"The Day of Hope Is Coming!"#84-11
Presented on The Lutheran Hour on November 13, 2016
By Rev. Dr. Gregory Seltz, Lutheran Hour Speaker
(Q&A Topic:Why Are There So Many Threats of Destruction in the Bible? Aren't Those Scare Tactics by God?)
Copyright 2021 Lutheran Hour Ministries
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Text: Malachi 4:1-6
"For behold, the day is coming, burning like an oven, when all the arrogant and all evildoers will be stubble. The day that is coming shall set them ablaze, says the Lord of hosts, so that it will leave them neither root nor branch. But for you, you who fear my name, the sun of righteousness shall rise with healing in its wings. You shall go out leaping like calves from the stall. And you shall tread down the wicked, for they will be ashes under the soles of your feet, on the day when I act, says the Lord of hosts."
Christ is risen! He is risen, indeed. Alleluia, and there is hope in Him that lasts! Amen.
You may be familiar with the wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald from the Gordon Lightfoot song bearing the same name. It is one of the most well-known shipwrecks in history and it is a story really of helplessness and hopelessness.
On November 10, 1975, the 730-foot Great Lakes freighter, the SS Edmund Fitzgerald, sank in a brutal and punishing storm as it sailed on Lake Superior from Superior, Wisconsin to Detroit, Michigan. The Edmund Fitzgerald was the largest freighter on the Great Lakes when it was first launched in 1958. Filled with 26,000 tons of iron ore, the ship plowed through increasingly rough seas toward its destination on that fateful day.
Even though the captain of the ship was accustomed to the sometimes punishing November weather on Lake Superior, this day 50-mile-per-hour winds with gusts up to nearly 90-miles-per-hour sent waves crashing over the ship, pounding it with tons of water. Beaten by the fierce weather, the captain tried to guide the ship to safety, but he was unable to overcome the monstrous seas. Listing and slowing down, the ship lost its radar. It sailed blind, asking nearby ships to help lead it to a safe haven. But soon communication stopped and any sign of the ship disappeared.
Some say a series of 35-foot rogue waves nicknamed the "three sisters" smashed into the boat and broke it in half at the surface, sending it to Lake Superior's muddy floor 530 feet below. But on that fateful and terrifying November day, twenty-nine crewmen lost their lives. From the 63-year-old captain to a 21-year-old deck hand, hope was lost that day. There was no recovery, no help; just the chill of a fearsome and devastating November storm.
Sometimes hope is lost. It seems like the day of hopelessness is that one sure thing in life, right? Tragedy always seems to be right around the corner. It may happen on a rough sea. It may happen in an oncologist's office, or because of a car wreck, or a tragic accident, or just because we tend to run out of strength eventually in this life! There comes a time when hope in this world is lost, when we are pressed to all of our limits and we are helpless.
So, how can there be hope if death is the final reality of life? Let me say it clearly, if hope was something that was determined by our efforts, our strength, our know-how, they eventually do amount to nothing and that kind of hope can't last.
But that's why it's so important to know the uniqueness of the Bible's message, especially for you right now. It is ultimately about a Savior named Jesus, Who has no limits when it comes to serving you and saving you, redeeming you and restoring you. Jesus, God in the Flesh come for you, is a God without limits for you. He proved that as He healed the sick, as He spoke with unsurpassed wisdom and authority, and especially when He literally walked out of death's tomb to never die again. When you face your life's limits and all hope seems lost, Jesus is the only One in Whom you can take refuge. I'll be even more bold. In Christ, you never need to walk through this life in hopelessness again-even when you feel that all hope is lost.
I know that's hard to believe, right? Just watch the news. The recent devastating earthquake in Italy brought images and tragic stories of terrible helplessness and loss. Too many precious lives were lost and too many hearts were broken as the earth shook, toppling homes and businesses and dashing the hopes of hundreds of people. One resident of Amatrice said in tears, "The future is finished. It's finished. The future is finished."
