The final major historic acts of the Old Testament are described in Ezra and Nehemiah as God allowed the people of Israel to return from exile and resettle in Jerusalem. The City of David was repopulated with Hebrew families, a new temple was built, and the wall was repaired.
And that brings us to Malachi. This prophet, who was most likely a contemporary of Nehemiah, brings the written portion of the Old Testament to a close. Notice the first thing he said to the people of Israel: “ ‘I have loved you,’ says the Lord.” And look at their response: “How have you loved us?” (1:2).
Amazing, isn’t it? Their history had proven God’s faithfulness, yet after hundreds of years in which God continually provided for His chosen people in both miraculous and mundane ways, they wondered how He had shown His love. As the book continues, Malachi reminds the people of their unfaithfulness (see vv. 6-8). They had a long historical pattern of God’s provision for them, followed by their disobedience, followed by God’s discipline.
It was time, soon, for a new way. The prophet hints at it in Malachi 4:5-6. The Messiah would be coming. There was hope ahead for a Savior who would show us His love and pay the penalty once and for all for our sin.
That Messiah indeed has come! Malachi’s hope is now a reality in Jesus.
Our son, Josh, is a commercial salmon fisherman in Kodiak, Alaska. Some time ago he sent me a photograph he took of a tiny vessel a few hundred yards ahead of his boat moving through a narrow pass. Ominous storm clouds loom on the horizon. But a rainbow, the sign of God’s providence and loving care, stretches from one side of the pass to the other, encircling the little boat.
The photograph reflects our earthly voyage: We sail into an uncertain future, but we are surrounded by the faithfulness of God!
Jesus’ disciples were surrounded by a storm, and He used the experience to teach them about the power and faithfulness of God (Matt. 8:23-27). We seek answers for the uncertainties of life. We watch the future growing closer and wonder what will happen to us there. Puritan poet John Keble captured this in one of his poems in which he watched the future as it drew near. But as he watched he was “waiting to see what God will do.”
Whether young or old we all face uncertain futures. Heaven answers: God's love and goodness encircle us no matter what awaits us. We wait and see what God will do!
A major theme of the Old Testament book of 2 Samuel could easily be “Life is a mess!” It has all the elements of a blockbuster TV miniseries. As David sought to establish his rule as king of Israel, he faced military challenges, political intrigue, and betrayal by friends and family members. And David himself was certainly not without guilt as his relationship with Bathsheba clearly showed (chs. 11–12).
Yet near the end of 2 Samuel we find David’s song of praise to God for His mercy, love, and deliverance. “You, Lord, are my lamp; the Lord turns my darkness into light” (22:29).
In many of his difficulties, David turned to the Lord. “With your help I can advance against a troop [run through a barricade]; with my God I can scale a wall” (v. 30).
Perhaps we identify with David’s struggles because he, like us, was far from perfect. Yet he knew that God was greater than the most chaotic parts of his life.
With David we can say, “As for God, his way is perfect: the Lord’s word is flawless; he shields all who take refuge in him” (v. 31). And that includes us!
Life is messy, but God is greater than the mess.
A friend’s baby was suffering seizures, so they sped to the hospital in an ambulance, her heart racing as she prayed for her daughter. Her fierce love for this child hit her afresh as she held her tiny fingers, recalling too how much more the Lord loves us and how we are “the apple of His eye.”
The prophet Zechariah employs this phrase in his word to God’s people who had returned to Jerusalem after their captivity in Babylon. He calls them to repent, to rebuild the temple, and to renew their hearts of love for the true God. For the Lord loves His people greatly; they are the apple of His eye.
Hebrew scholars suggest this phrase from Zechariah 2 denotes one’s reflection in the pupil of another’s eye, with the word “apple” emerging because it’s a common spherical object. So with eyes being precious and fragile, they need protecting, and that’s how the Lord wants to love and protect His people—by holding them close to His heart.
The Lord who dwells in our midst pours out His love on us—even, amazingly, far more than a loving mother who does all she can for her ailing child. We are the apple of His eye, His beloved.
W. T. Stead, an innovative English journalist at the turn of the 20th century, was known for writing about controversial social issues. Two of the articles he published addressed the danger of ships operating with an insufficient ratio of lifeboats to passengers. Ironically, Stead was aboard the Titanic when it struck an iceberg in the North Atlantic on April 15, 1912. According to one report, after helping women and children into lifeboats, Stead sacrificed his own life by giving up his life vest and a place in the lifeboats so others could be rescued.
