Gaebelein's Annotated Bible
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.4. The Announcement of the Messenger and the Day of the Lord
In this chapter and in the next we have the prophecies of Malachi as to the Messiah and His forerunner. The last verse of the preceding chapter belongs rightly to this chapter. “Ye have wearied the Lord with your words. Yet ye say, Wherein have we wearied Him? When ye say, Every one that doeth evil is good in the sight of the Lord, and He delighteth in them; or, Where is the God of judgment?” It is this last bold question, produced by their arrogant pride and self security which opens the way for the prophetic message in this chapter. “Where is the God of judgment?” The answer is, “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.” The first announcement of the messenger, who goes before the Lord, is quoted in Matthew 11:10; Mark 1:22; Luke 1:76; Luke 7:27. Isaiah, too, had spoken a similar prophecy in Isaiah 40:3. This prophecy was fulfilled in the person of John the Baptist, as the herald of His first coming; still this prophecy considered in the light of the prophecy in the next chapter, concerning the coming of Elijah, remains yet to be fully accomplished. John the Baptist was not Elijah; Elijah is still to come and do his work preceding the coming of the Lord. The messenger is followed by the Lord, the Messenger, or Angel (the meaning of the Hebrew word) of the Covenant. The word Lord is here the word Adon with the article, always used of God. It is the Lord God who comes, and His official title is “The Angel of the Covenant.” Many expositors have blundered here in that they imagined the word covenant means the new covenant of which the Lord Jesus is the Mediator Hebrews 9:15. But it is not the truth. The Messenger of the Covenant is the same “Angel of the Lord” who appeared frequently in Israel’s past history, and generally in the form of a human being. The Angel of the Lord is the Son of God in His preincarnation manifestations, and He is announced here as the Angel of the Covenant. The nation believed in His coming, and in the question “Where is the God of judgment?” they had asked for Him. That there was a partial fulfillment of this prophecy when our Lord, the Messiah of Israel, came unexpectedly in the temple, must not be overlooked, but that it was the fulfillment of these words is not true. It will be accomplished in the day of His Return, preceded by another messenger. Their question “Where is the God of judgment?” will then be fully answered, and what it will be we read in the next two verses (Malachi 3:2 and Malachi 3:3). He will purge the nation of the dross, beginning with the sons of Levi. It is the same as in Zechariah 13:9. John the Baptist announced the same also, and when he gave his inspired testimony of the purging of the threshing floor and the burning of the chaff with unquenchable fire Matthew 3:12 he referred not to the first coming of Christ, but to His second coming.
As the result of this judgment in store for the nation, when the sorcerers, the adulterers, the false swearers, and the oppressors will be dealt with, we read in the fourth verse (Malachi 3:4) “Then shall the offering of Judah and Jerusalem be pleasant unto the Lord, as in the days of old, and as in former years.”
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?Rebuke for Defrauding The Lord
Another rebuke is administered. They were alway a stiff-necked people, never obedient to His ordinances. His gracious call to return unto Him, and the promise that He will return unto them is answered by “Wherein shall we return?” They had robbed God of what was His right. The tithes and offerings which He demanded in the law covenant had been withheld. On account of it the blessing was lacking and curse was upon the nation. Then follows a command to bring all the tithes into the storehouse, the challenge to prove Him, the assurance of abundant blessing. It is strange that even those who have a good knowledge of truth, the dispensations and the heavenly position of a Christian, should fall back upon this verse and claim that it is binding and should be practiced among believers. For a system like Seventh Day Adventism, a system which has perverted the gospel of grace, which denies God’s oath-bound covenants with Israel, which claims to be the true Israel, the system to which applies the term “the synagogue of Satan, who say that they are Jews and are not; ” for such a cult to make this command a binding law is not surprising. But well taught believers should never look upon this passage as in any way in force today. True Christian giving, like everything else in the life and service of a true believer, must be done, not by law but through grace, under the direction of the Holy Spirit. Nowhere in the New Testament is there anything said about tithing. A believer must be a cheerful giver, giving as the Lord has prospered him, communicating to others, doing good, remembering the poor, ministering in temporal things to those who minister in spiritual things; but all this giving must be under the direction of the Spirit of God.
The day will come when His earthly people will minister to the wants of the Lord’s house (a Jewish term), so that there will be an abundant supply for sacrifices. That will be in the future day of their restoration, when the devourer will be rebuked (Malachi 3:11). It is at that time, when the millennium has come, that all nations will call them blessed, when they shall be a delightsome land Isaiah 62:4. This has never been since it was written by the pen of Malachi.
