Sitting in the courtroom of the local judiciary, there was a tenseness as each individual stood before the judge. Most people appearing before the judge were purposely respectful. The judge was obviously in full control. The judge wielded some substantial clout; he had an air of authority which was demonstrated by each drop of the gavel. This authority caused each defendant to cower.
There was one person who came in that day who was clearly afraid of what could happen in the next minutes as they stood before the judge. This person looked very nervous but wanted to appear calm and even cocky. After every comment from the judge, this person would turn around and make silly faces to the others in the courtroom. He looked like a fool because the judge was verbally and physically in control. Then came the sentence and the witty commentary from the judge. I don’t remember the exact words but it was comical to see this person crumble under the weight of the judge’s power and righteous decree. The rest of us watching the situation sided with the judge. He was right; this young person was trying to defy authority and the judge clearly put him in his place.
I wonder about that scene when I think about our text for this weekend. It is the imagery of a courtroom and impending judgment.
“For behold, the day is coming, burning like an oven, when all the arrogant and all evildoers will be stubble. The day that is coming shall set them ablaze, says the Lord of hosts, so that it will leave them neither root nor branch. 2 But for you who fear my name, the sun of righteousness shall rise with healing in its wings. You shall go out leaping like calves from the stall. 3 And you shall tread down the wicked, for they will be ashes under the soles of your feet, on the day when I act, says the Lord of hosts. (Malachi 4:1-3)
The day that is coming is a day of judgment where all arrogance and evil will be judged - it is THE JUDGMENT DAY. It will be a day of fire (symbol of judgment) and heat that will devour anything that is remotely tainted with evil and arrogance. This pronouncement is made by the Lord of Hosts. “The Lord of Hosts” is a term which refers to God and his army of heavenly soldiers. There has never been a more powerful army on this earth. If we had even a split second to view their eminence and power, it would cause the strongest among us to fear.
Now some may laugh at this power because they have never experienced standing in the presence of such a powerful judge - The Eternal Judge. Some may even try to shrug their shoulders at this judgment. But no one will escape this day.
But God, in his grace and mercy, always has a way out. “But for you who fear my name, the sun of righteousness shall rise with healing in its wings. You shall go out leaping like calves from the stall. 3 And you shall tread down the wicked, for they will be ashes under the soles of your feet, on the day when I act, says the Lord of hosts.” (Malachi 4:2-3) God is always looking for a way to save humanity. One by one He brings them to the point of awe, wonder and fear of his power. It comes to us by grace. In grace he offers another way out. That way out is “fear my name.” To fear the name of the Lord of hosts is to recognize the power that He does wield. It means to recognize that this judgment will take place, that He must do this as a perfect judge and that He personally provides a way out of this judgment through the punishment that gets placed on His son.
How does He promise that? It is in the phrase, “the sun of righteousness shall rise with healing in its wings.” There is healing power that will erase the judgment that is impending. The healing power comes from the “wings” of the sun of righteousness. All of this sounds fractured and vague until we see the connection between the sun of righteousness and Jesus. Jesus is the bright and powerful Son of God who glowed white like the sun on the mount of transfiguration. Jesus is righteousness personified. Everything He does is true and right and perfect. And He offers that protective righteousness to everyone who fears His name. This sounds like a good deal.
In fact, this is such a good deal for those who take advantage of it that it will cause them to leap and dance in relief. Have you ever feared the worst outcome of a situation and then found out you were free? I remember hearing about a hospital bill that was in the 200K range for a family in our congregation. When they found out, they knew it was real. They knew it was worth the money because it involved a loved one. But they knew that they could never pay it. As the hospital administration was delivering this sober financial outlook, they went one step further by finding a way to pay the bill themselves. They ate the cost of this tremendous procedure. The relief caused some dancing in the hearts of the family. This is what Jesus did for us; He “ate the cost” of our broken, sinful existence and we go free.
Believers, it is time to dance. We can look to the future and know that judgment is taking place. But we also know that Judgment has already taken place for us when Jesus spread out His wings, suffered and died in order to shelter and protect us. THat is available to all who take Him seriously.
So let’s be somber and serious when we think about the judgment we deserve but it is definitely in good order for us to jump and celebrate the relief Jesus has won for us. “You shall go out leaping like calves from the stall.” (Malachi 4:2) Let’s celebrate the fact that our judgment has been already embraced by Jesus so that we are relieved and forgiven. Blessings to all of you.