A little later than I thought, due to Pesach. However, it’s here…
Tuesdays mornings at 6:00am I have a standing meeting with a good friend. Nearly every week it’s a given that we will be meeting, and we come away challenged and encouraged. Over the last few weeks, our attendance has grown a bit. We’ve recently had two other men begin to join us in order to glean a bit of Torah. One has been exposed to Torah for several years, and the other has only recently come across its path. I’m not saying this to boast. I’m saying this to say how wonderful it is to begin to have other men who are committed to discussing and learning Torah, and willing to meet at a restaurant at 6:00am each week in order to do so.
This week we were talking about Pesach and our community-wide Seder. This led us into a discussion regarding Eliyahu (Elijah) and his role in being the forerunner of Messiah. One gentleman brought up the point that he knew that Elijah had come in the form of Yochanon the Immerser (John the Baptizer) in order to announce the arrival of Yeshua, but was wondering if there is reason to believe he would return to announce the second coming of Messiah.
This led us to opening up the writing of both Malachi and Luke’s Gospel to allow the words of Scripture to speak for themselves. I didn’t realize that it would lead to a whole new paradigm on these passages.
Malachi 3:19-24 (4:1-6 in a non-Jewish published Bible) says:
“For behold, the day is coming, burning like a furnace; and all the arrogant and every evildoer will be chaff; and the day that is coming will set them ablaze,” says the L-RD of hosts, “so that it will leave them neither root nor branch. But for you who fear My name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings; and you will go forth and skip about like calves from the stall. You will tread down the wicked, for they will be ashes under the soles of your feet on the day which I am preparing,” says the L-RD of hosts.
“Remember the law (Torah) of Moses My servant, even the statutes and ordinances which I commanded him in Horeb for all Israel. Behold, I am going to send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and terrible day of the L-RD. He will restore the hearts of the fathers to their children and the hearts of the children to their fathers, so that I will not come and smite the land with a curse.” (NASB)
From the context of this passage it appears that Eliyahu will indeed return to re-announce the coming of Messiah at then end of this Age. It was exciting, however, when we began to examine the end of this passage with the angelic announcement of Yochanon the Immerser to his father Zechariah.
In regard to Eliyahu, Malachi specifically says the following: “Behold, I am going to send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and terrible day of the LORD. He will restore the hearts of the fathers to their children and the hearts of the children to their fathers.” In Luke’s account of the proclamation of Yochanon we hear the following:
But the angel said to him: “Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to give him the name John. He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He is never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even from birth. Many of the people of Israel will he bring back to the Lord their God. And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” (Luke 1:13-17, NIV)
In this passage, the angel does not quote the passage in Malachi directly, but does a midrashic remez instead. Malachi states that not only will the hearts of the fathers be drawn back to the children, but that the hearts of the children be drawn back to the fathers. The angel’s account in Luke doesn’t include this latter half of the children being drawn back to the fathers.
For a long time (maybe ten years) I’ve had a hunch that the passage in Malachi hinted at drawing others back to the “fathers” — the “avot” (i.e. the patriarchs or sages and therefore Torah). However, I had not been able to draw any hard conclusions. A re-examination of this passage in Luke is the missing clue. Evidently, Hashem believes it to be connected to this concept — so much so that He sent Gabriel to teach us of the connection.
In the style of an Aramaic targum, the voice of the angel in Luke’s account midrashically expounds upon the mere pashat understanding of Malachi’s text in order to give the fuller implication of its significance. It begins with the direct quote of the function of Eliyahu being to “turn the hearts of the fathers back to the children” but then veers from the expected reversal of turning “the hearts of the children to their fathers.” Rather than merely quoting the reversal, the angel gives us an elucidation, forcing a connection between the hearts of the children returning to the fathers, and turning the hearts of the disobedient back to the path of righteousness — a path of Torah. He specifically states that Yochanon will turn the “disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous.” In effect, he will turn those living apart from the obedience of Torah to the tzaddikim (the righteous ones).
In Hebrew we have a thematic connection between the avot and both the patriarchs and sages of the Talmudic period. When referencing the avot, one of these two connections are instinctively made.
Therefore, the work of Eliyahu HaNavi is not only to return the hearts of fathers to children, but to return the hearts of those apart from Torah back to the wisdom of Torah.
After explaining this, my friend said he could totally understand this, because over the last few weeks his heart has been turned toward Torah, because his heart has been turned toward his soon expected child. His love for this little one within the womb has made him want to turn towards Hashem’s ways, rather than the ways which have been traditionally taught within the church.
Truly in our day and time the spirit of Eliyahu is turning the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the unknowingly disobedient to the wisdom of Torah.