Mal 3:1-18. Messiah's Coming, Preceded by His Forerunner, to Punish the Guilty for Various Sins, and to Reward Those Who Fear God.
1. Behold -- Calling especial attention to the momentous truths which follow. Ye unbelievingly ask, Where is the God of judgment (Mal 2:7)? |Behold,| therefore, |I send,| &c. Your unbelief will not prevent My keeping My covenant, and bringing to pass in due time that which ye say will never be fulfilled.
I will send ... he shall come -- The Father sends the Son: the Son comes. Proving the distinctness of personality between the Father and the Son.
my messenger -- John the Baptist; as Mt 3:3; 11:10; Mr 1:2, 3; Lu 1:76; 3:4; 7:26, 27; Joh 1:23, prove. This passage of Malachi evidently rests on that of Isaiah his predecessor (Isa 40:3-5). Perhaps also, as Hengstenberg thinks, |messenger| includes the long line of prophets headed by Elijah (whence his name is put in Mal 4:5 as a representative name), and terminating in John, the last and greatest of the prophets (Mt 11:9-11). John as the representative prophet (the forerunner of Messiah the representative God-man) gathered in himself all the scattered lineaments of previous prophecy (hence Christ terms him |much more than a prophet,| Lu 7:26), reproducing all its awful and yet inspiriting utterances: his coarse garb, like that of the old prophets, being a visible exhortation to repentance; the wilderness in which he preached symbolizing the lifeless, barren state of the Jews at that time, politically and spiritually; his topics sin, repentance, and salvation, presenting for the last time the condensed epitome of all previous teachings of God by His prophets; so that he is called pre-eminently God's |messenger.| Hence the oldest and true reading of Mr 1:2 is, |as it is written in Isaiah the prophet|; the difficulty of which is, How can the prophecy of Malachi be referred to Isaiah? The explanation is: the passage in Malachi rests on that in Isa 40:3, and therefore the original source of the prophecy is referred to in order to mark this dependency and connection.
the Lord -- Ha-Adon in Hebrew. The article marks that it is Jehovah (Ex 23:17; 34:23; compare Jos 3:11, 13). Compare Da 9:17, where the Divine Son is meant by |for THE Lord's sake.| God the speaker makes |the Lord,| the |messenger of the covenant,| one with Himself. |I will send ... before Me,| adding, |THE Lord ... shall ... come|; so that |the Lord| must be one with the |Me,| that is, He must be God, |before| whom John was sent. As the divinity of the Son and His oneness with the Father are thus proved, so the distinctness of personality is proved by |I send| and He |shall come,| as distinguished from one another. He also comes to the temple as |His temple|: marking His divine lordship over it, as contrasted with all creatures, who are but |servants in| it (Hag 2:7; Heb 3:2, 5, 6).
whom ye seek ... whom ye delight in -- (see on Mal 2:17). At His first coming they |sought| and |delighted in| the hope of a temporal Saviour: not in what He then was. In the case of those whom Malachi in his time addresses, |whom ye seek ... delight in,| is ironical. They unbelievingly asked, When will He come at last? Mal 2:17, |Where is the God of judgment| (Isa 5:19; Am 5:18; 2Pe 3:3, 4)? In the case of the godly, the desire for Messiah was sincere (Lu 2:25, 28). He is called |Angel of God's presence| (Isa 63:9), also Angel of Jehovah. Compare His appearances to Abraham (Ge 18:1, 2, 17, 33), to Jacob (Ge 31:11; 48:15, 16), to Moses in the bush (Ex 3:2-6); He went before Israel as the Shekinah (Ex 14:19), and delivered the law at Sinai (Ac 7:38).
suddenly -- This epithet marks the second coming, rather than the first; the earnest of that unexpected coming (Lu 12:38-46; Re 16:15) to judgment was given in the judicial expulsion of the money-changing profaners from the temple by Messiah (Mt 21:12, 13), where also as here He calls the temple His temple. Also in the destruction of Jerusalem, most unexpected by the Jews, who to the last deceived themselves with the expectation that Messiah would suddenly appear as a temporal Saviour. Compare the use of |suddenly| in Nu 12:4-10, where He appeared in wrath.
messenger of the covenant -- namely, of the ancient covenant with Israel (Isa 63:9) and Abraham, in which the promise to the Gentiles is ultimately included (Ga 4:16, 17). The gospel at the first advent began with Israel, then embraced the Gentile world: so also it shall be at the second advent. All the manifestations of God in the Old Testament, the Shekinah and human appearances, were made in the person of the Divine Son (Ex 23:20, 21; Heb 11:26; 12:26). He was the messenger of the old covenant, as well as of the new.
