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Romans 11:17-18
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Why Must Elijah First Come?

by Don E. Haney




Why do you suppose God would end the Old Testament with a warning of judgment by Fire and an admonition to remember the Statutes and Judgments of God; and why tie that all in with the Elijah work  lest God come and smite the earth with utter destruction? Remember, this prophecy is of Christ s 2nd coming, i.e., a prophecy for the New Testament era! But WHY must Elijah first come? Let s see:


Mal. 4:1 "For behold, the day is coming, burning like an oven, and all the proud, yes, all who do wickedly will be stubble. And the day which is coming shall burn them up," says the LORD of hosts, "That will leave them neither root nor branch. 2 But to you who fear My name the Sun of Righteousness shall arise with healing in His wings; and you shall go out and grow fat like stall-fed calves. 3 You shall trample the wicked, for they shall be ashes under the soles of your feet on the day that I do this," says the LORD of hosts. 4 "Remember the Law of Moses, My servant, which I commanded him in Horeb for all Israel, with the statutes and judgments. 5 Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD. 6 And he will turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the earth with a curse" (NKJ).


In this last chapter in the Old Testament, God s prophet was inspired to write about a future New Testament JUDGMENT, HOPE, LAW, FAMILY, AND ELIJAH! These things are herein all listed together because they ARE ALL TIED TOGETHER! · JUDGMENT - because WHEN THE LAW OF GOD IS NOT TAUGHT TO OUR CHILDREN AND PRACTICED, THE FOUNDATION OF SOCIETY BREAKS DOWN (THE FAMILY), and the result is utter sin and utter destruction. · HOPE - because for those who do fear God and remember His law, Christ will come with healing and blessings. · LAW  not just any law, but the least remembered, least kept and least esteemed (BY MEN) of God s laws  His Statutes and Judgments! (Notice verse 4;  with the is in italics, showing these words were added by the translators and was not in the original inspired text. More on this later). Only Statutes and Judgments are actually mentioned here not the foundational Decalogue. · FAMILY - because when we teach our children God s laws and STATUTES, and the truth about a time of judgment, it helps turn the hearts of the children to the fathers and the fathers to the children  but EVEN MORE, it helps turn our children s hearts to God  and God responds in kind! · ELIJAH - because THAT IS WHAT ELIJAH HISTORICALLY DID  he brought repentance and turned the people's hearts back to God.


Malachi 4 is a beautiful description of one of the main benefits of God s Statutes  turning our hearts to God and each other through teaching time!


God s Decalogue is a window into the character of God s mind. But the Statutes are the  fleshing in of the details so to speak, with some additional helpful ways to regulate human conduct between man and man AND to bring man to God. God s laws point to and lead us to Christ (Gal.3:24), as well as show us what sin and its destructive result is (Rm.7:7). As Paul put it, God s laws are a law of Love (See Romans 13:8-10).


n order to teach the full extent and spirit of God s 10 commandments, the Statutes must be understood in spirit as well. While the 10 commandments can be memorized and taught quite easily  the Statutes of God require much more family time. That is, the father and mother must INVEST MORE TIME to teach their children God s Statutes. This process not only brings families together (hearts of fathers to children and hearts of children to fathers), but it is part of TURNING OUR CHILDREN S HEARTS TO THE FATHER MOST HIGH!


When we don t teach the laws of God to our children, the fabric of the family  which is the fabric of society - breaks down. Children become lawless, disrespectful to their parents and to authority and worldly. But MUCH WORSE than that  when we don t teach God s laws to our children  THEIR HEARTS HARDEN AND TURN FROM GOD. They disobey and DISREGARD and DISRESPECT Him  and in His correction  He turns His heart away from them so all can see the result and they are destroyed! Sin is not winked at.


Is this my idea  or is this passage in Malachi a summary of the part God s Laws play on our RELATIONSHIP with our God as our Father, and of His judgment for those who don t turn back to Him?


To begin with, let s look at the word  fathers here in Malachi. The word is 'ab- (like abba). Theyer s says  ab means 1) the father of an individual or 2)  used of God as Father of His people .


The translators used the plural term father(s) here, but the word in the Hebrew is just as much or more singular in it s use here. While it certainly includes the fathers of the children of Israel and the world  it applies even more to our children s hearts being turned from and NEEDING to be turned TO God! In turn, God s Heart would have compassion on His children and turn to them. The first step in this process He has already done by sending His Son to save us! God through Christ made the way of reconciliation open. Now we too must seek God with our HEARTS. Is that what God is saying when He says  you will find me when you search for me with all your HEART (Jer.29:13)?


