I enjoy working on home improvement projects—from painting, to laying a concrete pad, to building a window bench seat, to building a play fort for my kids. There is something satisfying and rewarding to working hard on a project and seeing it in its finished state. But there is one part of home improvement projects I really don’t like—prepping. I can’t stand taping off a room to paint. I get impatient with leveling a plot of soil. I don’t enjoy gathering the tools I will need. Maybe I am just impatient. Maybe I just need to be doing something I feel is more tangible. Whatever the case, preparing for a project is the worst part for me.
That makes it hard for me to really do a good job in the preparation phase of the project. It is so tempting to wrap up with leveling the soil before it is level because it is “good enough” or to skip taping some parts of the room because “you won’t really be able to tell anyway.” But if I want to do the best job possible, I have to fight these urges and put my impatience to death.
The quality of my preparation greatly impacts the final product.
And that takes me to this week’s session, Malachi the Prophet. (Unit 18, Session 6) This is an exciting session because it wraps up our 18-month journey through the Old Testament! Next week we move into the New Testament and study the life of Christ for 12 months before ending this cycle of The Gospel Project with six months in Acts, the epistles, and Revelation. Then it’s back to Genesis for the next three-year cycle.
But this is an important session for other reasons too, of course. Malachi was instrumental on calling God’s people to prepare for the coming Messiah and we have much to learn from this session.
Malachi was a prophet who spoke to God’s people around 430 BC during a time when the people were living unjustly and failing to honor God. Malachi’s message was for the people to repent and get ready because God was sending another messenger who would be the forerunner for the long-awaited Messiah.
After Malachi, no other prophet was given to Israel until a priest named John rejected the corrupt worship in his day, headed off into the wilderness, put on some camel hair clothing, and dined on locusts. That was 400 years of “silence” from God. Four hundred years without prophecy. Four hundred years of relative quiet on the heels of Malachi’s message ripe with expectancy.
John’s message echoed Malachi’s from 400 years before. Repent, for the kingdom is at hand! The people were still not ready for the Messiah, but it was finally time. As we shift over to the Gospels next week, you will begin to notice how the people had failed to prepare for the Messiah. The religious leaders and wealthy were still exploiting the lower class people. Worship was still off—it focused on legalism and not God’s heart. Expectations of the Messiah centered more on politics and military force than forgiveness and relationship with God. Pay attention and you will see this time and time again in Jesus’ interactions. Most of the people were completely unprepared for Jesus. And because of that, they missed Him. The people missed this week’s Christ connection:
Malachi was a messenger—a prophet—who told God’s people to repent. Malachi also told about another messenger God would send. This messenger, John the Baptist, would call people to repent and get them ready for a final Messenger, Jesus Christ. Jesus would bring good news of salvation.
This week’s session offers a great opportunity to continue the big story of the Bible at this critical intersection, but it also provides an important jumping point to talk about how we need to continually prepare our hearts for the gospel. Preparing for the gospel doesn’t end when we trust in Jesus—of course that is vital—but it continues day-in and day-out as we continually must submit our minds, hearts, and lives to Christ. What we do today prepares us for tomorrow and the days that follow. In a way, we are always preparing—until the day when Jesus returns or calls us home.
How do you prepare your mind and heart each day so that you live joyfully yielded to Christ? Leave a comment below.
Here is more help for leaders preparing for the February 26, 2017 session (Unit 18, Session 6) of The Gospel Project for Kids.
Brian Dembowczyk is the team leader for The Gospel Project for Kids. He served in local church ministry for over 16 years before coming to LifeWay. Brian earned an M.Div. from the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and a D.Min. from the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. Brian, his wife, Tara, and their three children—Joshua, Hannah, and Caleb—live in Murfreesboro, TN, where Brian enjoys drinking coffee and teaching 4-5 graders at City Church.