Are You Elijah?
Remember ye the law of Moses my servant, which I commanded unto him in Horeb for all Israel, with the statutes and the judgments. Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord: and he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.
The University Christian Movement, with offices in New York City, voted itself out of existence in 1968. On their door one of the participants posted this sign: "Gone out of business-didn't know what our business was." Didn't know what our business was. And I am afraid that even as the seconds and minutes tick by this morning, that some among God's people are losing their way, and do not know what it is to be a Seventh-day Adventist, and to be a Christian in the last-days, or what the work that God has for us is. We don't want a sign hung out one day upon our door that says "Gone out of business. Didn't know what God's business was."
Therefore, as we listen for God's word this morning, I want to be clear. I'm going to give you the answer to our title: "Are you Elijah?" What is the answer to that question? I believe that "You" here, applied for our time, means you and I. And I believe that the answer is that yes, to this generation, and at this time, and in God's plan we can say, and we must know, that we are Elijah, and we must understand what our work is. Because this is tomorrow. And there are no more tomorrows. We must be awake to our destiny before we can consummate it. Our first order of business is to clarify our mission to ourselves, before the world can be convinced of our message. Does that make sense to you? If we don't know what we are about, how is the world going to know what we are about? Our first order of business is to clarify our mission to ourselves. And these aren't original thoughts. These aren't new. Herbert Douglass wrote about this. So I'm just telling you. These points have been here for awhile now. And hopefully I will never die and we will never die-we'll walk into the kingdom, and nobody will have to come back and repeat our words. But let us now go to Malachi four, verses four to six. Because as the Old Testament closes, something very interesting is happening in the nation of Israel.
You already heard, in the reading of this word, verse five, "Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord." What was happening in Israel when this message came through Malachi (which means "my messenger")? What was happening in Israel? What were they thinking about their business? So keep your thumb here, but flip back just a couple of pages to chapter one of Malachi.
There are seven questions that are asked in Malachi. And we won't go into them all, but let's look at the first one here. They would all be profitable. But notice what was happening in the kingdom of Israel. After the first verse, "The burden of the Word of the Lord to Israel by Malachi," we have the very first statement and question. Verse two: "But you say, where have you loved us?" And the answer is given in the first words of verse two: "I have loved you, saith the Lord." I have loved you. "Yet ye say, wherein hast thou loved us?" And the Lord's answer is, "Was not Esau Jacob's brother, saith the Lord: yet I loved Jacob, and I hated Esau, and laid his mountains and his heritage waste for the dragons of the wilderness." And Israel said, "We don't understand what's unique or special about being Israel at this time. How have you loved us? You claim you love us, God. But we have to ask the question, how have you loved us." And God says, "I loved you by choosing you, by electing you, by giving you a mission; in all the world I placed you at the cross-roads of the nations." From Israel you can get to Europe, to Asia, to the Far-east, you can get to Africa. God put them right there, right at the intersection of the ancient world, to spread out His truth, to let people know what the God of Israel was like.
And they said, "What are we doing here? Lord, how have you loved us?" And we must realize too, that God has chosen us, and put us in a unique place and time in history. So Israel was loosing sight of itself. There was a tremendous decline in Israel. Everything seemed to be going wrong there. You'll see that as you read Malachi. But at the close of the book of Malachi, the word comes, that, "I am going to send you Elijah the prophet. And he's going to turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse." And then there's four hundred years of basically silence. All the prophets prophesied up until John the baptist. But for four hundred years there was nothing new. They weren't obeying (listen up!), they weren't following the light that God had already sent them. So there was no new prophesy coming in. Heaven was silent. God was still prophesying through all the prophets before that, but the people had ceased to respond. The heavens were cold and silent. And, could it be that we need to spend some time pondering why the gift of prophecy seems to slumber.
Well, but let's stay on track. What about this passage that heaven calls us to weigh today? Let's look at verse four as we work our way through the text.
