Reflection for Today ▶️ ⏩ ⏹️
The Kumano Kodo trail in Japan. Image in the public domain.
Behold, I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me: and the Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to his temple, even the messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in: behold, he shall come, saith the Lord of hosts.
— Malachi 3:1
The herald or messenger was the ancient equivalent to the modern day film trailer. Something to whet the appetite, to create expectation, to raise the emotions. That the Lord will dwell among His people is a theme that rippled through many of the prophets, across 700 years, with many making reference to the messenger preparing the way. In Isaiah we read, The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God.1 and in the first gospel we read, As it is written in the prophets, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee. The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight,2 where the herald is identified as John the Baptist.
When an important event is about to occur we need time to prepare ourselves. We take much longer to dress and groom when we are going out on a date than when we are just going to work, or for a walk in the park. Being in a state of readiness, finely tuned and mentally sharp is an essential part of taking on a new experience. If the ultimate new experience—God amongst us—is about to happen, we need to be ready for it. Hence the messenger.
In recent years both Haggai and Zechariah had prophesied that the Messiah would come, but neither prophesy had been fulfilled. Malachi lets the people know that this delay is caused because they are not yet ready, not prepared. Messianic fulfilment is not one-way, the people must do their part. The Messiah will not impose himself but rather will come in relationship. And this is the message of the Old Testament, over and over again: God seeks relationship with man. He does not seek to be an overlord, a ruler, a despot, it is man that would make Him that. It is all we know, it is the only experience of leadership we have in the world. But God's way is different. The Kingdom is not Empire, it is not hierarchy but network, a community of equals. For such a change to occur we must indeed be prepared.
1 Isaiah 40:3
2 Mark 1:2-3