And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the parents to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord. Luke 1:17
Yahweh spoke through Malachi: “See, I will send the prophet Elijah to you before that great and dreadful day of the Lord comes. He will turn the hearts of the parents to their children, and the hearts of the children to their parents; or else I will come and strike the land with total destruction.” (Malachi 4:5,6)
Jesus confirmed this prophecy when he said, “For all the Prophets and the Law prophesied until John. And if you are willing to accept it, he is the Elijah who was to come. Whoever has ears, let them hear.” (Matthew 11:13-15)
Why should I listen? If I don’t see myself among the brood of vipers John condemned on Jordan’s bank (Luke 3:7-9), then sly Satan has the upper hand, convincing me I’m better than others and less in need of being saved from my sin-soaked self. That’s why.
The mystery and miracle of the good news John shared (Luke 3:18) is that the holy, majestic, unapproachable Father, in spite of my general worthlessness and rascality, chooses me to be his own, turns my heart to Jesus through the means of grace, and welcomes me as a sinless saint into his glorious kingdom.
I definitely don’t turn my own heart. Most moments I savor sin and run from Christ instead of running to him. Rather, my gracious God puts individuals in my life to expose through the law my slavery to self-love and sin, and introduce me through the gospel to my rescuer. The Holy Spirit grabs my wayward head and stubborn heart, turning and refocusing them on my Jesus, what he’s done for me already, and what blessings lie ahead as he gives me the opposite of what I deserve. The Spirit makes me crave the gospel and shun sin’s snares as he turns my heart toward Jesus.
Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift (2 Corinthians 9:15).
Holy Spirit, fill my heart, cleanse my life in every part. Your own temple I would be now and for eternity. Amen. (CW 593:5)
Professor Alan Uher serves Martin Luther College as a field supervisor of teacher candidates.