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Preparation For The Messenger Of The Covenant
Malachi means, “My messenger.” It was through him Jehovah declared, “Behold, I will send My messenger (using the same word as the prophet’s name), 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” (ver. 1). Thus was John’s coming predicted as the herald of the King, Messiah, but in such a way as to make it plain that Messiah Himself was identified with Jehovah; for the word is, “He shall prepare the way before Me.” (See Matthew 11:10; Mark 1:2; and Luke 1:76; Luke 7:28). It is also of importance to notice that “angel” and “messenger” are one in the Hebrew. So John was the angel of Jesus, but Jesus Himself was the Covenant-Angel of whom Jehovah had said long ago, “My name is in Him” (Exodus 23:20, Exodus 23:21). To the very temple but lately rebuilt by Zerubbabel, though afterwards enlarged and beautified by Herod, did He suddenly come as the Nazarene, only to be despised, rejected, and crucified.
But another coming is clearly foretold here; for when it actually takes place, the unholy will not be able to abide it, nor to stand in His presence. As a refiner and purifier He shall sit to purify and purge the Levitical family, setting apart for Himself the sons of Zadok (Ezekiel 48:11), who shall have turned to Him, owning their guilt and judging themselves for their share in the sins of the priesthood. Upon the rest judgment must burn like fire (vers. 2 and 3).
It seems plain from verse 4, as also the 43rd chapter of Ezekiel, that in the days when the kingdom is established over all the earth, sacrifices and offerings will be reinstituted in Jerusalem and the land of Judah, though only as commemorative of the one great sacrifice of the cross; thus sustaining to millennial saints the same relationship that the Lord’s Supper now occupies among Christians.
The evil-doers will be weeded out from among the people, and a righteous remnant alone be preserved, “For I am Jehovah, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed” (vers. 5, 6).
Never had they kept His ordinances in a completely scriptural manner. But from the days of their fathers they had departed from what He had caused to be written for their guidance. So, in view of the advent of the Messenger of the covenant, He bids them return unto Him in heart, that He may return unto them with blessing and loving favor. But, as so often before, they arrogantly ask, “Wherein shall we return?” (ver. 7). There was no sense of need or of failure. Quite the contrary; they were self-satisfied and content. So long as outward forms and ceremonies were attended to, they saw no reason to search and try their ways.
So their sinfulness has to be pressed upon them more strongly still. “Will a man rob God?” Yet they had deliberately robbed Him. With amazing effrontery, they ask, “Wherein have we robbed Thee?” He replies, “In tithes and offerings,” and declares that the curse of the violated law rested upon the whole nation. It is a question which was the most solemn-their sinful course, or their calm indifference concerning it. Conscience seemed completely gone; and when a good conscience has been put away, anything can be indulged in with a degree of self-assurance that seems inexplicable (vers. 8, 9).
Still, terrible as their failure had been, it is not too late yet to repent. He calls upon them to bring all the tithes into the storehouse, in this way acknowledge their stewardship under Him, and that needful provision may be made for those who served in the temple, thus releasing them from attention to carnal things; and they are promised abundant blessing if they but heed His voice. He would have them prove Him, and see if He would not open the windows of heaven and pour out upon them such a shower of spiritual refreshment that they would be straitened as to storing it. The devourer, too, He would rebuke for their sakes, causing their enemies to cease from molesting them, that in peace and quietness they might enjoy the abundant fruits of their labor. Blessed with all that heart could desire, both spiritually and temporally, all nations would call them the happy people, and theirs should be a land of delight (vers. 10-12).
All this is to be literally fulfilled when the spirit of grace and supplication is poured out upon the future repentant remnant, and they return to God with their whole heart. Everything waits upon this, even as the Lord Jesus Himself declared, “Ye shall not see Me henceforth till ye shall say, Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord.”
But for saints of every dispensation an important principle is here enunciated-blessing waits on true devotion of heart. Let all that is due to the Lord, long withheld because of our selfishness, be rendered to Him-all the tithes brought in, and He will rejoice to pour down showers of blessing upon His waiting and expectant people. God delights to give; but our low, earthly-minded state so frequently hinders His visiting us with a gracious revival. “Let us search and try our ways, and turn again to the Lord” (Lamentations 3:40) is a word in season at the present solemn moment in the Church’s history.
For Judah, the era of blessing had not yet dawned, nor has it ever really come since; for they knew not the time of their visitation. Their words were stout, or strong, against God; yet, when He challenged them as to this, for the eighth time, they brazenly challenged Him in return, inquiring, “What have we spoken so much against Thee?” (ver. 13). No appeal, entreaty, or warning, seemed to move them, or to turn them in the slightest degree from their self-complacency and egoism.
Yet they had said, “It is vain to serve God,” for they blindly estimated things by the standard of worldly prosperity; and as they contrasted their lowly lot with the proud surrounding nations, they considered there had been no profit in keeping Jehovah’s word and seeking to obey His voice. What they did not take into account was that they were part of a failed nation, and still reaping the sad fruit of their fathers’ evil sowing, So they were stumbled at the prosperity of the wicked, but did not, like Asaph, enter with unshod feet into the sanctuary, that they might understand the end of the enemies of the Lord. (See Psalms 73:0.)
Nevertheless all were not thus insensate and gainsaying. A remnant is distinguished in vers. 16 to 18 that may well be a shining example to us. In the midst of all the declension and cold-heartedness of the mass, a few there were who feared Jehovah, and sought each other out in the dark and cloudy day, speaking often one to another of the precious and serious things pertaining to a walk with God. The Lord took pleasure in this feeble company, and hearkened, and heard their communings and their confessions, and entered their despised names in a book of remembrance, which will soon be opened at the judgment-seat of Christ: “And they shall be Mine, saith the Lord of hosts, in that day when I make up My peculiar treasure;” for as they had found their treasure in Him, He found His in them. In the day when He shall visit upon the wicked their iniquities He will spare the remnant, discerning between those who truly served Him, and those who had no heart for His Word. It is a striking and beautiful passage, that is rich in the ministry of comfort and cheer to the tried and tested ones who value fellowship with God above all else.
Occupation with the evil can only weaken the hand and distress the spirit. But occupation with Him who sits in peace above all the mists of earth will strengthen and cheer, and prove the only real power for practical holiness and victory over all the might of the enemy.
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Ironside, H. A. "Commentary on Malachi 3". Ironside's Notes on Selected Books. https://www.studylight.org/
the Sixth Week after Easter