Malachi 3:18
Then shall ye return, and discern between the righteous and the wicked, between him that serveth God and him that serveth him not.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
Malachi 3:18. Then shall ye — Ye contemners of God and religion; return and discern — See clearly, and distinguish perfectly; between the righteous and the wicked — Between the characters and the portion of the truly righteous, and of those who are not so. How different the lot is, and to all eternity will be, between the former and the latter; between him that serveth God — And makes conscience of his duty to him, and him that serveth him not — But puts contempt upon his service. You that now speak against God, as making no difference between the good and bad, and therefore say, It is vain to serve him, Malachi 3:14, you shall be made to see your error: and you that speak for God, but know not what to say to this, that there seems to be one event to the righteous and the wicked, and that all things come alike to all, will then have the matter set in a true light, and will see to your everlasting satisfaction the difference between the holy and the profane, the godly and the ungodly. Then shall ye return — That is, change your minds, and come to a right understanding of this most important matter. For then every man’s character will be both perfected and perfectly discovered; and every man appear in his true colours; and every man’s condition, likewise, will be both perfectly happy or miserable, without mixture or alloy, and everlastingly determined.

3:13-18 Among the Jews at this time, some plainly discovered themselves to be children of the wicked one. The yoke of Christ is easy. But those who work wickedness, tempt God by presumptuous sins. Judge of things as they will appear when the doom of these proud sinners comes to be executed. Those that feared the Lord, spake kindly, for preserving and promoting mutual love, when sin thus abounded. They spake one to another, in the language of those that fear the Lord, and think on his name. As evil communications corrupt good minds and manners, so good communications confirm them. A book of remembrance was written before God. He will take care that his children perish not with those that believe not. They shall be vessels of mercy and honour, when the rest are made vessels of wrath and dishonour. The saints are God's jewels; they are dear to him. He will preserve them as his jewels, when the earth is burned up like dross. Those who now own God for theirs, he will then own for his. It is our duty to serve God with the disposition of children; and he will not have his children trained up in idleness; they must do him service from a principle of love. Even God's children stand in need of sparing mercy. All are righteous or wicked, such as serve God, or such as serve him not: all are going to heaven or to hell. We are often deceived in our opinions concerning both the one and the other; but at the bar of Christ, every man's character will be known. As to ourselves, we have need to think among which we shall have our lot; and, as to others, we must judge nothing before the time. But in the end all the world will confess that those alone were wise and happy, who served the Lord and trusted in Him.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!" 18. Then shall ye … discern—Then shall ye see the falseness of your calumny against God's government (Mal 3:15), that the "proud" and wicked prosper. Do not judge before the time till My work is complete. It is in part to test your disposition to trust in God in spite of perplexing appearances, and in order to make your service less mercenary, that the present blended state is allowed; but at last all ("ye," both godly and ungodly) shall see the eternal difference there really is "between him that serveth God and him that serveth Him not" (Ps 58:11).

return—Ye shall turn to a better state of mind on this point.

Then, when that day of the Lord punishing the Jews by the Romans shall come, and he shall do thus for his jewels, shall ye, the blasphemous scoffers, proud contemnors of God and. religion, return; return to your reason, enforced by the convincing power of God’s judgments to come to yourselves, or to change your opinion of God and his government.

Discern between the righteous and the wicked; clearly see, with envy towards them, with horror and grief in yourselves, the unexpected escape and happiness of the righteous who served God and your misery that served him not, but were wicked, and perish now in your wickedness.

Then, when that day of the Lord punishing the Jews by the Romans shall come, and he shall do thus for his jewels, shall ye, the blasphemous scoffers, proud contemnors of God and. religion, return; return to your reason, enforced by the convincing power of God’s judgments to come to yourselves, or to change your opinion of God and his government.

Discern between the righteous and the wicked; clearly see, with envy towards them, with horror and grief in yourselves, the unexpected escape and happiness of the righteous who served God and your misery that served him not, but were wicked, and perish now in your wickedness.

Then shall ye return,.... Either the wicked, who will be "converted" (z), as some render the word, and will have a different view of things, and change their minds and language; or they that feared the Lord, who at the time before spoken of will have a new turn of thought, and another and clear discerning of persons and things, and better judge of the dispensations of Providence: some that refer this to the resurrection of the dead, and the last judgment, understand it, as Abarbinel does, of the returning of souls to their bodies, when indeed the difference between persons after described will be very discernible; but it seems to refer to the time of Christ's first coming, and Jerusalem's destruction:

and discern between the righteous and the wicked; the difference between such who are really and truly righteous, who are here meant, even such who believe in Christ, and are justified by his righteousness; and those that are wicked, as all by nature are: though sometimes this character designs the more profane and abandoned, and even professors of religion; the difference between these is not always easily discerned; as for the righteous, they are not known and discerned by the world; and by reason of afflictions, temptations, and sins, they are apt to judge wrong of themselves; and sometimes are so left to fall into sin, that they look like others: and there are wicked men under the appearance of righteous men, as were the Scribes and Pharisees in Christ's time; but by the destruction that came upon them, and the preservation of such as believed in Christ, it was discernible who were wicked, and who were righteous; indeed, at the last day, this difference will be more visible; in the bodies of the righteous, which will be raised glorious, when those of the wicked will not; in their souls, having on the wedding garment, the robe of Christ's righteousness, and perfectly holy; and in their situation, being set at Christ's right hand, and the wicked at his left; and by the characters that will be given of them by the Judge, and the different sentences passed and executed on them:

between him that serveth God and him that serveth him not; that is, between such persons that serve the Lord, and him only, privately and publicly, in righteousness and true holiness, in spirit and in truth, with faith and fervency, with reverence and fear, heartily and willingly, seeking his glory, without any dependence on their services; and those that are ungodly, or only outwardly serve the Lord, for sinister ends, and with selfish views, and according to their own inventions, and the traditions of men, and not the will of God, as the Scribes and Pharisees; between whom, and Christ's sincere disciples and followers, the awful day, described in the next chapter Malachi 4:1, will make a manifest difference.

