God is here with us as the power of healing. The Sun of Righteousness will rise and heal those who fear God. This Word of God is still alive, and it can happen to us even now.
To summarize Malachi chapter 4, the prophet Malachi prophesies about the promises and blessings that God will give to the righteous. He also reveals that good and evil will be exposed before God on the final day of the world. On that day, the wicked will be judged by God, while the people of God are assured complete protection and restoration. God will shield His people from any harm or threat yet grant them eternal rest and eternal life.
Please take a moment to observe the picture here. Within these ancient pictures and sculptures, messages of God’s judgment and protection are concealed. It is truly fascinating to witness how the ancient Middle Eastern peoples perceived the sun, as it is intricately intertwined with their mythology. Notably, the Bible also incorporates the languages and expressions of the surrounding nations in ancient Israel. However, Israel adeptly demythologizes these concepts and establishes a new belief system within the framework of monotheism.
I will illustrate this with an example. The Bible states, “The Sun of Righteousness will rise with healing in its wings.” Do you grasp the significance of this statement? I must admit, before my understanding of ancient Middle Eastern culture, I was perplexed by these sentences. How does the sun relate to justice? And did the sun truly possess wings? Furthermore, can wings bring about healing? As modern individuals, we may not hold such beliefs regarding the sun. However, it is important to acknowledge that the people of ancient Israel and the neighboring nations held these thoughts and beliefs.
Can you see the wings of the sculpture? This is how the ancient Assyrians depicted their sun god. They held the belief that this deity possessed wings, which served as a symbol of protection against their enemies. In their understanding, these wings would transform into spears and arrows to attack their enemies.
This painting depicts the sun in an ancient Egyptian mural, with hands at the ends of the rays emanating from it. These hands symbolize life, as the Egyptians of that era believed that they could obtain life through the sun’s rays.
As you may know, the ancient Israelites held a distinct monotheistic belief. It is clear that the prophet Malachi did not worship the sun, moon, or stars as deities. However, he employed the symbolism of the sun to convey future events and God’s promises to His people. It is like we could illustrate the internet connection to explain the system of connection between God and us. We could understand the term internet, yet ancient people couldn’t relate to it. So, it would be helpful to know the ancient culture to perceive the meaning of the wings of the sun.
Now, let’s all take a moment to imagine ourselves as ancient Israelites. Picture this: you are transported back approximately 2500 years, finding yourself in the city of Jerusalem, located in the Middle East. It’s currently June, and the weather is pleasant, with temperatures around 86 degrees Fahrenheit. From the balcony of your guest house, you observe the sun, basking in the cool shade it provides. As you gaze upon the sun, you contemplate its characteristics: it is just, righteous, and even merciful to all. Moreover, you believe that the sun possesses healing powers and grants eternal life. Its warm rays envelop you, evoking thoughts of God. Can you sense the warmth of God? Can you feel the gentle nature of God’s heart?
However, the reality of the place you briefly visited 2500 years ago is not as hopeful. After long captivity in Babylon, the temple was rebuilt, but the miracle didn’t happen. They believed that the glory of God would return after the exile, but it did not happen immediately. The people of Israel expected a strong government and a prosperous life, but the reality was far from it. They no longer hold respect for God, as their religious leaders have fallen, and it is said that they only pursue their own interests. Governments and societies are corrupted ethically, and justice is not being served. They don’t practice God’s commandment to love their neighbors, resulting in orphans, powerless women, and those unable to work due to illness starving to death.
But in this reality, you witness the Radiant Sun once more. The prophet Malachi urges you, saying, “You are God’s people. God is aware of your deep yearning for justice. Rest assured, God will rise like the righteous sun, casting healing rays upon your lives, as your hunger and yearning for righteousness.”
God’s beloved ones! The prophet Malachi continues to speak to us through this Bible. Can you hear his voice? Does his message resonate with your soul? Certainly, the circumstances 2500 years ago and the present situation differ greatly. The specific challenges we face today may vary, yet there are some similarities: there are numerous aspects beyond our control. Countless things cannot be altered solely by our strength or willpower. It is natural to feel powerless when our desires are not promptly fulfilled. The Israelites experienced the same emotions 2500 years ago. When their expectations of resolving everything upon their return to the promised land were not immediately met, they became disheartened and lost faith in the possibility of societal change. In their despair, people started to drift away from God’s teachings, and ultimately, some abandoned their devotion to God.
People of God! We want to hold onto hope, firmly believing in the capacity for change within ourselves and our society. The transformation of the world can commence right here within our small faith community. Our hope rests in God, for though we may be weak, God is mighty. The radiance of justice brilliantly illuminates the core of our souls. In every trial we face, let us remain steadfast in our connection with God. Let us abide in God’s love and grace. God will help in every moment as we are in challenges. The light of justice resides among you, shining its light upon your path. May God’s righteousness and mercy be with you now and always!
2nd Sunday after Pentecost, June 11, 2023, Malachi 4:2-3
Pastor John Kim, Lakeridge Lutheran Church