"But unto you that fear My name shall the Sun of righteousness arise, with healing in His wings; and ye shall go forth, and grow up as calves of the stall" (Mal. 4:2).
This is a vision of the Springtime of the ages, with its glorious sunshine and its overflowing life. The vision came to the last of the Old Testament prophets as he looked out from the sere and cheerless winter of Israel's trials to the brighter future their Messiah was to bring.
I. The first picture is the Sunrise and the Light. Another prophet had caught the same vision and had written, three centuries before, "The people which sat in darkness saw a great light, and to them which sat in the region and shadow of death, light is sprung up."
Looking across the gulf of four centuries, Malachi saw the rising dawn of the Christian age and the light which was to shine from the face of Jesus Christ on a lost and benighted world. It was the vision of a glorious sunrise. How literally our Lord fulfilled the prophecy and claimed the promise as He stood amid the false teachings and perverted light of His age and cried aloud, "I am the Light of the world, he that followeth Me shall not abide in darkness, but shall have the light of life."
Christ is the Sun of righteousness. All other teachers were but light bearers. They shone only with reflected light, but He came as a Divine luminary, bearing the direct light of God Himself into the world's darkness. "God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in times past to our fathers by the prophets, hath in these last days spoken unto us by His Son." The teachings and the example of Jesus Christ bring to us the revelation of God's will and His purposes of love and mercy toward our fallen race.
But Christ did not leave us merely with the light of His Word, and His pattern of grace, but has also left us His Holy Spirit as the personal Agent through whom the light is brought down to our very hearts and made plain to our blindness and ignorance. Not only does He give us light, but also sight. Just as the solar light would be useless to the physical universe were it not for the atmosphere which diffuses it and communicates to our sensitive organs of vision, so the Holy Spirit has been given to take of the things that are Christ's and reveal them unto us, and make God's light personal and sufficient for every quickened soul.
The sunrise that Malachi saw was not merely the dawn of the Christian era, and the rising of the Sun of righteousness in the personal ministry of Jesus Christ, but there is a sunrise just as real and glorious that comes to every soul which opens its vision to the light of God. The words become true to the individual heart that has long been sitting in darkness:
"Sometimes a light surprises
The Christian while he sings;
It is the Lord who rises
With healing in His wings."
This is especially true in connection with the ministry and experience of Divine healing to which this promise particularly refers. How difficult it is for the natural mind and heart to grasp this blessed truth and take the Lord for the body as freely as for spiritual need. Mere teaching cannot bring us to this. There must be a revelation of Christ by the Spirit, as our Almighty Healer.
We may read the most logical arguments, we may be familiar with all the literature on the subject, but it will all seem dim and distant until "the Sun of righteousness Himself arises with healing in His wings." Then it is all so plain that we wonder why we ever doubted, and it seems to us that all the world must fly to His arms if it only knew what we have come to know of His healing love and power. Then the Christ of Galilee becomes the Christ of today, "a living, bright reality," and the light that reveals Him to our trusting heart brings also the faith that receives Him and turns our pain into praise and our night into day.
Dear suffering one, perhaps you have had light enough from books and teachers; turn to Him and awake to His power, and it will be true of you, "Then shall thy light break forth as the morning and thine health shall spring forth speedily."
II. The Sun of Righteousness. The light brings also with it the righteousness. We need not only light, but spiritual life and power. We need to be made right with a Divine righteousness. Our spiritual condition is intimately connected with our physical blessing. It was God's ancient covenant with Israel, "If thou wilt diligently hearken to the voice of the Lord thy God, and wilt do that which is right in His sight, I will put none of these diseases upon thee which I have brought upon the Egyptians, for I am the Lord that healeth thee." Again, in Ezekiel, the covenant was renewed in this gracious promise, "In the day that I shall have cleansed you from all your iniquities I will cause you to dwell in your cities," and they shall say this land which was desolate has become like the garden of Eden. The moral and spiritual transformation brings a new world of material blessings.
Faith must begin with conscience void of offense, and this is something that all our struggles and efforts can never bring. This is the gift of Jesus Christ, this is that righteousness that looks down from heaven and afterwards springs up from the earth. It is a Divine righteousness that comes from the revelation of Jesus Christ and is as natural and spontaneous as the buds and blossoms that come from the kiss of the sunbeams that look down into their lifeless breasts.
Oh, ye that are struggling to be good and holy, when will you learn that man did not make himself at the first and cannot make himself over again, and that when you cease your struggling and in self-surrender and true helplessness accept "the gift of righteousness" you shall "reign in life by One, Jesus Christ."
