Into the Lesson
To open today’s lesson, say, “In 1989, a researcher developed a model for robotic behavior. The author, Pattie Maes, says that for a robot the act of ‘doing the right thing’ should have the following characteristics:
1. It favors actions that are goal oriented.
2. It favors actions that are relevant to the current situation.
3. It favors actions that contribute to the ongoing goal/ plan.
4. It looks ahead to avoid hazardous situations.
5. It never completely breaks down, even when certain parts fail.
6. It is reactive and fast.
Ask your students to imagine they are writing a manual for humans “to do the right thing.”What characteristics would they specify for humans in this regard? Write ideas on the board. When you finish discussing this exercise, tell your students that today’s lesson deals with God’s explanation of how to do the right thing. As an alternative, obtain a recording of Handel’s Messiah and play one or two tracks based on today’s text (Malachi 3:2, 3): “But Who May Abide the Day of His Coming?” and “And He Shall Purify.” Then tell your class that today’s lesson explains these words from Malachi.
Into the Word
Use the Lesson Background and commentary on Malachi 2:17 to discuss the situation in Judah leading up to Malachi 3. Focus on the final question in verse 17: “Where is the God of judgment?” Ask why students think that God would be weary of Judah’s whining and how Malachi 3:1-4:1 is God’s answer to the above question. Next, divide your class into groups of three or four and direct attention to the activity The Lord Has Cometh in the student book. If you don’t use the student book, provide paper and pencils; assign each leans the following passages: Malachi3:1-5; 4:1; Mark 1:1-4; Luke 2:21-32, 41-47; John1:14; 7:14, 33-41; Hebrews 8:8-10; 13:15, 16;2 Peter 3:8-13; Revelation 20:7-15.
Instruct each group to paraphrase the Malachi passages, indicating how each verse is fulfilled in the New Testament. For example, Malachi 3:1 could be paraphrased, “See, I’m going to send John the Baptist to prepare the way for Jesus.” Tell your students that their paraphrases should answer the following questions: I. Who prepared the way for the promised Messiah? 2. On what occasions did Jesus come to His temple? 3. What new covenant was brought by the Messiah and Why? 4. How were the people to be refined? 5. What will judgment be like for the wicked? When your students finish their studies, use the lesson commentary to evaluate the results.
Remind your students of their answers to the first exercise in today’s lesson, and then read the following hypothetical situations. Ask volunteers to suggest responses to each that reflect God’s concern for doing the right thing.
Situation #1. A pro-abortion organization has opened a clinic in your area “to ensure the availability of safe, legal abortions to women who desire to make that choice.” What can your congregation do to offer women an alternative consistent to God’s Word? How will your response promote justice for pre-born children?
Situation # 2. A local atheist has sued your school district to stop the daily recital of the Pledge of Allegiance on the ground that the phrase under God violates the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment’s separation of church and state. What can you do in response?
Situation # 3. Your community newspaper has printed an editorial accusing a political candidate of being “too religious” because he has admitted that he consults the Bible when he is forming his position on moral and political issues. What would you say in a letter to the editor?
After discussing their thoughts, encourage your students to act accordingly this coming week in response to other challenges to their faith.
What was a situation in which you think you have wearied the Lord with your How do you guard against doing so? Are you suspicious of someone who says kind things to a person’s face and evil things behind the person’s back? We can be guilty of sin in some way. We can say good about God and tell others we believe in Him, yet fail to honor Him in our lives.
Jesus can return at any time, and we must be ready. We should be motivated to prepare ourselves and others for the return of Christ, but not spend time trying to determine the exact date. The major thing is to be prepared: it is a minor detail for us as to when this event takes place. What Malachi 3:1 implies about Jesus’ first coming is thus very useful when we ponder His second.
4. In what areas of your life has God had to apply His refining fire and purifying soap? How is your life better as a result? In what areas do you still need God’s purification?
When we surrender our lives to Christ according to the biblical plan of salvation, we are cleansed from our sin guilt. Yet even after that cleansing, we carry with us some residual effects. The Holy Spirit has to continue to work in our lives, refining and cleansing. Paul spoke of his continual struggle with sin even after becoming a follower of Christ (see Romans 7:19). God promises, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins” (5 John1:9). There are areas for each of us to recognize our sin, confess it to God, and allow Him to do His cleansing work. It may be the sin of gossip, lust, greed, or pride. We are not able to conquer these sins on our own; we need the refining power of God.
5. Why do you think that many today do not fear the Lord? In what ways would your life change for the better if you had a greater fear of the Lord?
A lack of fear of God often may be traced to a conscious or unconscious belief that a person is ultimately accountable to self. An emphasis on God’s love to the exclusion of His holiness may also be the problem.
Parents who truly love their children and want the best for them also desire that their children respect them and honor them. They want their children to have a healthy fear of them and not think they can get away with just anything it is similar with God.