Wednesday of Populus Zion
Apart from the coming of Christ, the final word of God would have been a pronouncement of judgment. If we did not have the New Testament, the last sentence of Scripture would have read, “I will smite the land with a curse.” Without the Advent of the Day of the Lord, all humanity would be doomed to share the fate of Adam, to work the cursed ground until our return to the dust from whence we came.
Thanks be to God for his mercy to our broken race. This passage from Malachi is one of great comfort to all who labor under the curse of sin. The Lord God will not abandon us to our fate. He will not desert his people. Behold, the Lord will suddenly come to his temple – the Lord Christ, the messenger of the new covenant. Behold, he is coming, says the LORD of hosts (Mal 3:1).
Jesus comes to bring justice to the hired laborer. He comes to end the oppression of the widow and fatherless. I’m sure these words grab the attention of the social justice warriors among us. Here is a passage of Scripture that the world can tolerate. Yes! Let us turn the tables on the evil oppressors. Let us create justice for the marginalized and downtrodden poor of the world. Let us judge and condemn the one percent who sit in the lap of luxury while so many struggle to find their daily bread. But not so fast.
Jesus does indeed draw near to us for judgment, but can endure the day of his cleansing? And who can stand in his appearing? For he is like the fire of the refiner and the alkaline of the cleanser. The answer is no one. No one can stand before him. No one can endure the day of his cleansing. He is an all-consuming fire and sinners are as dry grass before him. There is no class of people that is innocent, no marginalized group that deserves eternal compensation for their suffering. All of humanity stands before our judge equally condemned by the old covenant, the Law. Before God we are all oppressors, every one of us complicit in the horrific guilt of sin which we unleashed upon God’s perfect creation.
The day of the Lord is truly great and terrible. His judgment is poured out upon the sins of humanity. The wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all unrighteousness. And all of the punishment is focused upon Christ, our sin-bearer. Behold, the Lord Christ suddenly comes to his temple. Why? To shed his blood as the sacrifice for the sins of the world. Do you want to know what true justice looks like? Then look to the bloody cross of Jesus. Here is compassion for the underprivileged. Here is freedom from oppression, found in the suffering and death of Christ and nowhere else.
The social justice of the world has no answer for the root problem of our suffering. It has no solution for the total corruption of every sinful human heart. Instead, in the name of justice, it declares select groups of humanity the innocent victims of the rest of society. But this is not justice. We do not cure guilt by finding a person or group who is more guilty. There can be no justice without the death of Jesus. There is no cleansing of sin except by his blood. Without the messenger of the new covenant, the God-man who became a curse on our behalf, we would remain under the curse pronounced by the old covenant. Thanks be to God for the Advent of our Savior, who has turned our wayward hearts back to God our Father. Thanks be to God for the blood of his Son, which testifies to the new covenant of forgiveness and mercy. Thanks be to God for our Lord Jesus, who alone is the answer for the ills of our broken world. Amen.