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

Today is the last day of the two-year cycle of Moravian Daily Texts. Since I began this blog in February 2014 I have written 476 posts. We’ll be starting over tomorrow because no matter how often one comes back to a Biblical text there is always something fresh to be discovered. Such is the work of the Holy Spirit in speaking to any person who comes to these texts with an open mind and a heart that loves God…

Psalm 150: This final song of praise is the not only the finale of the six psalms of praise but it is the climax of this entire book as it summarizes our greatest joy: worshipping and praising God. It opens with “Hallelujah!” and closes with “Hallelujah!,” which of course simple means “Praise God!”

These final verses cause us to remember that God is God, reminding us that above all of God’s incomprehensible power from on high. We “praise God in His holy place,/ praise Him in the vault of His power.” (1) This is not just potential power, it is power actively used by God as he continues to participate in all creation: “Praise Him for His mighty acts,/ praise Him as befits his abounding greatness.” (3)

Then, as if we are watching the ending credits of this movie, our psalmist gives credit to the musicians and their instruments that have accompanied us through this remarkable book:

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. (3, 4)

This instrumental praise culminates in one final burst of joyous music, the final chord that, as loud as it is and that is repeated on the loudest of all instruments, is simply our pale human imitation of God’s incredible greatness and power: “Praise Him with sounding cymbals,/ praise him with crashing cymbals.”

And then finally, the greatest instrument of all: our voices as we sing, “Let all that has breath praise the Lord.” Notice the inclusiveness here with “all that has breath.” It is not just Israel that praises God, it is everyone on earth because God is God of all. And we could even suggest in the phrase “all that has breath,” that the psalmist has included all living creatures in God’s creation. All of us sing in unison–a sign of the perfect creation that, as John and Zechariah have told us, awaits us as we sing in unison with the very hosts of heaven:


Malachi 2–4: These final chapters, are an almost Job-like dialog between the priests of Judah and God.  Speaking prophetically as the voice of God, Malachi accuses the priests of hypocrisy and failing to listen: “If you will not listen, if you will not lay it to heart to give glory to my name, says the Lord of hosts, then I will send the curse on you..indeed I have already cursed them, because you do not lay it to heart.” (2:2) They have priestly duties: “For 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.” (2:7) But, alas, they have failed: “you have turned aside from the way; you have caused many to stumble by your instruction; you have corrupted the covenant of Levi.” (2:8) As always, the root of the problem is idolatry: “Judah has been faithless, … for Judah has profaned the sanctuary of the Lord, which he loves, and has married the daughter of a foreign god.” (2:11)

Chapter 3 suggests why John the Baptist was seen by his contemporaries as an Old Testament prophet because he appears to fulfill a promise made here: “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) It is this “messenger” who is “like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap; …and he will purify the descendants of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, until they present offerings to the Lord in righteousness.” John’s message was one of redemption, of turning around and he surely quoted Malachi: “Return to me, and I will return to you, says the Lord of hosts.” (3:7a).

And the question the crowd asked of John after hearing all this is also right here:  “But you say, “How shall we return?” (3:7b)

Malachi’s answer is quite simple: stop robbing God: “Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, so that there may be food in my house, and thus put me to the test, says the Lord of hosts; see if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you an overflowing blessing.” (3:10) [I’m afraid this verse has probably been misused by those who preach a “prosperity gospel.”]

Like Zechariah and the other prophets, Jesus at the end of his ministry, not to mention John of Patmos, this book ends on an eschatological vision: the Day of the Lord as the end of history. We see where John of Patmos got the idea of a book of life. It is all right here: “a book of remembrance was written before him of those who revered theLord and thought on his name. They shall be mine, says the Lord of hosts,” (3:16, 17a)

The final judgement is right here, as well: “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 as always, this book–and the entire OT–ends on a hopeful hope: “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.” What was unexpected of course is that God did not send Elijah back down from heaven. Instead, God did something far better. God sent his only son.

Revelation 22:8–21: His visions complete with the arrival of the New Jerusalem, John of Patmos concludes with an epilogue and a benediction. He attempts to worship the angel that brought these words to him and is rebuked, “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) But in saying, “your comrades the prophets,” the angel states John’s bona fides as a prophet.

But unlike many apocalyptic books that were being written at the same time and that became secret writings accessible to only a few cognoscenti, John’s writings are for everyone as the angel instructs, “Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this book, for the time is near.” (10). My theory, based on no evidence, is that this very accessibility rather than secrecy is a major reason why John’s Revelation made it into the canon while many other candidates did not.

Appropriately enough, Jesus has the final word. He promises to return soon, reminding us that “ I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.” (13) and makes it clear to John that he is the one who sent the angel with the visions. Jesus also reminds us that he is Jewish, the promised Messiah of whom the prophets wrote: “I am the root and the descendant of David, the bright morning star.” (16)

But what is perhaps even more wonderful is that Jesus is available to anyone who comes to him:
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. (17)

This is a wonderful definition of grace and a clear rejection of the Gnostics, who preached that only those who ascended to special knowledge could come to God. Jesus is indeed for everyone.

Just as the Old Testament ended on the note of the Messiah’s return, so too the New Testament. We can ask for nothing and we need not work to achieve eternal life because Jesus comes to us. In chapter 3 we saw Jesus standing at the door and knocking. Now, at the end of this remarkable book, we hear him utter his great promise: “Surely I am coming soon.” (20)

And we can respond in the famous words that echo down through two millennia: “Amen. Come Lord Jesus.”

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