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God’s Word for You

Malachi 4:6 the hearts of children

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Friday, May 14, 2021

6 He will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers. Otherwise, I will come and strike the land with complete destruction. (EHV)

The final verse of the Old Testament focuses on the importance of the family. The fall into sin cannot be ignored, and this is brought firmly into the realm of family relationships here. The Fourth Commandment teaches us to honor our parents and others in authority, but with a special place given to family as the central and most important building block of human life. Parents and children must acknowledge that they will fall into sin, and that they will sometimes stray from one another, for selfish and sinful reasons. But repentance is the means God has of bringing us back to him, and to one another. We admit our sinful failings and our prodigal wanderings, and we are called back to Christ by the gospel. The hearts of parents will always open up to children who return to them: “While he was still a long way off, the father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him” (Luke 15:20). And the hearts of children will always be open to a parent who has strayed into sin or neglectfulness: Then “she will sing as in the days of her youth, as in the day she came up out of Egypt” (Hosea 2:15).

The word translated “complete destruction” means to be utterly destroyed. This so terrified the Jews that they made a rule for reading this chapter: They do not allow this verse to be read unless verse 5 is repeated once again afterward. Since Malachi was the last prophet, it was frightening to end the book in this way (many translations have “strike the land with a curse”). There is a similar warning at the end of the New Testament, but the New Testament Scripture ends with grace: “The grace of the Lord Jesus be with God’s people. Amen” (Revelation 22:21).

So we see law and gospel clearly and elegantly preached. To be turned is to turn from sin and be turned back to God’s will. For those who will not be turned but who remain stubbornly fixed in their sinful tracks, there is complete and utter destruction on its way in the final judgment. For those who turn, there is a return to God’s family of believers and the righteousness that comes from faith in Christ. It is not a righteousness that we accomplish for ourselves, but that which comes from Christ directly onto our account by faith. So a child who has wandered from her parents, who feels guilt and shame because of it, should be comforted: She is forgiven by Jesus. Her parents love her, her Savior loves her. And that’s true for you, too. Don’t focus all your attention on the threats, but on the blessings that come through faith. Live a life that thanks God, trusts him, and lives for him. Amen.

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim Smith

About Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. To receive God’s Word for You via e-mail, please contact Pastor Smith.


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