There is a verse that I reckon has got the human condition sussed! [P] [Isaiah 53:6 All of us like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way.] It says it all! Everyone! [P] We ALL have turned to our own way! [P] That is rebellion! If there is authority, we have to challenge it, kick against it! Why do we break the speed limit, evade taxes? If there is authority we rile against it – be it the teacher at school, the government, that traffic cop, the tax man, our parents. If they say something, we say, “No!”, “I am going my own way, “my own way is best!” We turn to our own way. Of course behind all authority is God; He delegates authority to kings, judges, parents [Romans 13:1 Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God.] At heart, our rebellion is not against the one set over us but over God Himself! Look, I know, I am a rebel. I am filled with horror and shame at what I’ve done. I was a rebel at school, arrogantly mocking my teachers and what they stood for. I went to a Christian school – I mocked the religiousness there by inventing my own religion, I called it Chanterism, and made up various rituals that we religiously observed – really what I was saying was that religion was just meaningless ritual and ceremony that anyone could devise. I was rebellious against my parents – but really, at heart, the root of it is rebellion against God Himself! Now God in astounding mercy brought me back to Himself – but you cannot come back and submit to His authority when all the while you are rebelling against the authority that He has set over you. Your relationship to earthly authority reflects your attitude to God Himself! I was 26 when I came back to the LORD; but at the same time that I came back to the LORD, my relationship with my Dad was also restored. I was going my own way, living for myself, doing what suited me. It all started by, of all things, learning Spanish together – doing things together, setting aside my agenda to do something with my Dad. God has instituted the family – placed it as the microcosm of authority structure – the father leads, holds authority; his wife is subject to him, and the children to the parents. It is a model of how authority works. It is an expression of His heart because He is the Father. That is how Jesus and we address Him: you know? “Our Father who art in heaven”. It says in: [1 Peter 1:17 If you address as Father the One who impartially judges according to each one’s work, conduct yourselves in fear during the time of your stay on earth.] The consequence of Him being in that position of authority is respect, fear. Scripture says that all fatherhood stems from Him: [Ephesians 3:14-15 For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name,] – the word “family” is “πατριά” – fatherhood – it is a play on words: all fatherhood comes from the Father, God Himself. He is the Father, and every other father is a little model or reflection of that true Fatherhood. It is intended to portray an essential part of God’s nature. The father-child relationship is big biccies to God! Because that is where God has placed authority, how we relate to our father matters a great deal. How we relate to our father, his authority, will affect how we relate to God. To adapt 1 John 4 – how can you be submitted to God who you cannot see when you are not submitted to your father who you can see? Rebellion against God will be seen in rebellion against parents. This is what the Bible says will happen in the end times [2 Timothy 3:1-2 But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come. For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents.] and isn’t it what we see all around us?! It is taken for granted that your children will rebel when they are teenagers. The fact is that they have done so long before then! We had our first battle of wills with Hannah when she was 3 days old. Rebellion in the heart causes the breakdown of the family. Have a look around – everywhere the family structure is falling apart and being undermined. As we have looked at the book of Malachi I have likened their perpetual answering back to God to a mouthy teenager – they were rebels! That was the situation; that was their attitude to יהוה. And God was going to do something about it: [P] [Malachi 4 “For behold, the day is coming, burning like a furnace; and all the arrogant and every evildoer will be chaff; and the day that is coming will set them ablaze,” says יהוה of armies, “so that it will leave them neither root nor branch.” (totally consumed, nothing left from which to regenerate) “But for you who fear My Name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings; (there is a different outcome for those who fear יהוה) and you will go forth and skip about like calves from the stall. You will tread down the wicked, for they will be ashes under the soles of your feet on the day which I am preparing,” says יהוה of armies. “Remember the law of Moses My servant, even the statutes and ordinances