Malachi 2
Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
And now, O ye priests, this commandment is for you, etc. The grand subject we gather from these words is spiritual reformation. "Now, O ye priests." The priests are specially addressed and reproved, for they, whose mission it was to raise the people to true worship and to holiness, led them into sin. Notice -

I. THE NATURE OF THE SPIRITUAL REFORMATION REQUIRED. "If ye will not hear, and if ye will not lay it to heart, to give glory unto my Name, saith the Lord of hosts." From this language it would appear that true spiritual reformation involves two things.

1. A practical application of the Word of God. There should be right attention to it. That Word is not only to be heard, earnestly listened to, but to be laid to heart, which means practical attention. It is to be applied to correct the wrong that is in us, and to generate and develop the true.

2. An entire dedication to the glory of God. "To give glory unto my Name: All genuine spiritual reformation is implied in this - right attention to the Divine Word, right application of the Divine Word, and an entire dedication to the glory of God. This is a reformation not of parchment but of principle, not of systems but of souls. It is in truth the only reformation worth having.


1. A curse. "I will even send a curse upon you, and I will curse your blessings." "I will curse your benedictions." Not the personal advantages and perquisites enjoyed by the priests, but the blessings they pronounced upon the people. The service had been merely formal without any sort of reverence in it; the blessings they uttered should retributively be evacuated of all efficacy and should be a mere formula" (Dr. Dods). What an awful thing to have blessings turned into curses I and yet if we are unregenerate and unrenewed this takes place by the very laws of our moral constitution. As hemlock turns even the sunbeam into poison, corrupt souls turn God's blessings into maledictions.

2. A rebuke. According to Keil, Ewald, and others, the expression, "Behold, I will corrupt your seed," should be, "Behold, I will rebuke your arms." Perhaps the idea is - I will wither your power, I will check the growth of your posterity. There is no true prosperity without spiritual reformation.

3. Contempt. "I will spread dung upon your faces, even the dung of your solemn feasts." "The dung in the maw of the victims sacrificed on the feast days. The maw was the perquisite of the priests (Deuteronomy 18:3), which gives peculiar point to the threat here. You shall get the dung of the maw as your perquisite instead of the maw. And one shall take you away with it, i.e. you shall be taken away with it, it shall cleave to you wherever you go" (Moore). "Dung shall be thrown in your faces, and ye shall be taken away, i.e. removed out of the way, as dung would be, dung begrimed as ye shall be (1 Kings 14:10; Jeremiah 16..4; 22:19)" (Fausset).

CONCLUSION. Are we the subjects of this spiritual reformation? Have we been renewed in the spirit of our minds? "Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again." - D.T.

The direct address of this verse is to the priestly classy whose irreverence and indifference were so clearly shown in their offering the people's unworthy sacrifices, without attempting to reprove them, or endeavouring to awaken them to worthier and more spiritual views of sacrifice. When the ministry has become a fountain and a support of religious negligence and formality, the nation is placed in extreme peril, and severe providential dealings for the national and the priestly humiliation may be expected. The Divine threatening here is, "I will curse your blessings." This may mean either of three things; it may, quite possibly, include all three. It may mean, "I will turn the gifts of the people into curses." Or, "I will make the harvest of your work in the fields a failure and a curse instead of a blessing." Or, "I will make the blessing which you priests pronounce upon the people prove a curse to them." It should, however, be noticed that we now use the term "curse" with a connotation which is much more severe than that of Malachi. Our word "denunciation" would better fit the prophet's meaning.

I. TURNING THE PEOPLE'S GIFTS INTO CURSES. The priests received tithes, portions of the sacrifices, and offerings. God's judgment on the irreverent priests would come in limitation of tithes, disease from eating of the sick beasts offered as sacrifices, and the worthlessness of the offerings; for he who could give a mean thing to God would be sure to give mean things to his servants. Let God withdraw his added blessing, and our very "good things" fail to do us good. The psalmist recognizes this by praying that God would curse the blessings of his enemies (see Psalm 69:22). This is the permanent truth for all the ages, "The blessing of the Lord, it maketh rich, and he addeth no sorrow with it." Illustrate by the "little book" of Revelation, which was sweet to the taste, but bitter to the soul.

II. TURNING THE HARVEST OF TOIL INTO A CURSE. (Ver. 3.) What a blessing the harvest of the fields is, let the Harvest Home testify. These priests and Levites were compelled to go to their homes, and try and gain a living by the tillage of their land. But the judgment of God on irreverence and indifference would follow them there, and make their harvest a "heap." They would find that, whatever they touched, there was no Divine blessing on their work.

