Behold, I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me: and the Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to his temple, even the messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in: behold, he shall come, saith the LORD of hosts.
God answers their complaints of the absence of His judgments, that they would come, but would include those also who clamored for them. For no one who knew his own sinfulness would call for the judgment of God, as being himself, chief of sinners. Augustine pictures one saying to God, "Take away the ungodly man," and that God answers, "Which?"
Behold, I send My messenger before My face, and he shall prepare My way before Me - they, then, were not prepared for His Coming, for whom they clamored. The messenger is the same whom Isaiah had foretold, whose words Malachi uses Isaiah 40:3 : "The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straiqht in the desert a highway for our God. Luke 1:76. Thou, child," was the prophecy on John the Immerser's birth, "shalt be called the prophet of the Highest, for thou shalt go before the face of the Lord to prepare His way, to give knowledge of salvation unto His people, for the remission of their sins." Repentance was to be the preparation for the kingdom of Christ, the Messiah, for whom they looked so impatiently.
He who speaks, is He who should come, God the Son. For it was before Him Who came and dwelt among us, that the way was to be prepared. He speaks here in His divine nature, as the Lord Who should send, and Who should Himself come in our flesh. In the Gospel, when He was come in the flesh, He speaks not of His own Person but of the Father, since "indivisible are the operations of the Trinity, and what the One doth, the other Two do, since the Three are of one nature, power and operation." Whence Christ, in order to give no excuse to the Jews to speak against Him before the time, refers it, as He does His life John 6:57. His doctrine John 7:16 words John 3:11; John 5:43; John 8:38, John 8:40, John 8:47, John 8:55; John 12:49; John 14:10, John 14:24 and works John 4:34; John 5:19-20, John 5:26, John 5:30, John 5:36; John 6:38; John 8:28; John 9:4; John 10:25, John 10:32, John 10:37-38; John 14:10-11 to the Father.
"Those works, which do not relate to that which b uniquely belongs to each Person, being common, are ascribed now to One Person, now to Another, in order to set forth the One Substance in the Trinity of Persons." Thus, John says John 12:41. Isaiah spoke of the unbelief of the Jews, when he "saw" the "glory" of God the Son "and spake of Him," and Paul says Acts 28:25. that the "Holy Spirit spake" then "by" him.
And he shall prepare the way before Meo - "The same is God's way here, and Christ's there, an evident proof that Christ is one God with the Father, and that, in Christ, God came and was manifest in the flesh." The prophets and all who turned men to righteousness, or who retained the knowledge of the truth or of righteousness or of God in the world, did, in their degree, prepare the way for Christ. But John was His immediate forerunner "before His Face," the herald of His immediate approach; from where he is called "the end of the law, and the beginning of the Gospel," "the lamp before the Light, the voice before the Word, the mediator between the Old and the New Testament;" "the link of the law and of grace; a new morning star; a ray, before the true Sun should burst forth," the end of night, the beginning of day.
And the Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to His temple - He, Whose Coming they sought for, was Almighty God, "the God of Judgment." He who should come, was "the Lord," again Almighty God, since, in usage too, none else is called "the Lord," as none else can be. The temple also, to which He was to come, the temple of God, is His own. "The messenger, or the Angel of the covenant," plainly, even from the parallelism, is the same as "the Lord." It was "one," for whom they looked; one, of whose absence they complained; Malachi 2:17, "where is the God of judgment?" one, who should come to His temple , one whose coming they sought and prepared "to have pleasure in;" one, of whom it is repeated, "lo, He cometh," one, in the day of whose coming, at whose appearing, it was asked, "who shall stand?" "All Christian interpreters are agreed that this Lord is Christ Acts 2:36, whom God hath made both Lord and Christ, and Acts 10:36. Who is Lord over all; by whom all things were made, are sustained and governed; Who is (as the root of the word implies) the basis and foundation, not of any private family, tribe or kingdom, but of all; 1 Corinthians 8:6. by whom are all things and we by Him: and whose we are also by right of redemption; and so He is Revelation 17:14; Revelation 19:16. Lord of lords and King of kings, deservedly called the Lord." As then the special presence of God was often indicated in connection with "the Angel of the Lord," so, here, He who was to come was entitled the Angel or messenger of the covenant, as God also calls Him the covenant itself.
Isaiah 42:6, "I will give Thee for a covenant of the people, a light of the Gentiles." He it was Isaiah 63:9, "the Angel of His presence," who saved His former people, in whom His "Name was," and who, by the prerogative of God, would Exodus 23:21, "not pardon their transgressions." He should be Hebrews 12:24; Hebrews 8:6, "the Mediator of the new and better covenant" which is promised Jeremiah 31:32-33; Hebrews 8:9, "not according to the covenant, that I made with their fathers, in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt," which "My covenant they broke, although I was a husband unto them, saith the Lord; but this shall be the covenant, that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord, I will put My law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts, and will be their God and they shall be My people."
