“‘See, I am going to send my messenger, and he will clear the way before me. Then the Lord you seek will suddenly come to his temple, the Messenger of the covenant you delight in — see, he is coming,’ says the Lord of Armies. But who can endure the day of his coming? And who will be able to stand when he appears?” (CSB – Read the chapter)
Be careful what you wish for. Ever been told that? It’s an admonition often given to folks who are seeking something whose reception they haven’t really thought through in all the detail it warrants. The kick is, they don’t always know it. Thus, someone wiser, someone who has perhaps already experienced the thing being sought, offers this caution. The one doing the seeking doesn’t often like to hear this, but it is wisdom worth heeding all the same. Here in Malachi, God is offering the people this very caution. Let’s talk about why.
At the end of Revelation, some of the very last words of the book are these: “Come, Lord Jesus.” These three words are a simple, but powerful prayer. They are an urgent and hopeful plea for Jesus to return and bring the eternal life of the kingdom of God with Him. They are a desire to see all the wrongs righted and all those forces seemingly unrestrained in their opposition to God’s people and plans brought to justice at last.
Throughout the history of the church, these words have given hope and strength to Jesus followers in difficult circumstances. Come, Lord Jesus. Make all of this right again so that we don’t have to bear this burden (whatever it happens to be) any longer.
And this is right to hope too. We want Jesus to return who claim to be His followers. He is our Lord and King and we want to live under His direct rule. We don’t want to suffer a single other day under the unjust and oppressive rule of the earthly kings and leaders we suffer here and now.
Let us be careful what we wish for. That was the council God gave the people of Israel. In fact, He gave it to them more than once. The prophet Amos was even more direct with them than Malachi is here. He said, “Woe to you who long for the day of the Lord! What will the day of the Lord be for you? It will be darkness and not light. It will be like a man who flees from a lion only to have a bear confront him. He goes home and rests his hand against the wall only to have a snake bite him. Won’t the day of the Lord be darkness rather than light, even gloom without any brightness in it?” (Amos 5:18-20 CSB)
You don’t really want what you think you want in asking for me to return. Doesn’t that seem strange advice for God to give to His people? Well, it depends. When Jesus returns He is going to come bringing judgment for sin. All sin. If you’re a sinner and you’re asking for Jesus to return, the judgment He brings is going to be for you too. Be careful what you wish for.
The people of Israel in Malachi’s day were not on the right track. They were veering sharply away from God. They were embracing a cynical worldview that was treating God like a social convenience rather than someone uniquely worthy of worship and perfect in holiness. For Him to return would not be the relief from suffering they were thinking it would be. It would mean judgment coming for all their sins. That wouldn’t be the pleasant reunion they were imagining.
We should hope for Christ’s return who count ourselves His followers. We should. That’s when all that we have given our lives to experience will come into reality. That will be a good day. But, we need to make sure we are living in such a way that it will come as a blessing for us. If there is sin we’re hanging on to in our lives, it’s got to go. It won’t survive His coming. And if we’re too tied up in it, we’ll be at risk ourselves. It will only be in Christ that we have a chance when the day arrives. Let us wish for the right things and then make sure we are living in such a way as to receive them well.