Dear Friends of "Dial Daily Bread,"
It's not pretty, but there it is--the last word of the Old Testament is "a curse" (Mal. 4:6), not so much a threat as it is the inevitable Bad News of disaster as the unavoidable consequence of sin. It's the "curse" that came in the flood of Noah when the earth was destroyed, only this one is to be fire (vs. 1). It's something God Himself cannot avoid, for "the wages of [our] sin is death" (Rom. 6:23). The human race brought it upon themselves "in the days of Noah," and will do so again, unless somehow help can come.
The "help" that God promises is a totally impossible miracle for humans: God will "send ... Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord, and he will turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers" (Mal. 4:5, 6). That domestic "turning-of-heart" is the only thing that can avert a global "curse." It concerns marital fidelity and families.
Malachi's context is the "curse" of marital infidelity, for God says "I hate divorce" (Mal. 2:11-16, Good News Bible). The only remedy for heart alienation is a "turning-of-heart." Marital infidelity was a prime factor in the wickedness before the flood ("they took wives for themselves of all whom they chose," Gen. 6:2).
No one can "turn" his or her own "heart." Jesus predicted that "the love [yes, marital] of many will grow cold" and "lawlessness will abound" (Matt. 24:12). When love turns cold and the fire in the coals has gone out and hearts are estranged, only "Elijah's message" can reconcile the desolated hearts and cleanse the pollution.
And it can! God has promised to "send him" before the "seven last plagues" shall be poured out. The story of sinful humanity in the last book of the New Testament tells how the curse will come (Revelation 15 and 16). But the Elijah message must come first; perhaps it has come to you already. It's more than old covenant resolutions and works; it's a heart-turning "faith-which-works" proclamation of the cross of Jesus, of grace which abounds more than sin.
--Robert J. Wieland
From the "Dial Daily Bread" Archive: January 26, 1999.
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