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Prepare the Way – Part II

Restoring Fathers and Sons

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14 Aug 2020
Prepare the Way – Part II

Malachi is the last book of the Old Testament in our Christian Bible. This prophet represents the very last words of the Old Testament era. Some theologians call the following 400 years the ‘time of silence’, when God would not speak again until His son Jesus came. This is how the Old Testament ends:

“Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome day of the Lord comes. And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the land with a decree of utter destruction.” (Malachi 4:5-6/ESV)

It is the second “I will send” message in the book of Malachi. Already in verse 3:1, God declares: “I will send My messenger and he will prepare the way before Me” – a clear reference to John the Baptist (Matthew 11:10). At the very end of the book, God again declares: “Behold I will send!” – revealing another facet of the ministry of John the Baptist, the one who came in the spirit and power of Elijah (Luke 1:17).

There are two underlaying principles which define this Elijah ministry: First, it is a God-initiative. This is not a plan of man, but God says, “I will do it!” That leaves us with great hope, since it is not dependent upon man but God, its success is secured! We just need to align and submit ourselves to this great plan of God.

Secondly, this Elijah ministry needs the maximum attention possible. Malachi warns that the success of this Elijah figure will be of vital importance, otherwise God will “strike the land with a decree of utter destruction.” That means we cannot underestimate the importance of the Elijah ministry in the end times. It requires everyone’s attention; not only pastors and leaders but every member of the body of Christ needs to submit to this heavenly agenda.

The mission of this Elijah spirit seems rather unexpected. Elijah’s calling is focused on family relations. He will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers. Fathers and sons. Mothers and daughters. It is the generational and familiar relationships that matter to God in a great way.

In our individualistic Western societies, families are losing their importance. The family structure today is more under attack than ever before. Even the policies of many governments around the world undermine the biblical concept of a godly family, of a father and mother bearing and raising upright offspring. The biblical concepts of man and woman are under attack. Divorce rates are at record highs. Meanwhile, the mother’s womb was once a proverbial symbol of safety, but now it has become the most insecure place for an unborn child as millions of babies are killed in their mother’s womb before they have a chance to live.

The relationship between fathers and sons, and between God the Father and His children, can be defined through three different levels which all apply to our lives.

1) Personal Family Calling
When God called Abraham to be a blessing to the world and to father a people who would bring salvation and faith to the ends of the earth, He made it clear that this blessing was not just a blessing of a few individuals. Rather, God declared, “in you all the Families of the earth shall be blessed” (Genesis 12:3).

It is important to note that even the very purpose of God in calling Abraham focused on his own family relationship: “For I have known him, in order that he may command his children and his household after him, that they keep the way of the Lord, to do righteousness and justice, that the Lord may bring to Abraham what He has spoken to him.” (Genesis 18:19) It was essential for Abraham’s calling that he would not serve just as an individual, but God saw the generational family bond as central in that calling.

Undoubtedly, the Jewish people today are an example to all the world of a faith and tradition that is not just kept individually, but it is passed on to the next generation through study (the first book children in observant families learn to read is Leviticus) and ceremony (e.g., the bar mitzva).

This did not change when they got to New Testament times. Often, we hear that whole households got saved and baptized. When God called Cornelius, the very first Gentile to receive the Gospel, He promised him… “you shall be saved, you and your household” (Acts 11:14). Paul gave the same promise to the jailor at Philippi… “you will be saved, you and your household” (Act 16:31).

My own family experienced this when God invaded the Bühler home some 80 years ago. He sovereignly touched my grandmother, and her whole family got saved. And this blessing carries on even to all her grandchildren and great grandchildren.

As you read this, I ask you to have faith in God not just for your own salvation but for your whole household. God wants “all the families of the earth” to be blessed.

Also, it means fathers in particular, you must assume your role as a priest over your family. The priestly role is to pray for your children and to teach them the ways of God. Do not leave this important task just to the church in Sunday school. Fathers are the most important role models in the life of a child.