III. TURNING THE PRIESTLY BLESSING OF THE PEOPLE INTO A CURSE. The words of the priestly blessing are given in Numbers 6:23-27. It is the deepest view of this Divine threatening to see it to mean this - The blessings which you, negligent and irreverent priests, pronounce in your formal way shall break in curses upon the heads of the people. - R.T.

Ver. 8 gives the great feature of God's judgment, first as a fact, and then by a figure. The Levites might shirk their temple duties, and go off to their fields; but God's hand would be upon them there; he would "corrupt" the seed they sowed, so that their harvest Would be a failure. And so they would stand before the people impoverished, disgraced, and contemptible; with the stamp of failure on everything they touched. A recent account of the ceremony connected with the recovery of a Brahmin who had broken his caste explains the Eastern custom indicated in this verse. One part of the ceremony was the plastering of his entire body, except his eyes, with filth; he was then plunged into the river, and when the filth was washed away, the man was restored. The idea of ver. 4 is that this Divine judgment on unfaithful Levi must take the place of the Covenant of life and peace which God had made with Levi, and would gladly have kept with his descendants. "I gave to Levi (that is, to you, the priestly tribe) a pledge of favour; but you have forfeited it, and it is now therefore turned into a threat of reprobation for your sins. No longer a covenant of peace, but of woe."

I. JUDGMENT IS GOD'S STRANGE WORK. It has not been sufficiently noticed, that God never threatens without indication of deep feeling of regret that he should be compelled to threaten. This may be illustrated from every part of Scripture, and especially in Divine dealings with the antediluvians, the Sodomites, the Israelites, and the Ninevites The keynote is given in this exclamation, "Have I any pleasure at all in the death of the wicked?" God is most unworthily misrepresented when he is thought of as punishing in a spirit of coldness and indifference. To judge and afflict is holiest pain to him.

II. JUDGMENT IS GOD'S NECESSARY WORK. Punishment belongs to moral discipline. It is an essential feature of it. It is part of all paternity. It is involved in the trust of childhood. God could not be his own Divine self if he did not punish. To let sin go would be unworthy of God. Father or King, he must be severe on wrong doers.

III. THREATENING OF JUDGMENT IS GOD'S HUMBLING WORK. God always threatens before punishing. Threatening recalls obligations. Recalling obligations sets conduct in contrast with duty, and bumbles us in the dust. Nothing bows us into penitence like seeing before us what we pledged ourselves to be, and being forced to place beside it what we are. - R.T.

My covenant was with him of life and peace, etc. We have here the minister of Divine truth as he always should be, and as he often is -


1. That he should be a man divinely called. "Ye shall know that I have sent this commandment unto you, that my covenant might be with Levi, saith the Lord of hosts." What was the Divine commission to the priesthood? Here it is: "Phinehas. the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the priest, hath turned my wrath away from the children of Israel, while he was zealous for my sake among them, that I consumed not the children of Israel in my jealousy. Wherefore say, Behold, I give unto him my covenant of peace: and he shall have it, and his seed after him" (Numbers 25:11-13). The Aaronic priests were called of God to be the ministers of life and peace to the people. Two of the greatest blessings of being. What is existence without life - intellectual and spiritual life? and what is life without peace - peace with self, the universe, and with God?

2. That he should be a man of profound reverence. "I gave them to him for the fear wherewith he feared me, and was afraid before my Name." The priest was not only to be entirely free from a volatile and frivolous spirit, but to be profoundly reverential, pervaded by a holy awe. He was to be impressed with the solemnity of the commission with which he was entrusted.

3. That he should be a man of moral truthfulness. "The law of truth was in his mouth, and iniquity was not found in his lips: The moral laws which he has to inculcate and administer are to be regal forces in his own soul, and embodied in his life. He is to be free from the control of all shams and theories, a man of stern, moral realities.

4. That he should be a man of practical devotion. "He walked with me in peace and equity." His life should be a walk; there should be progress in it; he should walk with God, and walk with God in "peace and equity."

5. That he should be a man of the highest usefulness. "And did turn many away from iniquity." Iniquity is man's curse and ruin; to turn him from that is to save him, and that is the work of the true minister. The commission given to Paul was to "turn men from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God' (Acts 26:18).

6. That he should be a man of the highest intelligence. "For the priest's lips should keep knowledge, and they should seek the Law at his mouth: for he is the messenger of the Lord of hosts" Being a "messenger of the Lord of hosts," he is to understand and appreciate the wonderful message, and give it from his own mouth to the people. Such is what Levi, as an ideal priest was and did, and every minister of Divine truth must be and do the same. What a high standard to aim at! How its light condemns and abashes most of us!

