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CRITICAL NOTES.] The charge is still urged against the priests, who are warned if they do not reform they will be deprived of enjoyments, and made objects of shame.
Malachi 2:2. A] Lit. the curse denounced (Deuteronomy 27:15-26). Have oursed] Lit. have cursed them severally. The curse has already begun in each one of their blessings. Blessings pronounced by the priests upon the people are intended, say Keil and others, and not tithes, revenues, and portions of sacrifices. The word may be taken generally.
Malachi 2:3. Corrupt] Lit. rebuke the seed] i.e. forbid its growth, and bring failure in crops (cf. Joel 1:17; Haggai 1:11). Though priests did not cultivate land, yet they would suffer from dearth. Some give, rebuke the arm, i.e. dry up the strength, neutralize the duties performed by priests at the altar. Dung] of victims, which should be burned outside the camp (Exodus 29:14; Leviticus 16:27), would be spread upon their faces; a sign of ignominy and contempt. One] Lit. they (indefinite) will carry you away to it (where it is deposited); and treat you as dung (1 Kings 14:10).
Malachi 2:4. Know] by experience, that this commandment] i.e. the decree to punish, shall henceforth be substituted for my covenant with Levi, or the priesthood. They forfeited the blessing, and turned the covenant of peace into woe. Better understand, that they were warned to take heed that the covenant] might continue with the priestly tribe as in the beginning, and not become null or void.
Malachi 2:5.] Nature of the covenant described. Life and peace] Nouns not in the genitive case. “Peace” is the sum of all the blessings requisite for well-being. Jehovah granted life and salvation to Levi, i.e. to the priesthood, for fear, viz. as the lever of the fear of God; and Levi, i.e. the priesthood of the olden time, responded to this Divine intention. “He feared me” [Keil]. Afraid] Often united to fear, expressing terror, which men are forbidden not to feel before men (Isaiah 8:12-13) [Pusey].
PRIESTLY BLESSINGS TURNED INTO A CURSE.—Malachi 2:1-5
The rebuke to the priests is followed by an admonition to hear the Word and reverence the name of God, lest he curse their blessings and dishonour their persons.
I. The nature of the curse upon the blessings. In whatever sense the curse may be taken, it is an awful judgment, a solemn warning to all.
1. Their own persons were cursed. “I will even send a curse upon you.” This was a reversal of the original promise for obedience, “I will command my blessing upon you.”
2. Their blessings were cursed. “He does not say, I will send you curses instead of blessings, but I will make the blessings themselves a curse” [Pusey]. (a) Spiritual blessings may be cursed; the ministry of the Word, and the means of grace; Sundays and sermons may be despised, increase the guilt and aggravate the condemnation of men. (b) Temporal blessings may be cursed. “Corrupt your seed.” Riches, children, and the very food we eat may do us no good. The curse from heaven may fall upon them. “Let their table be made a snare before them, and that which should have been for their welfare, let it become a trap.”
II. The reason for the curse upon the blessings.
1. They neglected the Word of God. “If ye will not hear, and if ye will not lay it to heart.” The Word was personal in appeal; “this commandment is for you;” and solemn in authority, yet they heeded not. The Word must not simply be heard, but pondered in the mind. God’s authority must be seen and felt in it. It is a matter of life or death, and must not be trifled with. “Ye do not lay it to heart.”
2. They despised the Name of God. “Give glory unto my Name.” Glory is due to God, and should be the aim of priestly and Christian conduct—the rule of life for the house of Aaron and the house of Israel. But God is dishonoured by despising the ordinances of his house and living heedless of his Word. “To the greater glory of God,” was the motto of Ignatius Loyola.
III. The design of the curse upon the blessings. “Ye shall know that I have sent this commandment unto you” (Malachi 2:4.).
1. They were admonished to return to God. God desired to keep his covenant with them, and punishment was intended to reform them. This would they feel, and bitterly confess. God ever designs to make men happy, and keep them from misery.
2. They were admonished for the sake of others. “God willed to punish those who at that time rebelled against him, that he might spare those who should come after them. He chastised the fathers, who showed their contempt towards him, that their sons, taking warning thereby, might not be cut off. He continues to say what the covenant was, which he willed to be if they would repent” [Pusey]. Every warning given to men concerning their sins, is a proof of God’s mercy, and will convince them that their destruction results from their own ways. “I have sent this commandment unto you.”
FAILURE IN OFFICIAL DUTIES.—Malachi 2:2-3
By cursing blessings, God means that he will render the instructions and efforts of the priests ineffective. When they raised the hand to bless, he would manifest displeasure. He would neutralize their duties performed at the altar [cf. Keil].
I. By rendering them incapable of official duties. “He will rebuke their arm,” i.e. dry up their powers, like the waters of the sea. The arm is the symbol of strength and active labour. From him that hath may be taken away what he hath, if abused. God can wither the force and fervour of ungodly ministers. Power is lost by continuance in office for which men are not qualified. Their prayers are sin, their knowledge hardens, and their “arm shall be clean dried up.”
