By Greg Brooks
Four hundred years is a long time to stay silent.
Come to think of it, 400 years is a long time to do anything.
But if a thousand years is as a day to God (Psalm 90:4), then 400 years must not be so bad.
Malachi was a prophet who lived about 400-450 years before Jesus was born. The last book of the Old Testament bears his name and contains his prophecies.
By and large it reads like the other prophetic books. But it ends pretty powerfully, and it works well for a 'last book'. Here's how it ends:
"See, I will send you the prophet Elijah before that great and dreadful day of the Lord comes. He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers; or else I will come and strike the land with a curse." (Malachi 4:5-6)
Great and dreadful stuff, don't you think? But it really stands out because of what comes next:
Not a word on the subject for 400 years.
But 400 years after Malachi lived, a new thing happened. Another prophet came on the scene, with a new message. His name was John, and an angel told his dad that this would be part of John's mission:
"He will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous-to make ready a people prepared for the Lord." (Luke 1:17)
Sounds familiar, doesn't it? "Turn the hearts of the fathers to their children." And since I'm a dad, I think that the "disobedient" in Luke are the same as the "children" in Malachi.
It seems that the relationship between parents and children, and particularly fathers, is very important to God-important enough that He emphasized it with a 400-year-long 'pregnant pause.'
In large part, the book of Malachi is about faithfulness. God used Malachi to condemn the Israelites for their unfaithfulness: unfaithfulness to God, unfaithfulness to His commands, unfaithfulness to their spouses. Keeping faith is very important to God.
It seems to me that the parents God is referring to in Malachi 4:6 are the kind of parents God likes: faithful fathers and mothers. Parents who are faithful to their God, to their spouse, and to their kids.
Parents who are faithful to God make God the center of their lives. They are the kind of parents who follow His instructions in Deuteronomy 6: They love God with all their heart, soul, and strength.
Faithful fathers and mothers follow the example of Jesus in their daily life. They pray, and study the scriptures, and reach out to serve others. They love their enemies and forgive people who hurt them. Faithful fathers and mothers want to be like Jesus.
Faithful fathers and mothers are on a mission from God. Like the apostle Paul, they are focused on one thing: "Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward." (Philippians 3:13-14)
Faithful parents are also faithful to their spouse. They are 'Song of Solomon' parents who say to each other, "Place me like a seal over your heart, like a seal on your arm; for love is as strong as death, its jealousy is as unyielding as the grave. It burns like blazing fire, like a mighty flame. Many waters cannot quench love; rivers cannot wash it away." (Song of Songs 8:6-7).
This is a hard one, because it's not always up to one person. I'm a Marriage and Family Therapist and I meet with plenty of parents who are divorced or who have been betrayed through no choice of their own. But like a lot of things that are hard to do, being faithful in marriage is worth all the work it takes.
Faithful fathers and mothers are faithful to their kids, too. They not only love God, they also teach His will to their children every chance they get. They love their children unconditionally and they make sure their kids know that they are special. And nothing their kids ever do can make those parents love them any less.
Faithful fathers and mothers turn their hearts to their children, and in so doing their hearts are turned to their God and to the other parent. And they will find their children's hearts turned back toward them.