This past spring, when the buds started bursting, the birds started singing, and the world seemed to be reborn a thousand shades of brilliant green, I discovered that my lawn was more weeds than grass. The beautiful, vibrant, lush yard my family and I had enjoyed the previous autumn returned from its winter slumber too weak to combat a militant strain of common weeds native to Middle Tennessee.
I called my lawn guy, and, as if it were a medical emergency, he came over to the house immediately. (I’m not joking—our lawn guy is that dedicated to grass. He loves the stuff.) Stepping from the cab of his truck, he was already shaking his head. “Winter weeds,” he said. “You can fight ‘em, but you should’ve fought ‘em last fall.” As I’m learning, one of the tricks to starting off well with grass is to apply weed killer and feed to the lawn in mid-fall, before the cooler weather sets in. Doing so prepares the yard for the coming year. Otherwise the spring rains and sunshine grow weeds faster than grass.
In God’s economy, preparation is a form of grace. The people of Judah, home from exile but still under the thumb of a foreign king, were awaiting the Day of the Lord, when God would reign from Jerusalem, blessing Israel and punishing the nations of the earth. The way they saw it, everyone else had it coming.
But that’s not the way God saw it: “I will come to you in judgment, and I will be ready to witness against sorcerers and adulterers; against those who swear falsely; against those who oppress the hired worker, the widow, and the fatherless; and against those who deny justice to the resident alien” (Malachi 3:5). God shows no favoritism when it comes to His righteousness. The people of God would be judged, just like everyone else.
However, remember when I said preparation is a form of grace? Before God promised judgment, He also promised a messenger to prepare the way before the Lord (Malachi 3:1). The messenger would remind the people of God’s invitation: “‘Return to me, and I will return to you,’ says the Lord of Armies” (v.7).
We know this messenger as John the Baptist (see Matthew 11:10), who did indeed prepare the way for Jesus. He preached the coming kingdom of God and called the people of Israel to repent. And guess who were among Jesus’s earliest disciples? The disciples of John (John 1:35–46; 3:26–30). Their hearts were ready. Their priorities were already being aligned with the kingdom. And they paid attention to what John said about the coming Messiah, so that when the Lamb of God arrived, they were ready to follow Him.
There is no longer a man dressed in camel’s hair with a leather belt about his waist standing in the Jordan, his breath stinking of locusts and wild honey, calling people to repent. But that doesn’t mean we have been left without a way to prepare for the Lord’s return. We have the Scriptures and we have one another. So let us be people who savor His Word as instructions for life. Let us be people who help each other prepare our minds and hearts for the coming kingdom.
Written by John Greco