Whom ye seek, are seeking, whom ye delight in - , i. e., profess so to do; "He will come," but will be very different from Him whom ye look for, an Avenger on your enemies. Judgment will come, but it will begin with yourselves.
Shall suddenly come - o "unawares, when men should not think of them; whence perhaps it is that the Jews reckon the Messiah among what shall come unawares." As, it is here said of His first Coming, so it is said of His second Coming (which may be comprehended under this here spoken of) that except they diligently watch for it Luke 21:35, "it shall come upon them unawares Mark 13:36. suddenly Matthew 24:44. in such an hour as they think not." "The Lord of glory always comes, like a thief in the night, to those who sleep in their sins."
Lo, He will come - : he insists again and calls their minds to that Coming, certain, swift, new, wonderful, on which all eyes should be set, but His coming would be a sifting-time.
But who may abide the day of his coming? and who shall stand when he appeareth? for he is like a refiner's fire, and like fullers' soap:
And who may abide the day of His coming? And who shall stand when He appeareth? - The implied answer is, "No one;" as in the Psalm Psa 130:3, "If Thou, Lord, wilt mark iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand?" Joel had asked the same , "The day of the Lord is great and very terrible; and who can abide it?" "How can the weakness of man endure such might; his blindness, such light; his frailty, such power; his uncleanness, such holiness; the chaff, such a fire? For He is like a refine's fire. Who would not fail through stupefaction, fear, horror, shrinking reverence, from such majesty?"
Malachi seems to blend, as Joel, the first and second coming of our Lord. The first coming too was a time of sifting and severance, according as those, to whom He came, did or did not receive Him. The severance was not final, because there was yet space for repentance; but it was real, an earnest of the final judgment. John 9:39, "for judgment," our Lord says, "I am come into this world, that they which see not may see, and they which see might be made blind;" and again John 12:31, "Now is the judgment of this world;" and John 3:18, "He that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed on the name of the Only-Begotten Son of God; John 3:36. He that believeth not the Son, shall not see life, but the wrath of God abideth on him." As, on the other hand, He saith John 6:54. "whoso eateth My Flesh and drinketh My Blood hath eternal life;" and John 6:47, "he that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life;" "hath," He saith; not, "shall have;" "hath it," in present reality and earnest, though he may forfeit it: so the other class is "condemned already," although the one may repent and be saved, the other may Ezekiel 33:18. "turn from his righteousness and commit iniquity;" and if he persevere in it, "shall die therein."
It is then one ever-present judgment. Every soul of man is in a state of grace or out of it; in God's favor or under His wrath; and the judgment of the Great Day, in which the secrets of men's hearts shall be revealed, will be but an outward manifestation of that now hidden judgment. But the words, in their fullest sense, imply a passing of that judgment, in which men do or do not stand, as in those of our Lord Luke 21:35-36. "As a snare shall that day come on all those that dwell on the face of the whole earth. Watch ye, therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things which shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man;" and Paul Ephesians 6:13. "Take unto you the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and, having done all, to stand;" and in the Revelation Rev 6:16-17. "They said to the mountains and rocks; Fall on us, and hide us from the wrath of Him that sitteth upon the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb. For the great day of His wrath is come, and who shall be able to stand?" Asaph says of a temporal, yet for this life, final destruction; Psalm 76:6-7, "At Thy rebuke, O God of, Jacob, both the chariot and horse are cast into a deep sleep. Thou art to be feared, and who may stand in Thy sight, when Thou art angry?"
For He is like a refiner's fire, and like fuller's soup - Two sorts of materials for cleansing are mentioned, the one severe, where the baser materials are inworked with the rich ore; the other mild, where the defilement is easily separable. "He shall come like a refining fire; Psalm 50:3-4, 'a fire shall burn before Him, and it shall be very tempestuous round about Him. Then He shall call the heaven from above, and the earth, that He may judge HIs people;' streams of fire shall sweep before, bearing away all sinners. For the Lord is called a fire, and a Deuteronomy 4:24. consuming fire, so as to burn our 1 Corinthians 3:12. wood, hay, stubble. And not fire only, but fuller's soap. To those who sin heavily, He is a refining and consuming fire, but to those who commit light sins, fuller's soap, to restore cleanness to it, when washed."
Yet, though light in comparison, this too had its severity, for clothes which were washed (of which the word is used) were trampled on by the feet. "The nitrum and the fuller's soap is penitence." Yet the whiteness and purity so restored, is, at the last, perfected. Inspiration could find no more adequate comparison for us, for the brightness of our Lord's raiment from the glory of the Transfiguration, than Mark 9:3, "exceeding white as snow; so as no fuller on earth can white them."
Our Lord is, in many ways, as a fire. He says of Himself; Luke 12:49, "I am come to send a fire upon earth, and what will I, if it be already kindled?" John Baptist said of Him Luke 3:16, "He shall baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire." He kindles in the heart "a fire of love," which softens what is hard, the will.
