The Messenger of Light
“See, I will send the prophet Elijah to you before that great and dreadful day of the Lord comes. He will turn the hearts of the parents to their children, and the hearts of the children to their parents; or else I will come and strike the land with total destruction.”
Malachi 4:5-6 NIV
Over the past six days, we have looked at several Old Testament prophecies that tell of the coming of a King. He who was foretold to come out of the line of Abraham, the mighty successor to King David, born in Bethlehem to a virgin mother, a star to come out of Jacob.
Over 400 years before the prophecies would eventually be realized, the book of Malachi (which translates in Hebrew to “My Messenger”) was written. During that time, the Israelites found themselves under Persian rule. The Persian rulers then fell at the hand of Alexander the Great's conquest. After Alexander's demise, Israel was subject to a revolving door of conquerors before Rome marched in and took control in 63 BC.
The 400 years between the words of Malachi and the birth of Christ are now known as the “400 Years of Silence.” There were no more prophets or words from God of assurance or liberation. Imagine what that must have felt like for the Israelites. It was hard enough to make it through the Babylonian exile. And even then, God spoke to them through the likes of Ezekiel and Daniel. Now, they found themselves being tossed around from oppressor to oppressor without any new word from the Lord. They must have felt abandoned. Disregarded. Left out adrift on the cold, violent sea with a dark, starless, and dreary sky and no hope in sight.
This sense of hopelessness could have only been amplified if they read the final words of Malachi: total destruction.
Not exactly a happy-go-lucky feeling, huh?
But there is more to the story. There is ALWAYS more to the story with God. See, God’s messenger chose to end the book, not with a promise of total destruction, but rather the promise of the return of Elijah and, then, the day the Lord comes.
Now, Elijah the prophet does not return in human form. However, as Luke details, the spirit and power of Elijah does reemerge on Earth...
“And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the parents to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous — to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”
Luke 1:17 NIV
Who is this verse referring to? Well, this series is called The Journey to Christ, so it has to be Jesus, right? Wrong. This quote is from the angel Gabriel as he speaks to Zechariah about the miraculous birth of his son, who would later be known as John the Baptist.
John was the first prophet since Malachi and fulfilled a few prophecies himself along the way. His whole existence was meant to make way for the coming King, who would happen to be his cousin.
But while John was the fulfillment of the coming of Elijah, he was never the focus of Malachi’s words. Instead, John, both in Malachi and as told throughout the Gospels, was meant to be a light guiding toward the glorious day when the Lord comes.
“There was a man sent from God whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that all might believe. He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light.”
John 1:6-8 NIV
The Light is the focal point of Malachi’s message. The Light of the World that was to come is Jesus Christ. It would shine so bright that it would halt Malachi's degree of total destruction.
And in a way that subverts all expectation, this Light of the World would come into the world on a dark night, not in a palace or some beautiful setting, but out in the back in an innkeeper's barn.
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
There was a man sent from God whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all might believe. He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light.
The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.
The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.”
John 1:1-14 NIV