2. (Mal 4:1; Re 6:16, 17). The Messiah would come, not, as they expected, to flatter the theocratic nation's prejudices, but to subject their principles to the fiery test of His heart-searching truth (Mt 3:10-12), and to destroy Jerusalem and the theocracy after they had rejected Him. His mission is here regarded as a whole from the first to the second advent: the process of refining and separating the godly from the ungodly beginning during Christ's stay on earth, going on ever since, and about to continue till the final separation (Mt 25:31-46). The refining process, whereby a third of the Jews is refined as silver of its dross, while two-thirds perish, is described, Zec 13:8, 9 (compare Isa 1:25).
3. sit -- The purifier sits before the crucible, fixing his eye on the metal, and taking care that the fire be not too hot, and keeping the metal in, only until he knows the dross to be completely removed by his seeing his own image reflected (Ro 8:29) in the glowing mass. So the Lord in the case of His elect (Job 23:10; Ps 66:10; Pr 17:3; Isa 48:10; Heb 12:10; 1Pe 1:7). He will sit down to the work, not perfunctorily, but with patient love and unflinching justice. The Angel of the Covenant, as in leading His people out of Egypt by the pillar of cloud and fire, has an aspect of terror to His foes, of love to His friends. The same separating process goes on in the world as in each Christian. When the godly are completely separated from the ungodly, the world will end. When the dross is taken from the gold of the Christian, he will be for ever delivered from the furnace of trial. The purer the gold, the hotter the fire now; the whiter the garment, the harder the washing [Moore].
purify ... sons of Levi -- of the sins specified above. The very Levites, the ministers of God, then needed cleansing, so universal was the depravity.
that they may offer ... in righteousness -- as originally (Mal 2:6), not as latterly (Mal 1:7-14). So believers, the spiritual priesthood (1Pe 2:5).
4. as in the days of old -- (Mal 1:11; 2:5, 6). The |offering| (Mincha, Hebrew) is not expiatory, but prayer, thanksgiving, and self-dedication (Ro 12:1; Heb 13:15; 1Pe 2:5).
5. I ... come near ... to judgment -- I whom ye challenged, saying, |Where is the God of judgment?| (Mal 2:17). I whom ye think far off, and to be slow in judgment, am |near,| and will come as a |swift witness|; not only a judge, but also an eye-witness against sorcerers; for Mine eyes see every sin, though ye think I take no heed. Earthly judges need witnesses to enable them to decide aright: I alone need none (Ps 10:11; 73:11; 94:7, &c.).
sorcerers -- a sin into which the Jews were led in connection with their foreign idolatrous wives. The Jews of Christ's time also practised sorcery (Ac 8:9; 13:6; Ga 5:20; Josephus [Antiquities, 20.6; Wars of the Jews, 2.12.23]). It shall be a characteristic of the last Antichristian confederacy, about to be consumed by the brightness of Christ's Coming (Mt 24:24; 2Th 2:9; Re 13:13, 14; 16:13, 14; also Re 9:21; 18:23; 21:8; 22:15). Romanism has practised it; an order of exorcists exists in that Church.
adulterers -- (Mal 2:15, 16).
fear not me -- the source of all sins.
6. the Lord -- Jehovah: a name implying His immutable faithfulness in fulfilling His promises: the covenant name of God to the Jews (Ex 6:3), called here |the sons of Jacob,| in reference to God's covenant with that patriarch.