II. THE MINISTER OF DIVINE TRUTH AS HE OFTEN IS. The false minister is here represented:

1. As swerving from the right. "But ye are departed out of the way." Ye are very different in your conduct from the ideal priest and even from your actual predecessors in office; your careless teaching, your superficial dealing, your contentment with formulas and external rites, and your personal laxity, have given men a prejudice against religion altogether. Instead of helping men to accept the truth and live godly lives, you have caused even those who wished to do so to take offence and turn away. A sceptical age is necessarily the result of externality and heartlessness in the religious teachers of previous generations.

2. As leading the people astray. "Ye have caused many to stumble at the Law." Not only by their speech, but by their conduct, do many who profess to be ministers of God's Word lead the people to stumble. Their inconsistent life, their theological jargon, their exclusive spirit, lead the people to "stumble" at Divine things.

3. As perverting the truth. "Ye have corrupted the covenant of Levi." How many there are who tamper with the Word of God, who employ it to support some favourite prejudice, or to buttress their little sect! How far, for example, is our conventional theology from being like the theology of Christ!

4. As becoming contemptible. "Therefore have I also made you contemptible and base before all the people." Ministers who hunt after honour, popularity, gain, become contemptible in the estimation of intelligent and unsophisticated souls. The pulpit of England is certainly sinking into contempt with the English people. This is a sad calamity. The decrease in the number of those who attend churches, compared with the increase of population; the growth of a literature in thorough antagonism to the spirit and aims of Christianity; and the fact that the great bulk of the reading and thinking men of England stand aloof from all Churches, plainly show that the pulpit of England is sinking into popular contempt. Primates and prelates and preachers are treated with ridicule in nearly all popular literature and scientific discussion, A more terrible sign of the times I know not than this. The "salt" of the pulpit has lost its "savour," and it is being trodden underfoot with disdain and contempt. Trodden underfoot by our authors, scientists, artisans, tradesmen, and merchants. Gracious Heaven, raise up men for our pulpits, so high in culture, so gifted in faculty, so Christly in love, so invincible in duty, so independent in action, that they shall not only counteract the downward tendency to ruin, but shall attract to it with reverence the intellect of the age! - D.T.

The covenant was made with the tribe of Levi; and the precise terms here referred to occur in the renewal of covenant with Phinehas, "Behold, I give unto him my covenant of peace: and he shall have it, and his seed after him, even the covenant of an everlasting priesthood" (Numbers 25:12, 13). A covenant is a mutual engagement entered into by two parties. Each party takes pledges; and each is exonerated from keeping his pledge if the other party breaks his. Too often the Divine covenant is treated as if it only involved God's putting himself under pledge of service to us. The truth needs to be emphasized that the covenant includes our pledge of faithful service to him. And this is true of the new covenant, sealed with the blood of Jesus Christ.

I. JEHOVAH'S PLEDGE TO LEVI. "My covenant was with him of life and peace," There is some reason for thinking that, before the Sinaitic revelation was made, the tribe of Levi provided the moral and religious teachers of the Israelites. They were designated for the special work of the priesthood, but the Divine covenant took a special shape in consequence of the loyalty and zeal of the Levites in the matter of the golden calf; and of Phinehas in vindicating the Divine claim to moral purity. God pledged two things:

(1) "life," or permanence; and

(2) "peace" or prosperity.

Security that the honour and usefulness of the position should be quietly maintained. There is a Divine side to every covenant. God condescends to pledge himself to men. He promises his providings, preservings, guidings, redeemings, sanctifyings. In the new covenant, in the hands of the Mediator, the Lord Jesus Christ, all the old terms of covenant are renewed, and the special pledge of salvation from sin is added. He who has begun a good work in us is pledged to perfect it unto the day of Jesus Christ.

II. LEVI'S PLEDGE TO JEHOVAH. This side of covenant seldom receives sufficient attention. The Levites gave themselves to Jehovah's service; they pledged themselves to devote their lives to the services of his sanctuary, the teaching of his truth, and the upholding of his honour. So far as the early Levites were typified in Phinehas, they kept their pledge. Their personal characters honoured the covenant (ver. 6). Their steadfastness in duty, their cherished sense of right, and their active ministry against all iniquity, maintained the pledge of the covenant. Then how striking is the contrast suggested between the Levites of the early times and the Levites of Malachi's days! Their broken pledge meant that God was relieved of all obligation to keep his pledge to them. - R.T.