(z) "et convertemini", Cocceius, Gussetius, so Pagninus, Montanus; "conversi", Drusius, Junius & Tremellius.

Then shall ye return, and discern between the righteous and the wicked, between him that serveth God and him that serveth him not.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
18. return, and discern] When “judgment shall return unto righteousness” (Psalm 94:15), when, that is, the judgement of God shall not only be, as it ever is, but be seen to be righteous, then not only shall “all the upright in heart follow it” with glad approval, but those who have impiously called it in question (Malachi 3:14-15) shall witness and confess the justice of the discriminating sentence.

Verse 18. - Then shall ye return, and discern; or, ye shall again discern. They had already had many opportunities, both in the history of the nation and the life of individuals, of observing the different treatment of the godly and of sinners; but in the day of the Lord they should have a more plain and convincing proof of God's moral government (comp. Exodus 11:7; Wisd. 5:1-5); "So that men shall say, Verily there is a reward for the righteous; verily there is a God that judgeth in the earth" (Psalm 58:11).



Malachi 3:18With these foolish speeches the prophet proceeds in Malachi 3:16. to contrast the conduct of those who fear God, pointing to the blessing which they derive from their piety. Malachi 3:16. "Then those who feared Jehovah conversed with one another, and Jehovah attended and heard, and a book of remembrance was written before Him, for those who fear Jehovah and reverence His name. Malachi 3:17. And they will be to me as a possession, saith Jehovah of hosts, for the day that I create, and I will spare them as a man spareth his son that serveth him. Malachi 3:18. And ye will again perceive the difference between the righteous and the wicked, between him that serveth God and him that serveth Him not." אז, then, indicates that the conversation of those who feared God had been occasioned by the words of the ungodly. The substance of this conversation is not described more minutely, but may be gathered from the context, namely, from the statement as to the attitude in which Jehovah stood towards them. We may see from this, that they strengthened themselves in their faith in Jehovah, as the holy God and just Judge who would in due time repay both the wicked and the righteous according to their deeds, and thus presented a great contrast to the great mass with their blasphemous sayings. This description of the conduct of the godly is an indirect admonition to the people, as to what their attitude towards God ought to be. What was done by those who feared Jehovah ought to be taken as a model by the whole nation which called Jehovah its God. Jehovah not only took notice of these conversations, but had them written in a book of remembrance, to reward them for them in due time. Writing in a book of remembrance recals to mind the custom of the Persians, of having the names of those who deserved well of the king entered in a book with a notice of their merits, that they might be rewarded for them at some future time (Esther 6:1); but it rests upon the much older idea, that the names and actions of the righteous are written in a book before God (cf. Psalm 56:9; Daniel 7:10). This book was written לפניו, before Jehovah, i.e., not in His presence, but in order that it might lie before Jehovah, and remind Him of the righteous and their deeds. ליראי is a dat. com.: "for those who fear God," i.e., for their good. חשׁב שׁם, to consider or value the name of the Lord (cf. Isaiah 13:17; Isaiah 33:8). This writing was done because the Lord would make them His own on the day of His coming, and show them mercy. Layyōm: for the day equals on the day; the lamed denoting the time, as in Isaiah 10:3; Genesis 21:2, etc. The day which Jehovah makes is the day of the judgment which attends His coming. Segullâh is the object, not to ‛ōseh, as we might suppose according to the accents, but to hâyū: they will be my possession on the day which I create. This is evident partly from a comparison of Malachi 4:3, where the words יום אשׁר אני עשׂה recur, and partly from the original passage in Exodus 19:5 : ye will be to me segullâh, i.e., a valued possession (see the comm.). The righteous will then be a possession for Jehovah, because on that day the glory of the children of God will first be revealed, and the Israel of God will reach the mark of its heavenly calling (see Colossians 3:4). The Lord will spare them in the judgment as a father spares his son who serves him. The expression to spare may be explained from the contrast to the punishment of the ungodly. In Malachi 3:18 the prophet bids the murmurers consider what has been said concerning the righteous, by telling them that they will then see the difference between the righteous who serve God, and the wicked who do not serve Him, that is to say, will learn that it is always profitable to serve God. שׁבתּם before ראיתם is to be taken adverbially: ye will see again. The expression "again" presupposes that the difference between those who feared God and the ungodly was to be seen before, and that the Lord had already made it manifest by former judgments. This had been the case in Egypt, where the Lord had caused such a separation to be made (Exodus 11:7). The words do not imply that the persons addressed had previously stood in a different relation to this question from that in which they were standing then (Koehler). ראה בין does not mean to look in between (Hitzig), but בּין is used in the sense of a substantive, signifying that which is between the two, the difference between the two. That בּין was originally a noun is evident from the dual הבּינים in 1 Samuel 17:4, 1 Samuel 17:23.
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