When children don t have God s laws and Statutes taught to them, and the fact God will JUDGE them for their actions; boundaries kind of disappear, the family unit, both spiritually and physically becomes lawless and  BREAKS DOWN! Let s see now what God was reminding us of in Malachi 4, when it was first instructed to God s people:


Deut. 4:8 "And what great nation is there that has such statutes and righteous judgments as are in all this law which I set before you this day? 9 "Only take heed to yourself, and diligently keep yourself, lest you forget the things your eyes have seen, and lest they depart from your heart all the days of your life. And teach them to your children and your grandchildren, (emphasis mine throughout article) 10 "especially concerning the day you stood before the LORD your God in Horeb, when the LORD said to me, 'Gather the people to Me, and I will let them hear My words, that they may learn to fear Me all the days they live on the earth, and that they may teach their children' (NKJ).


God s instructions were to TEACH the statutes and righteous judgments to our children and grandchildren. Then notice (verse 10) wherein God himself gave the 10 commandments to the people, with His own voice. Again:


Deut. 4:12 "And the LORD spoke to you out of the midst of the fire. You heard the sound of the words, but saw no form; you only heard a voice. 13 "So He declared to you His covenant which He commanded you to perform, that is, the Ten Commandments; and He wrote them on two tablets of stone. 14 "And the LORD commanded ME at that time to teach you statutes and judgments, that you might observe them in the land which you cross over to possess (NKJ).


God Himself gave the 10 commandments to His people. But He gave us the Statutes through Moses! It is the STATUTES that Malachi 4 is referring to!  With the was added by the translators. It is these Statutes, with the truth about judgment for the incorrigible that we are told to remember  IN ORDER TO TURN OUR HEARTS BACK TO GOD OUR FATHER. In the process of teaching the statutes to our children  our hearts will both be bound to one another as a strong family unit, and collectively turned to God as well! Time and time again, God gives us the command to TEACH STATUTES AND THE DECALOGUE TO OUR CHILDREN (see Duet.6:1-9)! God tells us to  teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up.  Bind them as a sign, God says.  Write them on your door posts, etc& In other words the intent is to have them ALWAYS ON YOUR MIND ALWAYS ON YOUR HEART!


Christ came to magnify the law, not to do away with it! He said:  Do not think I have come to destroy the law or the prophets, (Malachi was a prophet).  I have not come to destroy but to fulfill. Then Christ went on to expound the spiritual intent of the law  going beyond the mere letter. Let s see what Jesus Himself taught.


Matt. 5:17 "Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. 18 "For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled. 19 "Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven (NKJ).


QUESTION: Which of the commandments is  the least ? Certainly not any part of the FOUNDATION 10, that God Himself gave! This must be referring to one of the lesser of the statutes! God here, in essence, is pronouncing a blessing on those who both keep and teach others even the seemingly least of His statutes. That blessing is to be called one of the  greatest in His kingdom ! I want that blessing! Do you? Then Christ went on to expound the law emphasizing the spiritual intent of the law of love:


Matt. 5:27 "You have heard that it was said to those of old, 'You shall not commit adultery.' 28 "But I say to you whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart (NKJ).


Jesus gave the spiritual intent or meaning behind His laws. Something the letter is limited to do. Christ used the 10 commandments to illustrate this point. But later the apostle Paul expounded the spiritual principle of God s Statutes in the same way. Actually Paul often used God s Statutes to prove his point and to teach the Church how to conduct herself. For example he used the principle of not muzzling the mouth of the ox, to show his right to receive tithes from the church in Corinith.


1 Cor. 9:9 "For it is written in the law of Moses, Thou shalt not muzzle the mouth of the ox that treadeth out the corn. Doth God take care for oxen? 10 Or saith he it altogether for our sakes? For our sakes, no doubt, this is written: that he that ploweth should plow in hope; and that he that thresheth in hope should be partaker of his hope. 11 If we have sown unto you spiritual things, is it a great thing if we shall reap your carnal things?


How could someone say Paul taught God s laws  even the statutes  were done away, when he himself often quoted them to prove his point? Can you look at God s statutes the way the apostle Paul did? Can you magnify and see past the letter to the spiritual principle, like Christ, Paul and the other apostles did?


Exod. 23:5 "If you see the donkey of one who hates you lying under its burden, and you would refrain from helping it, you shall surely help him with it (NKJ).


If you look only at the letter, and one were to see his neighbor s horse fall down under too heavy a load, he would not help. It was a horse, not a donkey. But if we apply the spiritual intent of this statute, we see the beauty and love God is trying to teach us. This statute shows the principle of loving even your enemies  like Christ did. Further, the intent of this applies today. If you see your neighbor stranded along side the road, or your neighbors tractor stuck  do you offer to help him? The beauty is in the spirit!