Levi is taken as the type of such a man. The man who walks with God in peace and equity cannot fair to exert a strong personal influence. He will "turn many from iniquity." The point of this sentence is that active influence for good is exerted by passive goodness. Men are powers by being established characters. Steadfastness is ministry. If it be so, then there are more workers for God than come into usual calculation. Priests and clergy have their power in what they are-in cultured, sanctified character - quite as truly as in Divine endowments and in trained efficiencies.

I. THE STEADFAST MAN EXERTS ACTIVE POWER OF REPROACH. He need utter no word; his steadfast goodness speaks loudly enough. There is no reproach comes to the evil liver like the simple presence of the good liver. Nothing shamed into silence the foulness of old prison scenes like the simple presence of the saintly Mrs. Fry. And in sublimer ways the truth is illustrated in the case of our Lord. The devils that possessed men felt the reproach of his simple presence, and cried out in their alarm. Every one of us who stands firm to righteousness and equity is actively reproving the unsteadiness and evil that are daily around us.

II. THE STEADFAST MAN EXERTS THE ACTIVE POWER OF EXAMPLE. The imitative faculty of man is more influential than we are wont to think. Everybody is disposed to make models. And all persons are materially helped by having high models of virtue in their spheres. Every individual has a sphere of influence. Within that sphere his example is an active power. We are all ideals to some one. Then "what manner of persons ought we to be?"

III. THE STEADFAST MAN EXERTS A POSITIVE POWER ON MEN'S WILLS. To see a man who can stand fast to righteousness actually strengthens the decision and resolve of others. In it is the mastery of the tempter's lie that we cannot hope to be good. Our wills are weakened by the fear that goodness is unattainable, and it is of no use to try to be good. Every steadfast man proves that man can will the Roost and do it, and that God stands by such a man in his resolve.

IV. THE STEADFAST MAN EXERTS A POSITIVE SAVING INFLUENCE. He "turns men from iniquity." He cannot leave wrong doers alone. If the priests of Malachi's time had been steadfast men, they would soon have turned the worshippers from the. iniquity of bringing the lame and sick for sacrifice. - R.T.

The priest's lips should keel knowledge. The ideal priest is here characterized, not by ceremonial exactitude, but by moral integrity. Sacrificing is not so essential as religious knowledge, sound learning, and wholesome teaching. The proper expectation of God's ministers is that they will tell God's will to the people, not only because they know it, but even more because they keep it. In our religious teachers we look for adequacy of knowledge, and adequacy of experience.

I. ADEQUACY OF KNOWLEDGE. In some countries, and in some ages, the sacred ministry has been the chief source of secular knowledge for the people. That is not the case now, and in civilized countries. But still God's ministers need to be abreast, and to keep abreast, of all that is thought and known in their day, because to them is entrusted the work of conserving the Divine element in all knowledge, and the Divine relation to everything discovered. Unless ministers have adequate knowledge, they occupy a lower plane than the secular teachers, and fail to influence the higher range of students with Divine claims, truths, and principles. To put it in another way - The ministry must be on the level of the people if it is to sympathize with them; but the ministry must be in intelligence and knowledge above the people, if it is to lift the people to higher things, Two points may be illustrated.

1. The ministers should gain knowledge as men can gain it.

2. The ministers should gain knowledge as spiritual men only can gain it. It is that spiritually acquired knowledge that is the minister's true efficiency; and more especially that spiritual knowledge as it relates to the mysteries of the sacred Word.

II. ADEQUACY OF EXPERIENCE. There is book knowledge, and there is experimental knowledge. It may be argued that for the common, everyday relations and duties of life, experience is a more valuable and practical teacher than books can be. It is certainly true that, for the ministry, experience is the essential thing. A man can only speak with power when "he has tasted and handled and felt the good word of life." The people have confidence in the teacher who has been taught of God in the discipline of life. What needs to be pointed out is that these two adequacies are not antagonistic, In their harmonious culture lies the true power. - R.T.

This verse begins a new subject, and it might have headed a new chapter. Answering to the indifference shown in regard to Divine worship was an indifference in regard to moral and family relations. Loose worship and loose social morality usually go together. Let men become careless about God's claims, and they will be found careless about marriage relations, and will lightly do wrong by the wives of their youth, in the mastery of their self-indulgence. Ezra and Nehemiah had to deal very sternly with the social evils arising from the ready divorce of Jewish wives for the sake of heathen wives. Malachi begins his expostulations on this matter by putting the people in mind that they owned one God and Father, in opposition to the idols of the heathen, and therefore should deal with one another as brethren. By the marriages with strangers they were dealing falsely and injuriously with their brethren and countrymen, by ill treating their daughters whom they had taken in marriage.

