Thursday 08 October 2009

Bible Book:
Malachi

"But for you who revere my name the sun of righteousness shall rise, with healing in its wings." (4:2a)

Malachi 3:13 – 4:2a Thursday 8 October 2009

Background

The book of Malachi (meaning 'my messenger') was probablywritten in the 5th century BC. Its author was concerned about thecovenant between God and the people of God. In this passage, Godjudges the people for their harsh words against God. The peopleconsider God's words, and the names of those who revere God arewritten in a book of remembrance. To these, God proclaims anintention to be gracious and make the sun of righteousness to riseon them.

The passage is reminiscent of the mercy God shows to the people ofNineveh in the book of Jonah, with the difference that here, thewicked, and those who revere the Lord are divided into differentcategories. The idea of a book with the names of those whom Godwill save is a common one in the Bible (eg Exodus32:32-34, Isaiah4:3 and Revelation 20:12).This is a powerful image of being among those chosen, or elected,by God.

Some theologians have interpreted this image of the book ofremembrance or book of life as a sign that God decides at thebeginning of time which persons will be saved, predestining them tosalvation. One of the early emphases of Methodism was to insist,against a narrow interpretation of this doctrine of predestination,that all people could be saved through faith in Jesus Christ. Thisdrove preachers to try to reach as many as possible to bring themto Christ.

Other theologians have looked forward to a time in which God willredeem the whole of creation through Christ (see Romans 8:18-24forone passage that has inspired such hopes). For them, the book oflife would seem to contain not only all people, but the createdorder beyond the human as well. Critics object, however, that thisgives up on the justice of God in punishing the righteous, asdeclared in passages such as this one.

To Ponder

How do you respond to God's declared intentionhere to save those who revere God and punish evildoers?

Does faith in the redemption brought in JesusChrist change the way this passage should be interpreted byChristians?

What might God object to in the church to whichyou belong?

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