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Malachi 4:1 . Behold, the day cometh that shall burn as an oven. The anger of God against the jews for crucifying “the Lord of glory,” and persecuting his saints. The sin of rejecting the remedy is more than the disease.
It shall burn them up it shall leave them neither root nor branch. It shall make an utter end of all the nobles that condemned the Saviour, and cut off all their infant offspring during the tremendous siege. Surely there is with God a day of retribution for the crimes of men; surely there is a day of redress for a bleeding church, and for suffering saints.
Malachi 4:2 . Unto you that fear my name shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in his wings. While the destruction of the jewish nation, and finally of all the impenitent, is foretold in the most terrific language, and the whole earth threatened with a general conflagration, mercy looks with a tender eye upon the righteous, provides for them an asylum when the storm descends, and calms their fears with the brightest hopes of immortality. The sacred scriptures delight in this sort of contrasted grandeur, where all that is appalling and all that is cheering and delightful commingle in the same sentence. When the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven in flaming fire, taking vengeance on them that know not God and obey not his gospel, he shall at the same time be glorified in his saints and admired in all them that believe. So when it is here foretold by the prophet that storms of vengeance would desolate Judea, and extinguish all their national glory, it is promised to the lowly and tender-hearted, who fear the name of the Lord, that the Sun of righteousness should arise and shed upon them his morning beams, should chase away the long and dreary night, and cheer them with the brightness of the long-expected day. How strikingly was this exemplified in the case of Simeon and Anna, of Zachariah and Elizabeth, and as many as were waiting for the consolation of Israel; and what a glow of holy feeling did the first intimations of the Saviour’s advent create in their bosoms, when they burst into a song of praise, that the day-spring from on high had visited them, to give light to them that sat in darkness, and to guide our feet into the way of peace.
Malachi 4:5 . Behold, I send you Elijah the prophet. John the baptist, as the gospel indicates, coming in the spirit and power of Elijah, whose ministry shall produce a great reformation. But as Elijah was promised, chap. 3. l, why should it be repeated here? And why after Jerusalem is burned, and Christ the sun risen on the earth? Some doctors of great name in the ancient church, think, as some rabbins, that Elijah is yet to be expected in person to effectuate the conversion of the jews to Christ; for at present, the fathers among them seem as though they would kill their children, and the children as though they would kill their parents for believing in Christ.
Before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord. The coming of Christ is generally described by the prophets as an event that would excite the greatest joy, and fill the whole creation with songs of praise. Psalms 96:11; Psalms 96:13. Yet here it is called the great and terrible day of the Lord. Isaiah, when personating the Saviour, gives also a twofold character to his advent. “The day of vengeance is in my heart, and the year of my redeemed is come.” The same event which afforded joy to those who received the Saviour, brought destruction upon those who received him not. The rejection of him and his crucifixion by the unbelieving jews brought such tribulation upon them as had not been since the beginning of the world, in the awful destruction of their city and temple by the Romans. That was the day more immediately referred to in Malachi 4:1, which should burn as an oven, when all the proud, and all that do wickedly, would be as stuble to be burned up, without leaving either root or branch, though this awful threatening will receive its full accomplishment in the last day.
Malachi 4:6 . He shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and of the children to their fathers. Sin has not only made a breach betwixt God and man, but has also separated chief friends, and filled the earth with strife and violence. So baneful are its effects that it turns the tide of natural affection out of its usual course, and alienates even the hearts of parents and children from each other. In addition to its ordinary operation upon society, it appears from well-authenticated history that the jewish people especially were encreasing in crime, from the days of Malachi to the coming of Christ. Having been brought under the authority of the Roman government, one part attached themselves to the interests of their foreign rulers, for the sake of some private advantage, and accepted offices of emolument under them, which rendered such mercenaries sufficiently odious to their countrymen. Some enlisted themselves in the Roman army, and treated their brethren with violence and outrage, as is plainly intimated by the admonitions of John the baptist. Luke 3:14. Others became publicans, or farmers of the public taxes, coöperating with the government in a system of oppression. A spirit of selfishness pervaded all ranks and orders of men, prompting one party to acts of injustice, and exciting in another feelings of discontent and of bitter antipathy. In addition to this, the jewish community were divided into religious sects and parties, hearing the most inveterate hatred to each other, while they were as much opposed to truth and righteousness as they could be to one another.
Lest I come and smite the earth with a curse. The ministry of John the baptist, it is here foretold, would have a conciliatory tendency, turning men’s hearts to each other, and so averting the curse suspended over that sinful people. This effect however was not produced by merely attempting to effect an outward reformation among the people, but by first bringing them to true repentance, to a state of reconciliation with God through the mediator, and so to peace and harmony among themselves. John’s ministry is described by an evangelist as turning the hearts of the fathers to the children by turning the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, and thus making ready a people prepared for the Lord. His errand was to call sinners to repentance, and to faith in Him whose harbinger he was; and wherever this effect was produced a new bond of union existed, and former antipathies were forgotten. Those who repented and believed the gospel were as the salt of the land, and it seems to have been for their sakes that its punishment was deferred till forty years after they had crucified the Lord of glory. When God had taken out a people from among them, the remnant grew worse and worse, till at last the curse overtook them. Having “killed the Lord Jesus and their own prophets,” they filled up the measure of their iniquity, by persecuting the followers of Christ with unmitigable rage and fury, until “the great and terrible day of the Lord” came, and utterly destroyed them as a nation. From that time the land of Judea has been “smitten with a curse,” and under the curse it continues to this day, an awful proof of the truth of prophecy, and a lasting warning to the enemies of Christ.
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Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on Malachi 4". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 23 / Ordinary 28