which I commanded him in Horeb for all Israel. Behold, I am going to send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and terrible day of יהוה. “He will restore the hearts of the fathers to their children and the hearts of the children to their fathers, so that I will not come and smite the land with a curse.”] There it is, the end of the Old Testament, and the last word is CURSE! חֵרֶם! [P] Devoted to complete and utter destruction! The Jews don’t like ending with that word, so they repeat the blessing of the promised coming of Elijah. But the consequence of rebellion is a curse! Complete destruction! The first sermon I ever preached was from this passage and I spoke about how broken family relationships bring about destruction of the land. Unless they were restored destruction would come. יהוה has set a day when He will act. We read in Malachi3:17 about “the day” – the day in which יהוה would make up His special treasure. In this chapter (and it only has 6 verses) it refers four more times to that “day” – it is the day of the LORD, [P] the day of יהוה! “The day is coming!” it says in Malachi 4:1. A “terrible day” as it calls it, Joel calls it a “great and fearful day” – it is burning like a furnace. Twice it says that day is coming! יהוה has given us plenty of warning. If we are wise we will heed it and be ready, waiting, expecting and looking for His return [2 Peter 3:11-12 what sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God,] All around people deny it, get on with life. God either does not exist; or if He does, He doesn’t do anything; or He is a loving God who will not judge. [2 Peter 3:3-4 Know this first of all, that in the last days mockers will come with their mocking, following after their own lusts, and saying, “Where is the promise of His coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all continues just as it was from the beginning of creation.”] They worry about global warming but not of the fire coming from God – quite a bit more warming than they are anticipating! The evil is burnt up like chaff is. At harvest time [P], which Matthew 13 says speaks of the end of the age, grain would be threshed [P] and then winnowed [P], separating the grain which has substance from the husk. The light chaff was blown away. The good grain was stored [P] but the remaining chaff was good for nothing, all you could do with it was burn it [P], it was the only way to get rid of it. That is what the “Day of יהוה” is like. [P] It is a day of judgement – wicked is separated from the righteous. Remember how we read that the righteous, those that were יהוה’s would be spared? [Malachi 3:17-18 “They will be Mine,” says יהוה of armies, “on the day that I prepare My own possession, and I will spare them as a man spares his own son who serves him.” So you will again distinguish between the righteous and the wicked, between one who serves God and one who does not serve Him. ] In judgement, the righteous is separated from the wicked – a distinction is made. The wheat is separated from the worthless. Last time I referred to Jesus’ parable about the wheat and the tares: [Matthew 13:30 ‘Allow both to grow together until the harvest; and in the time of the harvest I will say to the reapers, “First gather up the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them up; but gather the wheat into my barn.” ’ ”] The Bible is consistent in speaking of the end of the age about judgement and referring to fire [P]. [2 Peter 3:7 But by His word the present heavens and earth are being reserved for fire, kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men. 2 Peter 3:10-13 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up. Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, what sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be destroyed by burning, and the elements will melt with intense heat! But according to His promise we are looking for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells.] See, there is a different outcome for those that are His, His precious possession. [P] [Malachi 4:2 But for you who fear My Name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings; and you will go forth and skip about like calves from the stall. You will tread down the wicked, for they will be ashes under the soles of your feet on the day which I am preparing,” says יהוה of armies.] The sun rises – a new day is dawning! The long night is over! A day of righteousness dawns. A day when Jesus the Messiah reigns – justice and righteousness are the foundation of His throne. The fruit of righteousness is peace. The implements of war are turned into agricultural tools, the wolf lies down with the lamb, none hurts on My holy mountain. And the consequence of peace is joy – skipping like calves. Thus [Romans 14:17 the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.] Judgement is over, the fire is out, only ashes left – that is all that is left of the wicked, and even that is trampled underfoot. It is all on “that day”. The day of the LORD is great and dreadful, fearful, a terrible day – yet it is wonderful for those who are יהוה’s special possession. A day of release! Like a calf long cooped up in the stall for winter, is released in spring! A day of joy! of life! of fulfilment! It is a day that יהוה is preparing, it will come about despite all the denials of those in the world around us. It is they who have their heads in the sand, not us – shutting out the concept of coming judgement. Tragically, even in the church, the idea of God coming to judge is denied. Yet it holds no fear for those that fear יהוה. On the contrary it is a day of release, of consummation of fulfilment and joy. Malachi directs them back to the covenant, he is giving them one last and final chance to repent: [P] [“Remember the law of Moses My servant, even the statutes and ordinances which I commanded him in Horeb for all Israel.”] – it is those that are in covenant relationship that are spared, kept safe in that day. He was urging them to return/repent, turn back to what they had departed from. And although we are partakers in another covenant, not that which was made at Sinai, but the one made in the blood of Jesus; however there is still a message here for us – because, tragically, there has been a departing from the covenant. Some have moved on to other things, a “gospel” of prosperity, healing, blessing, inclusivity, tolerance, works, social justice: humanism – they have departed from the cross. The safeguard against heresy, deception, going astray, is staying close to the cross – to the blood of the covenant. There is need for restoration! [P] And this is Malachi’s, in fact יהוה’s, plea! Behold, I am going to send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and terrible day of יהוה. “He will restore the hearts of the fathers to their children and the hearts of the children to their fathers, so that I will not come and smite the land with a curse.” Here is יהוה’s final word to His people before He falls silent for hundreds of years. What is He saying? It is an urgent message! A crucial message! Judgement was imminent! A day was coming! Fire was going to destroy! The land would be utterly destroyed, cursed by יהוה! What was the only thing that was going to prevent that curse? – restoring the hearts of the fathers to their children and the children to the Fathers. It wasn’t issues of fraud, murder, violence, theft, immorality – it was the breakdown of family! That’s where it all starts, that microcosm that is the foundation of society, on which the whole of society is based! Where does rebellion start? In the home, against your parents! Where does the breakdown in loving benevolent authority come from? It doesn’t start with the government, it starts in the home, with fathers abdicating from their responsibility to lovingly nurture and discipline their children, bring them up in the fear of the LORD: [Ephesians 6:4 Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.] The family is the building block upon which society is based – that is why the restoration needs to happen there. Not a band-aid patch up of the surface symptoms but addressing the root, from which the other problems stem. But notice that it is not something that we do – it is going to take יהוה to do it! “I am going to send you Elijah! Before this terrible judgement takes place. He will restore hearts” It has to be a work done in our hearts! God was going to send Elijah [P] to restore the hearts of parents to children and children to parents. He had already sent Elijah, some 400 years before. Israel was in a sorry state spiritually – and family breakdown was there right at the root of it. The fabled dynasty of David lasted for only two generations: David then his son Solomon. After that the nation split in two – brother rebelled against brother and the 10 tribes to the north separated and became a separate nation, Israel; leaving Judah in the south. Yes, this was יהוה’s judgement on Solomon’s idolatry, but it was still rebellion against the authority of the monarchy, and the split was between brothers. Immediately the first king, Jeroboam, introduced idolatry. From the very inception he turned away from יהוה. And it continued downhill from there. Until by the time of Elijah, Ahab was king and he had intermarried with Sidonians to the north; and his wife Jeezebel introduced the Canaanite; god, Baal. [1 Kings 16:30-31 Ahab the son of Omri did evil in the sight of יהוה more than all who were before him. It came about, as though it had been a trivial thing for him to walk in the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat (the first king of Israel that introduced idolatry), that he married Jezebel the daughter of Ethbaal king of the Sidonians, and went to serve Baal and worshiped him.] [P] It was a time of apostasy, just as in Malachi’s day, and as it is today. Idolatry was institutionalized and the few remaining true worshippers of יהוה were persecuted out of