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On cell phones and spiritual messages

Malachi is the last book of our Bible and separated from Matthew by 400 years of silence. Yet these two books are connected; in Malachi by the promise of a messenger named Elijah and in Matthew by the arrival of a messenger named John the Baptist. If only John the Baptist had email, he could have sheltered-in-place and emailed his rather strident message to King Herod… thereby keeping his head.

I’m fascinated by the internet; actually I’m fascinated by a great many things in our world. I don’t have much trouble understanding mechanical things like how a gasoline engine can move a car. And I can understand the basic principles by which a signal can run down a wire with a message that can be understood at the other end.

But I’m both fascinated and confused by wireless messages thrown out into the air around me. How do they know which way to go and what to do when they arrive? And how can my cell phone pluck a random signal from the air around me after it’s sent to me from a thousand miles away? How does it find its way from Arizona to South Georgia and into my little cell phone or iPad? It seems almost ludicrous. Or more like a miracle.

Back in the dark ages when I was growing up, they used one central antenna with maybe twenty-five channels. If you had a mobile phone (I had a “bag phone” in my truck), it was five watts to reach the antenna forty or fifty miles away and not many people could use the system because there were just not enough channels.

The secret of the cell phone was the division of the city into much smaller “cells” so that everyone could use the system simultaneously. And the cell phones can switch cells as they move around the city using the approximately eight hundred frequencies allotted to each carrier. Each cell covers about ten square miles and, because the phones are very low powered transmitters, the same eight hundred frequencies can be used in the adjacent cells.

But I still don’t know how that signal can jump through the air from my phone to the antenna and then to the person I’m calling? What I do understand is God wanting to send us a message, telling Elijah the message, and sending him to tell us the message… or telling John the Baptist the message, and sending him to tell us the message.

“See, I will send the prophet Elijah to you before that great and dreadful day of the LORD comes.” (Malachi 4:5) Malachi’s promised messenger is Elijah and Matthew’s messenger is John the Baptist who tells us to, “Repent and be baptized and God will forgive your sins.”

And both Elijah and John the Baptist point to still another messenger whose name is Jesus… and his message from God is, “I love you.”