December 21, 2008

The Sun of Righteousness is about to Rise - Dec 21, 2008

Grace and Peace be to you from God our Father, and from the Christ Child, our Great Master and Gentle Savior.

Sunrises are almost always beautiful, but whether they are welcome or not depends on what we expect the day to bring. The school child LONGS to see the sun rise on the first day of Christmas vacation. The condemned criminal DOES NOT LONG for the sunrise which marks the day of his execution. As the first sign of a new day, the rising sun can be longed for, or dreaded.

This Christmas day we will rejoice in the rising of the sun. For it ushers in our celebration of Christ’s birth and the peace that comes to us through Him.

Our sermon reading for today directs our attention not to the day of Jesus’ birth, but to the next time He will appear.

Sermon Theme:

“The Sun of Righteousness is About to Rise”

1. His rays heal the God-fearing

2. With Him comes renewal and joy

Sermon:......................................... Malachi 4:1-3 (NASB)

1"For behold, the day is coming, burning like a furnace; and all the arrogant and every evildoer will be chaff; and the day that is coming will set them ablaze," says the LORD of hosts, "so that it will leave them neither root nor branch. 2But for you who fear My name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings; and you will go forth and skip about like calves from the stall. 3You will tread down the wicked, for they will be ashes under the soles of your feet on the day which I am preparing," says the LORD of hosts.

This is the word of God. May our hearts understand it rightly and accept it fully through the diligent working of God the Spirit. Amen.

The “Sun of Righteousness” that Malachi speaks about is Jesus.

We know this for a number of different reasons. First of all, this vision is all about the Judgment Day. The Bible tells us that God the Father has appointed His Son Jesus to serve as Judge on that day. A loud trumpet will sound and Jesus will be seen descending on the clouds, accompanied by all the angels of heaven to separate those who serve God, from those who do not (Matthew 25:31ff, John 5:24-27, Revelation 1:7-8).

Malachi’s description of the Judgment Day puts, the “Sun of Righteousness” is the focus of attention – so it must be Jesus.

Secondly, Jesus calls Himself the “Light of the World” (John 8:12). At least three different times

Jesus revealed His glory on this earth by letting it shine out for others to see visibly.

Before His crucifixion, Jesus went up onto a mountain with a handful of His disciples. There His appearance was changed. His clothing became like a flash of lightning, and his fact like the brightness of the sun (Matthew 17:2, Luke 9:29).

After His crucifixion, Jesus appeared to the future apostle Paul on the road to Damascus. Paul was knocked down and describes a light surrounding him and his companions that was brighter than the sun. From that light Jesus spoke to Paul (Acts 26:12-15).

Years after that, when the apostle John received the visions recorded in the book of Revelation, Jesus appeared to Him also. John describes Jesus’ eyes as being like fire, and His face as being more brilliant than the sun shining at its brightest (Revelation 1:12-16).

And not only is Jesus described as appearing like the sun, the New Testament prophet Zechariah even calls the Christ Child the “Dayspring from on high”, or as we might say today, the “Rising Sun from heaven” (Luke 1:78).

There is no doubt. Malachi’s “Sun of Righteousness” is Jesus, the Son of God.

Malachi 4:2 “But for you who fear My name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings; and you will go forth and skip about like calves from the stall.”

In the Hebrew language, the word for “wing” just means the edge or extremity of something. We use the English word “wing” in the same way today when we speak of the “west wing” of the White House.

Here in Malachi’s prophesy, the “wings” of the Sun are its rays of light. When Jesus comes in the clouds on the day of Judgment, His glory will stream out around Him like the great wings of an eagle. Some will look up with joy to see their salvation coming to them at last! Others will see His wings of glory as the dreadful wings of a great bird of prey.

For Jesus is a light that burns the proud and wicked. They will feel the heat of His judgment even from far off.

In one of the visions of the Last Day in the book of Revelation, the wicked are described as crying out in terror at the sight of Jesus. They run from Him, desperately screaming for the rocks and the hills to crash down on them and hide them from the face of the Lamb of God (Revelation 6:16).

But for the God-fearing, Jesus is a light that heals.

Have you ever seen a little baby that has jaundice? Some newborns turn a yellowish color because their body can’t adequately process something in the blood called “bilirubin”. Jaundice isn’t usually a big deal. The doctors just put the newborn under a special light that helps break down the bilirubin until they can do it on their own.

That’s what the light of Jesus is like for those who trust in Him. His light doesn’t damage us like a burning desert sun, it heals us like a gentle bilirubin light.