existence. This was the dire and dreadful state to which Israel had fallen. Then suddenly on to the scene bursts Elijah the prophet. יהוה sent His messenger Elijah. Recall in chapter 3 יהוה said that He would send His messenger to prepare the way of the Lord: [Malachi 3:1 “Behold, I am going to send My messenger, and he will clear the way before Me.] – the promised Elijah. Heather suggested that I do a series on Elijah and Elisha, and I intend to take up her suggestion as it follows on well from these verses. I think we tend to have this impression in our minds that Elijah was the harsh prophet of judgement, there by himself, standing alone against apostasy; whereas Elisha was more the people person, caring and compassionate. And there may be some validity in that but the heart of Elijah was to restore. Sure, he came announcing judgement: it will not rain until I say so. יהוה’s judgement was on the land. But at the end of three and a half years, remember the encounter on mount Carmel with the prophets of Baal? [1 Kings 18:21 Elijah came near to all the people and said, “How long will you hesitate between two opinions? If יהוה is God, follow Him; but if Baal, follow him.” But the people did not answer him a word. ] He was calling the people back to יהוה, to repent. The same message that John the Baptist preached. It is the stuff of Sunday School stories: remember the altar with the calf on it and the 450 prophets of Baal futilely carrying on all day to no avail? Then Elijah brought the people near to his altar which he had drenched with water. [1 Kings 18:36-37 At the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice, Elijah the prophet came near and said, “O יהוה, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, today let it be known that You are God in Israel and that I am Your servant and I have done all these things at Your word. “Answer me, O יהוה, answer me, that this people may know that You, O יהוה, are God, and that You have turned their heart back again.”] “Turned their heart back again” – what does it say in Malachi that Elijah will do?: “He will restore the hearts….” – literally the word is “turn” their hearts, the word used for “repent”. [P] Despite our concept of a harsh Elijah, his heart and message was to restore [P]. The two go together – there is no restoration unless there is first repentance. Of course יהוה answered Elijah’s prayer: [1 Kings 18:38-39 Then the fire of יהוה fell and consumed the burnt offering and the wood and the stones and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench. When all the people saw it, they fell on their faces; and they said, “יהוה, He is God; יהוה, He is God.”] Fire came – the consuming fire of judgement. It is the same picture in Malachi as was in the story of Elijah. Coming judgement but the call to repent, the restoring of hearts back toיהוה before the fire fell. Just prior to John the Baptist coming, an angel announced the birth to his father Zachariah; this is what he said: [Luke 1:17 “It is he who will go as a forerunner before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers back to the children, and the disobedient to the attitude of the righteous, so as to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”] John would go forth in the spirit and power of Elijah, the same spirit – and what was that spirit: “to turn the hearts of the fathers back to the children” [P] – a message of restoration, restoration of family. There is this prophecy of the coming of Elijah in Malachi, the sending of the messenger before יהוה came. And so the people of Israel looked for Elijah to come. Moses also prophesied that there would come a prophet like himself. And so it was these two prophets came – they revisited this earth: [Luke 9:28-31 Jesus went up on the mountain to pray. And while He was praying, the appearance of His face became different, and His clothing became white and gleaming. And behold, two men were talking with Him; and they were Moses and Elijah, who, appearing in glory, were speaking of His departure which He was about to accomplish at Jerusalem.] Both Moses and Elijah were there! They were discussing Jesus’ “exodus”, His departure – all was ready for the end, all was about to be accomplished at the cross. But obviously in their discussion it was not yet time for Moses and Elijah to return and carry out their appointed ministry that had been prophesied. They did not make a public appearance at this time, they went back to heaven. The time was going to be extended; more time would be given for people to repent. There would be an extended opportunity – what we call the day of grace. Praise God for it, or other we Gentiles would never have come into the Kingdom. [Matthew 17:9-13 As they were coming down from the mountain, Jesus commanded them, saying, “Tell the vision to no one until the Son of Man has risen from the dead.” And His disciples asked Him, “Why then do the scribes say that Elijah must come first?” (they picked up on Elijah being