“For behold, the day is coming, burning like an oven, when all the arrogant and all evildoers will be stubble. The day that is coming shall set them ablaze, says the Lord of hosts, so that it will leave them neither root nor branch. But for you who fear my name, the sun of righteousness shall rise with healing in its wings. You shall go out leaping like calves from the stall. And you shall tread down the wicked, for they will be ashes under the soles of your feet, on the day when I act, says the Lord of hosts.
“Remember the law of my servant Moses, the statutes and rules that I commanded him at Horeb for all Israel.
“Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome day of the Lord comes. And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the land with a decree of utter destruction.” (Malachi 4:1-6)
Every Advent we read this text for in it we have the promise of the return of Elijah. Now this is critical because Malachi promises that Elijah will return before the great Day of the Lord, the long awaited coming of God. The reason that this is important is that our Lord himself says that when Elijah did return he looked a lot like John the Baptist. In Matthews gospel Jesus says, “For all the Prophets and the Law prophesied until John, and if you are willing to accept it, he is Elijah who is to come.” So according to our Lord John the Baptist is the promised Elijah. And Elijah was to come before the great Day of the Lord and John is preparing the way for Jesus – which means, that the coming of Christ is the coming of the great Day of the Lord.
Now as impressive as all that is, as inspiring as it is to see the unfolding of the promises of God in this way, I think that we tend to hear this text as simply a history lesson. In other words we only use it as a stepping stone to jump to the importance and significance of John the Baptist and the coming of God. But if we move too fast from this text I think there is something we miss, something that is important for us to think about. Something that makes this more than just a history lesson. At the beginning of our text we hear these words, “Behold, the day is coming, burning like an oven, when all the arrogant and all evildoers will be stubble. The day that is coming shall set them ablaze, says the Lord of hosts.”
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had a Christian couple in my office to talk about their marriage. You would think that because of their shared faith they would be the most willing to find reconciliation to let go of their pride and love their spouse. But oh can they dig in their heels, wanting justice, wanting some credit, wanting to be right to win the argument to control the situation. And if they stay in their arrogance, if they remain firm in their desire to have it their way then the whole things comes burning down. But it doesn’t have to be a marriage, how many relationships end in ashes, how many times does it just fall completely apart because of our pride?
But the arrogance of man doesn’t stop at burning down its fellowship with one another; no man’s arrogance destroys our relationship with God himself. Our first parents were arrogant in their desire to be like God and so they rebelled and ate the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. And we follow suit, we hear his Word we know his commands, we know what we should do and what we should not do and we choose our own path instead. We head out to do it our own way and reject the guidance of our Creator. In fact we will seek to bend his Word to fit our desires, to support our own world view. What would Jesus Do? Well he most certainly will do the things I care about; he’ll care of the environment, or protect gun rights, or vote democrat, or ride a Harley. And so our arrogance burns down the relationship that the Creator had desired with his own creatures.
“Behold, the day is coming burning like and oven, when all the arrogant and evildoers will be stubble. The day that is coming shall set them ablaze, says the Lord of hosts.” This means that the Day of the Lord, the day prepared for by Elijah, the day that was ushered in by John the Baptist is the day of our own judgment. And all around us we see the ashes, we see them in our relationship we see them in our faith; we see the ashes consuming our lives. And the swift hand of judgment was ready to fall; the final blow was ready to be brought down with great fury upon the arrogant – but something unexpected happened, something no one could have predicted.
God’s great advent with his people happened; the coming of the Son of Man entered into our story, into our arrogance and he took it all upon himself. He became our rebellion; he took your pride and disregard. He embraced the sin that clings so easily to each and every one of us. And he was burned for us. He was judged and condemned and died on that cross of Calvary feeling the sting of arrogant men as they sought to reduce him to ashes. Yet out of the ashes a phoenix arises, out of the grave judged and yet living comes our Lord and savior. He rises never to die again, he lives so that you might live. He restores what we have destroyed, he heals our relationships for he brings the promise of forgiveness to them just as he healed our relationship with the Father himself.
In Christ we now live with a new hope, we live with a new promise, a promise that your sins have already been judged and now you will have life eternal. And so in this promise we not only stand victorious but we dance in joy, we dance upon the ashes of our wrecked life – born again in our resurrected Lord.