"Wash whate'er of stain is here,
Sprinkle what is dry or sere,
Heal and bind the wounded sprite;
Bend whate'er is stubborn still,
Kindle what is cold and chill,
What hath wandered guide aright."
But as God is "a consuming fire," Who must burn out the dross, unless we be Jeremiah 6:29-30 "reprobate silver" which "the founder melteth in vain," either He must, by His grace, consume the sin within us, or must consume us with it, in hell.
And he shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver: and he shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer unto the LORD an offering in righteousness.
And He shall sit - o as a King and Judge on His throne, with authority, yet also to try accurately the cause of each, separating seeming virtues from real graces; hypocrites, more or less consciously, from His true servants.
He shall purify o the sons of Levi - These had been first the leaders in degeneracy, the corrupters of the people by their example and connivance. Actually Acts 6:7, "a great company of the priests were obedient to the faith." Barnabas also was a Levite. Acts 4:36. But more largely, as Zion and Jerusalem are the titles for the Christian Church, and Israel who believed was the true Israel, so "the sons of" Levi are the true Levites, the Apostles and their successors in the Christian priesthood.
It was through three centuries of persecutions that the Church was purified by fire.
That they may offer - , literally "and they shall be unto thy Lord offers of a meal-offering in righteousness," i. e., they shall be such, and that, habitually, abidingly. Again, here and in the next words, "and the meal-offering of Judah shall be pleasant unto the Lord," it is remarkable, that the "meal-offering," to which the holy eucharist corresponds, is alone mentioned. Of bloody offerings Malachi is silent, for they were to cease.
In righteousness - , as Zacharias prophesied, "that we might serve Him in holiness and righteousness before Him all the days of our life."
Then shall the offering of Judah and Jerusalem be pleasant unto the LORD, as in the days of old, and as in former years.
Then (And) shall the offering of Judah and Jerusalem - The "law," the new revelation of God, was to Isaiah 2:3. "go forth from Zion and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem." Judah and Jerusalem then are here the Christian Church. "They shall be, pleasant (literally sweet) unto the Lord." It is a reversal (using the self-same word) of what God had said of them in the time of their religious decay Hosea 9:4. "they shall not offer wine-offerings to the Lord, neither shall they be sweet unto Him; Jeremiah 6:20. your burnt-offerings are not acceptable, nor your sacrifices sweet unto Me."
As in the days of old - , before the days of degeneracy; as it stands in the ancient Liturgies "Vouchsafe to look upon them (the consecrated oblations) with a propitious and serene Countenance, and to accept them, as Thou vouchsafedst to accept the gifts of Thy righteous Abel and the sacrifice of our patriarch Abraham, and the holy sacrifice, the immaculate offering, which Thy high priest Melchizedec offered unto Thee." "The oblation of the sacrament of the eucharist, made by the Jews who should believe in Christ, which is known to have been first instituted by Christ in the city of Jerusalem, and afterward to have been continued by His disciples (Matthew 26 (29); Acts 2:42, Acts 2:46.) shall be pleasing unto the Lord, as the sacrifices of the patriarchs, Melchizedec, Abraham, and the holy priests in the law, as Aaron; yea, the truth takes precedence of the figure and shadow; the sacrifice of the new law is more excellent and acceptable to God, than all the sacrifice, of the law or before the law. With this agrees what the Lord saith to the synagogue Isaiah 1:25-26, Isaiah 1:28, "I will turn My hand upon thee, and purely purge away thy dross, and take away all thy tin; and I will restore thy judges as at the first, and thy counselors, as at the beginning: and the destruction of the transgressors, and of the sinners, shall be together, and they that forsake the Lord shall be consumed." So now it follows.
And I will come near to you to judgment; and I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers, and against the adulterers, and against false swearers, and against those that oppress the hireling in his wages, the widow, and the fatherless, and that turn aside the stranger from his right, and fear not me, saith the LORD of hosts.
And I will come near to you to judgment - They had clamored for the coming of "the God of judgment;" God assures them that He will come to judgment, which they had desired, but far other than they look for. The few would be purified; the great mass of them (so that He calls them "you"), the main body of those who had so clamored, would find that He came as a Judge, not for them but against them.
And I will be a swift witness - o "In judging I will bear witness, and witnessing, I, the same, will bring forth judgment, saith the Lord; therefore, the judgment shall be terrible, since the judge is an infallible witness, whom the conscience of no one will be able to contradict."
