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A Scroll of Remembrance

December 17, 2023

Third Sunday of Advent

In Psalm 144:1-8, we see another of David’s praises to and prayers for help from “the LORD our Rock” (verse 1). Here, we notice that it is God Who “trains” us for the “wars and battles” that we frequently face. David asserts that God is a “loving fortress as well as a stronghold, a deliverer, and a shield in Whom we can take refuge” (verse 2). By contrast, as a part of his praise, David recognizes and understands the great difference between God’s nature and man’s. Whereas God is eternal, human beings are temporal - “mere mortals - like a breath and whose days are like a fleeting shadow” (verse 4). It is both a wonder and wonderful that God should “care for” or even “think about” us (verse 3). The mortal will always be subordinate to and require the assistance of the immortal; anyone who thinks otherwise about this misguided. For this reason, David pleads, “LORD, come down … reach down … deliver and rescue me” (verse 7). Who among us doesn’t need such help?

In Revelation 7, John introduces us to God’s 144,000, Jewish “servants” (verse 3) who receive His special seal of service for life during the tribulation. We have no reason to assume a metaphorical meaning for any of these literary elements in chapter 7; we do justice to the text by understanding them literally. Interestingly, the ancient tribes of Dan and Ephraim are excluded from this list - probably for their Old Testament apostasy as seen in the book of Judges (cf., Judges 17-21).

We also notice a marked distinction here: clearly, the 144,000 witnesses serve God’s purposes during the tribulation on earth. The “great multitude” of martyrs is in heaven - “sheltered by God’s presence, never to hunger or thirst again, where God will wipe away every tear from their eyes” (verses 15-17).

In Malachi 2:17-4:6, we see the conclusion of the Old Testament. Malachi again points out the haughty attitudes of the post-exilic Jews and the arrogance of their questions about God’s goodness to them. Disdainfully, they ask, “How have we wearied Him?” (cf., 2:17; 3:7; 3:8; 3:13; & 3:14). In the penetrating light of His faithfulness, the Lord reminded them of their unfaithfulness (3:6). We need, often, to be reminded that God “does not change” (verse 6). We see, thankfully, that a faithful remnant became convicted of Malachi’s messages from the Lord and drew up “a scroll of remembrance to honor His name” (verse 16).

Here, then, the Old Testament concludes with Malachi’s warning about the approaching Day of the LORD and its ultimate purpose to “burn evildoers and to divide and separate them from those who revere God’s name” (cf., Malachi 4). God promises to send them Elijah - who will turn back the hearts of the parents and the children again to each other. As mortal human beings, how often do we exchange the exquisite and the eternal glories of heaven for the tawdry and the temporal things of this world? We would do well – often - to read the book of Malachi for its reminders of what really matters.

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