Reflection for Today ▶️ ⏹️

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And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.
Malachi 4:6

The final words of the Old Testament. It is rather sad, and certainly anti-climatic that this volume ends on the word "curse". It's incomplete, almost a cliff-hanger. Christians of course see the Old Testament simply as volume 1 of the Bible, the conclusion coming with the New Testament. From that perspective the threat of a curse makes sense. It will take the Messiah to move us from curse to forgiveness. But from the Jewish perspective it is unnerving, so much so in fact that,

"The Masorites, who have given us most of the copies of the Hebrew Old Testament we have...were so bothered by this that they repeated the next-to-the-last verse of Malachi after the last verse. Similarly, the Septuagint reverses the last two verses so the Old Testament ends, not with a curse, but with a blessing".1

But perhaps it is appropriate that it ends in this way. In the language of the time, we might understand this to be some sort of divine love.

"God did not wish to destroy His beloved people, and therefore He sought to grab their attention by concluding on a dark theme which would arrest them in their mad rush toward certain destruction. Destruction need not come, however, if the appalling words are taken to heart to effect a needed course correction."2

And let's not ignore the first part of this verse, he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers. God is coming to heal, not to harm, to mend relationships not to break them. Turning towards is the overall theme of Malachi, indeed of all the prophets. It is such a simple act, turning, yet sometimes so difficult to perform. Saying sorry, making amends does not seem to come naturally to us humans. Stewing in resentment and bitterness, cursing and disowning seem more natural—certainly easier. Perhaps this verse is reminding us that as long as we are unable to turn towards (God, our fellow human, those we have wronged or who have wronged us), we place a curse on ourselves, condemn ourselves to dwell in darkness and bitterness. God offers the light, the path of righteousness, the path of peace. It is up to us to choose to take that path.

Four hundred years later Mark, Matthew, Luke, John, Paul and others, writing in a time of great strife and oppression, will take up this theme of turning towards, with Jesus himself personifying forgiveness.

1 The Compassion of God for Israel, Dr James Boice
2 Christmas And The Day Of The Lord, Michael Stark, 19/12/2010