God would be a "swift witness," as He had said before, "He shall come suddenly." Our Lord calls Himself (Revelation 3:14; Revelation 1:5, "I, and not other witnesses, having seen with My own eyes." Theod. Jerome) "the Faithful and True witness," when He stands in the midst of the Church, as their Judge. God's judgments are always unexpected by those, on whom they fall. The sins are those especially condemned by the law; the use of magical arts as drawing men away from God, the rest as sins of special malignity. Magical arts were rife at the time of the Coming of our Lord; and adultery, as shown in the history of the woman taken in adultery, when her accusers were convicted in their own consciences. (John 8:9, "adulterous generation." Matthew 12:39. Lightfoot on John 8:3 quotes Sotah f. 47. 1. "From the time that homicides were multiplied, the beheading of the heifer ceased: from the time that adulterers were multiplied, the bitter waters ceased:" and Maimonides on Sotah, c. 3. "When the adulterers multiplied under the second Temple, the Sanhedrin abolished the ordeal of the adulteresses by the bitter water; relying on its being written, 'I will not visit your daughters when they commit whoredom, nor your spouses when they commit adultery.'" Lightfoot subjoins, "The Gemarists teach that Johanan ben Zacchai was the author of that advice, who was still alive, in the Sanhedrin, and perhaps among those who brought the adulteress before Christ. For some things make it probable, that the "scribes and Pharisees," mentioned here, were elders of the synagogue." Justin reproaches them with having fresh wives, wherever they went throughout the world. Dial. fin. p. 243. Oxford translation.)
Oppress the hireling - , literally "oppress the hire," i. e., deal oppressively in it. "Behold," says James Jam 5:4, "the hire of the laborers who have reaped down your fields, which is by you kept back by fraud, crieth; and the cries of them which have reaped are entered into the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth." The mere delay in the payment of the wages of the laborer brought sin unto him, against whom he cried to God Deuteronomy 24:14-15. It is no light sin, since it is united with the heaviest, and is spoken of as reaching the ears of God. The widow and the fatherless stand in a relation of special nearness to God.
And fear not Me - He closes with the central defect, which was the mainspring of all their sins, the absence of the fear of God. The commission of any of these sins, rife as they unhappily are, proves that those who did them had no fear of God. "Nothing hinders that this should be referred to the first coming of Christ. For Christ, in preaching to the Jews, exercised upon them a judgment of just rebuke, especially of the priests, Scribes and Pharisees, as the Gospels show."
For I am the LORD, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed.
I am the Lord, I change not - , better, more concisely, "I, the Lord
I change not - . The proper name of God, "He who Is," involves His unchangeableness. For change implies imperfection; it changes to that which is either more perfect or less perfect: to somewhat which that being, who changes, is not or has not. But God has everything in Himself perfectly. "Thou Alone, O Lord, Art what Thou Art, and Thou Art Who Art. For what is one thing in the whole and another in parts, and wherein is anything subject to change, is not altogether what Is. And what beginneth from not being, and can be conceived, as not being, and only subsisteth through another thing, returns to not-being; and what hath a 'has been,' which now is not, and a 'to be,' which as yet is not, that is not, properly and absolutely. But Thou Art what Thou Art. For whatever Thou Art in any time or "way," that Thou Art wholly and always; and Thou Art, Who Art properly and simply, because Thou hast neither 'to have been' or 'to be about to be;' but only to be present; and canst not be conceived, ever not to have been." "There is only one simple Good, and, therefore, One Alone Unchangeable, which is God."
"Our" life is a "becoming" rather than a simple "being;" it is a continual losing of what we had, and gaining what we had not, for "in as far as any one is not what he was, and is what he was not, so far forth he dieth and ariseth;" dieth to what he was, ariseth to be something otherwise.
"Increase evidences a beginning; decrease, death and destruction. And, therefore, Malachi says, 'I am God, and I change not,' ever retaining His own state of being; because what has no origin cannot be changed."
So the Psalmist says Psalm 102:27, "As a vesture, Thou shalt change them and they shall be changed, but Thou art the Same, and Thy years shall not fail;" and Balaam, controlled by God Numbers 23:19. "God is not a man, that He should lie, or the son of man, that He should repent;" and James 1:17, "with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning."
Of this unchangeableness of God, His holy ones partake, as far as they fix themselves on God. "The soul of man hangs upon Him, by whom it was made. And because it was made, to desire God Alone, but everything which it desires below is less than He, rightly doth not that suffice it, which is not God. Hence, is it, that the soul is scattered hither and thither, and is repelled from everything, toward which it is borne, through satiety of them. But holy men guard themselves by cautious observation, lest they should be relaxed from their intentness by change, and because they desire to be the same, wisely bind themselves to the thought, whereby they love God. For in the contemplation of the Creator, they will receive this, that they should ever enjoy one stability of mind. No changeableness then dissipates them, because their thought ever perseveres, free from unlikeness to itself. This therefore they now imitate, striving with effort, which hereafter they shall with joy receive as a gift." To which unchangeableness the prophet had bound himself by the power of love, when he said Psalm 27:4, "One thing I required of the Lord, which I will require, that I may dwell in the house of the Lord." To this unity Paul clave intently, when he said, Philippians 3:13-14 : "One thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and stretching forth to those things which are before, I press forward toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus."
