Tag Archives: prophecy

The Gloom and the Glory


Christmas is meant to be a joyous time. It’s hard to get away from people without them saying something like, “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Holidays.” But what about those who can find no reason to be merry or no motivation to be happy? Solomon wrote, “Whoever sings songs to a heavy heart is like one who takes off a garment on a cold day, and like vinegar on soda,” (Proverbs 25.20, ESV). In other words, pressing a person to be happy, whether through song or through words, can be cruel like stripping them of their coat when it’s freezing outside, or even irritating and explosive.

It isn’t that people don’t want to be happy during the holidays; it is that there is so much going on in their hearts and minds that it makes Christmas a time of darkness rather than of light. Real life isn’t like the Hallmark Christmas movies. Things don’t always work themselves out by Christmas morning. Peter doesn’t always make it home early to make some Folgers coffee that wakes up the family.

Widows and widowers have lost their life-long spouse. Parents have lost their children. Children have parents who are oversees fighting wars. Families are homeless. Families are watching loved ones fighting cancer or some other disease, hoping for one last Christmas. Fathers and mothers are without a job and cannot afford even the meagerest of Christmas gifts for their children. Families are torn apart because of harsh words spoken years ago or even just yesterday. Many are dreading visiting family knowing that someone they love will be passed out drunk before Christmas dinner is even served.

If we were to stop and think for a moment, we’d realize that these are the people are the people who can really understand Christmas the best. Who better to understand the marvel and beauty of light than those who are in a dark place?

Today is the first Sunday of Advent; it is a time when we remember what it was like to expectantly wait for the coming of the Messiah, not knowing when it may be. Today we have a date in mind when expectation will cease and celebration will begin: December 25. There was no such date for the Jews. Their date was simply known as “someday.” From the time of Adam and Eve, it was “someday.” Through the time of Abraham, Moses, and David, it was always “someday.” Someday never came though. Solomon took the thrown. After Solomon, Rehoboam split the kingdom because of his hubris. Jeroboam immediately led the northern tribes into idolatry, while the southern two tribes we less idolatrous. The northern tribes fell further and further into disarray as king after king lost control of the country. It was to these people that Isaiah wrote in the ninth chapter.

This morning we are only looking at the first two verses in this chapter. The first reality that we look at is the gloom of the people. As we get into more of the history of those to whom Isaiah wrote, we will see that they indeed lived in great darkness. The second reality is the glory that was promised to come to those who lived in gloom. Finally, we will see the gospel of hope. The gloom, the glory, and the gospel.

Concluding Thoughts on Malachi

Yesterday, I ended my preaching series on Malachi. Pastor Matt preached one of the sermons, of which I am grateful.  This is the second time I have preached through Malachi; the first being back in 2011 at a church I pastored then.  I must admit, this time it was much more difficult to preach through this book.  There are many reasons why this would be so, but I want to mention three main reasons:

  1. I have a different preaching style now than I had then.  In 2011, my preaching style42505271_1962338703860138_385242529043316736_n was very factual, but not practical.  Today, I think my preaching is much more applicable, while remaining factual.  At least I hope it is. To preach through Malachi, which is very much a “prophetic” book set in the 5th century B. C. (indictments and condemnations of post-exilic Jews), and to apply that to modern lives was quite the challenge.
  2. I have grown as a pastor. I do not say that in any braggadocio way, but simply as a matter of what the Holy Spirit has done in my soul. I have sought to love and care about the people I pastor in the past, but often it was in a buddy-buddy, friendship way.  That isn’t to say that friendships within the church are wrong or bad for pastors, Norris it to say that I do not have friendships within the church, but rather to say that shepherding a people is different than befriending a people.  Shepherding a flock through such a book as Malachi has been heart-wrenching to the soul knowing that much of what is preached may not be liked, may not be appreciated, may not be welcomed, but absolutely is necessary for the good of the people.
  3. I preached through it at a faster rate. I don’t recall how many weeks I spent in 2011 going through this book, but this time, we only spent 6 weeks in Malachi.  There was a lot to cover and not much time to do so.  I probably wearied many a person with my near hour-long sermons, and for that I apologize. I would venture to say that Malachi would probably be an 8 or 9 week series.  As someone said once, the mind can absorb only as much as the seat can endure. I was well aware of how long my sermons were going to be before ever stepping into the pulpit (in fact, I told Pastor Matt just before service one day that the sermon would be about 5 minutes shorter than the previous week. After looking at the video length it was just over 5 minutes shorter). Every Sunday I stepped into the pulpit fully aware that service would go late, and no matter what people say, they eventually get tired of services ending later than expected.

That being said, preaching through Malachi developed some doctrines for me, personally. That means that I cannot be wishy-washy on certain subjects and toss it up to the fact that I hadn’t had time to study this or that.  It strengthened my convictions on other doctrines as well.  I hope and pray that I was faithful to the text, and I hope and pray that God’s name was magnified.  “For from the rising of the sun to its setting my name will be great among the nations, and in every place incense will be offered to my name, and a pure offering. For my name will be great among the nations, says the LORD of hosts,” (Malachi 1:11, ESV).