The Sun of Righteousness is Christ our dear Lord.  He brings healing in His wings – not that He literally has wings.  This is a figure of speech, as if to say, “In the act of rising up, He causes healing.” Christ is pictured as the sun rising in the morning, bringing warmth and life to the earth.  But Christ does more than the created sun.  He brings healing for our bodies at the resurrection, for He has risen out of the dark night of death on Easter.  He brings the healing of forgiveness and eternal life.

How does He do all this?  He did it by suffering the burning day.  He became stubble, burnt by God’s wrath on Calvary.  He let the fire of punishment for all sin consume Him.  Every last sin was devoured by the justice of the Lord when Christ suffered on the Cross.  He was not a sinner, that He should suffer for sin.  Yet He voluntarily took on Himself all the sins of the world.  So God’s judgment descended on Him with all its fiery fury, until every last bit of wickedness was burnt up, down to the last root and branch.

The Day of the Lord of hosts is first the Cross, along with the Empty Tomb.  The burning fell upon Christ so that it will not fall upon us wicked sinners.  Instead of being burnt up, we shall leap forth joyfully from our tombs like lively calves bouncing out of their stalls.  Even now, the victory over death is ours through faith, so that we are victorious over the wicked forces of this world.  They may afflict us and persecute us or even kill us, but we will always be more than conquerors through Jesus Christ our Sun of Righteousness.

He has given us righteousness in place of our wickedness.  Although in our flesh we are sinners, in Christ we are holy and sinless in God’s sight.

How should we then act?  Malachi gave warning to the Jews to turn away from their sins.  Follow the Law of Moses, and turn the hearts of your children to the Lord.  Elijah would come, who was John the Baptist, before the terrible and dreadful Day of the Lord.  Elijah who was John turned the heart of the fathers to the children, and children to their fathers, lest the Lord strike the earth with a curse.

What gloomy words!  But a serious warning to be heeded.  When Christ came, all sin was taken away by the atonement price of His Blood.  Yet if they did not trust Christ and His sacrifice, then they were choosing the flames of judgment for themselves.  Then the terrible curse of God descended upon the Jews in 70 A.D. with the horrifying destruction of Jerusalem.  But that was only a foretaste of the eternal flames if people do not turn from their sins.

But there are also those words about Moses, and fathers and children.  The Lord is saying, “Pay attention to My Law!  Do not think that you are saved by grace so that you can live any life you please.  You are sinners, and you need to repent!  You need to stop living in willful wickedness!  You need to turn away from the pride of your sinful flesh, and turn back to Me with sincerity and humility and fear.”

Many heeded these words.  Many more did not.

What about us?  If we think that Christ has died for us and we are saved by grace, so that we do not need to repent or humble ourselves, then we have missed the point.  Christ has come to atone for sin, and we see in His sufferings how severe our sins are!  We must see how shameful our lives have been.  If we who have seen the truth become prideful, how much worse is that!  That is like a dog that returns to its vomit, as the Lord warns us in Scripture.  We must heed and pay attention to His Law and see the many ways we have transgressed it.  Then it will be easy to humble ourselves before Him.

But our sinful nature does not want to do that.  So we must heed our fathers who have taught us the faith.  We must diligently teach our children the way of the fear of the Lord.  If we do not, the Lord may yet come and strike us with disaster.  May we not fall into sleepy spiritual laziness, but instead carefully heed His Law.

He does not want the final day to find us sleeping.  The day of the Lord is not only Calvary and Easter, but the last day of this earth.  When that comes, it will be too late to set aside our pride.  It will be too late to repent of our wickedness.  Then we will face judgment.  If we are found with humble faith in Christ, then we shall joyfully celebrate.  But if we are found with prideful hearts, congratulating ourselves on how good we are, then there will be no celebration for us.

God keep us in repentance as only He can do, until His dreadful day.  Amen.

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