II. By righteous punishment in discharging official duties. God threatens sore evils.
1. They would be treated with contempt. As they had despised him, so they would be repaid in ignominy and shame—be made as the refuse of their sacrifices.
2. They would be swept out of office. As mere cumber, and unworthy of the temple, “One shall take” them away with the dung. “I will take away the remnant of the house of Jeroboam, as a man taketh away dung, till all are gone” (1 Kings 14:10).
HOMILETIC HINTS AND SUGGESTIONS
Malachi 2:2. Curse. Things which should bless, become an occasion of falling; to the proud, the things which lift them up; to the gluttonous, their abundance; to the avaricious, their wealth; which, if used to the glory of God, become blessings, do, when self, not God, is their end, by God’s dispensation and providence, become a curse to them [Pusey]. I have cursed them, Lit. it, i.e. each blessing. Hence—
1. The minuteness of the curse.
2. The gradual operation of the curse. “Cursed already;” and will continue until you repent.
3. The insensibility under the curse. “Ye do not lay to heart.”
4. The severity of the curse. “Curse blessings.”
“Whom oils and balsams kill, what salve can cure?”
Malachi 2:5. The covenant.
1. Its blessings. “Life and peace;” i.e. of being and well-being; for all the blessings that make up human welfare, were summed up for the Hebrew in one word—peace [Cox].
2. Its conditions. “Forbear.” Jews claimed its privileges, while neglecting its conditions—thought God would bless them, while they were free from obligations to obey him.
3. Its influence. “He feared” me, had great reverence, and was afraid; had profound and holy terror before me. “He received the fear of God in his whole heart and soul. For these reduplications and emphases suggest to the hearer how rooted in virtue are those thus praised” [Pusey]. It is better to fear too much than to presume but a little [Abp. Abbot]. “Sanctify the Lord of Hosts himself (venerate his glorious majesty), and let him be your fear (be not dismayed at man), and your dread (lest ye provoke him by distrust)” (Isaiah 8:13).
ILLUSTRATIONS TO CHAPTER 2
Malachi 2:1-4. Curse blessings. Those who despise the upper springs of grace, shall find the nether springs of worldly comfort prove their poison. To the rejecters of Christ even those things which are calculated to work their spiritual and eternal good become occasions for yet greater sin. Wretched are those men who not only have a curse upon their common blessings, but also on their spiritual opportunities [Spurgeon].
Malachi 2:5. Fear. “All fear but fear of heaven betrays guilt, and guilt is villany” [Dr. Lee].
Malachi 2:6.] Levi preserved this fear in office and life. Truth] Instruction in the law was in truth. Iniquity] No injustice was practised in his life, nor was truth perverted by selfishness and self-interest Walked] Intercourse with God was progressive and confidential. In peace] “Equipped with the salvation bestowed upon him by God” (Malachi 2:5) [Keil]. And equity] Lit. plainness and straightforwardness, opposed to deceit, or crooked dealing. The consequence of faithful discharge in duty was the bringing back, i.e. the turning of many from sin to God’s fear.
Malachi 2:7.] This was the duty, the vocation of Levi, i.e. of the priesthood. Beautiful description of priestly functions. Keep] Preserve, store up, to distribute. Knowledge] The negative and positive precepts of the law; for people seek the law] i.e. instruction in God’s will, from his lips. Messenger] Interpreter (cf. Haggai 1:13).
Malachi 2:8. But] A remarkable contrast to their pious fathers. They taught for hire, and had respect to persons; departed from God themselves, and caused others to fall by their scandalous example. Corrupted] by false teaching, made the law not a light for duty, but a license for sin.
Malachi 2:9. Therefore] Jehovah, no longer bound by a covenant which they have broken, withdraws blessings, and makes them contemptible.
THE TRUE MINISTER.—Malachi 2:6-7
The prophet looks backward to the fidelity and zeal of Phinehas, which should have been copied by his successors. But “the lines of character are too large and fair to be those of mortal man. It is the ideal priest whom the prophet has in his mind, the archetype to which every true priest will seek to be conformed; not any single member of the priesthood—as indeed he himself intimates by using the tribal name ‘Levi’ in Malachi 2:4, instead of the personal name, ‘Phinehas,’ and by employing the abstract term, ‘the priest,’ in Malachi 2:7” [Cox].
I. The trne minister is holy in character. He stands in awe of God who has chosen him, and made a covenant of life and peace with him (Malachi 2:5). As “the messenger of the Lord of Hosts,” he feels his responsibility, and walks worthy of his high vocation. Spiritual work requires spiritual character as a prime qualification. “None but he who made the world can make a minister of the Gospel,” says Newton.
II. The true minister is devout in life. “He walked with God.” Consistency harmonizes conduct and creed. Holiness, like the law of gravitation, should regulate every motion of life. Men judge of the minister’s practice more than the minister’s sermon. The missionary Eliot resolved to leave something of God, heaven, and religion with all that came near him. In character and conduct we must be blameless, “unrebukable;” for, says Bp. Horne—“He who undertakes to reprove the world, must be one whom the world cannot reprove.”
