“An Everlasting Hope”

 

Hello, and welcome to “Key to the Kingdom.” My name is Bret McCasland. After 28 lessons, today we come to the end of our Old Testament study. I trust this series on the first part of the Bible has blessed and encouraged you in your walk with the Lord. Many people seem to disregard the Old Testament as insignificant or irrelevant to their lives. Even though these 39 books were written a long time ago, their messages offer valuable lessons for us to consider. The final lesson focuses on the last two books, called Zechariah and Malachi. These two messengers complete the stories of the sixteen prophets who served God and His people. Their messages pave the way for the coming of God's ultimate messenger, Jesus Christ. Let me ask you a question, as we begin. Do you ever get tired of all the problems in this world? Some days it seems, there is just so much sin, and crime, and abuse, and poverty; and, it is ruining our world. You do what you can to make things better, with the resources you have, but it doesn't seem to be enough. God's people in the Old Testament were also looking for better days. They too wanted things to be different. The prophets Zechariah and Malachi foretold of a time when that day would come, with the arrival of God's son, Jesus Christ. That day has come and gone, and yet there is coming another day when the Lord will return, to make all things right. I look forward to that day, and I hope you do too. In our final lesson on the Old Testament, we end with a message of hope and expectation. I know you will want to hear what these two prophets have to say about it. Join us, now, as we study together.

 

