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the Week of Proper 11 / Ordinary 16
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Bible Commentaries
Malachi 3

Old & New Testament Restoration CommentaryRestoration Commentary

Verses 1-6

Mal 3:1-6

BEHOLD, I SEND MY MESSENGER . . . Malachi 3:1

Here is God’s answer to their question, “where is the God of justice.” Suddenly the Lord will appear in the temple heralded by His forerunner.

Isaiah had made a similar prediction. (Isaiah 40:3-5).

The New Testament applies Malachi’s prophecy to John the Baptist. (e.g. Matthew 3:3; Matthew 11:10, Mark 1:2-3, Luke 1:76; Luke 3:4; Luke 7:26-27, John 1:23) The obvious fulfillment of this promise in the baptist’s ministry would be difficult for any open-minded Bible student to overlook.

The sudden appearance of the Lord mentioned hare was interpreted by the Rabbis as a dramatic explosive visitation by which the Messiah would announce His presence. It was this popular expectation which the devil exploited in tempting Jesus to cast Himself from the pinnacle of the temple. (Luke 4:9) To have done so would have won for Him instant acceptance as the Messiah on the basis of popular though erroneous expectation.

“The messenger of the covenant . . . What more apt description could there be of Him Whose coming formed the heart of God’s covenant promise? How fitting that the writer of Hebrews should introduce his comparison of the Old and New Covenants with the argument for the superiority of the New based on the superiority of the Son over the prophets, angels and Moses, who were the messengers of the Old. (cp. Hebrews 1:1 to Hebrews 2:4)

Zerr: Malachi 3:1. The book of Malachi is the last of the inspired writings until we come to the New Testament, and there is a space of about 4 centuries to intervene. The prophets have frequently gone from fleshly to spiritual Israel in their predictions and exhortations, either drawing parallels or showing contrasts as the nature of the occasion suggested. This book so far has consisted mostly of condemnation and admonition for fleshly Israel because of the worldiness and selfish· ness of their officials especially. It was appropriate, therefore, to jump across the chasm of four hundred years to the time when the Lord expected to give the world a new religious system that would be far superior and more exacting than the old one. This and the following chapter is taken up vith alternating between fleshly and spiritual Israel, speaking first of one and then the other, going back and forth from one of them to the other. Our present verse goes to the time of spiritual Israel and predicts that the importance of that system is so great that a preparatory work will need to be done before the Author of that system begins His work. Hence God said he would send his ’messenger ahead, and according to Matthew 11:10-11; Mark 1:24 he was John the Baptist. Come to his tentple means his kingdom or church, for that institution is so called in 2 Corinthians 6:16. Messenger of the covenant. The most important covenant that God made with Abraham is recorded in Genesis 12:3 Genesis 22:18, which is a promise of Christ. That would identify Christ as "the messenger of the covenant."

(Malachi 3:2-6) “Who can abide the day of His coming? The Messiah was coming but not to confirm the racial arrogance or religious exclusiveness of these false Israelites. John will speak of Him as one “whose fan is in His hand, and He will thoroughly cleanse His threshing-floor; and He will gather His wheat into the garner but the chaff He will burn up with unquenchable fire.” (Matthew 3:12).

Malachi here makes a like prediction. By a change of metaphors he describes the Messiah’s judgement first as fuller’s soap then as refiners fire. In this sense, soap and fire have one thing in common, both remove, impurity. The entire ministry of the Messiah, including His first coming, the intervening age and His second coming, will purge the impurities from the people of God. Those whose profession is false, whose hope is based on false ambition and nationalistic exclusiveness will be removed from Israel. The remnant will be saved. This refining process is described by Zechariah as removing all but a third of those who call themselves Israel. (cp. Isaiah 1:25)

Zerr: Malachi 3:2. Abide the day of his coming means to face it or feel equal to the awfulness of that day. It is because it will be very thorough in its treatment of sinners in the process of cleansing or purifying them.

