By Sam Harbin
Saturday, May 01, 2004
The sermon begins in a traditional format, then switches into a first-person dramatic narrative format, and finally back to a traditional format for the conclusion. The speaker did not use period costuming for the dramatic narrative portion of the sermon. Platform positioning was utilized to indicate when the speaker was “in character.”
A frustrated father was heard to quip, “By the time a man is old enough to recognize that his father was right, he has a son who thinks he is wrong.” Well, it is Father’s Day again — it’s time to honor that man we used to think was so wrong until we grew up and he suddenly got smart.
We chuckle at the joke, but to be honest the humor awakens a sense of uneasiness in us. From deep within us, we feel that, among all the human relationships we experience in this life, there is something unique about the relationship of fathers and children. There is something about it that runs very deep, that touches close to the very center of our lives. When that relationship is good, it positively affects every other relationship in your life. And when that relationship is bad, it hands you a heartload of pain that chips away at the joy you feel about the good parts of your life. Such is the power of the father/child relationship in God’s world.
Malachi was a Hebrew prophet who apparently recognized the power of that relationship. Ministering about 100 years after the Jews returned from the captivity, he encouraged a people who had rebuilt their temple but failed to rebuild their lives with God. The priesthood was corrupt, worship had become routine, divorce was widespread, social justice was ignored, tithing was neglected. Malachi had plenty of sins to preach against.
That is why it is so unusual that the last words of his prophecy, which would be the last words the Jews would hear from God for over 400 years of deafening silence, are words which talk about the relationship of fathers and children. These words are found on the final page of our Old Testament,
And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.
Malachi is speaking about that special Elijah-like messenger from God who would come and ultimately point people to Jesus as the Messiah — we know now that special person is John, the Baptist. As a matter of fact, these very words are repeated in