“The Sun of righteousness… with healing in his wings.” (Malachi 4.1)
I have been looking forward to February to leave the winter behind. It sounds like wishful thinking after this week but I always remember a mid-February in the early eighties. The sunshine was brilliant and I could go for my lunch-time walk without a coat and the early blossom was beautiful. I was thinking about it this morning as I took my walk. The sunshine was magnificent and, as I turned a corner, with the sun on my back, I could just feel a tinge of warmth through my pullover, jacket and thickest overcoat.
We expect dark days in December and January for they are short days and mostly the sun is scarce but our recollections help us get along through life looking to better days. Why should those better days that are past not recur in the future? Do we not hope that it will be the case? The pandemic must be producing a lot of thoughts about better days. After this length of time, even some normal days would be accounted better days! The days of Malachi were dark and bleak days not better days. They were days like our own. (i)God’s love was despised. ‘I have loved you, saith the LORD. Yet ye say, Wherein hast thou loved us?’ (Malachi 1.2a). (ii) The religious leadership had no time for the true God. ‘A son honoureth his father, and a servant his master: if then I be a father, where is mine honour? and if I be a master, where is my fear? saith the LORD of hosts unto you, O priests, that despise my name. And ye say, Wherein have we despised thy name?’ (Malachi 1.6). (iii) Greed and gain had become major motivators. ‘Who is there even among you that would shut the doors for nought? neither do ye kindle fire on mine altar for nought’ (Malachi 1.10a). (iv) Evil passed for goodness. ‘Ye have wearied the LORD with your words. Yet ye say, Wherein have we wearied him? When ye say, Every one that doeth evil is good in the sight of the LORD, and he delighteth in them; or, Where is the God of judgment?’ (Malachi 2.17).
Light in darkness
The prophecy of Malachi is about sunshine in darkness. The first mention of the sun is in Chapter 1. ‘For from the rising of the sun even unto the going down of the same my name shall be great among the Gentiles’ (verse 11a). This mention of the sun is not about astronomy or the sun’s light-giving characteristic but rather its universal range. From its rising in the East to its setting in the West it shines on every nation on earth. Incredible though it might have seemed at the time, God revealed that the godless Gentiles were to become God fearing worshippers in the coming Gospel times. It is a reminder to us not to measure the work of God with man’s ruler. God has made his name ‘great among the heathen’ (verse 11). He has not merely made his name to be known. He has made it to be revered.
The Sun is shining still
Believers who feel cheered by the sunlight, will appreciate the second reference to the sun in Malachi. ‘But unto you that fear my name shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in his wings; and ye shall go forth, and grow up as calves of the stall’ (Malachi 4.1). As we look around in these days in which we live, there is much to discourage. The ancients worshipped the sun but Christians worship Jesus Christ. The contrast was unmistakable but these days it is as though many churches have morphed from man-centered social clubs to man-pleasing entertainment centres. It remains true, however, that ‘The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom’. He is here referred to as ‘the Sun of righteousness’ and the Saviour can brighten our lives every day because his beams heal the soul. Though the days be dark, spiritually speaking, the knowledge of the Saviour brightens our horizon as nothing else can. He shines in the darkness of uncertainty, he shines in the weariness of monotony, and he shines in the distress of failure. Let us then take heart, stand our ground and we shall prosper in all seasons. ‘Who is among you that feareth the LORD, that obeyeth the voice of his servant, that walketh in darkness, and hath no light? let him trust in the name of the LORD, and stay upon his God’ (Isaiah 50.10).
Pastor Roy Mohon