Sermon for December 3rd, 2017
1A shoot shall come out from the stock of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots. 2The spirit of the Lord shall rest on him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord. 3His delight shall be in the fear of the Lord. He shall not judge by what his eyes see, or decide by what his ears hear; 4but with righteousness he shall judge the poor, and decide with equity for the meek of the earth; he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked. 5Righteousness shall be the belt around his waist, and faithfulness the belt around his loins.
6The wolf shall live with the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the kid, the calf and the lion and the fatling together, and a little child shall lead them. 7The cow and the bear shall graze, their young shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. 8The nursing child shall play over the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put its hand on the adder’s den. 9They will not hurt or destroy on all my holy mountain; for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea. 10On that day the root of Jesse shall stand as a signal to the peoples; the nations shall inquire of him, and his dwelling shall be glorious.
7Be patient, therefore, beloved, until the coming of the Lord. The farmer waits for the precious crop from the earth, being patient with it until it receives the early and the late rains. 8You also must be patient. Strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is near. 9Beloved, do not grumble against one another, so that you may not be judged. See, the Judge is standing at the doors! 10As an example of suffering and patience, beloved, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord.
The Last Prophet
Adonai? My Lord? Are you there?? It is I, your faithful servant Malachi...your messenger. Will you speak through me again Adonai? I listen for your Word. Your people wait for your message. Give us some hope in these dark times, Adonai.
No? Nothing? [sigh] I will come again tomorrow. Perhaps then your silence will be broken.
What? You think I am a foolish old man, speaking to the wind. I am, perhaps, a foolish old man. But long ago, God would speak to his people Isra'el through faithful servants known as the Nevi'im -- or as you call them, the Prophets.
The Nevi'im...they are not like your prophets. I have heard about your prophets: "The world will come to an end on this day in this year!" ... "Such and such King is the Anti-Christ!" ... "This nation will go to war with that nation." Bah! The Nevi'im are NOT petty fortune tellers.
To be a prophet, to be a Nevi'im, is to speak with the voice of God. To speak God's judgment when we have strayed. To speak God's comfort when we mourn. To speak God's truth when we cannot find our way. To speak God's love when we are rejected, forgotten, alone.
To be a prophet is to speak with the voice of God...but to speak with the voice of God, God must first speak to the prophet. This is a terrifying thing! To be a prophet is not for the faint of heart, or the weak of stomach.
God spoke first to Adam, then to Noah, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. But they were not Nevi'im--God spoke to them, but they did not speak to the people. Moses...Moses was the first (and greatest!) of the prophets. God spoke to Moses face to face, and Moses spoke to the Children of Isra'el, leading them out of Egypt, through the wilderness, and right up to the promised land. Then came Joshua, Samuel, and Nathan. In the golden age of the Nevi'im, came the great prophet Eliyahu (or as you say, Elijah) who called down fire from heaven, and who heard God's voice even on the whisper of the wind.
There was Isayahu (Isaiah), who spoke with the voice of God to mighty Kings for 64 years. And Yermiyahu (Jeremiah), who wept for the fall of Jerusalem, who spoke God's words of comfort to a broken people. And Y'hez'qel (Ezekiel) who dreamed dreams and spoke God's new vision to a people in captivity. Yes, in those days, God spoke powerfully to his people through the Nevi'im.
The people. God's people. God's stubborn, deaf, defiant, idolatrous people. Speaking to God's people is like racing a chariot with no horse and no wheels: It doesn't matter how big the crowd is...you still won't get very far.
Moses gave the people God's law, but it wasn't enough; they wanted a King. Samuel gave them a king, but it still wasn't enough; they wanted miraculous signs and wonders. Elijah gave them miraculous signs and wonders, but it still...wasn't...enough. Hosea, Joel, and Amos, Obadiah -- they all warned the people of God's coming judgment, but it wasn't enough. When the people still wouldn't listen, God spoke to us in other ways. God spoke to us through invading armies, the desecration of our temple, the destruction of our homes.
You'd think that message would have gotten through. What did I tell you about God's people, eh? In captivity, some began to listen, but too few, too late. God still sent prophets, but they too became fewer and fewer; their messages shorter and shorter. My brothers Haggai and Zechariah have long since passed from this land, leaving one alone. I, Malachi, the last of the Nevi'im. God spoke to me once, and I to his people. That was 40 years ago, and now there is silence in our land. There is silence in our land, and finally, finally the people listen. The people wait. The people wonder if God is still God, and we his people? Or are we too late? Are we abandoned, without thought...without comfort...without...hope?
No. With Adonai, there is always hope.
We may not hear God's voice, but we still lean on God's promises. And God has promised us...mashiach--a messiah.
The Nevi'im speak with God's voice, but mashiach...the messiah will touch us with God's hands, will BE God's voice, will walk alongside of us, will be Imanu'el -- God with us, one of us.
My brother Micah tells us in his writings that you, O Bethlehem of Ephrathah, who are one of the little clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to rule in Israel, whose origin is from of old, from ancient days. Mashiach. Messiah.
My brother Yermiyahu tells us the days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. Imanu'el. God with us.
A shoot shall come out from the stock of Jesse, my brother Isayahu (Isaiah) tells us, and a branch shall grow out of his roots. The spirit of the Lord shall rest on him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord. Mashiach. Messiah.
And when he comes, the wolf shall live with the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the kid, the calf and the lion and the fatling together, and a little child shall lead them. Mashiach. Messiah. Imanu'el.
They will not hurt or destroy on all my holy mountain; for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea. On that day the root of Jesse shall stand as a signal to the peoples; the nations shall inquire of him, and his dwelling shall be glorious.
And these are the words God spoke to me, Malachi, the last of the Nevi'im: See, I am sending my messenger to prepare the way before me, and the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple. The messenger of the covenant in whom you delight--indeed, he is coming, says the Lord of hosts. Then the offering of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to the Lord as in the days of old and as in former years.
Mashiach. Messiah. Imanu'el.
Know this, you who listen with me today: Sometimes God speaks. Sometimes God is silent. But always, God is faithful. Always, God keeps his promises. Always, even in the darkest night, there is hope. For God is with us, Imanu'el. Meshiach, messiah...is coming soon.