We are loved by a God who always keeps his promises. The Old Testament is rich with promises concerning our coming Messiah, and from the opening lines of Matthew, we begin to see those promises perfectly fulfilled, starting with the most intimate details of Jesus’ birth. Back in 2019, we invited you and your teenagers to join us for a 16-day Christmas devotional series centering around Messianic prophecies. This year we will round out that series with eight more posts, so you’ll have one for every day of the Christmas season.
We pray your heart will be encouraged and your faith strengthened as you and your teenagers meditate together on the game-changing truth that our God says what he means and means what he says. O Come Let Us Adore Him!
Behold, I send my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me. And the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple; and the messenger of the covenant in whom you delight, behold, he is coming, says the Lord of hosts. But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears? For he is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap. He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, and they will bring offerings in righteousness to the Lord. (Malachi 3:1-3)
In our fallen world, life is full of suffering— and sadly, we sometimes find that those with the most power to end that suffering are often unjust or cruel. Part of Advent is weeping over those realities and longing that our world would be different than it is.
In the Bible, the family of Levi had a lot of power. They were God’s priests. And they didn’t just run religious services and offer sacrifices to God for the people’s sin, they were also judges in the land of Israel. But during Malachi’s lifetime these priests had turned corrupt and abused their power.
The Levites had a clever justification for their corruption. They claimed that since there was so much evil in the world, God must approve of it (Mal. 2:17). And if God approves of evil, why do justice on his behalf? Why act like followers of God when it doesn’t pay off?
You might know or have heard of leaders like this. Maybe they don’t say it out loud, but their actions show they no longer believe in a God of justice, love, and self-sacrifice.
In a stern warning, the prophet Malachi told the people of Israel that God will soon send a messenger to judge the tribe of Levi for its corruption and injustice (Mal. 3:1). After the messenger arrives, God himself will show up like a jeweler’s fire. He will burn up all that’s evil, impure, and corrupt and leave only pure gold behind (Mal. 3:2-3). God will purify Levi’s priesthood from its corruption and restore it to its original purpose—which was to grant life and peace to God’s people by offering sacrifices (Mal. 2:4-5). Malachi also says this messenger will be like Elijah the prophet and he will condemn Israel’s rampant corruption. God’s people should take heart, because after this messenger arrives, God’s purifying fire won’t be far behind (Mal. 4:4-5).
The messenger who would prepare the way for God to show up is John the Baptist. In the Gospel of Luke we read about the arrival of two babies, one who will prepare the way for God’s coming, and another baby named Jesus who will eventually rule God’s people with justice and righteousness.
If you need more proof that John is the messenger of Malachi, John famously wore camel hair tunics just like Elijah (2 Kings 1:8; Matt. 3:4). And like Elijah, John was known for his fierce attacks against the corrupt religious leaders of his day (Matt. 3:7-8). Perhaps most importantly John is from the tribe of Levi.
Malachi promised that before God’s arrival, this tribe would be restored and would once again offer sacrifices to take away the sins of God’s people. This is why it’s so significant that when John sees Jesus, he announces that Jesus is the sacrificial Lamb of God who came to take away the sins of the world (John 1:29). John knows he is the messenger of Malachi, and the one preparing the way for all evil to be judged. John then baptizes Jesus. Going under the water is a symbol of dying (Rom. 6:4; Col. 2:12). When John baptizes Jesus he’s foreshadowing the fact that Jesus is the final sacrifice to grant life and peace.
But Jesus doesn’t stay in the water, he rises from it. And in John’s Gospel it’s right after this moment that Jesus storms the temple with a whip in his hand and knocks over some tables. The religious establishment of Jesus’ day was just as corrupt as it was during Malachi’s day and Jesus promises the tables are only the beginning. He is going to tear the whole thing down and rebuild it.
We don’t often hear a lot about John during Christmas, but he is essential. John prepared for Jesus to rout out all religious hypocrisy, abuse, and injustice. John prepared for Jesus to be the sacrifice for our sins and to give us life. Together, John the messenger and Jesus the Savior-King give us hope that God cares about the suffering and injustice we see in our world. He has come to judge it, and at Christmas we remember that he will come again.
Questions for Reflection
Can you think of examples of leaders who have exploited their power to further human suffering?John the Baptist’s life is recorded in the New Testament, he was the last of God’s prophets before Jesus arrived and fulfilled all the prophecies. What character traits does John share in common with the Old Testament prophets?
If we’re honest, all of us carry some measure of corruption and injustice in our hearts—and this is why we needed Jesus to come. As you think about the sin in your own heart and the sin in the world, how could you pray for God’s forgiveness and restoration?
Father, thank you for the many prophets you sent to bring your promises of hope to your people. Thank you for Jesus who fulfilled every promise, dying and rising again for my sin—and for all the corruption in the world. As I look forward to Christmas, help me to remember that you promise Jesus will come again, finally making all things right in your world. Amen.
Click here for a downloadable pdf to share with your teenagers.
Click here for the entire series as it is posted.