I change not -- Ye are mistaken in inferring that, because I have not yet executed judgment on the wicked, I am changed from what I once was, namely, a God of judgment.
therefore ye ... are not consumed -- Ye yourselves being |not consumed,| as ye have long ago deserved, are a signal proof of My unchangeableness. Ro 11:29: compare the whole chapter, in which God's mercy in store for Israel is made wholly to flow from God's unchanging faithfulness to His own covenant of love. So here, as is implied by the phrase |sons of Jacob| (Ge 28:13; 35:12). They are spared because I am Jehovah, and they sons of Jacob; while I spare them, I will also punish them; and while I punish them, I will not wholly consume them. The unchangeableness of God is the sheet-anchor of the Church. The perseverance of the saints is guaranteed, not by their unchangeable love to God, but by His unchangeable love to them, and His eternal purpose and promise in Christ Jesus [Moore]. He upbraids their ingratitude that they turn His very long-suffering (La 3:22) into a ground for skeptical denial of His coming as a Judge at all (Ps 50:1, 3, 4, 21; Ec 8:11, 12; Isa 57:11; Ro 2:4-10).
7-12. Reproof for the non-payment of tithes and offerings, which is the cause of their national calamities, and promise of prosperity on their paying them.
from ... days of your fathers -- Ye live as your fathers did when they brought on themselves the Babylonian captivity, and ye wish to follow in their steps. This shows that nothing but God's unchanging long-suffering had prevented their being long ago |consumed| (Mal 3:6).
Return unto me -- in penitence.
I will return unto you -- in blessings.
Wherein, &c. -- (Mal 3:16). The same insensibility to their guilt continues: they speak in the tone of injured innocence, as if God calumniated them.
8. rob -- literally, |cover|: hence, defraud. Do ye call defrauding God no sin to be |returned| from (Mal 3:7)? Yet ye have done so to Me in respect to the tithes due to Me, namely, the tenth of all the remainder after the first-fruits were paid, which tenth was paid to the Levites for their support (Le 27:30-33): a tenth paid by the Levites to the priests (Nu 18:26-28): a second tenth paid by the people for the entertainment of the Levites, and their own families, at the tabernacle (De 12:18): another tithe every third year for the poor, &c. (De 14:28, 29).
offerings -- the first-fruits, not less than one-sixtieth part of the corn, wine, and oil (De 18:4; Ne 13:10, 12). The priests had this perquisite also, the tenth of the tithes which were the Levites perquisite. But they appropriated all the tithes, robbing the Levites of their due nine-tenths; as they did also, according to Josephus, before the destruction of Jerusalem by Titus. Thus doubly God was defrauded, the priests not discharging aright their sacrificial duties, and robbing God of the services of the Levites, who were driven away by destitution [Grotius].
9. cursed -- (Mal 2:2). As ye despoil Me, so I despoil you, as I threatened I would, if ye continued to disregard Me. In trying to defraud God we only defraud ourselves. The eagle who robbed the altar set fire to her nest from the burning coal that adhered to the stolen flesh. So men who retain God's money in their treasuries will find it a losing possession. No man ever yet lost by serving God with a whole heart, nor gained by serving Him with a half one. We may compromise with conscience for half the price, but God will not endorse the compromise; and, like Ananias and Sapphira, we shall lose not only what we thought we had purchased so cheaply, but also the price we paid for it. If we would have God |open| His treasury, we must open ours. One cause of the barrenness of the Church is the parsimony of its members [Moore].
10. (Pr 3:9, 10).
storehouse -- (2Ch 31:11, Margin; compare 1Ch 26:20; Ne 10:38; 13:5, 12).
prove me ... herewith -- with this; by doing so. Test Me whether I will keep My promise of blessing you, on condition of your doing your part (2Ch 31:10).
pour ... out -- literally, |empty out|: image from a vessel completely emptied of its contents: no blessing being kept back.
windows of heaven -- (2Ki 2:7).
that ... not ... room enough, &c. -- literally, |even to not ... sufficiency,| that is, either, as English Version. Or, even so as that there should be |not merely| |sufficiency| but superabundance [Jerome, Maurer]. Gesenius not so well translates, |Even to a failure of sufficiency,| which in the case of God could never arise, and therefore means for ever, perpetually: so Ps 72:5, |as long as the sun and moon endure|; literally, |until a failure of the sun and moon,| which is never to be; and therefore means, for ever.