>>LESSON

While growing up, my very loving and wonderful parents always encouraged me to do my very best. No matter what it was, from schoolwork to playing sports and athletics, they inspired me to put forth my best effort in everything I did. And that seems to be the underlying message of the two Old Testament prophets we study today. They encourage the people to do their very best in every aspect of their life, especially in obeying the Lord. We begin with the message of Zechariah. The first words of his message are an encouragement and an inspiration to the people. He wants them to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem, and also to rebuild the Temple. It was the very same message that Haggai had presented to these very same people just two months earlier. Zechariah also reminds the people of their past, and he encourages them to not repeat the same mistakes of their forefathers; because, they did things that were not right, and they disobeyed God, and they were punished for it. And that is the way Zechariah begins his message. Let's notice these words in chapter 1 verses 2 through 6. <“The Lord was very angry with your forefathers. Therefore tell the people: This is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘Return to Me,’ declares the Lord Almighty, ‘and I will return to you,’ says the Lord Almighty. Do not be like your forefathers, to whom the earlier prophets proclaimed: This is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘Turn from your evil ways and your evil practices. But they would not listen or pay attention to Me,’ declares the Lord. ‘Where are your forefathers now? And the prophets, do they live forever? But did not My words and My decrees, which I commanded My servants the prophets, overtake your forefathers?’ Then they repented and said, ‘The Lord Almighty has done to us what our ways and practices deserve, just as He determined to do.’”> The people to whom Zechariah spoke had become lazy in their worship and in their daily practices. And so, Zechariah inspires them with the past. He said, "Remember what happened to your forefathers. They did not obey the Lord and were punished." And now, Zechariah encourages them to return to the Lord, to go back to obeying Him, to learn from the mistakes of their ancestors and forefathers, and to do their very best in rebuilding the walls and rebuilding the Temple there in Jerusalem. Zechariah basically calls for a rededication of these people's lives to the Lord God Almighty. Oh, the people had been back in Jerusalem for about fifteen years, but everything was just as it was when they left. The Temple and the walls were still lying in ruins. And the people wondered about their future. They wondered what was going to happen in the days that were to come. Zechariah tells them that great days lie ahead. Through a series of night visions, Zechariah encourages the people to continue their rebuilding work. He inspires them to think about the future and how glorious it will be, and how glorious the Temple will be, once their work is finished. Yes, these people needed to go back to doing their very best. But Zechariah did not stop there; he encouraged the people to do their very best in their relationships, as well. They were not treating one another with the proper respect and honor. They were not taking care of each other, like God had asked them to do. So, Zechariah addresses that also. Listen to these words in chapter 7 beginning with verse 9. <“This is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘Administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another. Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the alien or the poor. In your hearts, do not think evil of each other.'"> Oh, these people had let some of those very basic things slip, and they needed to go back to treating each other with honor and respect, and taking care of those who were less fortunate than themselves. Zechariah calls and invites the people to get their lives back on track. And once the people did that, Zechariah tells them good things will happen. As the city walls are rebuilt, and as the Temple is rebuilt, and as they obey God, and treat one another the way they are supposed to, then a glorious future is in store. He also prophesies about a time when God will dwell among His people, once again, and they will experience God's blessing. And in chapter 8, we find a beautiful clip, or illustration, of what that might look like. Listen to these words in chapter 8 beginning with verse 3. <This is what the Lord says: “I will return to Zion and dwell in Jerusalem. Then Jerusalem will be called the City of Truth, and the mountain of the Lord Almighty will be called the Holy Mountain.” This is what the Lord Almighty says: “Once again men and women of ripe old age will sit in the streets of Jerusalem, each with cane in hand because of his age. The city streets will be filled with boys and girls playing there.”> Isn't that a beautiful picture; young people and old people, alike, out in the city streets taking care of each other, and playing, and enjoying life as God intended for it to be lived? Well, Zechariah doesn't stop there. Toward the end of his prophecy he turns his attention to the coming of the Messiah. God tells His prophet to make royal crowns and to place them in the Temple. And those royal crowns will serve as a reminder of one who is coming that is far greater than all who have come before Him, and His name will be Jesus Christ. Then Zechariah speaks of the time in the future when Jesus will come into Jerusalem riding on a donkey. And the people will weep and mourn because they see their Savior, the Son of God, being persecuted and even put to death on a cross. But, all of those things foreshadow the Messiah's coming, and how He will be both the King and the Priest for the people. And through all of these events, through all of these night visions, Zechariah is simply telling the people, God is reestablishing His control and His reign and His kingdom upon the Earth, just as it is in heaven. And then there is one more thing, Zechariah emphasizes God's mercy. He anticipates the day when the people will dwell in God's security and blessing once again. They will be restored to a right relationship with God and they will live in obedience and faithfulness. Oh, the prophet's message of hope was something these people needed to hear and to understand. They were in Jerusalem, nothing was being done, and they needed that encouragement. They needed that inspiration to get back to work, and to do their very best, and to think about what God had in store for them in the coming days. And that is a message we would do well to hear and to apply, even today; that God wants us to put forth our very best effort in every aspect of our lives. Perhaps we can hear these messages and words from Zechariah, to rededicate our life to the Lord; and, to get to work; and, to do good things; and, to think about Jesus, and who He is, and what He has done for us; and, even to prepare for a more glorious day that is to come, when Jesus comes a second time to this Earth. Certainly that is something that inspires and encourages us in our daily walk. Take a look at this short video clip. It is entitled "The Coming of Jesus." And as you do, think about preparing your life, rededicating your life to the Lord, and anticipating His second coming, and being prepared to be a part of that eternal family with God.

 

>>VIDEO CLIP

Oh, there are lots of things about which we get excited, here on this Earth. We get excited about getting married, or welcoming a new baby into this world. We get excited about starting a new job, or perhaps even ending up our career and looking forward to retirement. Oh, I get excited about the completion of this road project. It has been going on for some 10 months, and it looks to me that it's almost finished, just a few things here and there and everything will be just right. Yes, there are lots of things in life that we look forward to and we are excited about as we anticipate its completion. Yet, there is one thing that is to be at the very top of our list, one thing that is more important than anything else, and that is the second coming of Jesus Christ. Oh, a long time ago God created this world, perfectly. Everything was just right. Since then, we have lived in a fallen world where there is lots of sin, and abuse, and crime, and poverty, and problems. Yet, we know there is coming a day when everything will be made right. The Lord is coming back to make all things new. He will set in order that which is not right and that which is a mess. And that is something to get excited about. That is something to look forward to. It will happen with the second coming of Jesus Christ. Oh, as we think about all of the things that heighten our excitement, let us never forget that the most important thing of all is that we anticipate the coming of Jesus Christ, and that we are ready for it.