Do you ever feel that way? Well, listen up, an Old Testament Prophet has a word just for you. Malachi was a prophet, a spokesman for God, for Yahweh, who was trying to direct people to their real source of hope. Their lives and families were devastated by a powerful kingdom that removed them from their homeland and destroyed their way of life. Now they were back home, but it seemed impossible to recover. Many of the people took refuge in their own efforts to control the situation. They expressed their grief, anger, and disappointment in disobedience, hypocrisy, and unethical behavior. Malachi's job was to call the people to renewed integrity in their relationship with God Who could save them, Who could help them. First, he let them know the brutal truth. He said this: "For behold, the day is coming, burning like an oven, when all the arrogant and evildoers will be stubble. The day that is coming shall set them ablaze, says the Lord of hosts, so that it will leave them neither root nor branch" (Malachi 4:1).
For Malachi's listeners, there was a reason to tremble, to be nervous, and to be aware. If people were going to trust in their own strength and ingenuity, God wanted to give them a wake-up call.
The message was clear. They had no right to be arrogant, smug, or self-righteous. Their résumés didn't matter. Their personal success was of no consequence. Their level of physical fitness or the breadth of their knowledge counted for nothing. The size of their paychecks, their level of social standing, and their church attendance records didn't make a difference either. On their own, they were like the SS Edmund Fitzgerald. They were being driven by the winds and waves of life apart from God, headed to certain destruction.
That may sound harsh, but they, like we, need to face the facts. We are fallen, sinful people. None of us is righteous, not one of us. Just take a look in the mirror. Have you been perfect today? Is your life humming along without any worries or bumps in the road? Are your relationships ideal? Are your thoughts flawless and your attitude always honorable? Let's be real. Let's evaluate our lives accurately. You and I are in the same boat, so to speak. We need help. All of us do. We all think that we're building the ultimate ship of our lives, the one that can never be shaken, sunk, or deterred.
One hole can sink a grand ship. One sin, one imperfection, can corrupt your soul and sink any possibility of walking with the Holy and True God in eternity.
That's the urgent message Malachi brings to us today. On our own, under our own power, relying on ourselves, hope is lost. And the day is coming when we will see that with full force. But before you turn off this broadcast or crumble in despair, let me assure you of this: that's only part of the story. Malachi proclaims there is more-and it is good news. You are not on your own! You are not alone in a stormy and hopeless sea. There's hope when God acts amidst our helplessness.
Malachi's reality check message is so that you can have a dependable hope now. The point of Malachi's grim message is to wake us up, to rouse us to our real source of hope. He wanted to let us know that the coming day didn't have to be a hopeless disaster. Instead, it could be a glorious day a good day-the day when Jesus appears and embraces us with a huge and joyful welcome. That's why Malachi said: "But for you, you who fear the Lord's name, the sun of righteousness shall rise with healing in its wings. You shall go out leaping like calves from the stall. You shall tread down the wicked, for they will be ashes under the soles of your feet, on the day when I act, says the Lord of hosts" (Malachi 4:2-3).
Did you hear the great hope? Healing. Joy and freedom-that's what calves leaping from the stall describe; the end to evil and pain. That is hope from the Son of righteousness, Jesus. That is what is in store for people who fear the name of the true God. That sounds like an antiquated, archaic, and threatening message, Pastor-like fire and brimstone. What do you mean by "fear the name of the Lord"?
Let's think about it for a minute. It really is a wise message. Just think about it. In fact, let's go back to the Edmund Fitzgerald. In November of 1975, the captain set out without fear. Some say he didn't fear the November weather enough. Over the course of nautical history in that area of the Great Lakes, 240 ships had been sunk by rough weather. But the captain felt he could handle it-that he could handle anything.
His last message over the radio was, "We are holding our own." Wow!
Fear can be a very good thing. In fact, after the sinking of the Edmund Fitzgerald, the United States Coast Guard Marine Board issued the following statement: "The tragic accident points out the need for all persons involved in Great Lakes shipping to foster increased awareness of the hazards which exist." In other words, people needed a healthy fear for a healthy life.
Fear, that kind of fear. Respect. It can lead to new powerful action. Fear in that sense can be a healthy thing.
You have heard of God-fearing people. That means they respect, they trust, and they love God. They are in awe of Him. They see Him as bigger than themselves and able to do more than all they can ask for or even imagine. They see Him as their source of hope in a world that can be very hopeless-especially during this time of year as people reflect on the elections and as people see the holidays even on the horizon.