The one difference is that jaundiced babies outgrow the need for a bilirubin light. We don’t ever outgrow the need to sit in the light of Jesus by hearing, learning and talking about Him. We need to continue to spend time in Jesus’ light so that our souls remain strong and healthy. So that our souls will continue to truly trust in Him alone as our salvation for sin.

Malachi 4:2 “But for you who fear My name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings; and you will go forth and skip about like calves from the stall.”

The Sun of Righteousness has already risen in the hearts of all who trust in Jesus as Master and Savior. Now we wait for Him to rise before our very eyes and bring our salvation to a glorious close.

For the wicked the Sun of Righteousness is described as a burning thing that will light them on fire. For the God-fearing the Sun of Righteousness is like the intense Amazonian sun which shines down on the well watered jungle, causing it to grow lush a full of life.

Or look at it like a metalworker might. The fire burns away all the impurities, but the gold is not harmed in the least. In fact, gold which has passed through the fire is more brilliant and reflective than before. Because of Jesus, you have become the gold, and He promises to purify you fully from your sins.

Years ago, my wife and I got to go to the Caribbean. We got to lay on beaches that were just a few miles away from the equator. The sun was so powerful there. I still remember laying on a beach chair reading a book. The sand baked me from below and the sun from above. I felt like I was being warmed through all the way to my bones.

And that’s nothing compared to what it will feel like to kneel in the presence of the God-Man, Jesus Christ. Intense, but painless purification will take place when Jesus makes us perfect on the Last Day. Amazing renewal and joy will be ours.

Malachi 4:2 “But for you who fear My name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings; and you will go forth and skip about like calves from the stall.”

Injuries put shackles on us. A runner with a broken foot might as well have a ball and chain around his ankle. Physical injuries prevent us from doing things we want to do.

But spiritual injuries are worse. Spiritual wounds shackle us in ways that we can’t even see. Our sins prevent our souls from enjoying life and they prevent us from serving God.

The sin of impatience prevents us from enjoying the moment because we’re too busy moving on to the next thing. Impatience also causes us to skip over the things that we aught to do in God’s service.

Sinful anger focuses our attention on what someone else has done instead of on what we can do. When we respond to others in anger, we are really being slaves to them. We let their actions determine what ours will be.

It doesn’t matter what sin you pick. They all injure and shackle us in some way.

But, in the light of Christ, these shackles fall away. When we confess our sins to Jesus, He forgives us. He promises to help us avoid and resist the sins that dog our every step.

And on the Last Day Jesus will remove all shackles of sin from us forever. On that day the healing rays of the Sun of Righteousness will set us completely free from sin and from the deterioration and pain that come because of it. Finally we will be free to be the people that God always intended us to be. Finally we will be sinless servants who live in His presence. Him enjoying us. We enjoying Him.

Can you imagine being more truly yourself than you have ever been? You will be, when Christ comes back. And this will result in true, deep, brilliant joy.

Malachi 4:2 “But for you who fear My name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings; and you will go forth and skip about like calves from the stall.”

The last image in verse two is a description of a young calf that has been pent up in a stall all night long. Finally when the sun rises, the rancher opens the gate and the calf is free to go into the green pasture to feed and play. The calf doesn’t slowly amble out – he skips out! He is filled with life and happiness!

This is a picture of what the Sun of Righteousness brings to us now, and on the great day of the LORD.

When the Ark of the Covenant was carried up to Jerusalem, King David went before it and danced because he was so full of joy. The crippled man whom the apostle Peter healed went running and leaping and praising God through the Temple grounds. And Malachi’s little calf went out skipping with joy.

Let this spirit take you this Christmas as you look in the manger. In the manger we see the first dawning of the Sun of Righteousness.

In the first chapter of his Gospel, the apostle John says

…The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world” (John 1:9 NIV).

Then He says,

14The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14 NIV).

Though He did not burn with the visible light of the sun then, He will.

As you hear the account of the Savior’s birth again imagine Malachi’s joyful young calf set free to frolic. That’s you! That’s me! We’ve been released by this Manger Child. Through Jesus our sins have been forgiven, and our relationship with God our Creator has been restored.

In the Sun of Righteousness there is healing for the darkest of sins. So we bring them to His light. Come to His light. Be forgiven, healed, renewed, invigorated by Christ this Christmas. Let His gentle light of love prepare you for His final dawning. Amen.

The peace which comes from God, which far exceeds all our understanding will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

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