Readings: Malachi 4:1-6 | Romans 15:4-13 | Luke 21:25-36
Text: Malachi 4:1-6
Every day, we are reminded that the godless enjoy prosperity and ease. They are the ones getting their way in the senate, gaining favor in school and society. The boastful sneer at the Christians and speak evil of them falsely (calling them bigots for not bowing down toward their god: same sex marriage).
Psalm 73 describes their success:
4 For they have no pangs until death;
their bodies are fat and sleek.
5 They are not in trouble as others are;
they are not stricken like the rest of mankind.
6 Therefore pride is their necklace;
violence covers them as a garment.
7 Their eyes swell out through fatness;
their hearts overflow with follies.
8 They scoff and speak with malice;
loftily they threaten oppression.
9 They set their mouths against the heavens,
and their tongue struts through the earth.
10 Therefore his people turn back to them,
and find no fault in them. (Psalm 73:4-10)
You look at the worldly people—those of the queer movement, the anti-Christians, the ones whose consciences are seared—and think how easy they have it! Right now, they enjoy public favor and protections, right now they are at ease in their lifestyle. Their values are celebrated on the news and in the public square, while the Christian is demonized. It’s their dealings that are successful, their barns that grow ever fuller. Sure, they have the same pains as other mortal men, but the gods of their delusion care for them. The life of a pagan is the life of freedom and peace in this world.
Recall the story of Naomi and her husband, Elimelech. She went into the land of the Moabites when unfaithfulness brought famine. Their sons married Moabite wives, and then Elimelech and his sons died in the land of Moab. Upon hearing that the Lord had visited Israel and restored bread to Bethlehem (the “house of bread”), Naomi is poised to return. She tells her Moabite daughters-in-law to stay:
“Go, return each of you to her mother’s house. May the Lord deal kindly with you, as you have dealt with the dead and with me. 9 The Lord grant that you may find rest, each of you in the house of her husband!”… “Turn back, my daughters; why will you go with me?... No, my daughters, for it is exceedingly bitter to me for your sake that the hand of the Lord has gone out against me.” (Ruth 1:8-13)
Why would anyone choose to be at odds with other men? Who would follow after a God whose path brings such suffering?
But He is also the God who promises life and salvation through His Son. There is salvation from the curse found nowhere else! So, what will you have? Peace now, in the favor of man and their gods? Or the peace from heaven that you have to wait to see?
To those who hold to the Lord, in spite of the passing promise of worldly peace, He promises, “The sun of righteousness shall rise with healing in His wings. You shall go out leaping like calves from the stall.” The day will come when the people faithful to the true God will be vindicated. There will be a separation between the righteous and the wicked, and only the righteous will have God’s favor in eternity.
The signs which are given assure us that He is not leading us on:
“And there will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and on the earth distress of nations in perplexity because of the roaring of the sea and the waves, people fainting with fear and with foreboding of what is coming on the world. For the powers of the heavens will be shaken. And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.” (Luke 21:25–27)
Notice the biggest things that the worldly people fear: getting sick (especially terminally), that the climate will change and the oceans rise, ominous predictions about clean drinking water going away, that the economy will collapse and cause them to suffer want, and worst of all death itself because they don’t know what comes next.
We’d be lying if we say we’re haven’t shared in at least some of these fears, because we’re human and our sin also clings to the gods of this passing world.
Although the people of the world are in terror because of the threat of the world being destroyed, this should actually encourage the Spirit in God’s children that His Word is true. The fact that people are terrified of climate change and “apocalyptic” events should assure us that the word of the Lord is true.
At this point, they will accuse you of holding to a tradition that makes you right and condemns everyone else. That’s a valid point, because who wants a worldview that can’t serve them? Yet we do not have this truth from ourselves. It isn’t borne out of a self-chosen favoritism that says God loves people like us and condemns everyone else. It is borne from His own Word.
It’s a Word which condemns our sins all the same, because we have desired what is contrary to His will. We have been guilty of sexual immorality, of blaspheming, of neglect and hatred of our neighbors. Yet, in confessing those as the sins which they are, the same Word declares the forgiveness of our sins for the sake of the blood of Christ.
Elijah has come, John the Baptist, who pointed to the faithful and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” All who were struck by their sin heard that and repented of their wicked works and believed in the Lord who works righteousness.
So, now the task of the Church is to proclaim this same repentance and Gospel to all the people of the earth. All who believe in Him will be saved. All who refuse to believe will be condemned (Mark 16:16). So, at last, it is not our opinion of others that counts, just as their opinion and raging cannot do anything more to us than bodily suffering [Matt. 10:28].
The judgment which ultimately has power is that of the Lord, who separates those who fear the Name of the Lord given in Baptism, and those evildoers who spurn His call to turn from disaster. It is they who will seek mercy on the Last Day and will not find it. The time of clemency is now. “Seek the Lord while he may be found; call upon him while he is near” (Isaiah 55:6)
We’re not pleased that people will be condemned. Neither is the Lord, who is the world’s Savior. So let us continue to tell them this truth, in hope that they also will repent before “the day comes upon them burning like an oven.” O Lord, have mercy upon our race, especially upon the souls of those who now proudly reject you. May they be turned from their ignorance and rejection before it is too late! In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.