The point God makes in Deuteronomy and reminds us of in Malachi is we are to be DILIGENT to teach our children the laws of God! Also, we must be DILIGENT to practice them in our household. The best teacher is always a good example. By doing this, family ties will be stronger. There will be respect and love for the father and mother, family will be stronger. And society will be the better for it. The family unit is the back bone, the fabric of any lasting society. But most of all, by diligently teaching not only God s great 10 -- but the spirit of God s statutes to our children  their hearts will be turned back to God! THIS WAS THE SINGLE GREATEST THING ELIJAH THE PROPHET DID!



ELIJAH AND THE SHOWDOWN OF THE PROPHETS:

In 1 Kings 18, there is the story of the prophet Elijah and the prophets of the Baals in a showdown. Things had gotten so bad in Israel under the pagan gentile queen Jezebel and king Ahab that the people were unsure as to who God really was. Elijah said to the people  how long halt ye between two opinions? If the Lord is God SERVE HIM. But if Baal, follow him (1 Kg.18:21). Elijah further challenged the people saying  you call on the name of your gods, and I will call on the name of the LORD; and the God who answers by fire, He is God The people answered  well said (1 Kg.18:24). After a long ritual dance with loud prayers and desperate cutting the flesh by those for the Baals, nothing happened. Then Elijah poured water all over his offering and said one prayer. Do you remember what that prayer was?


"Hear me, O LORD, hear me, that this people may know that You are the LORD God, and that You have turned their hearts back to You again" (I King 18:37).


Now do you see why Elijah must first come again  before Christ returns! John the Baptist came in the  spirit and power of Elijah, to prepare the people for Christ s 1st coming (Luke 1:17). He taught the people REPENTANCE from sin, and demanded they demonstrate their repentance by their fruits (Matt.3:8)! But the prophecy in Malachi is a prophecy for the 2nd coming of Christ. John the Baptist was a type  this prophecy is yet to be completely fulfilled. Those who will, must have their hearts TURNED BACK TO THEIR FATHER MOST HIGH! The same thing Elijah did must be done again before the end -- facilitate God turning the hearts of the people back to God their Father.


The reason why Malachi tells us of this commission to Elijah in the context of remembering God s Laws, is because one important way we have our hearts turned back to God is through teaching God s laws AND STATUTES to our children. This also aids in building a strong society and family built upon love and respect for one another -- and is the fulfillment of the 5th commandment! This is the fabric of any lasting society!


Christ came to pay the penalty for our sins. This was a tremendous act of love and mercy. But while here in the flesh, He also taught us to keep the commandments -- so that we would not merely go astray again!  Go and sin no more, He told the woman caught in adultery (Jn.8:11). When the young man asked Christ what he must do to have eternal life, Jesus said  keep the commandments (Mt.19:16-19). He then offered that man discipleship. But because of a strong love of money, he turned it down. He was not really keeping all the commandments. It appears this man s money was first. The 1st and greatest commandment is to put God first in our lives (see Deut.5:7). Christ was asked about this:


Matt. 22:36 "Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?" 37 Jesus said to him," 'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.' 38 "This is the first and great commandment. 39 "And the second is like it: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' 40 "On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets" (NKJ).


Paul said God s laws and statutes ARE the way of love (Rm.13:8-10)! But in the end time, Jesus said;  because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold (Matt.24:12).


When a society becomes lawless (devoid of God s laws), THEIR LOVE GROWS COLD! LAWLESSNESS CAUSES THIS DESTRUCTIVE CONDITION! And this is the rotten false gospel that many churches teach  a gospel that says Christ came to do away with His fathers laws -- a lawless gospel of death and disrespect towards God and His laws. It leads to destruction! When we persist in disobedience to God, there is only left JUDGMENT. When we try, He is ever merciful. He knows our hearts.


GOD HIMSELF taught the Decalogue to Israel and the Gentiles with them. MOSES was given the STATUTES to give to Israel (See Duet 4,&5)! But many think that the  law of Moses was done away with. The ceremonial laws delivered though Moses were indeed replaced by the one they pointed to  Christ the Lamb of God and ultimate sacrifice to cleans us from sin (Heb.9:12, 10:10)  and the Holy Spirit that writes God s laws on our HEARTS, not on stony tablets and doorposts (Heb.10:16-18). But the main point here is to remind us of the context in which God says  REMEMBER THE LAW OF MOSES, MY SERVANT  STATUTES & JUDGMENTS. The context is in the TIME OF THE END, and a time of fiery judgment! Because if we persist in lawlessness, our love will grow cold, our families will fall apart, and our hearts will be turned from God, and un-repented of, His from us! Turn to Christ and To His Father, and YOUR Father, with your heart. Rebel and disrespect no more. Can you see that s what s happening in society and in most families today? Read 2 Tim.3:1-5!


In Ezekiel 22:5-15, it speaks of sexual child abuse, adultery, and of a society that  makes light of the mother and father. Broken families! This brings a lot of pain and destruction! Can we see WHY God says Elijah must come and help TURN THE HEARTS of God s children to their fathers  and TO HIM -- lest He come and smite the Earth with utter destruction?


