Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Advent Day #11 - Malachi 3:1-6

"Look!  I am sending my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me.  Then the Lord you are seeking will suddenly come to his Temple.  The messenger of the covenant, whom you look for so eagerly, is surely coming," says the Lord of Heaven's Armies.  "But who will be able to endure it when he comes?  Who will be able to stand and face him when he appears?  For he will be like a blazing fire that refines metal, or like a strong soap that bleaches clothes.  He will sit like a refiner of silver, burning away the dross.  He will purify the Levites, refining them like gold and silver, so that they may once again offer acceptable sacrifices to the Lord.  Then once more the Lord will accept the offerings brought to him by the people of Judah and Jerusalem, as he did in the past.  At that time I will put you on trial, I am eager to witness against all sorcerers and adulterers and liars.  I will speak against those who cheat employees of their wages, who oppress widows and orphans, or who deprive the foreigners living among you of justice, for these people do not fear me," says the Lord of Heaven's Armies.  I am the Lord, and I do not change.  That is why you descendents of Jacob are not already destroyed."

beginning with the time of the Exodus, the Spirit of God dwelt among his people.  First, he appear as a pillar of fire before them.  When they had built the tabernacle he took up residence in the Holy of Holies.  When Solomon built his great temple, then the Spirit of God dwelt in the Holy of Holies.  When the people rejected God, by worshipping idols, the Spirit of God left the temple.  The people were taken into exile, and the temple was destroyed.  Even after the temple was real built, the spirit never returned to the people.  Prior to Jesus ministry, John the Baptist appeared and called the people to repentance.  The people were looking for a sudden and amazing return of God to the temple.  They could not have been prepared when as a child of 12, the Lord Jesus returned to the temple.  The teachers marvelled at the knowledge of this youngster.  He was a Nazarene after all.  How could a carpenter's son, know so much about the law and God.  When he appeared as an adult, they were even less prepared.  They saw him as a stumbling block.  They could have never imagined that this man who was healing on the sabbath, could be the one they have been waiting for.  He had come to return the sacrifices to Jerusalem.  They could not have understood, that he would be that sacrifice.  He would be a one time sacrifice.  Once and for all, all of the sacrifices of the temple were pointing forward to this one great sacrifice.

Now this same Jesus asks us to make a sacrifice.  He asks us to sacrifice our own selfish sinful nature to him.  The apostle calls it a living sacrifice.  We should give ourselves to God in whole.  He will be like the refiner.  He will burn away all of the things that do not please them, and replace them with thoughts of himself.  All we have to do is remain on the altar.  When we feel the pain of the refiners fire, sometimes we pull back.  We tell God that he can take some of our sin nature, but leave me this one thing.  We can feel that the things he asks of us is too much.  He is a good and loving God, and he will not take what is good for us.  He is refining our hearts to make us more like him.  If you have felt the sting of the refiners fire, then he is acting in love toward you.  If you have resisted the refiner's fire, then you have settled for something less than what God has planned for you.  Why would you settle for something less that the best?  God is perfect and good, he wishes to give the best gifts to his children.  That is what we are!  The Bible says that we have been adopted as children of God.  We, who were once his enemy, have been adopted in the family of God.  He wishes to give us all the benefits that a son would enjoy.  He will not force it on us.  He is to kind to force our allegiance.  He will wait patiently.  He will pursue you, but will not compel you.  He stands at the door and knocks, will you open the door?  Will you share a meal with your creator?  There is a million miles between us and the holiness of God.  He has crossed that divide to pursue you.  You don't have to try to cross that divide.  He has done it for you in the person and sacrifice of Christ.  How long will you let the greatest Christmas gift in the universe sit unopened?

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