Malachi penned his message from a precipice, unaware of the silent drought that would soon engulf his people. He was Israel’s final prophet, and his closing words served as the doorway to decades of despair. Generations to follow would wonder if they had been duped, if God would ever speak again—or if the entire notion of a speaking God was a fable passed on from one naïve son and daughter to the next.
The prophet’s final words were a call to gaze backward, reveling in the memory of Moses and the strong covenant God had made with His people, and then a call to to peer forward, remembering God would send another Elijah to usher in the reality God had promised so long ago. Backward and forward, a clearer vision of what was behind and what was to come.
Yet the subtle reality of their own moment was hidden in the directions of their glancing: They sat between. Between the past and the future. Between the promise and the fulfillment. Between the dreaming and the waking. Between the wishing and the coming true.
With the benevolence of the Persian Empire and the rebuilding of the temple and the city walls, their predicament was more comfortable than the previous century of oppression had afforded. Still, there was a profound ache for the full promise, the complete fulfillment, the realized hope—now. They desperately needed a reminder: God had moved, and He would move again. He had spoken, and He would speak yet again.
And to God’s people situated in this chafing and awkward position, Malachi’s message was straightforward: Live between.
To live between is to live with tenacious faith, to continue to believe that the now makes sense because it is woven into the roots of the past and the hopes of the future. His words appealed to the immediate, but his message would carry even more weight in the years to follow, years blighted by questions and silence.
Living between assumes living now, even though it is between. It is not a capitulation to despair, falsely believing that all we can do is wallow in our pity and lostness. Neither is it denying the grim spot we might find ourselves in, creating a pseudo-existence addicted to any distraction from the difficulties of grappling with our disappointments.
Living between is courageous, God-consumed and faith-filled. It is embracing where we are because we believe God has situated us in precisely the proper vantage point, between where we were and where we will be.
So, if you find yourself wistful of days long past when God seemed to be at work, or pulled to peer over the horizon, dreaming of a better day, consider it a gift. Remember, ponder, and live with hopeful courage … between.
- Malachi 4
- Matthew 1
[Winn Collier is a writer and pastor at Downtown Community Fellowship in Clemson, S.C. He and his wife Miska have recently spent their “between” days beginning to teach their 11-month-old son Wyatt how to swim.]
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