Psalm 149,150; Malachi 2–4; Revelation 22:8–21

After two years and more than 1000 posts, we arrive at the end of it all…

Psalm 149,150: I commend the brilliance of the editors who compiled Psalms to end this book that describes every human feeling; that contains every cry to God for rescue; every complaint about a too-silent God; and which again and again celebrates God as Creator of all nature and above all as Creator of humankind.

We also encounter the underlying theme of the entire Old Testament: God’s concern for the widow, the orphan, the stranger, and the lowly—and his anger at those who ignore them. But above all else, we see how to worship God—and that is the theme of these final two psalms.

Over and over, the verses of these two psalms express an all-encompassing joy:
“Hallelujah!
Sing to the Lord a new song,
His praise in the faithful’s assembly.”  (149:1)

Let them praise His name in dance,
on the timbrel and lyre let them hymn to Him.” (149:3)

Let the faithful delight in glory,
sing gladly on their couches.” (149:5)

But in this psalm there lurks a darker note of triumphalism:
For the Lord looks with favor on His people,
he adorns the lowly with victory.
[…]
Exultations of God in their throat,
and a double-edged sword in their hand,
to wreak vengeance upon the nations,
punishment on the peoples,
to bind kings in fetters,
and their nobles in iron chains,
to extract from them justice as written–
it is grandeur for all His faithful.” (149:6-8)

Israel was God’s chosen people and they clearly are celebrating a military victory of some kind. Or more eschatologically, perhaps they are celebrating a victory at the end of history. To me, these final verses read like a condensation of the end of Revelation. After many great trials and persecution, the people of God are finally victorious.

Psalm 150, on the other hand, is untrammeled joy and is a fitting conclusion to all that has gone before. In the end, it’s all about praising God. “Praise” is repeated eleven times in the six short verses—leaving little doubt as to our highest obligation before God:
Hallelujah.
Praise God in His holy place,
praise Him in the vault of His power.
Praise Him for His mighty acts,
praise Him as befits His abounding greatness.
Praise Him with the ram-horn’s blast,
praise Him with the lute and the lyre.
Praise Him with timbrel and dance,
praise Him with strings and flute.
Praise Him with sounding cymbals,
praise Him with crashing cymbals.
Let all that has breath praise Yah.
Hallelujah!

In the end, we do not come before God with our theological insights or deep commentary. We come before God in joyful worship. If we take nothing else away from reading and pondering these 150 psalms, we must take that.

Hallelujah!

Malachi 2–4: Perhaps by this time the people who compiled the Moravian redaings came to realize that there is a great deal of repetitiveness in the minor prophets. Malachi sounds like those prophets who preceded him as he rehearses the usual themes.

1. God is angry at the desertion of the people and their preference to worship idols and there will be punishment. Malachi gives us a memorable metaphor: “I will rebuke your offspring, and spread dung on your faces, the dung of your offerings,” (2:3)

2. God’s anger is primarily directed at the religious and political leaders who have led the people astray: “the lips of a priest should guard knowledge, and people should seek instruction from his mouth, for he is the messenger of the Lord of hosts. But you have turned aside from the way; you have caused many to stumble by your instruction; you have corrupted the covenant of Levi.” (2:7, 8)

3. The priests and leaders are first order hypocrites: “You cover the Lord’s altar with tears, with weeping and groaning because he no longer regards the offering or accepts it with favor at your hand. ” (2:13)

4. Then, a theme we haven’t encountered before: the duty to remain faithful to one’s wife: “So look to yourselves, and do not let anyone be faithless to the wife of his youth. For I hate divorce, says the Lord…. So take heed to yourselves and do not be faithless.” (2:15)

5. Then, there is the messianic section. Here, it is a prediction of a messenger coming to prepare Israel for God’s arrival: “I am sending my messenger to prepare the way before me, and the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple.” (3:1) We certainly witness this in the role of John the Baptist as the messenger and the appearance of Jesus at the temple.

