Without looking, what would you expect to find in the final verse of the Old Testament? If you had to guess, whom do you think the Lord would choose to address? What command would He give? What promise would He make? What final words would He echo into the 400 years of silence between the close of the Old Testament and beginning of the New?
I invite you to turn to the closing words of the Old Testament, Malachi 4:6: “And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the land with a decree of utter destruction.”
The direct object of the final sentence is “the hearts of fathers.” Dads, this verse is especially for you.
Now, before we pull something out of context, let’s look at the preceding verses for a framework of this promise.
Leaping Like Calves
Speaking to the Babylonian exiles who returned to Jerusalem with Nehemiah and Ezra, Malachi’s oracle was both a “calling out” and a “calling to” God’s people. Back in Jerusalem, Israel had forsaken the law, and her priests had lost all respect for God’s name and temple. In response, Malachi sends them a promise of the coming Messiah. He speaks of a great day of the Lord (3:1-5) in which God, His people and His cause will have the final victory.
Those who fear His name shall go out that day, leaping like calves from the stall because on that day the “sun of righteousness shall rise with healing in its wings.”
Jesus’ Hype Man
It’s on this high note that the book of Malachi and the Old Testament come to a close. But not before yet another prophecy: “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome day of the LORD comes.”
Malachi prophesies that the LORD will have a “hype man” who comes before Him in the power and preaching of Elijah to prepare the hearts of the people. Then, 400 years later, this is fulfilled when John the Baptist cries out in the wilderness in the power of Elijah, “Make straight the way of the LORD!” But the people missed it and the “Lamb of God who comes to take away the sins of the world.”
Jesus says of John the Baptist in Matthew 17:11-13, “Elijah does come, and he will restore all things. But I tell you that Elijah has already come, and they did not recognize him, but did to him whatever they pleased. So also the Son of Man will certainly suffer at their hands.”
Our Day of the Lord
The day of the LORD is to come once more. On that day, no one will miss it. The Scriptures assure us that on that day, every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father. And as preparation and provision for that day, the hearts of fathers and their children will be turned to one another.
Fathers, as you look ahead to the great day of the LORD, may the preaching of Elijah turn your hearts toward your children. Don’t let work, hobbies, disappointment or your pride turn your heart away from or against your kids. Be kind, considerate, patient and encouraging with your words. Don’t provoke them to anger but nurture them in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.
Fathers, let us prepare the way of the Lord and anticipate His coming by pointing our affections toward our children.