Did you know that the last 600 sermons that Mr. Wesley preached, he preached in the streets? He only got into church six times to preach sermons… They didn’t want to hear him… I have a profound admiration for John Wesley. – Leonard Ravenhill
I’m going to share just a few verses from Malachi today—to wrap up my study of Old Testament Prophets for awhile… And then I’m going to share a little of the history of the time between the Old and the New Testaments… Thanks for reading this early week blog!
“Behold, I am going to send My messenger, and he will clear the way before Me. And the Lord, whom you seek, will suddenly come to His temple; and the messenger of the covenant, in whom you delight, behold, He is coming,” says the Lord of hosts. 2 “But who can endure the day of His coming? And who can stand when He appears? For He is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap (Mal 3:1-2 NASB).
Here the Prophet Malachi speaks of the First Advent of Christ. The “Messenger” sent by God is, of course, John the Baptist. “And he will clear the way before Me” speaks of the removal of moral obstacles to bring one to contrition of heart. In other words, God was going to send a “Messenger” who would preach repentance because the Kingdom of God was a hand—which was exactly what John the Baptist did. Jesus Christ and His Substitutionary Atonement on the Cross brought the Spiritual Kingdom of God to Earth in His First Advent. In His Second Advent, He will usher in and establish His Physical Kingdom on Earth. We, as Holy Spirit filled Believers, are witnesses to God’s Kingdom.
“And the LORD, whom you seek, will suddenly come to His temple” conveys how the Jewish people eagerly desired the coming of the conquering Prince who would set them at the head of the nations and endow them with wealth and glory. They did not understand Who and What the Messiah would be in His First Advent– their Spiritual Savior, and so they rejected him.
The Prophet speaks of the Second Advent of Christ. “And who can stand when He appears” concerns Him coming with Power, Glory, and with vengeance on the Antichrist and his associates. The “refiner’s fire” separates the precious metal from the refuse, and “fullers’ soap” speaks of cleansing.
He will sit as a smelter and purifier of silver, and He will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, so that they may present to the Lord offerings in righteousness. 4 Then the offering of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to the Lord as in the days of old and as in former years (Mal 3:3-4 NASB).
“As in the days of old and as in former years” refers to the times when the Sacrifices were offered in the right attitude and spirit, pointing to the One Who was to come, namely Christ.
“From the days of your fathers you have turned aside from My statutes and have not kept them. Return to Me, and I will return to you,” says the Lord of hosts. “But you say, ‘How shall we return?’ (Mal 3:7 NASB).
The first phrase pertains to the displacement of the Holy Scriptures as the authority and rule of life. “Return to Me, and I will return to you” is a plea for Repentance, and the question “How shall we return?” portrays an Israel so spiritually deadened that they didn’t even know their spiritual condition.
And now, as we’ve reached the last Prophetic Voice until the forerunner of Christ, John the Baptist, I thought I’d talk a little bit about the history of the time between Testaments… I guess, there will always be a historian/researcher in me…
At the close of the Old Testament period, the Persians were the dominant political power. Their control continued until the Greek period, which began in 332 B.C., when the Greeks under Alexander the Great became the great world power. After Alexander died at only thirty-two, his kingdom was divided between four generals. Ptolemy took the area of Egypt, Palestine, and Arabia. The Jews were under the Ptolemies for a time, but there was conflict between the descendants of Seleucus, so that when Ptolemy IV died, Antiochus the Great took Palestine in 198 B.C. Later, Antiochus IV, called Epiphanes, ruled the area of Palestine and several actions were taken against the Jews. Many of them were killed, while others faced severe persecution. Epiphanes desecrated the temple in Jerusalem by boiling a pig and sprinkling the liquid around the temple. Literally, he tried to destroy the worship of Jehovah.
When an office of Epiphanes came forward and made a sacrifice to a pagan idol in a town fifteen miles west of Jerusalem, he also demanded that Mattathias, a priest, make a sacrifice to a pagan idol Mattathias firmly refused, setting a good example for his people, but another Jew went to the altar to make the pagan sacrifice. This so enraged Mattathias that he killed the apostate Jew and the emissary of Epiphanes, and he—with his five sons—destroyed the heathen altar, and then they fled to the hills.
Orthodox Jews refused to fight, or do anything else, on the Sabbath, and the Syrians would take advantage of this day murdering many of the Jews who would not defend themselves. Mattathias decided that it would be right for them to fight in self-defense on the Sabbath, and soon after the Maccabean Revolt, as it is called, began, Mattathias died. His son Judas was selected to take his place, and he was known as “the Maccabee,” which meant “the hammer.” The Jews rallied behind Judas to defeat the Syrians against seemingly impossible odds, and they reconquered Jerusalem, removed the pagan altars, and cleansed the temple which had been desecrated.
The temple was rededicated and cleansed in 165 B.C. And the Jews celebrated an eight-day feast for this dedication, known as Hanukkah—the Festival of Lights. There were other battles and difficulties, but they did have a four year period of relative independence from Syria. Following the death of their military genius leader Judas, his brother Jonathan took over and ruled nearly two decades. He was the “cunning,” and through diplomatic means and strategy, he accomplished many goals. Jonathan was followed by Simon, another brother, and he had great prudence and administrative ability, and was absolutely sovereign over the kingdom. But he was assassinated by his son-in-law, Ptolemy in 135 B.C.
After the period of independence under the Maccabees, Palestine came under Roman control in 63 B.C. under Pompey. He besieged Jerusalem for three months and reportedly killed twelve thousand Jews after he took the city. The Romans entered the temple and the Holy of Holies, but they did not take the costly furnishings. They allowed the temple worship to continue; however, Jerusalem and Judea were made tributaries to the Romans, thus ending the independence for the Jews. A yearly tribute had to be paid to the Romans, which some of the Jews detested doing.
Antipater, an “Idumean,” which means he was an Edomite descendant of Esau, was appointed to rule Judea. He was succeeded by his son, Herod the Great, who was king of Judah from about 37 B.C. to 4 B.C. He sought to obtain the favor of the Jews by rebuilding the temple with great splendor. He was ruler of Judah when Jesus was born, and , being a brutal and cruel man, killed the children of Bethlehem in an attempt to destroy the “King of the Jews.”
During the time of Herod the Great, there were several sects present in Palestine. The Herodians favored the rule of Herod, for purely political reasons. And on the opposite end, the Zealots resisted Rome at all cost. It was actually their fanaticism that resulted in war with Rome in A.D. 70 when the army of Titus destroyed Jerusalem and its temple—just as Jesus Christ and the Prophets of Old had foretold.
And finally today a hymn about Christ’s birth…
Brightest and best of the sons of the morning, dawn on our darkness, and lend us thine aid; sat of the east, the horizon adorning, guide where the infant Redeemer is laid. Cold, on His cradle, the dew-drops are shining; low lies His bed with the beasts of the stall; angels adore Him, in slumber reclining, Maker, and Monarch, and Savior of all! — Heber