And ye sons of Jacob are not consumed - Man would often have become weary of man's wickedness and waywardness. We are impatient at one another, readily despair of one another. God might justly have cast off them and us; but He changes not. He abides by the covenant which He made with their fathers; He consumed them not; but with His own unchangeable love awaited their repentance. Our hope is not in ourselves, but in God.
Even from the days of your fathers ye are gone away from mine ordinances, and have not kept them. Return unto me, and I will return unto you, saith the LORD of hosts. But ye said, Wherein shall we return?
Even from the days of your fathers - Back to those days and from them ye are gone away from My ordinances. "I am not changed from good; ye are not changed from evil. I am unchangeable in holiness; ye are unchangeable in perversity."
Return unto Me - The beginning of our return is from the preventing grace of God. Jeremiah 31:18; Lamentations 5:21, "turn Thou me, and I shall be turned, for Thou art the Lord my God," is the voice of the soul to God, preparing for His grace; Psalm 85:4, "turn us, O God of our salvation." For, not in its own strength, but by His grace can the soul turn to God. "Turn thou to Me and I will return unto you," is the Voice of God, acknowledging our free-will, and promising His favor, if we accept His grace in return.
And ye say, Wherein shall we return? - Strange ignorance of the blinded soul, unconscious that God has aught against it! It is the Pharisaic spirit in the Gospel. It would own itself doubtless in general terms a sinner, but when called on, wholly to turn to God, as being wholly turned from Him, it asks, "In what? What would God have of me?" as if ready to do it.
Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say, Wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings.
Shall a man rob or cheat - , defraud God? God answers question by question, but thereby drives it home to the sinner's soul, and appeals to his conscience. The conscience is steeled, and answers again, "In what?" God specifies two things only, obvious, patent, which, as being material things, they could not deny. "In tithes and offerings." The offerings included several classes of dues to God:
(a) the first fruits ;
(b) the annual half-shekel Exodus 30:13-15;
(c) the offerings made for the tabernacle Exodus 25:2-3; Exodus 35:5, Exodus 35:21, Exodus 35:24; Exodus 36:3, Exodus 36:6 and the second temple Ezra 8:25 at its first erection; it is used of ordinary offerings;
(e) of the portions of the sacrifice which accrued to the priests Leviticus 7:14.
Ye are cursed with a curse: for ye have robbed me, even this whole nation.
Ye have been cursed with the curse - (not "with a curse"). The curse threatened had come upon them: but, as fore-supposed in Leviticus by the repeated burden, "If ye still walk contrary to Me," they had persevered in evil. God had already shown His displeasure. But they, so far from being amended by it, were the more hardened in their sin. Perhaps as men do, they pleaded their punishment, as a reason why they should not amend. They defrauded God, under false pretences. They were impoverished by His curse, and so they could not afford to pay the tithes; as men say, "the times are bad; so we cannot help the poor" of Christ. "And Me ye still are defrauding" Me, ye; man, God. And that not one or other, but this whole people. It was a requital as to that, in which they had offended. "Because ye have not rendered tithes and first-fruits, therefore ye are cursed in famine and penury." "Because the people did not render tithes and first-fruits to the Levites, the Lord saith, that He Himself suffered fraud, whose ministers, constrained by hunger and penury, deserted the temple. For, if He is visited by others in prison, and sick, is received and cared for, and, hungry and athirst, receives food and drink, why should He not receive tithes in His ministers, and, if they are not given, be Himself deprived of His portion?"
Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the LORD of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.
Bring the whole tithes - , not a part only, keeping back more or less, and, as he had said, defrauding God, offering, like Ananias, apart, as if it had been the whole; into the treasury, where they were collected in the time of Hezekiah and again, at this time, by the direction of Nehemiah, "so that there shall be food," not superfluity, in My house "for those who minister in the house of My sanctuary." Nehemiah 13:10-23. "The Levites and singers had, before the reformation, fled every one to his field, because the portion of the Levites had not been given them." On Nehemiah's remonstrance, aided by Malachi, "the tithe of corn and the wine and the new oil were brought into the treasuries."
Bring the whole tithes - o "Thou knowest that all things which come to thee are God's, and dost not thou give of His own to the Creator of all? The Lord God needeth not: He asketh not a reward, but reverence: He asketh not anything of thine, to restore to Him. He asketh of thee "first-fruits and tithes." Niggard, what wouldest thou do, if He took nine parts to Himself, and left thee the tenth? What if He said to thee; 'Man, thou art Mine, Who made thee; Mine is the land which thou tillest; Mine are the seeds, which thou sowest; Mine are the animals, which thou weariest; Mine are the showers, Mine the winds, Mine the sun's heat; and since Mine are all the elements, whereby thou livest, thou who givest only the labor of thine hands, deservest only the tithes.' But since Almighty God lovingly feeds us, He gives most ample reward to us who labor little: claiming to Himself the tithes only, He has condoned us all the rest."