This healthy fear, this respect and awe, it can do very good things. Listen to the wisdom of King Solomon, the wisest leader in ancient history, it is often said. He said: "The fear of the Lord, Yahweh, is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction" (Proverbs 1:7). And then he says, "Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and shun evil. This will bring health to your body and nourishment to your bones" (Proverbs 3:7-8 NIV).
Being a God-fearing person brings healing and hope. As King David, Solomon's father, even said: "Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God" (Psalms 20:7).
That's what Malachi was encouraging for you and for me; for us all. There is hope in the God Who acts, and God acts for us all, ultimately in the life, the death, and the resurrection of Jesus. In Him, there is hope in all situations, at all times, and under all circumstances. Yes, there is even the certain hope of eternal life in the face of death because of Jesus' death and resurrection for you. When Jesus is in the picture of your life, all is not as it may seem. Psalm 42 says it well: "Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God" (Psalms 42:4-6 NIV).
As you put your hope in Jesus, your Savior, as you lift up your prayers to Him for help, strength, forgiveness, and wisdom, the day that is coming will be a day of welcome blessing. It will be a good day when you see Jesus face to face. When the suffering of this life is over, a good day will dawn when Jesus returns and says welcome home.
That's the day that is coming for you by faith in Jesus Christ. Revelation 21 says it this way, "The day is coming where [God] will wipe away every tear from [our] eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away" (Revelation 21:4). The day is coming. But God has made a way for it to be a day of hope for you in Jesus today. You can have that hope today as you trust in Him, as you fear the Lord.
Malachi warns us today and he invites us today. He says, "The day is coming." It's a day that reveals the limits of our sinful lives and the hope that can still be ours when God acts on our behalf. Malachi wanted us to enjoy that great and awesome day. He wanted it to be a day of deliverance for you, for me, for us all. He wanted to bring you hope, the hope found only when God acts on your behalf. A hope that became even more clear in the Bible in the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ.
Who wouldn't look forward to a day like that with confidence, with hope? With hope like that, we can face even the momentary trials today, even tragedies right now in this life with a certain confidence that God still can act and bless eternally.
It was another November shipwreck. The time, 1873. Mr. Horatio Spafford, a Chicago businessman and attorney, sent his wife and four daughters to England for a vacation after they had endured the devastation of the Chicago fire. He was delayed by business but he planned to meet them there later. On the voyage across the Atlantic, their ship was struck by another vessel. It was a devastating collision. 226 people died-including the Spafford's four daughters. Horatio Spafford set out immediately and boarded a ship that would take him to London to meet his heartbroken wife. As his ship sailed over the very spot where his children perished, he wrote the words of this now famous hymn:
When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,
It is well, it is well with my soul.
Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ hath regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul.
My sin, oh the bliss of this glorious thought!
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to His cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!
And Lord haste the day, when the faith shall be sight,
The clouds shall be rolled back as a scroll;
The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,
Even so, it is well with my soul.
You can hear his joy as you see his tears. With faith, that hope can see life in and through tragic days. Why, because the day of hope is coming in Jesus to all who believe. Amen.
Action in Ministry for November 13, 2016
Guest: Chaplain Steven Hokana
ANNOUNCER: You're listening to The Lutheran Hour. Next, it's Action In Ministry. Once again, here's Pastor Seltz.
SELTZ: This past week our listeners in the U.S. observed Veteran's Day. Those who have experienced the brutality and horror of war often come home only to relive it over and over again in their minds. PTSD--Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. It's a condition common among those returning from war, but it can also affect those who have experienced other tragic events. Today we have with us Chaplain Steve Hokana, who has written a resource called The Conflict at Home; Confronting PTSD. He's here to bring hope to a seemingly hopeless situation for so many. Chaplain Hokana, we thank you for your service to our country and thank you for coming to discuss this very serious matter.
HOKANA: Dr. Seltz, thanks for having me as a recently retired soldier. It's an honor to be here.
SELTZ: Are you adjusting well?
HOKANA: We're getting there. We're getting there.
SELTZ: Okay. Well, listen, I know you've been active duty for 30 years. You've seen firsthand the ravages of war. It is a big relief when the soldiers come home from deployment; but the question is what happens then? Why is this booklet called The Conflict at Home?