Of course, the same role applies to mothers regarding their children. As I write this, I am still mourning the passing of my mother just a few days ago. Both my parents were models to me as they followed Jesus. Make the decision today like Joshua did: “Me and my house, we will follow the Lord!”

And of course, the same passage also applies for children. God engraved the relationship of children to their parents at the center of the Ten Commandments. “Honour your father and your mother, that your days may be long upon the land which the Lord your God is giving you” (Exodus 20:12). Paul makes a point that this commandment is the first one which carries a blessing – one of long life. He also reminds us that in the last days this biblical value and commandment will be undermined, as children will be “disobedient to parents” (Romans 1:30). As children, we are called to honour our fathers and mothers no matter how old we are or how old they are!

Much more can be said about this, but there is another level of this Elijah restoration that applies to us which we must consider.

2) The Faith of Our Fathers
There is another relationship concerning fathers, namely the “faith of our fathers”. In Malachi 2:10, God admonishes Israel about forsaking the “covenant of our fathers”.

Now the faith of the Bible is a faith of ‘new things’. It is a faith where every generation must find the way to serve God in their own way. God repeatedly announces throughout the prophets that He is doing a “new thing” (Isaiah 42:8; 43:19). He consequently rebukes people who never change but get stuck in their old traditions and ways of doing things (Jeremiah 48:11).

At the same time, change should never, ever alter or shake the foundations of our faith as revealed in the word of God. One thing which never changes is biblical truth, values and doctrines, simply because God does not change. Our means of communication, musical and rhetorical styles, or our order of service might change, but the message itself must never change. What God called “sin” two thousand years ago is still sin today. What God called “righteous and just” in the Bible will not be unrighteous and unjust today.

Churches and believers do well today to find their orientation in the early Church in Jerusalem, the model church established by the first apostles. The four great principles of the early Church – the apostles’ teachings, fellowship of the saints, the breaking of bread, and prayer – are indispensable for any church or community that seeks a move of God. This is why Israel’s prophets called upon “you who pursue righteousness […] look to the rock from which you were hewn […] look to Abraham your father and Sarah who bore you…“ (Isaiah 51:1f)

The truths that brought revival 200 years ago will not be abandoned today. Repentance and prayer are as essential today as they were in past revivals. There is no quick-fix, downloadable, instant revival which suits our modern lifestyle. The lives of John Wesley, George Whitefield, William J. Seymour or Reinhard Bonnke might significantly differ in style, but all carried the same DNA of a holy and dedicated life to Jesus. The old rugged Cross is still old and rugged today. But as we hold fast to it and proclaim it, the Cross will release its power full and fresh even in our post-modern world.

The call of Elijah is to uncover old wells that might have been stopped for decades and even centuries but, as we do, those wells will flow anew with fresh, living waters. This is what Elijah did when he re-erected the altar of God that was laying in ruins (1Kings 18:30).

Foundations are so central to our faith that the heavenly Jerusalem holds an unshakable and unchanging foundation of the twelve Apostles, and the twelve entry gates to the city are even more ancient as they have the names of the twelve tribal leaders of Israel.

It was likely for this reason that the angel who appeared to Zechariah slightly altered the quote of Malachi 4:5: “He will also go before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, ‘to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children,’ and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord” (Luke 1:17). John the Baptist arrived in a generation that desperately needed to turn back to the principles of old. They had departed so much that the angel called them “disobedient”. John’s main message, therefore, was one of repentance. This ‘repentance’ in the Hebrew language means both to reverse and to turn in the direction you came from.

The spirit of Elijah thus represents not just a great hope and expectation for revival and signs and wonders, but it also represents lives of radically devoted believers who will uncompromisingly walk in the paths of the fathers and in doing so they will conquer new land!

3) The Fathers of Our Faith
The third implication relates to an area which the Church has struggled with for most of its history. It has to do with our relationship to the Jewish people.

