Thousands of years ago, God was planning for Christmas. In order to prepare the Jews for the coming of His Son, the Messiah, He spoke through His prophets about His plan to bring Jesus into the world.
A prophet is not just someone who predicts the future. A prophet is a man or woman to whom God gives a message to relay to His people to urge them to obey and trust Him. The various Old Testament prophets, in their times and places, spoke about things happening in their culture to challenge the people about what they were doing wrong and instruct them on what God wanted them to do differently. (Miles called this the “spank and thank” – a message of rebuke followed by a message of hope.)
Though Malachi's message was addressed to a particular audience, the same sin exists today and can still apply to our own culture.
Malachi, whose name means “Messenger,” was the last prophet to speak for 400 years until John the Baptist began his ministry. In Malachi’s time the Jewish people were sinning and had fallen away from God. Though his message was addressed to a particular audience, the same sin exists today and can still apply to our own culture:
“A son honors his father,
And a servant his master.
If then I am the Father,
Where is My honor?
And if I am a Master,
Where is My reverence?
Says the Lord of hosts
To you priests who despise My name.
Yet you say, ‘In what way have we despised Your name?’
“You offer defiled food on My altar,
‘In what way have we defiled You?’
‘The table of the Lord is contemptible.’
And when you offer the blind as a sacrifice,
Is it not evil?
And when you offer the lame and sick,
Is it not evil?
Offer it then to your governor!
Would he be pleased with you?
Would he accept you favorably?”
>Says the Lord of hosts.
Malachi begins by rebuking the Jews for their sin. In this chapter, he notes that the ministers of Malachi’s day were bringing sacrifices to God, but they weren’t bringing their best. (Whenever you give God your time, efforts, prayers, or anything else, He wants your best!) In chapter 3, Malachi also reveals God’s displeasure that His people were divorcing their spouses and were not tithing.
Sin doesn’t change from generation to generation, and it applies to everybody. The prophets of the Old Testament deliver the same message of repentance again and again because the same problems persist, just as they do today. But that isn’t the end of the story. After his message of rebuke, the Lord offers hope in Malachi’s message:
“Behold, I send My messenger,
And he will prepare the way before Me.
And the Lord, whom you seek,
Will suddenly come to His temple,
Even the Messenger of the covenant,
In whom you delight.
Behold, He is coming,”
Says the Lord of hosts.
This message continues in chapter 4 to tell the people that there will soon come a Messiah, but before this, another prophet will come to instruct them and prepare them for His coming. Four hundred years later, John the Baptist fulfills this prophecy, preaching:
“You yourselves bear me witness, that I said, ‘I am not the Christ,’ but, ‘I have been sent before Him.’ He who has the bride is the bridegroom; but the friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly because of the bridegroom’s voice. Therefore this joy of mine is fulfilled. He must increase, but I must decrease. He who comes from above is above all; he who is of the earth is earthly and speaks of the earth. He who comes from heaven is above all. And what He has seen and heard, that He testifies; and no one receives His testimony. He who has received His testimony has certified that God is true. For He whom God has sent speaks the words of God, for God does not give the Spirit by measure. The Father loves the Son, and has given all things into His hand. He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.” John 3:28-36
(See also Matthew 3:1-9, Matthew 11:7-15, and John 1:6-13.)
John’s announcement is not for himself or about himself, but about Jesus. His whole ministry paved the way for the coming of Christ. When you travel somewhere, you don’t stop at the signs that announce that your destination is near; you continue on to your intended destination. We are to be like those signs, pointing the way to Jesus. When people interact with us, their experience should tell them that we have a relationship with the living God!
Why is the coming of Jesus such an important announcement? Is He really so different than other religious leaders? Jesus is the true Savior because He is sent by the Father and performed miracles to attest to His deity.
“If I do not do the works of My Father, do not believe Me; but if I do, though you do not believe Me, believe the works, that you may know and believe that the Father is in Me, and I in Him.” John 10:37-38
As Christmas approaches, it is important to reflect on what Christmas is really about. God sent His Son into the world to die for our sins, to give us an opportunity to have a relationship with Him and to receive cleansing and forgiveness of sins. You aren’t automatically called a “child of God” simply by being human; rather, you are a child of your earthly parents. The title “child of God” is reserved for him who believes and trusts in Jesus Christ.
He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him. But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. John 1: 10-13
The Old Testament prophets told the Jews again and again to repent from their sins, but now we have the rest of the story available to us. Now we know the message of eternal salvation – to repent from sin, and to put our hope in the Son of God who died on the cross for our sins. God loves us that much, to sacrifice His only Son so that we can be forgiven and restored to Him.
Jesus Himself tells us the reason for his coming in John 10:10, when He says, “I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.”
The “Voice,” John the Baptist, came with a powerful message of truth and hope for all humankind. He announced the coming of the One who would give you the right to become a child of God – and that’s what Christmas is all about! Have you realized that priceless opportunity?