(Malachi 3:3-4) Since Malachi’s primary concern is with false priests (see above on Malachi 3:1-10 -ff), he pictures the Messiah, in verse three, as a refiner sitting before the crucible in which the sons of Levi are purged of those who are unfaithful so that they will offer to Jehovah offerings in righteousness. The offerings to the Christ are not the blemished animals of Malachi’s day. Rather they are to be “holy and acceptable unto God,” (cf. Romans 12:1, Hebrews 13:5, 1 Peter 2:5) as were those offered in the beginning by Aaron.

Zerr: Malachi 3:3-4. A refiner’s fire ·is used to separate the dross from precious metal, and the fact has been used throughout the Bible to illustrate the work of purifying men tram their sins. Sons of Levi is said figuratively because they were the ones who were the priests under the Mosaic system. They had become corrupt in their office and the prediction means that the priests of this new covenant will be purified by the refining influence of the Gospel. Judah and Jerusalem are used spiritually to refer to the services under Christ, in about the same sense that Levi is mentioned in the preceding verse to signify the spiritual priesthood in the system under Christ.

(Malachi 3:5-6) They have asked “where is the God of justice.” (Malachi 2:17) When Messiah comes they will have their answer. He will testify against the sorcerers (Acts 8:1; Acts 13:6, Galatians 5:20), against adulterers (Matthew 5:28), against false swearers (Matthew 5:34; Matthew 5:36), against those that oppress the hireling, the widows, the fatherless, and they that turn aside the sojourners (Matthew 25:31-46), and that fear not me(Matthew 10:26-28).

Special notice should be taken of the inclusion in this list of priestly sins of “those that turn aside the sojourner.” A sojourner was one of another land who was not a Jew. God’s concern for all men, rather than just for the Jew, as stated in the covenant is apparent throughout His dealings with the people through whom He purposed to bless all men. It is a tragic error to assume that, because God has not smitten the wicked, He has changed from a God of justice to one of easy-going tolerance. Malachi points out to his readers that God’s unchanging nature is the only reason they were not themselves long since wiped out!

Paul points out in Romans eleven (cf. Romans 11:29) that God’s mercy toward even the covenant people finds its source in His unfailing faithfulness to His own covenant. Peter speaks to the same fatal fallacy when he writes, “But forget not this one thing beloved, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness; but is longsuffering to you-ward, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:8-9)

Zerr: The evils named in Malachi 3:5 had been committed by the Jews in Malachi’s time. and the words of condemnation were meant as a severe r ebuke ot them. And they were also a prediction of the exacting regulations regarding such practices to be instituted in the time of Christ. Looking at Malachi 3:6, consider that God has never dealt with man as his conduct deserved or he would have been long since consumed. It has always been thus with God for he changes not; that is why the sons of Jacob had not been consumed.

Verses 7-12

Mal 3:7-12

IF THE PEOPLE WILL RETURN IN DEVOTION TO GOD
HE WILL YET BLESS THEM . . .
Malachi 3:7-12

FROM THE DAYS OF YOUR FATHERS . . . Malachi 3:7

When Stephen stood before the council and accused them with, “Ye stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears . . . as your fathers did, so do ye,” (Acts 7:51) he was in good company. Malachi here levels the same charge against his readers.

Just as their ancestors had turned aside from God’s ordinances to worship Baal, these were turning aside in making a mockery of the same ordinances. The withholding of tithes, the offering of blemished animals, the indulging in sorcery and adultery and false swearing while showing unconcern for human need by oppressing wage-earners, widows, orphans and non-Jews indicated theirs was a religion of form rather than sincerity. The prophet sees no advantage in this over the false religion which had brought on the Babylonian captivity.

There is an eternal principle presented here which the modern church member cannot afford to ignore. The observance of outward form and the passive abstention from false religion are a sham if done as these did them. The cheapening of the ordinances of God as they did in offering unacceptable sacrifices, or as is often done in present day churches by penny-wise and niggardly church budgets are no more advantageous than false doctrine. The lack of any real concern for the poor, the abandoned, the downtrodden, that is frequently hidden under an annual Christmas basket, does not deceive Him Who knows the hearts of His people.

The entreaty of God to such people to return to Him is frequently met today as in Malachi’s time (Malachi 3:7) with a blank faced and feigned innocence expressed in “wherein shall we return?”