6. God will judge and punish those who have ignored the needs of the poor: “I will draw near to you for judgment; … against those who oppress the hired workers in their wages, the widow and the orphan, against those who thrust aside the alien, and do not fear me.” (3:5) We have seen this command over and over in reading the Old Testament and the Psalms. I think God is trying to get our attention about this.

7. At the end of history, the “Day of the Lord,” those who have remained faithful to God will receive their just reward: “on the day when I act, and I will spare them as parents spare their children who serve them. Then once more you shall see the difference between the righteous and the wicked, between one who serves God and one who does not serve him.” (3:17, 18)

The final chapter of the Old Testament bears striking resemblance to the last chapters of Revelation. At the end of history the wicked will be punished and fire will be involved: “See, the day is coming, burning like an oven, when all the arrogant and all evildoers will be stubble; the day that comes shall burn them up, says the Lord of hosts, so that it will leave them neither root nor branch.” (4:1)

But those who fear God will be saved: “for you who revere my name the sun of righteousness shall rise, with healing in its wings. You shall go out leaping like calves from the stall.” (4:2) The righteous will finally triumph over evil: “you shall tread down the wicked, for they will be ashes under the soles of your feet.” (4:3) This is a day we are still waiting for.

Malachi has one final admonition to his audience: “Remember the teaching of my servant Moses, the statutes and ordinances that I commanded him at Horeb for all Israel.” (4:4)

The Old Testament ends on a promise: “Lo, I will send you the prophet Elijah before the great and terrible day of the Lord comes. He will turn the hearts of parents to their children and the hearts of children to their parents, so that I will not come and strike the land with a curse.” (4:5,6) No wonder some people thought Jesus was Elijah returning to earth.

But as we know, God had a far greater surprise in store when he sent his son some 400 years after this last prophet speaks his final words.

Revelation 22:8–21: His visions complete at last, these final verses are John’s epilogue and benediction. Once again, John attempts to worship the angel who brought these visions to him. But the angel demurs: “You must not do that! I am a fellow servant with you and your comrades the prophets, and with those who keep the words of this book. Worship God!” (9) Here at the very end we learn that angels are our fellow servants. And based on our readings in the Old Testament, we can certainly agree that John speaks in a prophetic voice. The angel has it right when he says, “you and your comrades the prophets.” And just as the final psalm ends on our highest calling—to worship God—so too, this book with the angel’s imperative, “Worship God!

As long as Jesus has not returned, the same old bifurcation will continue to exist on earth as the angel reminds John and us, “Let the evildoer still do evil, and the filthy still be filthy, and the righteous still do right, and the holy still be holy.” (11) In the midst of evil, we, who consider ourselves to be righteous, are commanded to do the right thing and to always remember that there is still holiness in this broken, fallen world. And we must ourselves remain holy.

Suddenly, a new voice breaks in: See, I am coming soon; my reward is with me, to repay according to everyone’s work. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.” (12, 13) It is Jesus who has the last spoken words in the Bible: It is I, Jesus, who sent my angel to you with this testimony for the churches. I am the root and the descendant of David, the bright morning star.”

The Spirit and the bride say, “Come.”
And let everyone who hears say, “Come.”
And let everyone who is thirsty come.
Let anyone who wishes take the water of life as a gift.” (16, 17)

It is Jesus’ invitation to each and everyone of us. Jesus is the healer, the water of life that we receive through baptism. And his invitation still stands some two millennia later to all who will simply listen and respond. As John stated much earlier in this book, Jesus is already standing just outside the door of our heart. The eternal question hangs in the air: will we invite him in?

John’s Revelation concludes with the author’s warning: “ I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to that person the plagues described in this book; if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away that person’s share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book.” (18, 19) I think John knew instinctively that his visions would stir endless debate. Which they surely have. But just think how boring this last book would have been if it didn’t stir controversy and confusion.

But there is nothing confusing about the penultimate verse as Jesus says, “The one who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming soon.” (20) To which John and we can only reply, “Amen. Come Lord Jesus.

And so we wait.

Sola Deo Gloria.

 

 

 

 

 

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