HOKANA: Many of us who deploy to war and come back are fine after a period of adjustment but there are some of us who are not. Those are the ones that get kind of stuck. Like your sermon illustrated earlier, they get that sense of hopelessness rather than hope.
SELTZ: Well, then, let's talk about this. What exactly is Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and how is it then different from a normal adjustment period?
HOKANA: I want to approach this in a couple of different ways. It's as if there are two different audiences here. One is the military personnel themselves. So, men and women, if you have deployed to a war and you notice that something is not quite right, there is a phrase called Wrap 132. What that means is that you are experiencing different types of symptoms. For example, one re-experiencing symptom, where you feel like you're there in the middle of combat or you are going to have three avoidance symptoms; you just don't want to go out, you don't want to do what you like to do in the past, you'd rather just stay at home. Then the last one is two hyper-arousal features; you break out in a sweat or startle response. Those are wake up calls for you. This isn't diagnosis. This is a wakeup call.
HOKANA: If I could, the second group I want to talk to are loved ones and that can be the moms, the dads, the husbands, the wives, and even the bosses at work. If they notice a change, ask that military person; military person, ask your loved ones, "Have I changed?" If they've said, "You've changed," then it's time for you to go to the VA. It's time for you to get checked in. Let's just make sure you're doing all right.
SELTZ: What then are the key components to recovery?
HOKANA: What's really important is...and it's in this booklet, is there must be a collaboration between the medical community...
SELTZ: So there's a medical side to this...
HOKANA: Yes, thank you; also a spiritual side, a faith-based side.
SELTZ: Okay. So this particular component that we're talking about is the spiritual dimension of healing. Talk a little bit more about that then.
HOKANA: Many times vets who have gone through some terrible experiences and having some guilt, post-traumatic stress, post-traumatic stress disorder; they'll excommunicate themselves from the church.
SELTZ: Like they just fade away. Be by themselves.
HOKANA: They'll hide in the shadows. They'll live in isolation. They will assume that God can't love them, God won't love them, and it's just so not true. Engage with the church, do not isolate yourself.
SELTZ: And we just say to the church, "Look for those guys, too," because they need that connection just as much as you do, right?
HOKANA: Yes. Yes. Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, we have a program called Operation Barnabas, where we reach out to our veterans in all the communities in which are Missouri Synod congregations.
SELTZ: To let folks know about that, you had four other parts of the toolbox. What would some of those be?
HOKANA: There are, Dr. Seltz, there is truth, there's God's love, there's prayer, and there is the Scriptures.
SELTZ: So really, you're talking about a God Who says "I'm not going to leave you in isolation. I still can actually bless you and I'm coming for you with a real sense of hope." Maybe in closing, what is the real hope for life after a traumatic event then?
HOKANA: That life is good. Life is good.
SELTZ: And it can be again, right?
HOKANA: And it can be again. Yes.
SELTZ: Wow. That's the God we celebrate. Well, Chaplain Hokana, thank you so much for your service and thank you for bringing us this hope in Christ for those who have endured great suffering.
HOKANA: Thank you and God bless our veterans.
SELTZ: Yes, absolutely. God bless our veterans; and that's our Action In Ministry segment today; to bless, to empower, and to strengthen your life in Christ for others.
ANNOUNCER: The name of this resource is The Conflict at Home. You can view or download this content for free at our website. Go to lutheranhour.org and click on Action In Ministry. That's lutheranhour.org. Or call 1-855-john316. That's 1-855-564-6316.
LUTHERAN HOUR MAILBOX (Questions & Answers) for November 13, 2016
Topic: Why Are There So Many Threats of Destruction in the Bible? Aren't Those Scare Tactics by God?
ANNOUNCER: And we are back once again with Pastor Gregory Seltz, responding to questions from listeners. I'm Mark Eischer. All right, here's a good one. "Pastor, why are there so many threats of destruction in the Bible? Is God employing scare tactics? There seems to be a lot of destruction talk. What do you make of it?"