Exegesis Malachi 4:4-6
"Remember ye the law of Moses my servant, which I commanded unto him in Horeb for all Israel." What law is this? It is the Ten Commandments, for Horeb is also Mount Sinai (Exodus 33:1-6). And why did He give that law to Israel? Romans 7:7 is our stock answer: "I had not known sin but by the law." But let's look also at a less familiar text in Exodus 20: Exodus 20:20 in fact. For right after God spoke the Ten Commandments to His assembled people, they were afraid, and didn't want to hear God's voice any more. But Moses sought to calm them and help them to understand with these words: "Fear not: for God is come to prove you, and that His fear may be before your faces, that ye sin not."
What did he say first? "Don't be afraid." Why not? "God is come to prove you," that is, He came to educate and prepare His people; to build them. He was bringing them upon a difficult journey, and He led them in a round about way, since otherwise Exodus 13:17 says they would have been afraid of doing battle with the Philistines. Their wilderness journey was an opportunity for preparation; a remedial course for a people worn-down by slavery and needing to grow up the self-discipline necessary to go in and possess the promised land. God knew that He must lead them to respect Him, and to become aware of His presence and power, so that they would "sin not." And doesn't 1 John 2:1 say the same thing? "My little children, these things I write unto you that ye sin not?" God never looses sight of His objective. He is always guiding His people like a laser beam to victory over sin. That's why the New Testament opens with this very thought in Matthew-the very purpose of the Messiah's mission: "And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call His name Jesus: for He shall save His people from their sins." Matt 1:21. The law shows us our tragic need of Christ and His healing power, and thus draws us to Him and His power to save! Failure to look into the looking-glass of the law would keep us from seeing the depth of our need of the Lamb of God who takes away our sin (John 1:29). As we thus begin to sense the goodness of our God (Romans 2:4), we are drawn near to Him, and gathered to Him. Don't miss this: God's law is connected with serving Him. An Elijah movement will uphold and proclaim God's law. Every time. Every time. God sends him, he is not self-appointed or self-sent. He is sent by God at a specific time upon a mission of prophetic significance.
Look now with me at Malachi four, verse five again if you have it in front of you. "Behold I will send you Elijah the prophet." It's in the singular isn't it? Sounds like one person. And yet, when Jesus came-how many comings are there of Jesus? The suffering servant in Isaiah 53. And there's the avenging God also, in the second coming. Remember back there in Luke four, when Jesus reads the Scripture to the synagogue congregation from Isaiah 61 there. And they were waiting for their favorite part-that juicy line there-when He comes and destroys the rest of the kingdoms: the day of vengeance of our God. But Jesus stopped short of uttering that line. Because Jesus knew that He would come--again, in fulfillment of that part. So He shared only the first portion of that Scripture. And they were sitting there shocked, because, they were anxious for that "good" part. But it was actually split into two comings. And so when we see Elijah here coming before the great and dreadful day of the Lord, what day is that?
For Israel, their day of decision had arrived. It was at hand (Matthew 3:10-12). Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people, says Daniel nine. And so 490 years was determined, cutt-off, set aside for Israel to put an end to sin. And so who shows up there when Israel has come to the close of that time? Who shows up? John the Baptist! But that's only a part cut-off from a larger time prophecy, isn't it. And when you take that out, from 457 B.C., and you run the 2300 days (Daniel 8:14; Numbers 14:34; Ezekiel 4:6) all the way out, you come down to 1844, and lo and behold, there we discover a movement saying that the Lord is coming. And we find a second Elijah associated with that other time prophecy. Because there are two comings of the Lord, and it says "I am going to send you Elijah the prophet before this great and dreadful day." The first one was the dreadful day for Israel. And after that they lost their place as God's unique people and nation. But then it goes to the gentiles. And that's us. And down at the end there's a time when the whole world is judged, and all the universe is watching this planet, this little lesson-book for the universe. And so Elijah must come, down at the end, as well. And so we see telescoped into verse five two Elijahs: the Elijah that is sent before the suffering servant which we read about in the gospels, and an Elijah also that we will read about in Revelation chapter fourteen.