There is something very stirring about self-sacrifice. No greater example of that can be found than in Christ Himself. The writer of Hebrews says, “This Man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God . . . . For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified” (Heb. 10:12,14 nkjv). In his letter to the Galatians, Paul opened with words describing this great sacrifice: “The Lord Jesus Christ . . . gave himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age” (Gal. 1:3-4).
Jesus’ offering of Himself on our behalf is the measure of His love for us. That willing sacrifice continues to rescue men and women and offer assurance of eternity with Him.
Macarena Valdes’s skill in mapping underground mines made a real difference in the rescue of the 33 Chilean miners trapped after an explosion in October 2010. Drilling to find the exact place where the men were located was like “trying to shoot a fly from 700 meters away,” she said. With her mining experience, Valdes was able to guide the probe to where the miners were entombed, which helped bring about their dramatic rescue.
In efforts to carry out spiritual rescues, it’s easy to become discouraged. Although the apostle Paul faced even greater obstacles, he said, “We do not lose heart” (2 Cor. 4:1). Even though “the god of this age” had “blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel,” he continued to proclaim the gospel of salvation (vv. 4-5). Compelled by God, who lovingly spoke light into his own darkness (v.6), Paul knew that what God had done for him God could do for others.
You and I may have a similar story. Compelled by the love of God, we too have reason not to lose heart. As Macarena led in the rescue of the miners, the Spirit of God can carry the light of our love and words into the hearts of those who need a rescue they may not yet understand.
When the angel Gabriel appeared to Mary and then to shepherds with good news for the world (Luke 1:26-27; 2:10), was it good news to this teenage girl? Perhaps Mary was thinking: How do I explain my pregnancy to my family? Will my fiancé Joseph call off the betrothal? What will the townspeople say? Even if my life is spared, how will I survive as a mother all alone?
When Joseph learned about Mary’s pregnancy, he was troubled. He had three options. Go ahead with the marriage, divorce her publicly and allow her to be publicly scorned, or break off the engagement quietly. Joseph chose option three, but God intervened. He told Joseph in a dream, “Do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit” (Matt. 1:20).
For Mary and Joseph, Christmas began with submitting themselves to God in spite of the unthinkable emotional challenges before them. They entrusted themselves to God and in doing so demonstrated for us the promise of 1 John 2:5: “If anyone obeys his word, love for God is truly made complete in them.”
May God’s love fill our hearts this Christmas season—and every day—as we walk with Him.
Early 20th-century residents of Fort Bragg, California, disposed of their trash by throwing it over a cliff and onto a nearby beach. Cans, bottles, tableware, and household garbage accumulated in huge, disgusting piles. Even when residents stopped depositing trash on the beach, it remained an embarrassment—a dump seemingly beyond reclamation.
Over the years, however, wave action broke up the glass and pottery and washed the rubbish out to sea. The pounding surf rolled and tumbled the glass fragments in the sand on the ocean floor, frosting and smoothing the surface and creating gemlike “sea glass,” which it then deposited back onto the beach. The surf created a kaleidoscopic beauty at which visitors to Glass Beach now stare in wonder.
Perhaps you feel as though your life has become a dump—a mess beyond hope. If so, you need to know that there is someone who loves you and waits to redeem and reclaim you. Give Jesus your heart and ask Him to make you pure and clean. He may tumble you a bit, and it may take time to smooth away the rough edges. But He will never give up on you. He will make you into one of His jewels!
When our kids were young, one of them bluntly said “no” when we passed him some peas for dinner. To which we replied, “No what?” We hoped he would say, “No, thank you.” Instead he said, “No peas!” That led to a discussion about the importance of good manners. In fact, we had similar discussions on numerous occasions.
Beyond good manners—which are external—our Lord reminds us that we are to have a heart of gratitude. Scripture contains dozens of reminders that expressing gratitude is of primary importance in our relationship with God. Psalm 118 begins and ends with the exhortation to “give thanks to the Lord” (vv. 1, 29). We are to give thanks when we come into His presence (100:4). And the requests we bring to Him are to be wrapped in a spirit of thanksgiving (Phil. 4:6). Such an attitude of gratitude will help us remember our abundant blessings. Even in the midst of trouble and despair, God’s presence and love are our constant companions.
It’s no wonder, then, that the psalmist reminds us to “give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever” (Ps. 118:1).