Many churches throughout the world use a Bible reading schedule called a "lectionary." It's just a fancy word meaning "selected readings." Posts like this reflect on the readings for an upcoming Sunday or other Church holiday, as found in the three-year lectionary.
Every so often, more often than I would like, I will see or hear a line of commentary that draws a very sharp distinction between the Old Testament and the New, regularly portraying the God of the Old Testament as a grumpy old man eagerly warming up to smite all humanity. On the other hand, the commentators depict Jesus as the all loving New Testament deity who really cares.
A careful reading of our Old Testament passage for this week, Malachi 4:1-6, should dispel those ideas. Verse one warns of a terrible destruction which is coming. The “arrogant and all evildoers” (ESV) are in deep, deep trouble. They will be cut down and then burned. Yet they have been warned. For generation after generation God has called everyone to trust in Him, not in any of our human wisdom or resources. Verse two shows the comfort and safety they can have, with righteous healing resulting in joyful cavorting like young cattle, overjoyed to go play in the pasture. God’s desire is to move people from verse one to verse two. Verse three, however, soberly reminds us that not all will believe. It will be a dreadful day because of those who reject God’s calling.
What is our reasonable reaction? In verse four we are told to remember God’s commands. They are for our good, for our preservation. And God has not just left us with a warning. Verses five and six speak of God’s work to turn hearts to righteousness, not only on an individual basis, but between generations. By God’s grace, people of many generations are called to repentance and faith, moving from verse one to verse two.
In the Old and New Testament alike, God lovingly calls His people to trust in Him as their only hope. If salvation is indeed by grace through faith, that call is the only truly loving thing to do.
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