It was more than 400 years from the time of Malachi, the last Old Testament prophet, until Jesus showed up, visibly, on earth. If you read Malachi’s book, it begins with a strong pronouncement—an emphatic reminder of God’s intense love for His people. Malachi goes on to rebuke the people for their “worship” that had become just an outward show. He continues by talking about the coming Messiah, a message that was sorely needed in Israel. All of those things, Malachi spoke to the people of his day.
Yet, nearly 500 years later, the Apostle Peter said, “It was revealed to [the Old Testament prophets] that they were serving not themselves but you…” (1 Peter 1:12) So, if that’s true, then Malachi must have had, at least in the back of his mind, a sense that he was speaking to people down through the ages. His words were ultimately meant not just for what would have been Malachi’s present-day Israel, but also to the present-day Israel of Peter’s time and to our present day. His words about God’s love, that worship isn’t to be an outward show, that the Messiah is real—those words are for us today, 2500 years after Malachi passed on. And, if it was revealed to him that he was serving “you,” then Malachi apparently recognized this fact.
And that would have been true for all the prophets, even those who lived hundreds of years before Malachi. Isaiah, Zephaniah, Jeremiah, Habakkuk—every last one of them would have recognized that their words would resound through the centuries, and cause the people of God to be different as a result.
They weren’t looking at just their own situations and circumstances but those that were way down the road—to people like you and me.
And, think about it. Malachi and the others never got to see, this side of heaven, the result of their looking down the road. They didn’t witness, firsthand, the fruit of their labors. Yet, they did what they did anyway.
I find that idea amazing … and challenging. Maybe we—you and I—should be less me-focused, and more focused on the impact our words and lives will have on those who come after us.
Are you, by God’s grace, looking down the road?