As late spring temperatures soar this long holiday weekend, a few of us are inevitably searching for the aloe vera we stashed away over the winter. Our white winter skin, which will be brown by fall, isn’t happy with us right now for forgetting the sunscreen and sun hats.
Most of us try — and often fail — to avoid being sunburned because we know how painful it can be. We also try to avoid weird tan lines because we know how embarrassing they can be. Well, I had a high school boyfriend who made it his goal one year to get both at once! He got a job that summer baling hay. For those of you who don’t know, this job involves walking around fields during the hottest part of the summer and throwing 50-pound hay bales onto the back of a truck. It is not fun work, and it requires a lot of hot, sweaty hours in the direct sun.
Being the romantic he was, Ben (not his real name) decided to capitalize on the opportunity. He wanted to put all those shirtless hours in the field to good use. He duct taped my name onto his back. Yes, you read that right, my name in duct tape across his back, so he would get a nice tan/burn line of it on his very skin. It wasn’t as permanent as a tattoo, which coincidentally I have also had someone do with my name, but it was pretty close! When Ben proudly showed me the results, I laughed and was thoroughly embarrassed. Oh, the things teenage boys will do in the name of love, or maybe just attention!
As funny as it sounds, this is exactly what I thought of when I read through our final passage of Malachi this week. God keeps talking about the fire of His wrath that is coming. It will burn up everyone and everything in a consuming blaze until it turns to ash. Only one thing can save us from this fire, from this burning judgment that is to come, and His name is Jesus.
God’s judgment is like the sun on a hot day. Eventually it will beat down on us, and we will find no shade and no escape unless we have Jesus. He is our only protection from that burning. He stands above us and gives us relief. He gets the sunburn, and we get the shade. He is the duct tape that blocked all those UV rays from Ben’s skin. Everything under that tape was still white as white could be, but anything that wasn’t covered was tomato red.
I realize this is a silly illustration for a very serious truth. God has to punish sinners or He wouldn’t be a good God. Talking about fire and brimstone isn’t very popular. I realize this, but it is necessary. Satan would love for us to be lulled into the assumption that sin really isn’t all that bad and God is just too nice to send anyone to hell. But this is wrong, for the wages of sin is death and eternity in hell. Jesus talked often about hell, and He never once mentioned that all roads lead to heaven. What He did say is, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the father except through me” (John 14:6, emphasis mine). He couldn’t be more clear. Everyone who doesn’t come through Him is going to get burned. We need to trust in Jesus like skin behind duct tape. It is the only place we can be white as snow in the day of God’s burning wrath.
If you have not put your trust in Jesus, I urge you to not wait. We don’t know when our lives will end. We might pass peacefully in our sleep at 104 or in a car accident even as we listen to this podcast. We don’t get to choose the timing of our deaths, so we need to be ready now. I don’t want you to have to face the fire alone. I long for you to be safe behind Jesus when your day comes. All you have to do to be ready is to “confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, (and) you will be saved” (Romans 10:9).
If you have already put your trust in Jesus, Hallelujah! We can look forward to skipping about like calves on the day of judgment (Malachi 4:2), whatever that looks like! We now get to share the joy of resting in Jesus with those around us. Who knows, we might be the only ones to ever share the gospel with others, so don’t hold back! Pray for opportunities — and the courage — to share the gospel because the fire is coming.
I hope this study of Malachi has been fruitful for you. I hope that at the end of it all you have been pointed back to Jesus over and over again because the entire Bible, both the Old and New Testaments, always point to Jesus. It may be subtle, or confusing, or downright strange like the book of Malachi may have seemed at first, but Jesus is the center of it all. Jesus. The way. The truth. The life. Those three seem to be what everyone is searching for these days. Let’s share them as we share Jesus with others this week and throughout the rest of our lives.