34. Reassurance

Meditations in Malachi : 34.  Reassurance

Mal 3:17   “They will be mine,” says the LORD Almighty, “in the day when I make up my treasured possession. I will spare them, just as in compassion a man spares his son who serves him.

When our children were small, there were rare serious occasions when a smack was warranted and tears would follow, but in our family there came a simple dictum: “After smacks come cuddles.” Smacks were never handed out from angry frustration but were the sign that something major had happened, something that if let go, could end up in harm, but even on the rare occasions when they did come they were always followed by cuddles. Now you may think (if you haven’t thought about this carefully) that that was an artificial thing, but it is no more artificial than anything else we do to make a point. This said, just because you did wrong and we think it is serious, it doesn’t mean we don’t love you. I watch my children with their children operating the ‘naughty spot’ policy and I’m pleased to note that after whatever ‘punishment’ or ‘discipline’ they bring (and children NEED discipline) there is always a reconciling or bringing back together. When we have been disciplined we need reassurance afterwards that the relationship is still intact.

This is what the Lord does now. This book is full of prophetic chiding for there is, indeed, much to be put right in Israel in the way they think about the Lord and act towards Him. So yes, there are warnings about strong words that will be spoken in the future to bring repentance and in many ways this little book is filled with unpleasant challenges – but needful! It is a book about discipline and the need to change and that is never comfortable, but then some of them do respond to what they have heard and so now the Lord responds with reassuring words for them.

He speaks of a day yet to come and the translators aren’t completely sure about the order of the wording. An alternative note is given that says he may be speaking about, my treasured possession, in the day when I act.” The present version simply refers to “the day” implying a day yet to come.  There is coming a time when He is going to gather together all His faithful ones and these ones who have just responded will be included in them: “They will be mine,” says the LORD Almighty.” This is the Lord saying even more, I have seen you and heard you and accept your response. You will indeed be part of my faithful remnant who I will bless. Indeed, He adds, “I will spare them.” They do not need to fear being destroyed by the Lord’s judgment. These may have been strong words the prophet has been speaking, but his words have had the effect the Lord wanted and some of them at least have responded and THEY will be saved because they have responded.

It may need saying in passing, that many people presume on the Lord’s compassion and assume that when it comes to the Day of Judgment, God will just turn a blind eye to their rebellion and their sin. No, He doesn’t. He honours and respects people for the decisions they took and so He lets them bear the responsibility for it and all that goes with that. God only forgives when there is repentance. I once did a study going through the whole Bible and as a result of that I can tell you that God doesn’t forgive when there isn’t repentance. This present small group of people He is now talking to, have repented; they have responded to His word and it is because of that that they are now being reassured. That doesn’t apply to the rest.

But note how He refers to them:my treasured possession.” There is an echo here of what He said to Israel on Mount Sinai when he made them His own people: “Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession.” (Ex 19:5). Israel, as the obedient people of God were His treasured possession, so in saying this He is reminding them of their origins and in a most beautiful way saying, “You are still my treasured special, wonderful people, despite all that has gone on.”

And then, as if to drive the point home even more He adds,just as in compassion a man spares his son who serves him.”  Father and son relationship was an especially meaningful relationship in those days. A son usually grew up and was trained by his father to follow in his footsteps and take on the family business. The son served under his father like an apprentice; it was the most natural thing in life in those days. If the son went off the rails it would obviously grieve the father and, like the father in Jesus’ parable of the prodigal son (Lk 15:11-24), the father would be wanting the son to come back to his right place serving the father, getting ready to take over the family business, and would be looking for him to return to that. Thus when he did there would be an instant response of compassion within the father who gladly and joyfully and emotionally received the son back into the business.  That is the picture behind this and it is like the Lord saying, “I welcome you back just as you would your wayward son when he returns to work under you in the family business.” An excellent picture and greatly reassuring!

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