there and related it to the expectation of his coming) And He answered and said, “Elijah is coming (he hasn’t come yet, it was still in the future) and will restore all things; (there it is again, the ministry of Elijah to restore – he will do it, in the future) but I say to you that Elijah already came, (that is in the past) and they did not recognize him, but did to him whatever they wished. So also the Son of Man is going to suffer at their hands.” Then the disciples understood that He had spoken to them about John the Baptist.] So there were two comings of Elijah in fulfilment of this prophesy in Malachi: one of them was John the Baptist, who ministered in the “spirit and power of Elijah”; and there is another coming that is yet future. Personally, I believe it is a coming of Elijah together with Moses, just as it was on the Mount of Transfiguration. But this time it will be time for them to carry out their appointed ministry. I think that they are the two in [Revelation 11:3-6 “And I will grant authority to My two witnesses, and they will prophesy for twelve hundred and sixty days, clothed in sackcloth.” These are the two olive trees and the two lampstands (referring to a prophecy in Zechariah ) that stand before the Lord of the earth. And if anyone wants to harm them, fire flows out of their mouth and devours their enemies; so if anyone wants to harm them, he must be killed in this way. These have the power to shut up the sky, so that rain will not fall during the days of their prophesying (reminiscent of Elijah); and they have power over the waters to turn them into blood (reminiscent of Moses), and to strike the earth with every plague, as often as they desire.] A one last desperate attempt by God just before final judgement falls to turn people back to Himself, to bring repentance, to bring restoration. יהוה has promised that He will send Elijah before the day of the LORD comes. It will be a great and terrible day! There will never be another day like it. But before that day of terrible judgement; יהוה, in His great mercy, will give one last opportunity to repent. Elijah will come, proclaiming the coming of the LORD, and calling people to repent. This is the last call, and tragically, most will not even heed the message from a reincarnated Moses and Elijah. Despite their convincing testimony, they are reviled, rejected and murdered. But some will respond and repent. This brings restoration. Restoration of families, restoration of relationships, restoration of hearts. It is a turning of hearts – not a superficial work but a genuine work deep within – a fundamental change of heart that changes the way you relate to others. Rebelliousness and independence are gone. Fathers and sons are reunited into the relationship they should be (as happened when I was came back to the LORD). The work begins in the fathers' hearts first then extends to their sons. This is no trivial matter! It is a big deal in God's eyes! The whole fate of the land hangs on the issue of whether families are in right relationship – it is not government policy, the state of the economy, military strength etc, but the strength of family relationships that determines the state of a nation. The land is cursed – devoted and set apart to destruction unless these things are set right! The ministry of Elijah is to bring things back to the state they were, the way they should never have departed from. It is not a restoration we engineer or bring about ourselves – God will send Elijah. That is what we need – restoration, repentance. So do we just sit back and do nothing and wait for Elijah? In the Bible waiting is never idle – it is expectant and hopeful and active. We cannot do it but we look to God to do what He has promised. What is our part – we align ourselves with the purposes that God has revealed to us. Our role is intercession, to pray – give יהוה no rest until He does what He has said. [Ezekiel 22:30 “I searched for a man among them who would build up the wall and stand in the gap before Me for the land, so that I would not destroy it; but I found no one.] Through prayer we align ourselves with יהוה’s will, not try and persuade Him to do what we want, and carry out our suggestions. Restoration, repentance is on God’s heart – that is His heart’s desire. He will go to extraordinary lengths to bring it about. Cry out with God’s heart that the restoration of family, father to son, son to father, each back to God – that is the only way to avoid the judgement that is coming upon a rebellious people. Do you have a family that needs restoration? – God is able, furthermore it is His heart to do so. I have experienced it – God is still in the business of restoring families. That is the great need – not political, judicial or economic reform. Not environmental concern, social concern but a turning of the hearts of the fathers to their children and the hearts of the children to their fathers. In a time of apostasy, the great need is for the restoring of hearts.