Well, what about John the Baptist? There are two Elijahs. What about John the Baptist? You know they went out to him and they talked to him and they said, "Are you Elijah?" Can you imagine the embarrassment of the religious leaders? The chief leaders and rulers of Israel, having to go to somebody one out over here and to have to ask, "Are you a prophet of God?" Or first they asked him, "Are you the Messiah?" Could it be that if Jesus were to come, we'd have to ask Him if He's the Messiah? They had to ask. And you know, John the Baptist said, "No, I'm not the Messiah?" "Are you Elijah?" they asked. Interesting answer. "No." Pretty interesting, because the angel had prophesized before in Luke chapter one that this would be his work (Luke 1:16-17).
John understood his identity as "The voice of one crying in the wilderness." John had in mind Isaiah 40. Let's look at that together in Isaiah 40:2: "Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished." The marginal reference says that her "warfare" can also be translated "appointed time." So we may understand this passage as saying "Tell my people that the prophetic time is come." When we preach about time prophecies, we are in good company. God doesn't call just any church to do that. It's given to a church that has an Elijah message.
And what is this Elijah's work? Malachi 4:6: "He shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers."
Here are key elements of an Elijah message: a proclamation of spiritual truths that are so compelling that they produce a turning of men to God through repentance, and a return to our heavenly Father and to each other. Beside this, there is also a personal involvement in more than incidental preparation to see God. Remember Matt 5:8: "Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God." We just studied that in our Sabbath school, didn't we? Who will see God? The pure in heart will see God. But some would have us to believe today; that you cannot have a pure heart. That no matter how deep you go into the depths of the human heart, that there's no way that God can ever make you pure. And then He's just going to have to snap His fingers and say, "Shazam. I'm putting him into the kingdom anyway." But it is not so! Because Jesus said, "Blessed are the pure in heart," and through His power, that can be. Through His power it must be. They will see God! Purity of heart is a real possibility for us now and in this life; but it is never something that accidentally happens. "Oops. I just became pure in heart." No. You don't find it on the street like an old penny. As we cooperate with God, He works in us both to will and to do of His good pleasure. Phil. 2:13. We prepare, because God is holy, and He thus encourages us: "When the character of Christ shall be perfectly reproduced in His people, then He will come to claim them as His own." You know the quotation. Christ's Object Lessons, page 69. All heaven is waiting for that day.
Are you waiting for that day?
As we're waiting, we need to be active. Elijah didn't spend all of his time out there in the wilderness.
You see, I believe that the Adventist pioneers experienced the Elijah message. They were God's children as we are meant to be God's children, and His intent was that their hearts would be turned to their spiritual fathers, as we are meant to turn to our spiritual fathers. And this message, when we disentangle it from the junk and mire that some confused persons pile around it, has the capacity to do that--to finish the work--to change us--to prepare us to see the face of Jesus. I'll tell you what, we are either an Elijah people or we are just another church that is not only on its way to total irrelevance, but must have began in total irrelevance. We are either a church that should go out of business--because it's a big lie--or we are God's Elijah's in these last days. What is it? What is it? Would we really be willing to say that we are better Bible students, and more spiritual people, than our spiritual pioneers and fathers? Is our experience really a reflection of a deeper and broader spirituality than those hearty warriors who under God's guidance carved this church out of nothing and built the foundations that we pass over so lightly today? They tell us that when darkness encased the Christian world after the rejection of light heaven expressed in the Advent movement, really we were in darkness and everyone else was in the light. I know. Hard to believe.
But some people really think so. And the adversary is leading alot of contemporary Adventists around by the nose right now, singing his sugar-coated, Scripture-surfaced lies into receptive ears. Why? Because he is afraid that God just might be able to make them into Elijah's. Remember Mount Carmel? Elijah's aren't good for the devil, are they? His time is short, and we can shorten it. But that will mean for every one of us the payment of a very high price...