Zerr: Malachi 3:7. As proof that God has always been the same lenient One he is at the present time, they are reminded of the wayward conduct of the fathers in spite of the pleadings which He made with them, in which they were urged to “Return unto me, and I ’will return unto you.”

(Malachi 3:8-13) Malachi’s answer to this sham is “will a man rob God?” When their response was again an assumed innocence expressed in, “wherein have we robbed thee,” the prophet goes directly to the heart of the matter . . . “in tithes and offerings.”

Zerr: Malachi 3:8. “Will a man rob God?”’ was doubtless answered with an emphatic "no" by these people. But they recognized the question actually to be an accusation that they had robbed Him, and then they asked in what way they had done so. The Lord’s reply was that it was done in tithes and offerings. When the Jews held back a part of their tithes, or brought some inferior products to the service, they were thereby robbing God.

That they could answer in such false righteousness after what the prophet has written in the preceding chapters about their unholy sacrifices, is amazing. It is no more so than the assumed correctness of the “New Testament Christian” today whose sacrifices of himself is an hour or two on Sunday and whose giving of “tithes and offerings” consists of less than he spends for soft drinks and tobacco.

“Ye are cursed with a curse because ye rob me” declares Malachi (Malachi 3:9). Our own consciences may accept a cut-rate allegiance to God, but He will not. The country parson who said, “Salvation is free but it ain’t cheap,” spoke the truth!

Zerr: Malachi 3:9. The whole nation could justly be charged with the evils complained of because all the people upheld the corrupt priests and prophets (Jeremiah 5:31).

There is a significant distinction drawn here between tithes and offerings. The law defined the first tithe as a tenth of all that was left after the first fruits were paid. This tenth went directly to the Levites for their support. (Leviticus 27:30-33) A tenth was to be paid in turn to the priests. (Numbers 18:26-28)

A second tithe was to be paid for the entertainment of the Levites and their own families at the temple. (Deuteronomy 12:18)

A third tithe was to be paid every third year for the welfare of the poor, etc. (Deuteronomy 14:28) It has been estimated that the total tithes amounted annually to approximately 27% of one’s gross income.

The offerings were in addition to the tithes. These consisted of not less than 1/60 of one’s corn, wine, and oil (Deuteronomy 18:4, Nehemiah 13:10-12).

So the Israelite under the Old Covenant gave in three categories. (1) He sacrificed the first fruits of his fields and flocks (2) he tithed three times, first of all remaining after the sacrifices, second for the entertainment (expenses) of the Levites and thirdly for the sake of supporting the poor, and (3) he then gave an offering of at least 1/60 of all his grain, wine and oil.

It was common, during the lean years, such as those which prevailed at the time of this writing, to neglect the tithes and offerings. Malachi, as we have seen, accuses his readers of also bringing much less than the first fruits for sacrifice.

Jehovah’s challenge (Malachi 3:10) is to bring all the tithes (he whole tithe) into the storehouse and see if times do not change. Jesus would say, “seek ye first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you.” (cp. Matthew 6:19-34)

Zerr: Malachi 3:10. There never was or will be a time when it pays to defraud the Lord out of His deserts. On the other hand, it is always profitable in the end to be liberal and cheerful in the service to God. Hence these people are challenged to cast their trust on the Lord and cease holding back what they were obligated to give into the service of Him because it will be to their advantage to do so in reality.

Here is the eternal principle of giving which continues from covenant to covenant. The support of the Lord’s work must come first in the economic lives of His covenant people. He who gives only what he can afford has not given at all!

This passage, especially verses nine and ten, are frequently used to prove that one who does not give ten percent of his income to the church is robbing God. Conversely, on the basis of these same verses, promises are frequently extended that “God will open the windows of Heaven” to those who practice “store-house tithing.”

Before one makes such accusations or promises from these verses it would be wise to keep in mind several pertinent points concerning Mosaic tithing; (1) The tithes spoken of here had to do with the tithes of the fruit of the land, not wages per se. (2) These words are directed specifically to Judah because of the neglect of the ordinances of the law. (3) No money was involved. The tithe was a portion of the produce of an agrarian society. (4) The promise to “open the windows of heaven” has to do with rain which would end a drought and cause the land to again become productive when the people met the requirements of giving.