And prove Me now herewith, in or by this thing - God pledges Himself to His creatures, in a way in which they themselves can verify. "If you will obey, I will supply all your needs; if not, I will continue your dearth." By whatever laws God orders the material creation, He gave them a test, of the completion of which they themselves could judge, of which they themselves must have judged. They had been afflicted with years of want. God promises them years of plenty, on a condition which He names. What would men think now, if anyone had, in God's name, promised that such or such a disease, which injured our crops or our cattle, should come at once to an end, if any one of God's laws should be kept? We should have been held as finatics, and rightly, for we had no commission of God. God authenticates those by whom He speaks; He promises, who alone can perform.
"There are three keys which God hath reserved in His own hands, and hath not delivered to any to minister or substitute, the keys of life, of rain, and of the resurrection. In the ordering of the rain they look on His great power, no less than in giving life at first, or afterward raising the dead to it; as Paul saith Acts 14:17, "God left not Himself without witness, in that He did good and gave rain, from heaven and fruitful seasons."
If I will not open the windows of heaven - o In the time of the flood, they were, as it were, opened, to man's destruction: now, God would rain abundantly for you, for their sakes. "And pour you out, literally empty out to you," give to them fully, holding back nothing. So in the Gospel it is said, that the love of God is "shed abroad poured out and forth in our hearts by the Holy Spirit which is given to us."
"That there is not room enough to receive it; literally until there is no sufficiency." (In Psalm 72:7 (quoted by Ges. Ros. etc.) "there shall be abundance of peace ירח בלי עד, literally, "until there be no moon," has a literal meaning, that the peace should last until the end of our creation, without saying anything of what lies beyond.) The text does not express what should not suffice, whether it be on God's part or on man's. Yet it were too great irony, if understood of God. His superabundance, "above all which we can ask or think," is a first principle in the conception of God, as the Infinite Source of all being. But to say of God. that He would pour out His blessing, until man could not contain it, is one bliss of eternity, that God's gifts will overflow the capacity of His creatures to receive them. The pot of oil poured forth the oil, until, on the prophets saying 2 Kings 4:6, "Bring me yet a vessel," the widows son said, There is not a vessel more. And the oil stayed." God's gifts are limited only by our capacity to receive them.
And I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes, and he shall not destroy the fruits of your ground; neither shall your vine cast her fruit before the time in the field, saith the LORD of hosts.
And I will rebuke the devourer - , the locust, caterpillar, or any like scourge of God. It might be, that when the rain watered the fields, the locust or caterpillar etc. might destroy the grain, so that the labors of man should perish; wherefore he adds, "I will rebuke the devourer. Neither shall your vine cast her fruit before the time," holding out a fair promise, but cut off by the frost-wind or the hail; the blossoms or the unripe fruit strewing the earth, as a token of God's displeasure.
And all nations shall call you blessed: for ye shall be a delightsome land, saith the LORD of hosts.
All nations shall call you blessed - The promise goes beyond the temporal prosperity of their immediate obedience. Few could know or think much of the restored prolificalness of Judaea; none could know of its antecedents. A people, as well as individuals, may starve, and none know of it. Had the whole population of Judah died out, their Persian masters would not have cared for it, but would have sent fresh colonists to replace them and pay the tribute to the great king. The only interest, which all nations could have in them, was as being the people of God, from whom He should come, "the Desire of all nations, in whom all the families of the earth would be blessed." Of this, God's outward favor was the earnest; they should have again the blessings which He had promised to His people.
And ye shall be called a delightsome land - , literally "a land of good pleasure." It was not so much the land as the people; ye shall be called. The land stands for the people upon it, in whom its characteristics lay. The river Jordan was not so bright as Abana and Pharpar: "the aspect of the shore" is the same, when the inhabitants are spiritually or morally dead; only the more beautiful, in contrast with the lifeless "spirit of man." So Isaiah says Isaiah 62:2-4, "The nations shall see thy righteousness, and all kings thy glory; and thou shrill be called by a name, which the mouth of the Lord shall name Thou shalt no more be called Forsaken, nor shall thy land be called Desolate, but thou shalt be called My-delight-is-in-her, and thy land Married: for the Lord delighteth in thee and thy land shall be married." God and man should delight in her.
Your words have been stout against me, saith the LORD. Yet ye say, What have we spoken so much against thee?
Your words have been stout against Me - , probably "oppressive to Me," as it is said, the famine was strong upon the land. And ye have said, "What have we spoken among ourselves against Thee?" Again, the entire unconsciousness of self-ignorance and self-conceit! They had criticized God, and knew it not. "Before, he had said Malachi 2:17. 'Ye have wearied the Lord with your words, and ye said, Wherein have we wearied Him? When ye said, Every one that doeth evil is good in the sight of the Lord'" etc.