I. BREAKING GOD'S COVENANT BREAKS IT FOE OTHERS. Illustrate by the case of the golden calf. Those who took no part in the sin had to take part in the penalty. It is the bitterness of all wrong doing that we can never keep its consequences to ourselves. "The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children's teeth are set on edge."

II. UNFAITHFULNESS TO GOD MAKES INJURY TO OUR BROTHER BY BEING A BAD EXAMPLE. Every man is bound to help his brother to be good. It is often shown that every man is bound to aid his brother in distress. It is not so often shown that every man has a claim on his brother, that he should help him to goodness. If a man does wrong, is unfaithful to God, he actually injures his brother by depriving him of his rights in his good example. Constantly we find wrong doing excused by examples of wrong doing. Sinners defraud their neighbours of their rights.

III. UNFAITHFULNESS TO GOD MAY LEAD TO POSITIVE ACTS OF INJURY TO OUR BRETHREN. The man who is strong enough to oppose God is usually masterful enough to injure his fellow. He who does not regard God is not likely to regard man. The love of God carries the love of man; the revolt against God is sure to involve the loosening of humanities. - R.T.

Have we not all one Father, etc..? "This section," says Keil, "does not stand in any close connection with the preceding one. It does not furnish an example of the stumbling upon the Law mentioned in ver. 8; nor of the violation of the covenant of the fathers (ver. 10); or of the marriage covenant (ver. 14), appended to the neutralizing of the covenant of Levi on the part of the priests (vers. 8 and 4). For there is no indication in vers. 10-16 that the priests gave any impulse through their bad teaching to the breaches of the Law which are here condemned; and the violation of the covenant of the fathers and of the marriage covenant forms no more a thought by which the whole is ruled, than the violation of the covenant with Levi, in the previous section. The prophet rather passes over with ver. 10 to a perfectly new subject, viz. the condemnation of marriages with heathen women." From this passage the three following truths are deducible.

I. THAT THE GREAT GOD IS NOT ONLY THE CREATOR BUT THE COMMON FATHER OF MANKIND. "Have we not all one Father? hath not one God created us?" It is clear that the one Father does not mean either Adam the progenitor of the race, or Abraham the Father of the Israelitish nation, but Jehovah himself. He is the Creator of all things, but not the Father of all things. We could not regard him as the Father of the mountains, the valleys, the rivers, the oceans, the stars, though he is the Creator of all these. All things are created by him; but he is the Father of human souls. "We are all his offspring." This relationship implies two things.

1. A resemblance in nature. Children resemble their parents in nature and attributes. All intelligent moral beings bear a resemblance to the Infinite. They are spiritual in essence, moral in sentiment, free in action; they are formed in his image.

2. The existence of parental sympathy. While a human father has the ordinary sensibilities of a man, he has the peculiar affections of a parent, a tender interest in his offspring, which he feels for no other object in the world. So God is a Father. Whilst he has an interest in all the works of his hands, he has a special interest in a human soul.

3. The obligation of filial devotion. Filial love and loyalty raise and bind the souls of children to their parents. Such is the feeling that human spirits should cherish and develop in relation to God. Man is the only creature on this round earth that has the capacity, and consequently the obligation, to feel, entertain, or develop this filial affection. He then who is the Creator of all things in the world is the Father of man; all are his creatures, but men are his children. Sublime distinction this!

II. THAT THE FACT OF THIS UNIQUE RELATIONSHIP IS A MIGHTY ARGUMENT WHY MAN SHOULD DO NO WRONG AGAINST EITHER HIS FELLOW CREATURE OR HIS GOD. "Why do we deal treacherously every man against his brother, by profaning the covenant of our fathers?" Two remarks are suggested concerning the wrong with which the Israelites are here charged.

1. It was a wrong committed against mankind. The special wrong referred to is the contraction of marriage with a heathen woman, and the putting away the Israelitish wife. This is the treachery and the "abomination" referred to. The repudiation of Jewish wives and the adoption of heathen.

2. This wrong against mankind was a wrong against God himself. "Judah hath profaned the holiness of the Lord which he loved, and hath married the daughter of a strange god." God's law with the Jewish people was that they were to be a separate people, separate from all the other people of the earth, and they were to sustain their distinction by not intermarrying with other peoples. But now, at the period when the prophet wrote, they were doing so, and that to a great extent (see Nehemiah 13:23-29; Ezra 9:1-4). It is a universal truth that a wrong against man is a wrong against God; to sin against our fellow creatures is to sin against God himself; and this is an outrage against the relationship which we all sustain to him, not only as our common Creator, but our common Father. We are all children of the same Father, and therefore we should be fair in our dealings one With another. We should love one another, and cooperate with one another for our mutual advantage in all that is virtuous and noble. "Have we not all one Father?" Wherefore, then, should we cheat, hate, deceive, oppress, murder one another? How monstrous!