How will our hearts be turned?  Remember the Law of Moses, My servant  STATUTES and judgments (Mal.4:4).


Did you know that God even speaks of KEEPING HIS STATUTES AS PART OF THE NEW COVENANT? This is beautiful  God s laws AND STATUTES being written on our hearts by His Holy Spirit! WOW!


Ezek. 36:26 "A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. 27 And I will put My spirit within you, and cause you to walk in My statutes, and ye shall keep My judgments, and do them. (KJV)


Other passages speak of having the 10 commands written on our hearts as part of the new covenant. Here it speaks of having the STATUTES written on our hearts as part of the New Covenant. Remember; those of who have the spirit of God today, have the new covenant NOW. Christ said:  Take drink, this is the NEW COVENANT in my blood... (Lk.22:20). How are we doing?


God s Statutes don t need to be some big difficult thing we can t understand or keep. None can keep them perfectly. That s why we have the blood of Christ. But Christ came to take sin away  not to perpetuate it! We can learn the statutes and laws. Ask God for help and understanding. His Holy Spirit is called the helper and teacher. Paul said we can do all things through Christ. It s not about trying to save yourself. It s about learning to live Godly. It s about getting to know God and showing love to God. I Jn. 2:4 "He who says, "I know Him," and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him (NKJ).


Consider the PRINCIPLE or SPIRIT of God s Statutes. Consider how often you see Paul, James, Christ and the other apostles referring to them as something we ought to practice in the New Testament. See the beauty in them and begin to study them, as part of your regular scripture study. More than that  TEACH THEM TO YOUR CHILDREN, and to your grandchildren! How? How can we do this?



HOW CAN WE TEACH THE STATUTES TO OUR CHILDREN?

As we have already seen, we are to teach not only the Decalogue, but God s Statutes to our Children. This will help them avoid the judgments, and will turn their hearts to the Father! This was to be done as we rise up, as we go to bed, as we walk along the way& etc. In other words let them be on your tongue! Use every day opportunities to teach them. Don t just tell your children not to leave a pit uncovered. Take the time to teach them it is because of the statute of God that the pit must be covered up, the ladder must not be left leaning upon the roof, when not in use, and why we must keep our banister railings in good shape (Deut.22:8 & Deut.21:33-34). Remember the apostle Paul used the statute from Deuteronomy 22:10 of not yoking an ass and an ox together, to show the principle of not mixing things that don t belong together  such as a Christian marrying outside the faith (2 Cor.6:14-16)! We too can show the spiritual intent of the statutes as we study them and teach them to our children.


Of course Judgment is God s and with repentance, mercy triumphs over judgment. We are not to be judges today. And we understand those laws that are fulfilled by the sacrifice of Christ, pointed to Him. In other words, there may be a few statues or especially judgments that we can t today keep in the letter. But we can still learn from them in spirit. Instead of wearing tassels to remind us of God s laws, we are to have His laws written on our hearts by His Holy Spirit! Instead of physical circumcision, we are to be spiritually circumcised of heart through baptism (Rm.2:28-29 & Col.2:11-12)! Or as Paul put it:


1 Cor. 7:19 "Circumcision is nothing and uncircumcision is nothing, but keeping the commandments of God is what matters" (NKJ). That is what circumcision pointed to! In addition to simply being ready to teach as things come up through out the day, take some formal time in a positive enjoyable atmosphere to teach God s laws and statutes to your children. Take some time each day and read some of the statutes to your children, taking time to explain the spiritual principle to them as you go. Have them read some, and ask them what they think it means. Teach them to THINK and how to apply God s good laws. By doing this you will be called the greatest in the Kingdom of God, and you will be helping teach your children good behavior. By daily teaching my children the statutes, they now know how to show respect to the hoary (gray) head, and what to do if they break something they have borrowed from a friend (Lev.19:32 & Ex.22:14-15).


By teaching our children of God s laws as well as His plan for mercy and salvation, we prepare their hearts to turn to God not in word only BUT IN DEED! We teach them basic respect and the family is stronger for it. O how good are the ways of the LORD!


Why must Elijah first come? Because the people have forgotten who God is and how to live. The god of this world has blinded them (2 Cor.4:4). The gospel most often heard, is not the gospel that Christ spoke (Mk.13:6). The family, the fabric of society has broken down. Children rebel, parents are too busy, all have become lawless! Their hearts are not turned to God. Elijah must come again, and show a distinction. This will be a time of judgment. So please; as well as receiving Christ -- let s heed God s warning for our society today:


Mal. 4:4 "Remember the Law of Moses, My servant, which I commanded him in Horeb for all Israel -- statutes and judgments. By doing so we can avoid the judgment and bring a blessing. LET'S DO IT!