Primitive Christianity Revived, Again
Malachi 3 – God says He is “going to send my messenger to prepare a way before me” (3:1). “Who will be able to resist the day of his coming? Who will remain standing when he appears? For he is like the refiner’s fire and the fullers’ alkali . . . he will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, and then they will make the offering to Yahweh as it should be made” (3:2-3).
They must stop sinning against the Lord – practicing sorcery, adultery and perjury, oppression of wage-earners, widows and orphans (3:5).
“Since the days of your ancestors you have evaded my statues and not observed them. Return to me and I will return to you” (3:7). They must stop imposing tithes and dues; and they must stop sending out a message of gloom and doom, about how it is fruitless to keep God’s commands.
The prophet tells them that the “day is coming now, burning like a furnace; and all the arrogant and the evil-doers will be like stubble” (3:19). Yahweh will send “Elijah the prophet before the day of the Lord, the Day of Yahweh, comes, “that great and terrible day“ (3:24).
The readings from Malachi continue on the theme of the creative anger of the Lord. Once again, I would say that this is an aspect of the Lord we must accept, deal with, even - if we can - learn to love.
The prophetic lesson of Malachi is directed mostly against the Levitical priests of Israel who Malachi thought had come to exercise their function in such a careless, superficial manner that they seemed to have lost all fear and respect for God. In a kind of elaboration of prophetic marriage imagery, the priests have broken faith with the spouse God gave them, the sanctuary, and have profaned the sanctuary by their disrespectful deeds. And their own lack of integrity seems to reflect the weakened state of the entire relationship between God and his people.
It is interesting to consider that so many of the readings at the end of “ordinary time” as we get closer to advent contain the themes we have been studying: the failures of God’s people and their shepherds to be faithful to the substance of the old covenant, the need for us to be aware that God will not take our unfaithfulness forever, there will be a day of reckoning, a day of wrath and we need to reawaken in ourselves a fear of God’s seriousness with respect to the covenant we have entered into.
As we come to advent and through advent we should be recognizing how we have fallen short, we should be fearful of the displeasure such unfaithfulness causes God and should be humbling ourselves so that we may be found teachable when he comes. That he will come with the face of God’s love is not for us to know at this moment of the spiritual cycle.
Revelation 19 – A crowd in heaven yells, “Alleluia! Victory and glory and power to our God! He judges fairly, he punishes justly, and he has condemned the famous prostitute who corrupted the earth with her fornication” (19:2).
“The reign of the Lord our God Almighty has begun; let us be glad and joyful and give praise to God because this is the time for the marriage of the Lamb. His bride is ready, and she has been able to dress herself in dazzling white linen, because her linen is made of the good deeds of the saints” (19:7-8).
Heaven opens and a white horse appears – its rider is called “Faithful and True; he is a judge with integrity, a warrior for justice. His eyes were flames of fire, and his head was crowned with many coronets; the name written on him was known only to himself; his cloak was soaked in blood. He is known by the name, The Word of God” (19:12). Behind him are the “armies of heaven on white horses. From his mouth came a sharp sword to strike the pagans with; he is the one who will rule them with an iron scepter, and tread out the wine of Almighty God’s fierce anger” (19:14-15).
The beast, and “the false prophet who had worked miracles on the beast’s behalf” (19:20) are “thrown alive into the fiery lake” (19:20). And the rest of the beast’s army are “killed by the sword of the rider, which came out of his mouth” (19:21) and fed to the birds.