III. THAT THE PERPETRATION OF WRONG EXPOSES THE DOER TO THE MOST LAMENTABLE RESULTS. "The Lord will cut off the man that doeth this, the master and the scholar, out of the tabernacles of Jacob, and him that offereth an offering unto the Lord of hosts. And this have ye done," etc. This, perhaps, means utter extermination. "The master and the scholar," some translate, "him that watcheth and him that answereth." In "master" the special reference is to the priest who ought to have taught the people piety, but who led them into evil; in "scholar," to the people themselves, who were the pupils of the priests. The idea is that both the priests and the people will suffer on account of the wrong they were committing. Great distress had come upon them already. "This have ye done" (see Ezra 10.; Nehemiah 13:10-13) Again, this is only a shadowy picture of the evils that ever flow from wrong. "Sin brought death into our world, and all our woe." It is sin that kindles and feeds the flames retribution.

CONCLUSION. Haste the time when men shall realize the fact that they are all children of one Father, so that all wrongs against one another shall cease, and the spirit of universal brotherhood prevail!

"A happy bit hame this auld world would be,
If men when they're here could make shift to agree,
An' ilk said to his neighbour, in cottage an' ha',
'Come, gi'e me your hand - we are brethren a'.

"I ken na why ane wi' anither should fight,
When to 'glee would make a' body comie an' right;
When man meets wi' man, 'tis the best way ava,
To say, ' Gi'e me sour hand - we are brethren a'

"My coat is a coarse ane an' yours may be fine,
And I maun drink water while you maun drink wine;
But we both ha'e a leal heart, unspotted to shaw,
'Sae gi'e me your hand - we're brethren a'.'

"Ye would scorn to do fausely by woman or man;
I haud by the right, aye, as well as I can.
We are ane in our joys, our affections an a',
Come, gi'e me your hand - we are brethren a'.'"

(R. Nicol.) - D.T.

The divorced and abandoned wives went to the courts of the temple "with tears, with weeping, and with crying." "Their wail of lamentation mingled with the prayers and hymns of the sacrificing priests. How could the Lord 'regard the offering any more, or accept it at their hands,' when attended by such accompaniments?" The point forced on attention is this: Here were men bringing their sacrifices, and offering their prayers for God's blessing. And at the same time, here were the injured women praying against their prayers, and pleading that their worship should not be accepted. The tears were spoiling the worship. There is scarcely a thought more solemn and searching than the thought that few, if any, of our prayers go up to God unqualified and unchecked. We pray for, something prays against, and God withholds the blessing because the balance is in favour of the "against."

I. WE MAY PRAY AGAINST OUR OWN PRAYERS. It is said of St. Augustine that for some time he prayed," Lord, convert me, but not yet." That was himself praying against himself. When duty prays one way and heart another; when we are not quite sure whether we want what we ask for; and when we are careless about receiving the answer, - we really pray against our own prayers. God may see our real prayer to be something quite other than our words.

II. OTHERS MAY BE PRAYING AGAINST OUR PRAYERS. This may be done unreasonably, and then God makes the prayer against strengthen the prayer for. Or it may be done reasonably, as when the cry of the widow, the fatherless, the divorced wife, the sweated workman, or the neglected sufferer, goes up to God against us. It would be well sometimes to ask ourselves whether there can be anything praying against our prayers. - R.T.

Yet ye say, Wherefore? etc. The subject of these verses is the Divine institution of marriage. In relation to this institution we observe -