11. I will rebuke -- (See on Mal 2:3). I will no longer |rebuke (English Version, 'corrupt') the seed,| but will rebuke every agency that could hurt it (Am 4:9).
12. Fulfilling the blessing (De 33:29; Zec 8:13).
delightsome land -- (Da 8:9).
13-18. He notices the complaint of the Jews that it is of no profit to serve Jehovah, for that the ungodly proud are happy; and declares He will soon bring the day when it shall be known that He puts an everlasting distinction between the godly and the ungodly.
words ... stout -- Hebrew, |hard|; so |the hard speeches which ungodly sinners have spoken against Him| (Jude 15) [Henderson].
have we spoken -- The Hebrew expresses at once their assiduity and habit of speaking against God [Vatablus]. The niphal form of the verb implies that these things were said, not directly to God, but of God, to one another (Eze 33:20) [Moore].
14. what profit ... that we ... kept, &c. -- (See on Mal 2:17). They here resume the same murmur against God. Job 21:14, 15; 22:17 describe a further stage of the same skeptical spirit, when the skeptic has actually ceased to keep God's service. Ps 73:1-14 describes the temptation to a like feeling in the saint when seeing the really godly suffer and the ungodly prosper in worldly goods now. The Jews here mistake utterly the nature of God's service, converting it into a mercenary bargain; they attended to outward observances, not from love to God, but in the hope of being well paid for in outward prosperity; when this was withheld, they charged God with being unjust, forgetting alike that God requires very different motives from theirs to accompany outward observances, and that God rewards even the true worshipper not so much in this life, as in the life to come.
his ordinance -- literally, what He requires to be kept, |His observances.|
walked mournfully -- in mournful garb, sackcloth and ashes, the emblems of penitence; they forget Isa 58:3-8, where God, by showing what is true fasting, similarly rebukes those who then also said, Wherefore have we fasted and Thou seest not? &c. They mistook the outward show for real humiliation.
15. And now -- Since we who serve Jehovah are not prosperous and |the proud| heathen flourish in prosperity, we must pronounce them the favorites of God (Mal 2:17; Ps 73:12).
set up -- literally, |built up|: metaphor from architecture (Pr 24:3; compare Ge 16:2, Margin; Ge 30:3, Margin.)
tempt God -- dare God to punish them, by breaking His laws (Ps 95:9).
16. |Then,| when the ungodly utter such blasphemies against God, the godly hold mutual converse, defending God's righteous dealings against those blasphemers (Heb 3:13). The |often| of English Version is not in the Hebrew. There has been always in the darkest times a remnant that feared God (1Ki 19:18; Ro 11:4).
feared the Lord -- reverential and loving fear, not slavish terror. When the fire of religion burns low, true believers should draw the nearer together, to keep the holy flame alive. Coals separated soon go out.
book of remembrance ... for them -- for their advantage, against the day when those found faithful among the faithless shall receive their final reward. The kings of Persia kept a record of those who had rendered services to the king, that they might be suitably rewarded (Es 6:1, 2; compare Es 2:23; Ezr 4:15; Ps 56:8; Isa 65:6; Da 7:10; Re 20:12). Calvin makes the fearers of God to be those awakened from among the ungodly mass (before described) to true repentance; the writing of the book thus will imply that some were reclaimable among the blasphemers, and that the godly should be assured that, though no hope appeared, there would be a door of penitence opened for them before God. But there is nothing in the context to support this view.
17. jewels -- (Isa 62:3). Literally, |My peculiar treasure| (Ex 19:5; De 7:6; 14:2; 26:18; Ps 135:4; Tit 2:14; 1Pe 2:9; compare Ec 2:8). Calvin translates more in accordance with Hebrew idiom, |They shall be My peculiar treasure in the day in which I will do it| (that is, fulfil My promise of gathering My completed Church; or, |make| those things come to pass foretold in Mal 3:5 above [Grotius]); so in Mal 4:3 |do| is used absolutely, |in the day that I shall do this.| Maurer, not so well, translates, |in the day which I shall make,| that is, appoint as in Ps 118:24.
as ... man spareth ... son -- (Ps 103:18).
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.