“Remember the law of Moses My servant, even the statutes and ordinances which I commanded him in Horeb for all Israel. Behold, I am going to send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and terrible day of the LORD. He will restore the hearts of the fathers to their children and the hearts of the children to their fathers, so that I will not come and smite the land with a curse.” Malachi 4:4-6 (NASB)
With this calling to remember the law of Moses, and this prediction that the prophet Elijah will be sent before the coming of the Lord Himself, the prophecy of the Old Testament is brought to a close. After Malachi, no other prophet arose in Israel until the time was fulfilled when the Elijah predicted by him appeared in John the Baptist, and immediately afterwards the Lord came to His temple, that is to say, the incarnate Son of God to His own possession, to make all who receive Him children of God. . .
Law and prophets bore witness of Christ, and Christ came not to destroy the law or the prophets, but to fulfill them. Upon the Mount of Christ’s Transfiguration, therefore, there appeared both Moses, the founder of the law and mediator of the old covenant, and Elijah the prophet, as the restorer of the law in Israel, to talk with Jesus of His decrease which He was to accomplish in Jerusalem, for a practical testimony to the apostles and to us all, that Jesus Christ, who laid down His life for us, to bear our sin and redeem us from the curse of the law, was the beloved Son of the Father, whom we are to hear, that by believing in His name we may become children of God and heirs of everlasting life.
C. F. Keil, Commentary On Malachi
“I called out of my distress to the LORD, and He answered me. I cried for help from the depth of Sheol; You heard my voice.” Jonah 2:2 (NASB)
There is a faith of a soft and easy kind, when everything goes smooth, and we have no anxiety, no fear or distress darkening the path of life. How glibly then do men speak of having their hope in God. There is another kind of faith, which produces resignation, patience, willingness to endure and be brave, and willing to suffer. But yet it may not be faith that cheers the soul,–not a “rejoicing in the Lord,” not the triumph of a trustful soul.
The real saving faith is seen when the soul finds God working in the storm and tempest, and reads the handwriting on the wall, speaking even in the midst of death and terror, and yet can calmly look on the Redeemer on the Cross, and see in the future the immortality beyond the grave, see the brightness of the glory that will one day be, to the faithful heritage of boundless joy, and so be comforted and gladdened even in sorrow and pain. . .
We may learn the lesson of trials and troubles which so often disturb the currents of our life. What would it be if we were always in the sunshine, always prosperous? Would there not be, even to the most faithful, a risk of too great confidence of a false assurance?
T. T. Carter
“For my house will be called a house of prayer for all the peoples.” Isaiah 56:7, Mark 11:17 (NASB)
For some, the church building is a house of fellowship or a house of entertainment or a house of boredom. To think of it as “a house of prayer” implies that we will be active worshipers in it. We will pray for the growth of God’s kingdom and for the health of our own congregation. If our church building is truly “a house of prayer,” we will not want to bring into it any attitudes that hinder prayer. Excessive pride, jealousy, anger, thoughts of revenge — all these must be banished from our minds. If our church building is to be “a house of prayer,” we will undergird with prayer every activity that takes place in it: the preaching, the music, the Lord’s Supper, and all other areas of church life.
“Let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith.” Hebrews 10:22 (NASB)
We are to draw near “with a sincere heart” — that is, with a dedicated heart, willing to be obedient to God in every respect; a heart ready to hear the Word and anxious to obey it — not in outward rituals and programs of the service, but in true worship in the spirit.
God desires worship and praise from a sincere heart. To the Samaritan woman Jesus said, “God is Spirit: and they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and truth” (John 4:24). We are invited to draw near with a sincere heart — and thus we can come to God “in full assurance of faith.”
It is true that we have weaknesses and we know our own unworthiness; but the confidence of the believer is in the worthiness of Christ — His shed blood, His finished work. God cannot lie, and He has promised to receive us if we will come to Him through Jesus Christ. Therefore we should exercise full assurance of faith — and if we fail to trust Him we insult God, His Word, and His grace.
“And He put all things in subjection under His feet, and gave Him as head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.” Ephesians 1:22-23 (NASB)
It is well to keep in mind that we are all followers in the church. Jesus Christ is ultimately the only leader. Those who would lead as ministers, elders, or teachers must demonstrate first of all that they follow Christ. In line with that, it is important that leaders make it their aim to lead where Christ would lead. Their own visions of what the church should be and their own opinions as to what is best for the congregation, must be subordinate to what Christ wants. Leaders must demonstrate that they rely on God’s Word and prayer as their primary tools in fulfilling their responsibilities.
“They shall call His name Immanuel, which is translated, ‘God with us.'” Matthew 1:23 (NKJV)
A stable? What a place to give birth to the Messiah! The smells and sounds of a barnyard were our Savior’s first human experience. Like other babies, He may even have cried at the sounds of the animals and the strangers parading around His temporary crib.
If so, they would have been the first of many tears. Jesus would come to know human loss and sorrow, the doubts His brothers and family had about Him, and the pain His mother experienced as she saw Him tortured and killed.
All these hardships–and so much more–awaited the baby trying to sleep that first night. Yet from His very first moments, Jesus was “God with us” (Matt.1:23), and He knew what it meant to be human. This would continue for over three decades, ending at His death on the cross.
Because of His love for you and me, Jesus became fully human. And being human allows Him to identify with us. Never again can we say that no one understands us. Jesus does.
May the Light that entered the world that night cast its brilliance into the deepest corners of your souls this Christmas, giving us the peace on earth of which the angels spoke so long ago.
Randy Kilgore, Our Daily Bread, December 25
Bless me, heavenly Father,
forgive my erring ways,
Grant me strength to serve Thee,
put purpose in my days…
Give me understanding,
enough to make me kind
So I may judge all people
with my heart and not my mind…
And teach me to be patient
in everything I do,
Content to trust Your Wisdom
and to follow after You…
And help me when I falter
and hear me when I pray
And receive me in Thy Kingdom
to dwell with Thee someday.
– Helen Steiner Rice –
We are constantly tempted to believe that we can hide from God some of what we think and do. But the Bible reminds us in many places of the truth spelled out in Hebrews 4:13: “And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do.” We need to be honest before God, because He already knows all about us. Furthermore, the Bible points out that a day is coming “when God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ” (Romans 2:16). We need to be honest before God, because He will reveal all our secrets.
Honesty before God is appropriate to our relationship with Him as a child to Father. “Your Father knows what things you have need of, before you ask Him” (Matthew 6:8). But He also desires that we share with Him all our concerns, temptations, and failures.
Help us remember the birth of Jesus,
that we may share in the song of the angels,
the gladness of the shepherds,
and the worship of the wise men.
Close the door of hate and open the door of love
all over the world.
Let kindness come with every gift and
good desires with every greeting.
Deliver us from evil by the blessing
which Christ beings, and teach us to
be merry with clear hearts.
May the Christmas morning make us happy
to be Thy children, and the Christmas evening
bring us to our beds with grateful thoughts,
forgiving and forgiven, for Jesus’ sake.
– Robert Louis Stevenson –