23 December 2013

Malachi 3:1-4

“But who can endure the day of his coming” (v. 2)


It is hard for many of us to read this passage without the awesome, frightening exciting Bass solo from Handel's Messiah ringing in our ears. It is also quite easy to hear this passage as simply a Monday-morning feeling with only two days to go to Christmas - 'But who can endure the day of his coming' - So much to do and so little time.

However the passage from Malachi has a more ambiguous feel. On the one hand there are the terrors of God coming to people with the mountains shaking; a frightening God who is sovereign of the universe before whom kings and queens must fall and bow. But on the other hand, there is a promise of healing and forgiveness that one day the broken relationship will be healed and our offering acceptable. Both moods matter.

Recently, I was waiting in Heathrow Terminal 5 near to a huge altar like display of super cars; cars costing over £300,000 each were suspended from the ceiling and were being raffled. It was an amazing sight and to communicate the excitement they were playing music from Mozart's Requiem Mass. 'Dies irae, dies illa' (translated "Day of wrath, day of mourning) pounded out into the massive lounge. The words warning of God's coming, of wrath and doom. The irony of the music and display hit me. Surely the excessive consumerism and the petrol head obsession with massive consumption is worthy of the warnings of God. I declined the offer of a £50 raffle ticket but asked, "Do you know what the music is?" I was curious to know if the salesman had got the oddness of the set up. "No," he said, "but I think it is classical." I wondered about Malachi's question.

The answer to the question, 'But who can endure the day of his coming?' is that we can. We can because, "God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him" (John 3:17). The ambiguity of terror and promise in Malachi is resolved in Christ who comes, "with healing in its wings" (Malachi 4:2).

To Ponder

  • How does the thought of the coming Christmas Day fill you? Are you ready?
  • What does God's coming mean to you?
  • What would you like to say to the salesman?

Bible notes author

The Revd Dr Mark Wakelin

Born in Africa to missionary parents, Mark Wakelin is a Methodist minister, He was the President of the Methodist Conference 2012/2013, and before that worked for the Connexional Team, as the secretary for internal relationships. He is now the minster at Epsom Methodist Chuch.