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The Way Is Prepared

Transitions are significant turning points in the lives of people and nations. As the last of God’s prophets to ancient Israel, Malachi represents an equally important transition from the old covenant to the new.

The people had returned from exile and the temple was rebuilt, but Malachi proclaimed a “messenger” who would come to “prepare the way before me” (3:1). Who was this messenger, and when would he arrive? Details are few, but Scripture declares he would, like the prophet Elijah, turn the hearts of the people (4:5–6). All of this, declared Malachi, was in preparation for the arrival of the Lord Himself!

It would take 400 years of prophetic silence, but God’s promise through Malachi was fulfilled with the arrival of John the Baptist. As the angel Gabriel declared to Zechariah: “He will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the parents to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord” (Luke 1:17). God’s promises are always true; the “messenger” of Malachi had arrived.

Notice two important implications. First, it implies Jesus’ divinity. The “messenger” of Malachi prepared the way for the Lord Himself. John the Baptist prepared the way for Jesus, meaning that Jesus is none other than God arriving in the flesh! Second, as the “messenger” of Malachi, John the Baptist called for repentance (cf. Matt. 3:1–2), a preparation for the coming of our Lord Christ. But just as Malachi concluded with an open-ended call for Israel to respond, so too John the Baptist’s call remains open to us today. How will we respond to the announcement that our God and Lord has arrived?

Apply the Word

Christmas is our celebration of Christ’s coming in the flesh. As that day approaches, how will you prepare? How you might change your priorities to make more room for Christ in your life? Whether through increased time in prayer, Bible reading, or service to others, commit these upcoming weeks to God in thanksgiving for His saving Incarnation.

BY Bryan Stewart

Bryan A. Stewart is associate professor of religion at McMurry University in Abilene, Texas. His particular interests are the history of Christian thought and the way that early Christians interpreted the biblical canon. He is the editor of a volume on the Gospel of John in The Church’s Bible series (Eerdmans), and he has done extensive research on the ways that the early Church preached on this Gospel. He is an ordained minister. 

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