Now he repeats this more fully. For the people who returned from Babylon seemed to have a knowledge of God, and to observe the law, and to understand their sin, and to offer sacrifices for sin; to pay tithes, to observe the sabbath, and the rest, commanded in the law of God, and seeing all the nations around them abounding in all things, and that they themselves were in penury, hunger and misery, was scandalized and said, 'What does it benefit me, that I worship the One True God, abominate idols, and, pricked with the consciousness of sin, walk mournfully before God?' A topic, which is pursued more largely in Psalm 73." Only the Psalmist relates his temptations to God, and God's deliverance of him from them; these adopted them and spake them against God. They claim, for their partial and meagre service, to have fulfilled God's law, taking to themselves God's words of Abraham, "he kept My charge" .
Ye have said, It is vain to serve God: and what profit is it that we have kept his ordinance, and that we have walked mournfully before the LORD of hosts?
Ye have said, It is vain to serve the God - o "as receiving no gain or reward for their service. This is the judgment of the world, whereby worldlings think pious, just, sincere, strict men, vain, i. e., especially when they see them impoverished, despised, oppressed, afflicted, because they know not the true goods of virtue and eternal glory, but measure all things by sight, sense and taste. Truly, if the righteous had not hope of another and better life, in vain would they afflict themselves, and bear the afflictions of others. For, as the Apostle says 1 Corinthians 15:19. 'If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.' But now, hoping for another blessed and eternal life for the slight tribulations of this, we are the happiest of all men."
And we have walked mournfully - o Again they take in their mouths the words of Psalmists, that they took the garb of mourners, going about mourning before God for their country's afflictions.
And now we call the proud happy; yea, they that work wickedness are set up; yea, they that tempt God are even delivered.
And now we call the proud happy (blessed) - This being so, they sum up the case against God. God had declared that all nations should "call them blessed" Malachi 3:12. if they would obey. They answer, using His words; And "now we (they lay stress on the word we,) pronounce blessed," in fact, those whom God had pronounced cursed: Psalm 119:21. "Thou hast rebuked the proud, who are cursed." Their characteristic, among other bad men, is of insolence Proverbs 21:24. arrogance, boiling over with self-conceit, and presumptuous toward God. The ground of Babylon's sentence was "she hath been proud toward the Lord, the Holy One of Israel;" Jethro says of the Egyptians, as a ground of his belief in God (Exodus 18:11. It is used of Egypt toward Israel. Nehemiah 9:16.) "for, in the thing that they dealt proudly," He was "above them." It describes the character of the act of Israel, when God bade them "not go up, neither fight, and they would not hear, and went up presumptuously into the battle" Deuteronomy 1:41, Deuteronomy 1:43 the contumacious act of those, who, appealing to the judgment of God, afterward refused it: Deuteronomy 17:12-13. of Johanan's associates, who accuse Jeremiah of speaking falsely in the name of God; Jeremiah 43:2. they are persons who rise up Psalm 86:14. forge lies against Psalm 119:69. dig pits for Psalm 119:85. deal perversely with, Psalm 119:78. hold in derision Psalm 119:51. oppress Psalm 119:122. the pious. Whether or no, they mean specifically the pagan, those, whom these pronounced blessed, were those who were contemptuous toward God.
Yea, the workers of wickedness - , those who habitually work it, whose employment it is, "are built up; yea, they have tried God and have escaped." God had promised that, if Jeremiah 12:16, "they will diligently learn the ways of My people, they shall be built up in the midst of My people;" these say, the workers of wickedness "had been built up:" God had bidden themselves Jeremiah 3:10, "make trial of Me in this;" these answer, the wicked had made trial of Him, and had been unpunished.
Then they that feared the LORD spake often one to another: and the LORD hearkened, and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before him for them that feared the LORD, and that thought upon his name.
Then they that feared the Lord spake often among themselves - The proud-speaking of the ungodly called out the piety of the God-fearing. "The more the ungodly spake against God, the more these spake among themselves for God." Both went on until the Great Day of severance. True, as those said, the distinction between righteous and wicked was not made yet, but it was stored up out of sight. They "spake among themselves," strengthening each other against the ungodly sayings of the ungodly.
And the Lord hearkened and heard it - God, whom these thought an idle looker-on, or regardless, all the while (to speak after the manner of men) was "bending the ear" from heaven "and heard." Not one pious loyal word for Him and His glory, escaped Him.
