26 December 2021
The Restoration Prophets are Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi. They addressed the folks returning from Exile. A constant refrain in their message was: If you will obey the Covenant, God will do things you cannot imagine. All the mighty miracles of the past will become quite normal and average compared to what God wants to do for you.
That's because He held out the same promise to previous generations from the beginning. Had they been faithful, God would have done far more to protect them for the sake of His Word. It was quite rare when anyone in leadership understood just what was at stake.
It's the same today; it's simply a matter of how God works. He has a different kind of nation today, but the Covenant of Christ that makes us a spiritual nation hasn't changed that much. There are certain underlying elements that are just the same. If we will be faithful to the Covenant, we cannot imagine the mighty works God will do through us and for us.
It's not just what He promised them on Mount Sinai; it goes way back to the Garden of Eden. He promised that we could crush the head of Satan. That was part of Satan's punishment, that we already have the power to do that, if we would just use it. We are supposed to be the divine whip on Satan. If not, he will be the divine whip on us.
God had high hopes that His people would embrace the revelation. In the Garden, we rejected walking in faith and were cast out into mortality. We became a part of the Garden we were supposed to manage, entering the mortality cycle, falling under the time-space constraints that ruled the Garden's existence. Our divine heritage is to depart that existence and return to what we were at the start, eternal beings who manage His Garden from a higher level. The path back to Eden is through the Flaming Sword, which is now also the Cross.
Like the folks returning from Exile, we still have to build the Temple. Not literally; there can never be another literal Temple in God's plans. We are His Temple, when it comes to that. But the image here is not building up a fleshly existence of some human ideal, but that our bodies become His home on earth. The ideal is moral truth, not physical excellence.
Malachi in particular painted the image of divine moral infrastructure, of which the Second Temple was a mere symbol. Yeah, it was not as big and pretty as the one Solomon built, but that shouldn't matter -- it was the same God they worshiped there. It was and still is all about His greatness and glory. So while Haggai and Zechariah hammered them about bending their backs to the stone edifice of the Temple, the real issue was the moral infrastructure of divine revelation. God had called out the Hebrew people as His own family on the earth because that was His way of breathing life into the words of revelation.
They were meant to be a beacon of truth. There was no plan to have all the nations convert to become Israeli. The Covenant of Moses was just for Israel. However, behind that Covenant was a deeper moral truth about mankind and our place in Creation. The rest of the world could embrace the Covenant of Noah, as if they were Gentile residents in the land by God's blessing. The point was what Moses and Noah had in common: that depth of moral truth revealing who God was and what Creation was all about.
So you and I today sit here with the Law Code of Noah, because that's inherent in the Covenant of Christ. You could get stuck in the law code part, but the whole idea is to speak to your heart and call for your feudal submission to God. The law code is just a collection of provisional boundaries to get your flesh used to the pattern of obedience. You know what to expect. It's that communion with the Holy Spirit that gives you power to obey.
This was true for the Returnees whom Malachi addressed. They needed to see that they were but stones in the Temple of God. They had to make themselves fit the blueprint, but nothing could have been more joyful and blessed. It put them in the place where God's blessings poured down from Heaven. If they kept seeking their own solutions to the problems of life, then they would never have a Temple where God felt welcome. It's the call of sacrifice: Put God first, and He will supply the rest. It meant a rather austere life of heavy burden for the first few generations, but things would ease up later. It was all about the message, not your personal comfort. It takes several generations of doing it right before you can see the full blossom of Covenant peace.
That turned out to be too hard for the people. They just could not embrace the idea that their sacrifice would bless future generations. They couldn't buy into the value of God's glory coming first in their lives. They kept getting lost in the details of their earthly pursuits. This was the "building on sand" Jesus talked about later. It's quicker and easier, but it won't stand the test of time. That's the thing that nobody seemed to grasp in Malachi's audience: Your personal life time is not the proper boundaries of perspective. You are part of something that stood long before you, and what will it be when you are gone?
They weren't committed to the vision through the ages. They weren't part of something much bigger than themselves. They were simply their own selves standing alone in human misery and bottomless desire for the trappings of this life. Because they refused to invest in something ageless, they were depriving future generations. Doesn't that sound like America's Boomers? Succeeding US generations are even worse. That's a pretty good picture of what it was like for God dealing with the folks who came back from Exile. Each generation stripped out all the hedonistic pleasures they could get, leaving nothing for their children and grandchildren. Meanwhile, what really suffers is the revelation of God.
We share a lot with the Returnees. The same blessings and promises of God stand unfulfilled because we can't be bothered to rise above our personal petty comforts. Still, the Lord holds out His hands, calling for His people to give their lives to the work.
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