 

Oh that, I believe, pretty well summarizes the message of Zechariah, the fifteenth Old Testament prophet. But now, we turn our attention to the sixteenth and the last Old Testament prophet. His name is Malachi. And he too inspires the audience, to whom he speaks, to do their very best. He is God's mouthpiece, or messenger, and he takes that responsibility very seriously. His message is for the second and third generation of people who have returned from captivity in the land of Babylon. They are now living in Jerusalem. These people have obeyed the words of Zechariah. The temple has been rebuilt. The walls around the city have been restored. And, things are good in that particular area. But, there were some things that needed to be addressed. These people were slipping off into some bad attitudes and behaviors, and Malachi tries to get them back on track and to bring them around to what they needed to be doing. They were not living with honor and respect for the Lord. They were not giving their very best in their daily lives and in their worship assemblies. And so, Malachi identifies at least five things that need specific attention. First of all, some of the people questioned God's love for them. They wondered if God loved them any more. They wondered if God cared about them. Malachi assures them, indeed, God has not forgotten you. And that is the way he begins his message, in the very first chapter. Listen to these words in verses 2 and 3. <“I have loved you,” says the Lord. “But you ask, ‘How have you loved us?’ Was not Esau Jacob’s brother?” the Lord says. “Yet I have loved Jacob, but Esau I have hated, and I have turned his mountains into a wasteland and left his inheritance to the desert jackals.”> Jacob and Esau were brothers; and, God said, "I have turned My face against Esau. I have hated him and all of his descendents. But yet, I have loved you, the household of Jacob." And, that was a covenant promise that goes all the way back to Abraham, when God said, "I will love you and all of your descendents;" Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob. And now, these people were the descendents of Jacob; and, Malachi reminds them that, indeed, God still loves them. Secondly, some of the people were dishonoring God with their sacrifices. The priests, especially, were dishonoring God because they were allowing the people to make sacrifices that were not right in the sight of God. Malachi addresses that in the first chapter beginning with verse 7. <“You place defiled food on My altar. “But you ask, ‘How have we defiled you?’ By saying that the Lord’s Table is contemptible. When you bring blind animals for sacrifice, is that not wrong? When you sacrifice crippled or diseased animals, is that not wrong? Try offering them to your governor! Would he be pleased with you? Would he accept you?” says the Lord Almighty.> Oh, the people were looking to the priests to provide some spiritual guidance in their sacrifices, but yet the priests weren't doing that. The people were offering anything to the Lord. In fact, Malachi says, "Your own governing authorities would not accept those sacrifices. Certainly, God will not accept them either." Well thirdly, some of the people were not remaining faithful and true to their marriage commitments. Oh, many of the men were divorcing their wives for most any and every reason; and then, they were marrying women from the evil and surrounding nations. And, that was one of the things that God had condemned for so many years. That was one of the things that sent these people's forefathers into captivity. Yes, the people were not honoring their marriage commitments. And, Malachi reminds them that it is a life long commitment. In fact, God even stated, here in chapter 3 and verse 16, "I hate divorce." And no doubt, that is true even still today, because of all of the problems and difficulties that come with broken marriages. But then, here is something else. Here's number four. Some people felt as if God no longer cared about their nation. Oh, they saw all of the evil and the problems going on around them and they wondered if those problems would now come into their lives. They wondered if God was out of tune with what was happening around them, and they wondered if God would take care of them in the future. Well, Malachi reminds the people that, indeed, God's justice and His plans and purposes would prevail. And, there is coming a time when another messenger would come, His name would be Jesus Christ, and He would purify and cleanse God's people (Malachi 3:2–3). God had not forgotten His people; that He would love and take care of them. Oh, many things were not right in the lives of these people; and, Malachi tries to get them back on track and straighten out that which was amiss. And, perhaps there are other things that he told them, but Malachi prophesies of a day when God is coming and He will make all things right. But then, there is one more thing. Some of the people were accused of stealing from, or robbing, God, and the people did not understand how they were doing that. It didn't make sense to them. And so, Malachi points out the problem in chapter 3, beginning with verse 8. <“Will a man rob God? Yet you rob Me. But you ask, ‘How do we rob you?’ In tithes and offerings. You are under a curse—the whole nation of you—because you are robbing Me. Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in My house. Test Me in this,” says the Lord Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it. I will prevent pests from devouring your crops, and the vines in your fields will not cast their fruit,” says the Lord Almighty. “Then all the nations will call you blessed, for yours will be a delightful land,” says the Lord Almighty.> The people were not giving to God. They were not honoring God with their tithes and with their offerings. They were messed up. They had gotten things out of line, and they were not honoring God with what God had entrusted to them. And so God simply says, “I want you to put me to the test. Give as you have been prospered. Give according to the Law. Give your tithes and your offerings, and when you do, see if I won’t bless you so abundantly that you cannot even store all of My blessings.” Well in all of these areas, Malachi encouraged the people to do their very best, to get back on track with honoring God, and respecting one another, and doing what God had called upon them to do. Still today, we may struggle with some of these very same issues. We may wonder if God loves us. We may not offer God our very best. We may slack off, in regards to our worship of the Lord, or be concerned about all of the different things going on around us. We may not even remain faithful to our marriage commitments. And, we wonder why God's blessing has been withdrawn. We wonder about our future. We wonder what is going to happen in the future. Well, Malachi ends his prophecy with two things. He ends it with a command and also with a promise. The command is to obey God, to live in respect and honor for Him, to do your very best in presenting yourself to God each and every day. And then the promise is, when you do that, God will bless you, that you will be ready to meet the Lord. You will be ready to receive all of His eternal blessings and promises, through His son Jesus Christ. Those are two things we would do well to remember, today, to obey God, to give Him our very best in every aspect of our life, and then be prepared to be with the Lord, as we have responded to His one and only son Jesus. That seems to be the overall message of the last Old Testament prophet, Malachi. God sent His messengers the prophets, all sixteen of them, into this world for some very specific reasons. He sent them to condemn the wicked and evil nations, and to correct selfishness and injustice. His prophets foretold of God's judgment and also of His restoration. But the greatest message the prophets proclaimed, perhaps, was the coming of God's one and only son, Jesus Christ. They prophesied about a time when things would be far better, because of Jesus' arrival into this world. Well, that time has already come and now is here. Along the way, the Savior came into the world, not to condemn the world but to save the world. And, God loved us so much that He sent His son Jesus to die on our behalf, so that we could have forgiveness of sin and an eternal home with Him. And if there is one final lesson we can learn from the message of these sixteen prophets in the Old Testament, I believe it would be this, to receive the salvation of the Lord, and to return to Him, and to enjoy His blessings that come through His son Jesus. Yes, there is coming a day when the Lord will return to this Earth and He will make all things right. He will set in order that which is out of place. And, we can anticipate and look forward to that day, to when the Lord comes back and claims all of those who belong to Him and to the family of God. As we close our study of the Old Testament, hopefully all of these messages have encouraged us to be prepared for the second coming of Jesus Christ. Hopefully they have inspired us to put forth our very best, to love God, and to honor God, and to obey Him and His son Jesus Christ so that we can be prepared for Jesus' second coming. And my prayer and my invitation for you today is that as we go back and reflect over the Old Testament and the prophets that we will take those messages and apply them to our life, and they can be an encouragement to us as we look forward to the time Jesus will return and claim all of those who belong to Him.

 

>>CONCLUSION

Thank you for being our guest today, as we bring our study of the Old Testament to a close. I do hope this message encouraged you to become even more prepared for Jesus' second coming. Perhaps you would like to do additional study, concerning how you can be prepared for that day. If so, please go to our website. There, you can access this or other previously recorded messages. Free Bible studies and other teaching materials are also available to download. If you prefer, you can call the number on the screen to request your free Bible study. Please leave your name and address and we will be happy to send it to you in a few days. Please know how grateful we are you joined us for today's message. And, I hope you will join us again next time as we study the Bible on "Key to the Kingdom."