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.The Remnant and the Concluding Prophecy
In the midst of all these moral conditions, the apostasy of the masses, we find a pleasing picture of a godly portion, whom the Lord mentions in a special manner. There were those who feared the Lord. They had no sympathy with the wicked practices of their brethren; they did not share the contempt and unbelief manifested by the rank and file of the people. They were drawn together by the Spirit of God; they had fellowship one with another. They came together to think upon His Name, to honor Him, to read His Word, to call unto the Lord. And the Lord heard; He was pleased with them, and He is represented as recording their names in the Book of Remembrance, the bookkeeping in glory Psalm 56:8. He has a special promise for such. “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.”
Such a remnant of godly ones was in existence in Malachi’s day, and when they passed away others took their places. The Lord preserved such a godly seed in every generation throughout the four hundred silent years. And when that silence was broken, by the Angel’s message to the ministering priest Zechariah, we see such a remnant on the threshold of the New Testament. Good old Anna and Simeon, the shepherds and others belonged to this waiting, God-fearing remnant. And so it will be before His second coming. A similar remnant will then be on earth awaiting His glorious return.
It is so in Christendom. Departure from the faith soon manifested itself in the professing church. Decline followed decline, till the awful Romish apostasy was consummated. But in every generation the Lord kept a people separated unto Himself. The Reformation came, followed by revivals and recovery of truth. But the Spirit of God does not predict that this age ends in universal acceptance of the truth and universal righteousness and peace, but He predicts a universal apostasy. But even then He has a remnant true to Him. That remnant is seen prophetically in the Church message to Philadelphia Revelation 3:1-22.
In the fourth chapter is the final message of the Old Testament Prophetic Word. The day, that coming day of the Lord, so often mentioned in every portion of the Old Testament, is once more brought before us. It is the day of fire, the day of reckoning with the wicked, who will be consumed like stubble. But that day brings not only the fire of judgment, the winding up of “man’s day,” the dethronement of evil, but it will be the day of the sunrise. “The Sun of Righteousness shall arise with healing in His wings.” The Sun of Righteousness is the Lord Jesus Christ. It is the beautiful symbol of His personal, visible, and glorious coming to usher in that day, which will last for a thousand years, in which He will rule in power and glory. The Old Testament knows nothing of His coming as the Morning Star. That coming is exclusively revealed in the New Testament in relation with the Church. The Morning Star precedes the sunrise. Even so, before that day comes, before the great tribulation, with wrath poured out, He comes for His saints as the Morning Star. The Church does not wait for the rising of the sun, but for the rising of the Morning Star. While the world sleeps, and the world-church dreams its idle dreams, true believers look for the Morning Star. Some day we shall see that glorious Morning Star, when suddenly He descends with that long promised shout.
When the Sun of Righteousness arises, He will bring healing and blessing. His waiting earthly people, the remnant, will be filled with joy and gambol as calves, while the wicked will be trodden under foot.
The whole chapter is a future prophecy. While there has been a partial fulfillment of the first verse of the third chapter, everything in this concluding chapter awaits its fulfillment. Elijah the prophet is announced. John the Baptist came in the Spirit and power of Elijah, but he was not the Elijah promised here. If ye will receive it, said our Lord, this is Elijah who should come. It was a testimony to faith and not the fulfillment of Malachi’s prophecy. If the Jews had accepted Christ, John would have been Elijah. Our Lord bears witness to this. “Elias truly shall come first and restore all things. But I say unto you, That Elias is come already, and they knew him not, but have done unto him whatsoever they listed. Likewise shall also the Son of man suffer of them.” When the age closes another one will appear, the Elijah announced by Malachi, who does his work of restoration before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord. His work will be carried on among the people Israel. Deceivers and impostors have occasionally arisen who claimed to be this Elijah; the most prominent in recent years is the Dowieite delusion of Zion City. Such is the havoc produced by not dividing the Word of Truth rightly.
The close of the Old Testament prophetic Word is majestically solemn. In the beginning of the Old Testament stands written the sin and the curse which came upon the race through the fall of man. The final testimony in Malachi speaks of Him who comes to take the curse upon Himself, the promised Christ; who comes to deal with the wicked, who comes to bless and to remove that curse. The New Testament which follows tells us of Him and of His matchless work, the fullness of redemption and the all-sufficiency of Grace. And the final New Testament book shows the consummation, the coming judgments, the righteous judgments of the Lord, and the fulfillment of all “which was spoken by His holy prophets; ” ending with the great words, “Surely I come quickly! Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus!”