Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD:
I. THE PROPHET WAS THINKING OF WHAT MAY FAIRLY BE CALLED A TIME OF TRANSITION. The passing from one dispensation, or order of things, to another. Such a period was that under Moses, when the people passed from a patriarchal to a national life. The bringing in of the only begotten Son was the greatest event of the sacred history. All that had gone before seems trivial in comparison with it. It was a change from law to grace, from a religion limited to one nation to a universal faith, from a system of rite and ceremony to one of inward spirit, But all times of great change are full of danger. They give great anxiety to all thoughtful minds. Ours is a time of transition, and the grave danger of our times is, the possibility of estrangement between the fathers and the children, i.e., between the old and the young. The fathers are disposed to be conservative; the older we get the harder we find it to receive new thoughts, or accustom ourselves to new ways. So when the fathers see the children entering on new ways, adopting new methods, forming new parties, there is a danger that their hearts should be turned away from them. and on the other hand, the young are disposed to that which is new; their minds are receptive and plastic. They are tempted to think their fathers' ways and thoughts are old-fashioned, to underrate the good of the past, and to leave their fathers behind.
II. OUR DUTY IN SUCH A TIME OF TRANSITION. There is a duty peculiar to such an age. To fulfil it was part of the mission of John the Baptist. He did much to break the abruptness of the transition from the one dispensation to the other.
1. The duty of the fathers to the children. That "the fathers should recognise the new needs, and the new powers of the children."(1) We should not repress their thoughts, though they may differ from ours. Few things are more harmful to the young than repression. Doubt and difficulty, closed within the heart, grow more and more. Bring them out into the light of loving sympathy, and they often almost vanish away.
(2) Nor shall we condemn. Condemnation has often made a searcher after truth into a determined heretic.
(3) Let us foster and encourage the good rather than trouble ourselves too much about the error. We are all too anxious to root up weeds. A vigorous growth in the corn will do much to weaken the growth of the weeds.
2. The duty of the children to the fathers, the young to the old. "The children should recognise the value of the institutions and traditions which they inherit from their fathers." The opinions of the fathers are certainly entitled to respectful consideration. Age should prejudice you not against them, but in their favour. Be not swift to remove the ancient landmarks.
III. OUR SAFE GUARD IN SUCH A TIME OF TRANSITION. There is a certain deep interest in this as the last word of the Old Testament. It is filled with the hope of one who should be the messenger of the Highest; but lying close behind it is the thought and hope of Him whose way should be thus prepared. We think not of the herald, but of the King before whose face he went. The true safeguard amid the perils of our day is in Christ. The young may outgrow the special forms in which His doctrine has been cast, but they cannot outgrow the Christ. Christ, rightly regarded, meets the needs of old and young. It is absurd to talk of outgrowing Jesus Christ. He is the true gathering point for the old and the young.
(W. Garrett Horder.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD:
WEB: Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and terrible day of Yahweh comes.