SELTZ: Wow, that's a good question. I'll just give you a couple of examples. In the book of Deuteronomy, for instance, Moses, right before they entered the Promised Land; listen to what he says. He says, "If you do not carefully follow all the words of this law, which are written in this book, and do not revere this glorious and awesome name, Yahweh, your God, the Lord will send fearful plagues on you and your descendants, harsh and prolonged disasters, and severe and lingering illnesses" (Deuteronomy 28:58-59 NIV).
ANNOUNCER: Pretty scary.
SELTZ: It is, but Jesus even talks like this too. He says in Matthew 24, He talks about the fate of an unfaithful servant on Judgment Day. He says, "The master will come on that day when that guy doesn't expect Him and at an hour he is not aware of." And then He says, "He will cut him to pieces and assign him a place with the hypocrites, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth" (Matthew 24:50-51 NIV). So, again, Mark...I agree with you....Those statements are scary.
ANNOUNCER: Why do we find them in the Bible?
SELTZ: Well, let me assure you and all of our listeners that God isn't playing games or using scare tactics when He talks about words of destruction. What God is doing is really speaking the whole truth.
ANNOUNCER: But it's difficult truth. It's a frightening truth.
SELTZ: Yeah, but it is the truth. Sometimes you need to let people know the consequences of their actions as you plead for them to do what is right and what is good.
ANNOUNCER: So these words about disasters, plagues, weeping, gnashing of teeth; it's something like telling a toddler don't touch that hot stove or you're going to get burned.
SELTZ: That's a fair comparison, I think. I would add that it's also like loving parents letting their high schooler know that breaking curfew will result in the confiscation of a cell phone or losing driving privileges-but, of course, all of this stuff from God is on a much more serious and eternal scale.
ANNOUNCER: So when we hear what sound to us like threats, these are actually warnings and discipline.
SELTZ: Because God cares about us like you said. He doesn't want to lose us to destructive practices now and He doesn't want to lose us eternally. Because of that, He cares enough to speak the truth. Sometimes He's simply letting us know that if we walk down a certain path, some very hurtful things await us.
ANNOUNCER: And other times He is letting us know He's going to discipline us in order to bring us back into relationship with Him.
SELTZ: That's right. In addition, He cares enough, that's the whole point; He cares enough to warn us about future consequences so we don't fall prey to the devil's temptations or our own sinful desires. God isn't using scare tactics. He is speaking the truth to us.
ANNOUNCER: As we read in Hebrews, chapter 12: "For the Lord disciplines the one he loves" (Hebrews 12:6 ESV).
SELTZ: That's what parents do, parents who love their kids; but it's what God does for us too.
ANNOUNCER: Sometimes the punishment seems so harsh however.
SELTZ: That's why it's important to always look at the context of each of these conversations about destruction in the Bible. Like in Deuteronomy, for example, God was preparing His beloved people to start a new chapter in their life. Listen to what He had already done for them: He freed them from slavery in Egypt, He provided for them in the wilderness, He was opening up a new land to them so they could have a permanent home.
ANNOUNCER: These people knew only oppression and slavery back in Egypt, so God is here teaching them how to live well for themselves and for others because they didn't know any other way.
SELTZ: They didn't know any other way and so if God's people went about their business and blended in with the harsh culture of the day, they would be giving up God's special protection and blessing as well as their witness. All God is saying is that the results will be horrible. That's why, at the end of this section in the Bible, God pleads with His people. He says it this way, "For this commandment I command you is not too hard for you. It's not far off. The word is near. It is in your mouth, in your heart, you can do it" (Deuteronomy 30:11-14).
ANNOUNCER: That's actually extremely encouraging. In the same chapter He says, "I have set before you life and death...so choose life!" (vs.19)
SELTZ: Even words that Jesus says in Matthew 24 are a heads up about what may happen if people try to rely on themselves instead of trusting in His saving word for them. He was pleading with them not to miss out on the blessing of forgiveness and life. God loves us so much and in all these things He is speaking to us His truth.
ANNOUNCER: Thank you, Pastor Seltz. This has been a presentation of Lutheran Hour Ministries.
Music Selections for this program:
"A Mighty Fortress" arranged by Chris Bergmann. Used by permission.
"The Day Is Surely Drawing Near" From The Concordia Organist (© 2009 Concordia Publishing House)
"The Clouds of Judgment Gather" From The Concordia Organist (© 2009 Concordia Publishing House)