I. THAT IT IMPLIES A LOVING UNION OF TWO, AND ONLY TWO, SOULS UNTIL DEATH. "Because the Lord hath been witness between thee and the wife of thy youth, against whom thou hast dealt treacherously: yet is she thy companion, and the wife of thy covenant. And did not he make one?" "Wife of thy youth." The Jews had ever been accustomed to marry very young, the husband often being not more than thirteen year's of age, and the wife younger. "Thy companion;" not a slave, nor an inferior, but an equal and a friend. Love-companionship is the highest ideal of matrimony. "Wife of thy covenant." A relationship established by mutual agreement. Marriage (Proverbs 2:17) is called the covenant of God; it is so because he has ordained it. "Did not he make one?" Thine exclusively. "Yet had he the residue of the sprat, etc. Maurier and Hengstenberg explain this verse thus: "The Jews had defended their conduct by the precedent of Abraham, who had taken Hagar to the injury of Sarah his lawful wife. To this Malachi says, 'Now no one [ever] did so in whom there was a residue of intelligence [discriminating between good and evil], and what did the one [Abraham, to whom you appeal for support] do, seeking a godly seed? His object [viz. not to gratify passion, but to obtain the seed promised by God] makes the case wholly inapplicable to defend your position.' It is asked, 'And wherefore one?' Wherefore only Eve for Adam, Sarah for Abraham?" "Instead," says Dr. Henderson, "of forming two into one, the Creator might have given to Adam many wives. There was no lack of spiritual existence from which to furnish them with intelligent souls. When he gave to Eve such an existence he did not exhaust the universal fountain of being. There remained all with which the human race had been furnished throughout its generations. What, then, the prophet asks, was the design of the restriction? To this he replies - The securing of a pious offspring. Divorces and polygamy have ever been unfavourable to the education of children. It is only by the harmonious and loving attention bestowed by parents upon their children that they can be expected to be brought up in the fear of God. The reply bore hard upon the priests who had married idolatrous wives."

II. THAT IT HAS BEEN SADLY OUTRAGED IN ALL AGES. The Jews outraged it. The command here, "Take heed to your spirit, and let none deal treacherously against the wife of his youth." implies this. They dealt "treacherously" against the wife of their youth by marrying others. "Ye have transgressed, and have taken strange wives" (Ezra 10:10). They do so also by putting them away - by divorce. "For the Lord, the God of Israel, saith that he hateth putting away: for one covereth violence with his garment, saith the Lord of hosts." This has been done in all ages.

1. Polygamy is an outrage on it.

2. Cruelty is an outrage on it.

3. Mutual unfaithfulness is an outrage on it.

The Divine idea of marriage is that the two souls shall be one, so united in love, sympathy, aim, that the two would think, feel, and act as one. But how few amongst the million matrimonial alliances reach this ideal!


1. It is abhorrent to God. "The Lord, the God of Israel, saith that he hateth putting away." A separation of man and wife, a divorce, is abhorrent to the Almighty, although by the Law of Moses it was allowed because of the hardness of their hearts.

2. It involves violence. "For one covereth violence with his garment." Some suppose the garment here means the wife, and that the idea is that violence was done to her. Others suppose it means the pretext they employed for doing so by the permission of Moses (Deuteronomy 24:1). Others suppose the garment means man's reputation, and that he would damage his influence by it. Whatever the particular meaning of the passage is, it is certain that the outrage of the institution of marriage is fraught with great evils.

CONCLUSION. An extract from my Marriage Service in the 'Biblical Liturgy' may not be out of place here. "Marriage is an institution of God: it accords with the dictates of nature and the laws of inspiration. It is coeval with human society; it was an essential ingredient in the happiness of Eden. It heightened, it perfected, the pure, fresh, and serene joys of that garden, the scene of every beauty and the temple of God. In mercy it has been perpetuated to the present hour as a social blessing to soothe and sustain our nature amidst the depressing circumstances of our fallen state. Jesus threw around this relationship a peculiar grandeur. He clothed it with sublimity: to his holy eye it was a holy thing; he ratified its contract, he guarded its obligations, he expounded its laws, he graced its celebration with his presence; the first miracle his sacred hands performed was at a bridal feast. The apostles caught the idea of their Master, and invested it with a mystic solemnity by representing it as a type of the substantial, invisible, and everlasting union existing between Christ and his Church. It involves the most tender, close, and lasting ties that can unite human beings together in this life. 'Therefore shall a man leave father and mother, and cleave unto his wife; and they both shall become one flesh.' It combines the earthly interest, fortunes, and happiness of two; it may influence the destinies of many. The interests of the parties united, the triumphs of truth, and the upward progress of humanity are all dependent on the nuptial bond." - D.T.

This verse is difficult to paraphrase. 'Speaker's Commentary' renders thus: "And hath no one acted thus (in putting away his wife) who yet had a remnant of sense in him?" The prophet makes the people say this in excuse of their conduct, and in allusion to the Patriarch Abraham, who put away his wife Hagar. Wordsworth puts the sentence interrogatively, "And did not one (Abraham) do it (i.e. put away his wife Hagar), and yet he had a remnant of the spirit?" The answer to the question is that Abraham was justified because he acted upon the special direction of God in seeking a seed within the covenant. But the people of Malachi's days were acting on pure self-willedness, and with no possible excuse of having received Divine directions. They were not serving God. God is served by the fulfilling of family obligations. He cannot be served by the shirking of ordinary obligations at the instance of unbridled passion.