The principle taught, which must be learned by Christians, is stated by Jesus, not as a command to count one dollar of every ten into the offering, but to put the kingdom of God before the material necessities of life. (cf. Matthew 6:33) When this principle is applied to the giving of money, ten per cent seems a frightfully immature and inadequate amount, especially when those who “had witness borne to them through their faith. (even though they) received not the promise . . .” (Hebrews 11:39) were required to give 27% of all they produced on the land.

(Malachi 3:11-12) Upon their return to faithfulness in tithes and offerings, God promised to remove the blight from the land. Whatever was organically wrong with the crops would be corrected. They had robbed God (Malachi 3:8) from the very first (Malachi 3:7). They were now cursed (Malachi 3:9) with drought (Malachi 3:10). The curse brought about by their dishonesty had taken two forms, drought and locusts (Malachi 3:11). Their repentance would be the occasion of unmeasured blessing, blessing so great they would be the envy of surrounding nations. (Malachi 3:12).

Zerr: Malachi 3:11-12. The Lord even promised to protect their increasing products from the ravages of those who would devour them. The plants for fruit and other articles of food were guaranteed to bring their yield to maturity. Besides the general favors indicated in this verse that fleshly Israel could have acquired, the greater one pertained to them as spiritual Israel. The words all nations were fulfilled when the Gospel was offered to Jew and Gentile alike.

God’s provisions are always more than adequate to those who are honest in their dealings with Him.

Verses 13-18

Mal 3:13-18

WHEN THE DAY COMES, TRUE WORSHIPPERS
WILL BE SPARED . . .
Malachi 3:13-18

(Malachi 3:13-15) Malachi continues to list Jehovah’s grievances against the people. They needed to return and they feigned unawareness of any such need (Malachi 3:7). They robbed God, yet pretended not to be aware of the robbing (Malachi 3:8). They have spoken against God, and again pretended innocence (Malachi 3:13 cp. Malachi 2:17). The prophet continues to speak frankly, as he answers this latest question, “Ye have said, It is vain to serve God; and what profit is it that we keep his charge?”

Such complaining is not uncommon among those who cannot understand the spiritual nature of God’s covenant. Those who see the covenant as a mercenary bargain, attend to outward observance in the hope of receiving material blessings. When such are not forthcoming, because they are at most incidental to God’s purpose in His people, such worshippers are always disappointed and prone to despair. God has never promised wealth to the faithful or poverty to the unjust. We manifest a gross ignorance of His nature and His love when we judge the worth of service to Him on such basis.

The evidence of this misunderstanding on the part of Malachi’s readers is seen in the last part of verses fourteen and fifteen. They equate their sacrifice of blemished animals and the withholding of tithes and offerings out of concern for material necessities with “keeping His charge.” They equate pietly with walking “mournfully.” They mistake pride for real happiness and complain that the wicked are better off than the rest. They accuse God, very subtly, of injustice because the wicked “tempt God and escape.”

Zerr: Malachi 3:13-15. The Lord again takes up his complaint against fleshly Israel. One ot their chief faults was to deny that what they were doing was wrong. In so speaking they virtually charged God with making a false accusation against them. The Lord specifies some of the things they were saying unjustly. Perhaps the most serious was to deny that it was worthwhile to obey the law. Here Is another serious charge that reflects against the justice of God. They said that the proud and wicked persons were the ones who were accorded the most happiness by the Lord, which was the very opposite of the truth. It is no wonder that the Lord said he was "wearied" with them.

(Malachi 3:16-18) Rather than continuing to rebuke their lack of perception, Malachi turns to words of comfort. He assures them the faithful will not be forgotten. They will be spared who are Godfearers, and ultimately made to understand the real difference between the righteous and the wicked.

A book of remembrance is being written he assures them, in which the names of the faithful were being recorded (cp. Esther 6). In the day when Jehovah acts, they will be spared His judgment and beyond this, they will be revealed as Jehovah’s peculiar treasure. (cp. John 3:18, 1 Peter 2:9)

Even in dark times there are those few who fear Him and so “speak,” i.e. converse with one another about Him,

THEY THAT FEARED JEHOVAH . . . Malachi 3:16

Malachi foresees the repentance of some, though not all the people. They would speak with one another, No doubt their speaking would concern the need for repentance, for genuine worship. As always, the fear of Jehovah would prove the beginning of wisdom for Jehovah would hear and remember.