A search in your computer Bible program or concordance will quickly show that the word ‘fathers’ (plural) is mainly used throughout the New Testament in a very particular way. From the 57 occurrences of “fathers” in the NKJV, for example, over fifty refer to the fathers of Israel. Thus, “the God of Abraham Isaac and Jacob, the God of our fathers” (Acts 3:13); “your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness” (John 6:49); “The Holy Spirit spoke rightly through Isaiah the prophet to our fathers” (Acts 28:25). Altogether, some fifty New Testament passages relate to the Jewish people of Old Testament times. Paul declares concerning Israel, “of whom are the fathers’ (Romans 9:5).

That means Israel in all their generations – from Abraham to Moses to the prophets – are to be considered as our fathers. This is a traditional understanding which has characterised Israel for centuries, to such a degree that the Talmud titles a whole book Pirkei Avod which means “the sayings of the fathers.”

Now you might argue that this may be true for only the ‘good Israelites’, like Abraham, Moses, etc. But two New Testament passages are especially noteworthy. In the book of Acts, both Stephen and Paul face very hostile crowds that want to kill them. Both preach to these mobs before they attack. And both address them the same amazing way: “Brothers and fathers, listen…” (Acts 7:2; 22:1). This reminds us of what Paul also declared about Israel: that even though they might be enemies of the gospel, they are “still beloved for the sake of the fathers” (Romans 11:28).

Further, when we look at how the New Testament portrays the Church, we find that Jesus called his disciples “children” (e.g., John 21:5) and Paul and John both address the Church as “children” (Galatians 4:19; 1 John 2:1).

This means the relationship between the Church and the people of Israel can be viewed as one between fathers and children. The recent line of Catholic popes often refers to the Jewish people as “our elder brothers”. Nor would it be incorrect to call them our fathers. This is how the Apostles called them.

Christianity was born out of the covenant of God with Israel. All that defines our faith today was given to us by the Jews. Our Bible was written by Jews – Jewish patriarchs, prophets and apostles all pointing us to a Jewish Messiah, who in heaven is still called the “Lion of the tribe of Judah”. That is why Jesus declared to the Samaritan woman that “salvation is of the Jews” (John 4:22).

This means our relationship as the Church to Israel is as important as the relationship between fathers and children. Of course, the same is true the other way around. But it was mainly the Church which over the centuries dishonoured their fathers in many ways. It is time not only to repent but to show the “fruit of repentance”, as John the Baptist sought.

This Elijah ministry is an end-time ministry, and as such it means that no believer or church can ignore it in these last days. I believe the last-days Church, the Bride of Christ, cannot afford to ignore or side-line the family of Jesus, the Jewish people, any longer. The spirit of Elijah urges us to be in right relation with the fathers.

This relationship is unconditional and cannot depend on how good they are, if they believe like we want them to believe, or if the government in Israel is a perfect government. In the natural our fathers are not perfect, yet we are still commanded to honour them. The same applies to Israel. We must honour, love and bless them.

This spirit of Elijah will help us and teach us to be rightly connected with God’s people and to rightly relate to the Land of Israel which God promised to them through an eternal covenant. Otherwise, as Paul warns, we are endangering the very root of our existence – and that can be fatal (Romans 11:16ff). In light of the fifth commandment, we might forfeit the blessing that comes with honouring our father and mother.

The theme for this year’s Feast of Tabernacles is “Prepare the Way”, which has much to do with this Spirit of Elijah. It has to do with family and generational restoration. These are important to God because they are rooted in the very nature of God. He is our Father! And this fatherly concern is expressed most powerfully through the prophet Malachi:

“A son honours his father,
And a servant his master.
If then I am the Father,
Where is My honour?
And if I am a Master,
Where is My reverence?
Says the Lord of hosts…” (Malachi 1:6)

Honouring God as our father, honouring our natural fathers, reconnecting to the faith of our fathers, and honouring the fathers of our faith – this all has to do with reflecting God‘s character.

Let us together invite the Lord to release this Elijah anointing upon our lives and even nations. Please pray with us for the Feast of Tabernacles, that this word will be heard as a clear and loud shout around the world. Let us together ‘prepare the way’ of the Lord!      

If you would like to read "Prepare the Way – Part I" go to int.icej.org/news/special-reports/prepare-way

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