Our Work: Great Reform Before Great Reformation
Well, what is our work? Do you know what Elijah's work is? Matt 17:10-13:
And His disciples asked Him, saying, Why then say the scribes that Elias must first come? And Jesus answered and said unto them, Elias truly shall first come, and restore all things. But I say unto you, That Elias is come already, and they knew him not...Then the disciples understood that He spake unto them of John the Baptist.Our work is to be used of God in "restoring all things." And so God has raised up a people in these last days to hold out the Bible for a foundation and to pattern ourselves in the right way. He knew the age that we would live in, He knew the bombardment our hearts and minds would receive from a world saturated in the values of Satan. And He made provision for us. That's the kind of God we call people to. He made provision. He knew what was coming. He saw what was coming, and He's not afraid to tell His people ahead of time what's coming, and say, "Let me take your hand, I'll guide you through this thing." He has prepared weapons for His people. And He knows what we need to do to use those weapons. Listen to Desire of Ages, pg. 101:
In preparing the way for Christ's first advent, he [John] was a representative of those who are to prepare a people for our Lord's second coming. The world is given over to self-indulgence. Errors and fables abound. Satan's snares for destroying souls are multiplied. All who would perfect holiness in the fear of God must learn the lessons of temperance and self-control."Preach some grace, Larry." I think there's some grace in that. God's bringing us back to the true manhood, the true humanity. And so we must learn lessons of temperance and self-control. I'm continuing: "The appetites and passions must be held in subjection to the higher powers of the mind. This self-discipline is essential to that mental strength..." Now listen very close! "This self-discipline is essential to that mental strength and spiritual insight which will" and here's the verb, friends, "enable us to understand and to practice the sacred truths of God's word. For this reason temperance finds its place in the work of preparation for Christ's second coming."
Friends, do you know what's at stake here? Romans 3:4. What is at stake? Why are the problems so great in God's church? Why is the need so great? Why has God called us at such a tremendous time? Listen. Paul is speaking, and we're just jumping in here, but let's jump in anyway. "God forbid, Yea, let God be true and every man a liar, as it is written, that thou [who? God!] mightest be justified in thy sayings, and mightest overcome when [who? When God is judged] when thou art judged." See, who's on trial? I'll tell you one who's on trial-it's God. And the universe is watching. And Satan said, "Nobody can really obey Your law. And they were right to run from Your law up there on the mountain, and I'm on their side Y'know. You've not been fair to these people. And You're not being fair to these angels. We should be able to walk into heaven. And since You can't run things, I'll just go ahead and take Your throne, thank You. I'll ascend into the sides of the north and to the high places. I will be like the Most High." And God says, "Well, I'm going to give you the long rope. And you go ahead and show what you can do. And I'll show you what I can do. Have you seen my servant, Job?"
"Have you seen my servant, Elijah?"
"Have you seen my servant, John the Baptist?"
"Have you seen my servant, the Seventh-day Adventist people in the last days?"
Satan looks over here, and he says, "Yeah. I'm going to take a look at that." And the universe watches. And they say, "I wonder if God can do it? Can God do it? Has He gone so far out on a limb that even He can't do it?" Brothers and sisters, I believe that God can do it! [congregation responds: "Amen!"] Do you believe that?
In order to give this message, one must be the message himself. Don't you agree? We can never go forth proclaiming this message in all its Elijah spirit and power until everything in the message becomes an actual experience in the life. Let me share this. On the pioneer CD-ROM I found this mention of a pastor in Nebraska. A man who was moved by the Spirit of God. And as he went forth and preached the third angel's message, the Christian piety of this follower of Jesus became so well known, his Christ-likeness, and everything about that person, that as he would walk down the streets down there in Nebraska, the people would say "Look! There goes the third angel's message!" "Look! There goes the signs of the times!"
Have they said that about us lately? Have they said that about you? May we let God work in our lives so that people can look and say, "Hey. Yeah! Yeah, I read about that in the Bible. That person's living like Jesus! There goes the third angel's message! Right there. Right there, in the flesh!" Everything in this message must become an actual experience in the life. We must ask our selves the question, individually and personally, "What am I leaving out? What part of this message am I holding back on?" Where's the place that, that I've just gone around a little bit? Where am I not being entirely faithful to my Savior Jesus, and to the truth that God has so graciously given to me? What is it in my life that will prevent me from being ready, when Jesus comes? Or from giving His message?