(1) due self-control;

(2) quietly;

(3) thoughtfully;

(4) prayerfully.

Early marriages are natural, and may be prudent; but when they are the result of impulse, of wrong doing, or of lightness and inconsiderateness, they are a most fruitful source of trouble. No marriage should be consummated unless upon it the Divine blessing can be honestly, sincerely, heartily, and hopefully asked.

II. FAMILY OBLIGATIONS SHOULD BE MAINTAINED WITH PATIENT PERSISTENCY. Much occurs in married life to knit hearts together; but much must necessarily occur which, if permitted, would drive hearts asunder. Bearing and forbearing have to be resolute work until they become easy work. And every triumph over self makes every new triumph easier. If each lives for the other, all goes well. If either lives for self, all goes ill. "Let none deal unfaithfully by the wife of his youth."

III. FAMILY RELATIONS SHOULD BE BROKEN ONLY WITH EXTREME PAIN. Cases do occur. But every one who is anxious for the moral well being of the nation looks with extreme anxiety on the increasing readiness with which divorces are sought and granted. - R.T.

Ye say, Every one that doeth evil is good in the sight of the Lord, and he delighteth in them. Isaiah pleads in a similar way," Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!" (Isaiah 5:20). It seems that some, in the days of Malachi, answered his pleadings with insolent defiance, even daring to deny moral obligations altogether.

I. CALLING EVIL GOOD IS THE WAY TO EXCUSE OUR SINS. Daring men who are determined to "follow the devices and desires of their own hearts," will bravely say, "Evil, be thou my good." But the process of deterioration is usually slower and more subtle. We want to do wrong, and we begin to wish that it were not wrong. Then comes the doubt whether it is wrong. Then we begin to imagine that it is wrong only under particular circumstances. Then we find that our case does not come into the bad list. And the way is open to do the wrong under the shadow of our self-delusion that it really is good. There are family delusions that lead us to call evil good; society delusions; sectarian delusions; and personal delusions. These last are the most serious. A man can easily persuade himself that the pleasant is the right; and he may only mean the pleasant to the body. The pleasant to the soul, the pleasant because of God's benediction, helps to truer judgments.

II. CALLING GOOD EVIL IS THE WAY TO RUIN OUR SOULS. There is no hope for a man when he loses his sensitiveness to good, for with it goes his sensitiveness to God. A man is never lost while he can believe in goodness. There is anchorage in that. He is indeed driven with the wind and tossed hopelessly on the sea of life, if he ever comes to say, "All is evil;" "All is vanity and vexation of spirit;" "All men are liars;" "There is no good: there is neither good nor God." There is good, for there is God. He is God, and much that his creatures do bears the stamp of his goodness. Evil and good are contraries. Hope for humanity lies in their never getting confused. - R.T.

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? These words are directed against the spirit of scepticism and discontent which prevailed amongst the Israelites in the time of the prophets, and they lead us to offer two remarks on the words of scepticism.

I. THEY ARE WORDS OF COMPLAINT AGAINST GOD. "Ye say, Every one that doeth evil is good in the sight of the Lord." This is what they said; this was perhaps their current talk. A very old topic of complaint was theirs. It means this: "Wherefore doth the wicked prosper?" Wherefore are the righteous afflicted? This was the chief problem of the Book of Job; this was the burden of Psalm 73. Since vice is here triumphant and virtue oppressed, "Where is the God of judgment?" If there is a God who governs the world, his righteousness is not seen; on the contrary, he shows more favour to the evil than to the good. "Where is the God of judgment?" We want him to put an end to this state of things.

II. THEY ARE WORDS UNGRATEFUL TO THE EAR OF GOD. "Ye have wearied the Lord with your words." Observe:

1. God hears the words of men. Every syllable enters his ears; he understands our thoughts afar off.

2. Sceptical words are offensive to him "Ye have wearied the Lord with your words." Wearied him with their ignorance, their falseness, their impiety. The creating and the supporting of a universe does not weary God, for he "fainteth not, neither is weary." But the endless chatterings of sceptical and discontented souls weary him.

3. The authors of sceptical words are indifferent to this terrible fact. "Yet ye say, Wherein have we wearied him?" They go on talking against God in their families, their clubs, in their public halls, in their workshops and their warehouses, and are utterly indifferent to the fact that their words are offensive to the ears of the All-hearing One.

CONCLUSION. "I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment." Every idle word. Not merely the profane and impious language of the scoffer and blasphemer, but every idle word - words that have little or no meaning, the most airy words of wit and humour spoken in jest, not to delude or pain, but simply to please. - D.T.

The Pulpit Commentary, Electronic Database.
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