Return to Me… The Lord of Heavenly Forces

Look, the day is coming, burning like an oven. All the arrogant ones and all those doing evil will become straw. The coming day will burn them, says the Lord of heavenly forces, leaving them neither root nor branch.
But the sun of righteousness will rise on those revering my name; healing will be in its wings so that you will go forth and jump about like calves in the stall.
You will crush the wicked; they will be like dust beneath the soles of your feet on the day that I am preparing, says the Lord of heavenly forces.
Remember the Instruction from Moses, my servant, to whom I gave Instruction and rules for all Israel at Horeb.
Look, I am sending Elijah the prophet to you,  before the great and terrifying day of the Lord arrives.
Turn the hearts of the parents to the children and the hearts of the children to their parents. Otherwise, I will come and strike the land with a curse (Malachi 4:1-6).

Malachi uses the term, “The Lord of heavenly forces” quite a bit throughout the entire book. While I use the Common English Bible most often, I do look at other versions. The Message uses the term, “God of the angel armies.” The New Revised Standard Version uses “The Lord of Hosts,” (had I used this version throughout, I probably would not be writing this post).  The New International Version says, “The Lord Almighty,” (just as with the NRSV, if I had used this one….). And, just as with the NRSV, the King James Version uses “The Lord of Hosts.

I decided on this particular post because of the term, “The Lord of Heavenly Forces,” bothers me, though not as much as “The Lord of heavenly (or angel) armies. I will also confess, the term “prayer warrior” bothers me. I understand the concept that we are in a spiritual battle. Yeah, I get it. But personally, I also have trouble reconciling the concept opposed to being a servant of the “Prince of Peace.”

Paul, in Romans 15 and 16, Philippians 4, and 1 Thessalonians 5 uses the term, “God of Peace.” The writer of Hebrews says the same. In 1 Corinthians 14:33 Paul says, “For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints.” I would argue that war is the ultimate confusion (I actually went searching for this verse thinking it said, “God is not the author of war.” I was wrong).

“OK, Keith, assuming you are correct, you are correct, all the verses you quote are New Testament passages. God is portrayed differently in the Old Testament than in the New. In the Old Testament God is much harsher and far more like the God of Heavenly Armies.”

Thank you. I am so glad you brought that up. Isaiah 9:6 says, “A child is born to us, a son is given to us, and authority will be on his shoulders. He will be named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace (emphasis mine). As a United Methodist, I am a Trinitarian, one God, three persons (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit). Isaiah is prophesying the coming of the Messiah whom we understand to be God the Son. Additionally, Hebrews 13:8 says, “Jesus Christ (God the Son) is the same yesterday, today and forever!”

That says to me, God (because of God the Son) is and always has been the Prince of Peace.

I thank you for your patience as I worked through my thoughts on this. It may be the first time I have written it all down. Additionally, I don’t expect (and know for certain) that many of you will not agree with me. That is OK. The differences in our understandings probably bother us a great deal more than they bother God (I remember that line from something I read sometime in the past, but I can’t remember who wrote it).

The one thing I know that we can agree on, for we who believe, God is a God of mercy and grace. That mercy and grace are ours as we are justified by faith.

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

With Joy and Thankfulness,
Keith

Copyright 2017, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

Author:

"The Pastor Ponders" is my attempt to share some of my thoughts. I often share what I am thinking with my dog "Bishop," but he keeps his thoughts to himself. He will even go to sleep sometimes while I am sharing my thoughts with him. The truth is, if it doesn't involve getting his ears scratched, his belly rubbed or some kind of treat, he really doesn't care. I will say this for him, he never argues with me or tells me I am wrong. So, I decided to share some of my thoughts with whoever might come across this blog in their ramblings around the Internet. Bishop and I live in Sweeny, Texas where I am the pastor of First United Methodist Church. I have served here for the past two years. For the past 27 years I have served United Methodist congregations throughout East Texas including rural Madison County (Elwood UMC), Lovelady (First UMC) and Kennard (Center Hill UMC), Canton (First UMC), rural Smith County (Mt. Sylvan UMC and Union Chapel UMC), Grapeland (First UMC), Tyler (Pleasant Retreat UMC), Santa Fe (Aldersgate UMC), Freeport (First UMC) and Oyster Creek (Oyster Creek UMC), Diboll (First UMC), and now Sweeny (First UMC). My wife Cindy and I have been married for over 40 years. We have two grown sons. Wayne and his wife Nikki and all our grandsons (Kaleb, Noah, and Jaxon) live in Southern California. Christopher and his wife Morgan and both our granddaughters (Jenna and Natalie) live in Tyler Texas. I enjoy preaching and all aspects of preaching from research to writing to the actual preaching event. I also love writing, reading, playing the guitar as well as a bit of drawing. I have spent quite a bit of time over the past two years working with paracord on various projects, mostly prayer ropes I usually give away. I sing bass with a local barbershop chorus called The Coastalaires. I have also recently begun doing a little wood carving. I also enjoy playing with Bishop, something he likes a great deal better than listening to my thoughts. I hold an Associate of Applied Science Degree in Business Data Processing, specializing in Microcomputers from San Jacinto College in Pasadena, Texas, a Bachelor of Science in Political Science with a minor in History from Sam Houston State University in Huntsville, TX, a Master of Divinity from Southern Methodist University in Dallas, TX and a Doctor of Ministry from Carolina University of Theology. When I was a student at Carolina, the school was in Iron Station North Carolina. They have since relocated to Manassas Virginia (Yeah, go figure, a school named Carolina geographically in Virginia). This blog is mostly devotional writing, but there are other things here too. Just about every week I will either post my sermon manuscript or a video of the worship service. On occasion, I will post something I see in society. Occasionally I write a short story, a poem, or a song and will post it here too. I will say this, my motivations for writing this blog are really selfish. I write it to get what I am thinking out of my head and onto something a bit more permanent. They say, after all, once something is on the internet it never really goes away. Still, I hope you enjoy reading it. And, should you desire, you can one-up Bishop and actually tell me what you think. Who knows, it might generate a bit of discussion between you and me and anyone else who might make their way here. With Joy and Thankfulness, Keith Sweeny, Texas May 2018

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