Zerr: Malachi 3:16. Going back to the subject in verse 12 and others, the prophet looks forward to some of the glorious features of the Gospel age. .Then is an adverb of time, referring to things that were to be done in the Gospel system under Christ. The past tense is a grammatical form often used in prophetic writings, but it was several centuries in the future when Malachi wrote it. Space often are from one word which is DABAR and Strong defines it, "A primitive root; perhaps properly to arrange; but used figuratively (of Words) to speak." Young defines it. "To speak (consult) together." Among the many words by which it has been rendered in the King James Version are answer, communication, counsel, language, message, promise. question, reason, report, re- quest, saying, speech, talk, and word: the last one is used 770 times. With all this critical information at hand it would indicate that the wording in our common version is justified. It undoubtedly means that the citizens in the kingdom of Christ were to be in close touch with each other, which would require that they assemble whenever they can. This all agrees with the admonition at Paul in Hebrews that the disciples of Christ should not forsake the assembling together of themselves (Hebrews 10:25). Book of remembrance does not mean that God needs any mechanical plan to keep Him from forgetting anything. The expression is used figuratively and means that the names of God’s Children are carefully inscribed in the heavenly record, and the fact is spoken of as being recorded in a book. (See Luke 10:20; Hebrews 12:23; Revelation 3:5 Revelation 21:27.)’

THEY SHALL BE MINE . . . Malachi 3:17-18

Malachi’s covenant consciousness is evident here. It is those who fear Jehovah and think on His name who are His people. No reference is made to religious ritual or racial origin.

Peter voiced this same conviction. Following the thrice repeated vision which convinced him to go to a non-Jewish home with the gospel, and the resultant demonstration of God’s overwhelming approval of his action in the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, Peter exclaimed, “of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons, but in every nation he that feareth Him and worketh righteousness, is acceptable to Him.” (Acts 10:34-35) Paul confirms this same truth in Romans 2:13, “For not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified.” Malachi would have his readers understand this truth. In the days of Jehovah His people will be those who really serve.

Zerr: They shall be mine (Malachi 3:17). If I were to buy and pay for something it certainly would be mine. Jesus purchased the church with his own blood and it is said to be His. (See Acts 20:28; 1 Peter 1:19 1 Peter 2:9.) Jewels is from CEGULLAH which Strong defines, "wealth," It is the word for "peculiar treasure" in Psalms 135:4. The Lord regards the members of His church as jewels since they are so valuable, He having said such a great price (his blood) for them. That day means the Gospel dispensation in which time He was to make up or gather these jewels into the fold or church. I will spare them, etc., is equivalent In thought to that in Hebrews 8:11. The gist of Malachi 3:18 is that the members or the new kingdom will have superior knowledge of what is right and wrong. That is because they will have the "perfect law of liberty" for their guidance. But this is not all, for the leaders of the Jewish kingdom, especially In the days of Malachi’s writing. had mixed together the good and the evil and bad refused to make any difference between them. (See Malachi 2:17). The Gospel was to be clear and exacting and those who believe it will be trained to "have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them" (Ephesians 5:11).

Questions On Malachi Chapter Three

1. What were the Lord’s plans? (Malachi 3:1)

2. What would He do? (Malachi 3:2-3)

3. What would be the result? (verse 4)

4. Against whom would God be a swift witness? (Malachi 3:5) Why? (Malachi 3:6-7)

5. What were they doing to God? (Malachi 3:8)

6. What should they do? (Malachi 3:10) If they did this, what would God do? (Malachi 3:10-12)

7. In what manner (or ways) did they speak arrogantly against God? (Malachi 3:13-15)

8. Who was in the Lord’s book of remembrance? (Malachi 3:16)

9. How would God treat those people? (Malachi 3:17)

10. What would they distinguish? (Malachi 3:18)

Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on Malachi 3". "Old & New Testament Restoration Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/onr/malachi-3.html.
 
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