And a book of remembrance was written before Him - Kings had their chronicles written wherein people's good or ill deeds toward them were recorded. But the image is one of the oldest in Scripture, and in the self-same words , "the Lord said to Moses, Write this, a memorial in a book." God can only speak to us in our own language. One expression is not more human than another, since all are so. Since with God all things are present, and memory relates to the past, to speak of God as "remembering" is as imperfect an expression in regard to God, as to speak of "a book." , "Forgetfulness hath no place with God, because He is in no way changed; nor remembrance, because He forgetteth not." Both expressions are used, only to picture vividly to our minds, that our deeds are present with God, for good or for evil; and in the Day of Judgment He will make them manifest to men and angels, as though read out of a book, and will requite them. So Daniel had said Daniel 7:10, "the judgment was set, and the books were opened." And John says Revelation 20:12, "The books were opened, and another book was opened, which is the book of life; and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works." So Moses says to God, Exodus 32:32, "If not, blot me out of Thy book which Thou hast written;" and David, prophesying, prays Psalm 69:28, "Let them be blotted out of the book of the living, and not be written among the righteous;" and our Lord bids His discipies Luke 10:20, "Rejoice in this, that your names are written in heaven."
And that thought upon His name - Rather, "esteemed, prized," it, in contrast with those who Malachi 1:6. "despised;" as, of Christ, when He should come, it is said Isaiah 53:3, "He was despised, and we esteemed Him not." "The thinking on His Name imports, not a bare thinking of, but a due esteem and awful regard of, so as with all care to avoid all things which may tend to the dishonor of it, as always in His presence and with respect to Him and fear of Him." "Those are meant who always meditate on the ways of the Lord and the knowledge of His Godhead, for His name is Himself, and He is His Name;" "the wise in heart who know the mystery of the awful glorious Name."
And they shall be mine, saith the LORD of hosts, in that day when I make up my jewels; and I will spare them, as a man spareth his own son that serveth him.
And they shall be Mine, saith the Lord of hosts, in that day when I make up My jewels - o the recurrence of the words, עשה אני אשר יום, Malachi 3:21. Hebrew (Malachi 4:3 in English), and the סגלה לי והייתםExo. 19:5; so that we have both phrases elsewhere. In Deuteronomy 7:6, there is the equivalent לעם לו להיות סגלה, and the like, Deuteronomy 14:2; Psalm 135:4.) or perhaps better, "And they shall be to Me, saith the Lord of hosts, in that day which I make (or, in which I do this) a special treasure." "In the day of judgment, those who fear Me and believe and maintain My providence shall be to Me a special treasure, i. e., a people uniquely belonging and precious to Me, blessed in the vision and fruition of Me. For as in the old law, Israel was a special treasure a special people and inheritance of God, chosen out of all nations, so in the new law, Christians, and those who are righteous through grace, are the special treasure of God, and in heaven shall be His special treasure in glory, possessed by God and possessing God.' The "special treasure," is something, much prized, made great store of, and guarded. Such are Christians, bought at a great price, even by the precious Blood of Christ; but much more evidently such shall they be, Malachi says, in all eternity, which that day of final retribution shall decide , "joying in the participation of their Creator, by Whose eternity they are fixed, by Whose truth they are assured, by Whose gift they are holy."
And I will spare them - It is a remarkable word, as used of those who should be to Him a "special treasure," teaching that, not of their own merits, they shall be such, but by His great mercy. It stands in contrast with the doom of the wicked, whom that day shall sentence to everlasting less of God. Still, the saved also shall have needed the tender mercy of God, whereby He pardoned their misdeeds and had compassion upon them Psalm 130:3, "If Thou, Lord, shalt lay up iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand?" Among those whom God will spare on that day, will be countless, whom the self-righteous despised as sinners. "I will spare them, although formerly sinners; I will spare them, repenting, and serving Me with the service of a pious confession, as a man spareth his own son which served him." For our Lord saith of the son, who refused to go work in his Father's vineyard, and afterward repented and went, that he Matthew 21:31, "did the will of his Father."
Then shall ye return, and discern between the righteous and the wicked, between him that serveth God and him that serveth him not.
Then shall ye return, or turn - , not, "return" in the sense of returning to God, for in that day will be the time of judgment, not of repentance; nor yet, "then shall ye again see;" for this is what they denied; and, if they had ceased to deny it, they would have been converted, not in that day, but before, when God gave them grace to see it. They shall turn, so as to have other convictions than before; but, as Judas. The Day of Judgment will make a great change in earthly judgment. Last shall be first and first last; this world's sorrow shall end in joy, and worldly joy in sorrow; afflictions shall be seen to be God's love: Psalm 119:75, "Thou in very faithfulness hast afflicted me;" and the unclouded prosperity of the ungodly to be God's abandonment of them. The picture of the surprise of the wicked in the Day of Judgment, in the Wisdom of Solomon, is a comment on the prophet (Wisdom 5:1-5), "Then shall the righteous man stand in great boldness before the face of such as have afflicted him, and made no account of his labors; when they see it, they shall be troubled with terrible fear, and shall be amazed with the strangeness of his salvation, so far beyond all they looked for: and they, repenting and groaning for anguish of spirit, shall say within themselves, This was he whom we had sometimes in derision and a proverb of reproach: we fools counted his life madness and his end to be without honor: how is he numbered among the children of God, and his lot is among the saints!"