Looking Backward and Forward

The last verses of the Old Testament have both a backward and forward orientation. Malachi instructs the reader to Remember the past and to Anticipate the future.

Remember the teaching of my servant Moses, the statutes and ordinances that I commanded him at Horeb for all Israel. (Malachi 4:4)

Lo, I will send you the prophet Elijah before the great and terrible day of the Lord comes. He will turn the hearts of the parents to their children and the hearts of children to their parents. (Malachi 4:5-6)

Malachi reminds us that God has worked in Israel’s past. Look back and remember how God worked at Mt. Horeb (Sinai). It calls us to remember how God has worked in our own past, to instruct and teach us.

I remember making a pilgrimage to Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in Port Angeles, Washington, to remember the place where I first learned the Bible stories, acted in Christmas plays and sang the familiar carols. Christmas has so many specific memories for many of us. It can be simple nostalgia, but it can also become a deep spring of joy, light and love that calls us back to our spiritual roots. Where and when do you remember hearing the story of God’s statutes?

Yet Malachi also pushes into the future, that God is not simply an ancient figure of distant history, but a God who will act in our future. The prophet Malachi recycles the ancient prophet, Elijah, to describe the messenger who is coming. (Elijah had not “died” but was taken up into heaven on a chariot of fire, 2 Kings 2:11). The future return of Elijah will cause our hearts to turn to one another, to bring peace and harmony to God’s family. And God’s family is much larger than our own households; Jesus redefines family in the New Testament.

Looking at those who sat around him, Jesus said, “Here are my mother and brothers! Whoever does the will of God is my brother, sister and mother.”

Further, Jesus, the Son of God, turns the hearts of God’s children to their heavenly Papa. The future is so much brighter than our present reality. To what do you look forward in God’s glorious kingdom?

As we read scripture, we need to be mindful of how the past, the present and the future all intertwine.

Lord Jesus, be thou my vision, backwards and forwards.

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