If we could take a white board here, and draw three
columns, and above the first column write, "Elijah," and above the second
column write "John the Baptist," and above the third column write "Seventh-day
Adventists," we could point out many similarities between their work.
What happened there? Elijah gathered Israel. In 1 Kings 18:30 and verse 36 and others, it says there that he drew near, he gathered the people, and they drew near. John the Baptist gathered the people. It said they all went out there to Jordan to hear him. All Israel was gathered. And Seventh-day Adventists are called, not because we are any better, certainly not. But God has called us and given us a mission, and we are to gather the world to God's last-day mount Carmel. So Israel was gathered under Elijah, gathered under John the Baptist, and that's our job too. Revelation 14:6, you remember what that one says. Every kindred and nation and tongue and people. So that's our job too.
The call in Elijah's day was to obedience. John the Baptist called people to accept the Messiah. He said, "Bring forth true works, fit for repentance." So he called them to true obedience as well. So there's a gathering of obedience and a gathering to judgment all the way across the board.
In Elijah's experience, the prophets of Baal got up there, and they had a big worship experience there, didn't they? They were up on that mountain, moving around, dancing; the music must have been loud. They got up on the altar and pranced and prayed. They cut themselves, and the Bible says of their blood that it "gushed" out. But it was the worship of Baal. But Baal could not deliver. There was a showdown, and Baal could not deliver. Now in the time of John the Baptist, when Jesus went up on the cross, He couldn't deliver either, or it would have broken the plan of salvation. O, He could have come down off that cross in a flash of glory. But humankind would have been doomed, and God Himself would have lost the great controversy. He could have called on God for the power. But if He would save Himself from the cross, we'd be lost. And so He hung up there and died for you and me. And so Jesus could not deliver. But in the last days, Revelation 14:8, "Babylon is fallen," in other words, Babylon cannot deliver. Do you see it? This first angel's message and the second angel's message are directly parallel to the mount Carmel experience. So let's go to 1 Kings 18 now, just before we close.
Notice what's happening here, and look with me if you will, at verse 21. "And Elijah came unto all the people, and said, How long halt ye between two opinions? If the Lord be God, follow him: but if Baal, then follow him." And then the last part of verse 21 is the scarey part! Because today, what about us? "And the people answered him not a word," in verse 21. He called them to make a decision, and the people stood there, and there was silence on the mountain. And could it be that God would come to His people in these last days and say, "Here's the message, go get em'!" And we've got this wonderful message from God to draw people and prepare them for Jesus. And we don't do anything. We just stand there and say...
"We're not sure what our business is."
Could that be us? God forbid that that would be us, brothers and sisters!
"And the people answered him not a word." And so they went up. But notice verse 30. "And Elijah said unto all the people," after the Baal-thing had failed miserably, Elijah finally speaks up. And I want you to notice carefully, because this is what I believe is in verse six of chapter four of Malachi, He will draw "the heart of the fathers to the children and draw the heart of the children to their fathers." Notice what happens in verse 30 right here in front of us. "And Elijah said to all the people, "Come near unto me." "And all the people came near unto him, and he repaired the altar of the Lord that was broken down." Come near unto me, and repair the altar of the Lord that is broken down. Hiram Edson said
The work of Elijah, in the last days, is to restore, to 'raise up the foundations of many generations.', repair the breach in God's law, and to restore the true worship of the true God." Hiram Edson, Appeal, p. 5, 1850. Foundations, 250.That's in 1850. Hiram Edson was right. And our pioneers preached this. And I don't have anything new for you today, brothers and sisters. I don't have anything new or exciting. I don't have a multi-media presentation, or a satellite. But you know, I've got this one [holds Bible up]. And you may not have a satellite, you may not have a multi-media presentation. But you've got one of these [Bible]. And if you've got Jesus in your heart, then people can look at you and say, "there goes the third angel's message." Do you believe it? [congregation response: "yes"].
Conclusion: Are You Elijah?
So we conclude this way. I believe that we are led to these five conclusions...