“I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me. Then suddenly the Lord you are seeking will come to his temple; the messenger of the covenant, whom you desire, will come,” says the LORD Almighty. (Malachi 3:1)
The book of Malachi presents us with two figures — two messengers. The first is the one God calls “my messenger,” who comes to prepare the way before the Lord. This is John the Baptist, who came announcing “a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.” He is the voice crying out in the wilderness, “Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him. Every valley shall be filled in, every mountain and hill made low. The crooked roads shall become straight, the rough ways smooth. And all people will see God’s salvation” (Luke 3:4-6, quoting Isaiah 40).
The second figure is the Lord himself, whose way the messenger is sent to prepare. This is Messiah, who comes “suddenly,” which is to say, unexpectedly. But he is also himself a messenger, “the messenger of the covenant.” Indeed, he is the covenant, as foretold in Isaiah: “I, the LORD, have called you in righteousness; I will take hold of your hand. I will keep you and will make you to be a covenant for the people and a light for the Gentiles, to open eyes that are blind, to free captives from prison and to release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness” (Isaiah 42:6-7).
Jesus is that second messenger, the Messiah. The covenant of which is he is not only the messenger but also the substance is the new and better covenant prophesied in Jeremiah and is made in his own blood. At the Last Supper, we are told, Jesus “took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, ‘This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.’ In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you’” (Luke 22:19-20).
The people of Israel looked for Messiah and desired his coming. But when he came suddenly, in a time and manner they were not expecting, many refused to recognize him, even though the way had been prepared by the preaching of John the Baptist and the “baptism of repentance.” He was not who they wanted him to be. “He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him,” says John the Evangelist. “Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God” (John 1:11-12).
King Jesus the Messiah is God’s covenant for the people and God’s light for the nations. He came — and comes — to open the eyes of the blind, set captives free and release those who are bound in darkness. To all who embrace him in faith, he gives the right to become the children of God.
Let Earth Receive Her King
Advent, Christmas and the Kingdom of God
by Jeff Doles
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