III. His Healing Wings. "The Sun of righteousness shall arise with healing in His wings." Doubtless this includes all the ills of humanity and covers Christ's complete redemption work. But why should we exclude the literal healing which formed so large a part of the Master's earthly ministry? Had we lived in the days of the Messiah, we should have known Him chiefly as a healer and a wonder working Rabbi, who touched the brow of pain and made it whole, and whose presence and command drove away spirits of evil from the human breast and brought the demon-possessed victims of insanity to sit at his feet clothed and in their right minds.
The healing of the body through Jesus Christ was no new thought to the ancient prophets. It had been included in the covenant of Moses. It had been the theme of David's songs and Solomon's proverbs. It had been part of the simple practical faith that took God as their Theocratic King for all the life of the nation. It had been a prime feature in the glorious picture which Isaiah gave of the Man of Sorrows. And, as we have already shown, it formed a leading part in the actual ministry of the Saviour. He passed it on to His disciples when He went away, and they in turn bequeathed it to the Christian Church down to the latest generations.
God always meant the faith of His people to take real things from Him and make external blessings stepping stones to the higher experiences of the unseen. For if God has not become real to us in the things that are patent to our senses and the observation of all men, how can we be assured that the remoter blessings we are claiming for the future have any solid foundation. But when we see God come into our present life, and become as real as our misery and sin and as the pains and sicknesses He heals, then we know that our faith for the future is not a dream, but that these things are but the first fruits of the greater blessings of the ages to come.
The Lord is a God of infinite benevolence and goodness and "in Him is no darkness at all." Sickness and pain are as foreign to His nature and beneficent will as sin and death. The original creation He made "very good," and the ravages of disease are wholly due to the presence and power of Satan. Christ has come to destroy the works of the devil, and His blessed Gospel includes the healing of our diseases as truly as the forgiveness of our sins. Only a prejudiced and faithless theology could restrict the blessings of His great salvation to mere spiritual blessings and rob a suffering world of the touch of His healing wings.
But there are two conditions stated by the language of this beautiful text that are very closely connected with the blessing of healing.
The first is a due sense of God's claims upon our obedience and a spirit of reverence and a humble, holy regard to His authority and will. It is expressed by the phrase, "You that fear My name." This text gives no encouragement to a profane and fanatical confidence that would dictate to God and claim any temporal blessing regardless of His will. We must first be yielded to that will in complete submission, and then only are we able to stand on the ground of faith and claim our blessing, not merely because we want it, but because He wills it.
Another condition is also expressed by the beautiful phrase, "in His wings." It is from close and trustful confidence alone that we can claim His healing. We must get under His very wings and in the bosom of His love before faith can claim its highest victories in our inmost being. This is the secret of many a failure. We are not close enough to His heart. We are not simple and childlike enough in our trust. We have not yet come like little birdlings to nestle under the mother wings of God.
It is to those that fear His name
His healing pow'r the Saviour brings;
Oh, let us hide with contrite hearts
Beneath His healing wings.
It is His wings that heal our
And soothe the serpent's poisoned stings;
Close to His bosom we must press
To feel His healing wings.
IV. Spring Time. The sunrise brings the spring-time. "Ye shall go forth and grow up as calves of the stall." This is a beautiful picture of the liberty of the animal world. As the young creatures go forth from the confinement of the winter and leap for joy in the freedom of the fields and the gladness of the spring, the life of Christ in a human body and spirit makes all things new, and even age grows young again in the buoyancy of pulses that beat with the energy of Divine life and health. The ancient picture of it is strikingly beautiful, "His flesh shall be fresher than a child's; He shall return to the days of His youth." "Who satisfieth thy mouth with good, so that thy youth is renewed like the eagle's." "They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up on wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint."
Such a life is really the beginning of immortality and resurrection life. It is "the earnest" of the age to come. And it is the privilege of all who will recognize and receive God's blessed gift to lost humanity, the Prince of life, the Lord Jesus, our Living Head and Living Bread. This is the great secret that science has not found, that mythology and poetry have dreamed about and reached after, but that the Bible alone has revealed. It was the secret of the Master's life, and it should be ours. "As the living Father hath sent Me, and I live by the Father, even so He that eateth Me shall live by Me."
What a wonder of life and grace is here revealed, a Life sent down from heaven to be the life of the world. No wonder that as Malachi looked down the ages, the shadows seemed to flee away, the night departed, and the sunrise of an everlasting day burst upon his vision.
Oh, ye who dwell in darkness and misery, "Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you." "The night has gone, the day has come, let us cast off the work of darkness, let us put on an armor of light." And then let us go forth in the beauty and brightness of the Bride while the watchers say, "Who is she that looketh forth as the morning, fair as the moon, clear as the sun and terrible as an army with banners."