III. The true minister is incorruptible in doctrine. “The law of truth was in his mouth.” He believes the truth of God, and it is the law, the staple of his instructions. No fear, no sinister, selfish principles lead him to keep back or pervert the truth. He conceals nothing, however unpleasant—shuns not to declare the whole counsel of God. “In doctrine showing incorruptness (untainted sincerity), gravity (dignified delivery), sincerity, sound speech (healthy discourse in public and private), that cannot be condemned” (Titus 2:7-8).
IV. The true minister is successful in labours. “And did turn many away from iniquity.” Success in one respect may not be realized. God can bless or withhold. One sows, and another reaps. But if we fail to convert, we may reprove, enlighten, and edify. But God promises success to faithful labour. We must not therefore set the sovereignty in opposition to the faithfulness of God. Aim to “convert the sinner from the error of his way,” and your work will not be in vain. Remember, as a motto and encouragement, “They that turn many to righteousness (shall shine) as the stars for ever and ever.”
THE FALSE MINISTER.—Malachi 2:8-9
In the former words we have a pattern priest described, to contrast the baseness and falsehood of those now reproved.
I. The false minister is negligent in duty. “Ye have not kept my ways.”
1. He perverts the truth in teaching. “Ye have corrupted the covenant of Levi.” They violated and defeated the intentions of it, and made it contemptible by false expositions and partiality. “But have been partial in the law.”
2. He departs from the truth in life. Not merely falls short of it, the best do that, but openly, insolently renounced and reversed it. “Ye are departed out of the way,” of knowledge, fear, and truth. “Her priests have polluted the sanctuary, they have done violence to the law.”
II. The false minister is pernicious in example. “Ye have caused many to stumble at the law.” Instead of keeping integrity of character, and shedding light on the path of peace, by doctrine and example, he misleads, casts a stumbling-block in the ways of others, and causes them to fall. Fenelon says, “that moral instructions have no weight nor influence, when they are neither supported by clear principles nor good examples.” “The sin of the young men was very great before the Lord; for men abhorred the offering of the Lord.”
III. The false minister is cursed in his work. “I also made you contemptible and base before all people.” God is no respecter of persons—if men are—and the lot of the unfaithful minister will be as his service. “According as ye have” acted, so will be your punishment. In spite of office, unholy men will be held in contempt by the mass of the people. Careless and unprincipled clergy will ever sink in public estimation.
1. They break the covenant of peace. Therefore forfeit all its blessings.
2. They deeply disgrace themselves. These are made base, and made base before all the people.
3. They exclude themselves from office. “I said indeed that thy house, and the house of thy father, should walk before me for ever; but now the Lord saith, Be it far from me; for them that honour me I will honour, and they that despise me shall be lightly esteemed.”
HOMILETIC HINTS AND SUGGESTIONS
Malachi 2:6-7. I. The priest’s character. (a) Intelligent: If he must keep, he must get, knowledge. (b) Consistent; he must walk with God. (c) Truthful; and (d) holy. “The lips of the righteous feed many.” II. The priest’s dignity not a common calling, but an ambassador of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:20). “For he is the messenger of the Lord of Hosts.” III. The priest’s vocation.
1. To give instruction. “They should seek the law at his mouth.”
2. To be impartial. “Doing nothing by partiality.”
3. To restore men to God. “Turn many away from iniquity.”
Here is a solemn warning to the Christian clergy. If such was the duty of the Levitical priesthood, and such the penalty for not performing it aright, how much more imperative is the obligation of the Christian priest to “keep knowledge,” and to instruct the people in sound doctrine; or, as St. Paul expresses it, “to give attendance to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine, to meditate on these things, and give himself wholly to them” (1 Timothy 4:13; 1 Timothy 4:15); “to speak the things which become sound doctrine” (Titus 2:1); “to hold fast the faithful word, so that he may be able by sound doctrine to convince the gainsayers” (Titus 1:9). And how much sorer will be his punishment if he fails to discharge it! (cf. Titus 1:7; Titus 1:9; 2 Timothy 2:2). It is to be feared that this warning is greatly needed in the present day! [Words.].
Malachi 2:6. He “walks” with God in a happy consent and progress; for “how can two walk together except they be agreed?” To walk is not only to move, but to move onward. He not only walks with God, but he walks with him “in integrity and peace:” two lines of advance are specially marked out for him—the generous uprightness which saves his teaching from sinister perversions, rules his personal conduct, so that he is drawn aside by no selfish or impure motive; and, moreover, he possesses himself ever more fully of all the blessings which conduce to peace or well-being. Thus, by his own pure and happy life, no less than by his wholesome and unperverted doctrine, he “brings back many from guilt,” convincing the sinful of the mistake they have made, and leading them, through repentance, to that way of life and peace in which he himself is advancing [S. Cox].
Malachi 2:8. (cf. Nehemiah 13:29). Prophecy a comment on history.
Malachi 2:9. Punishment to unfaithful ministers.
1. It is in proportion to their exaltation in office.
2. It is impartial.
3. It is public before all. In partiality and pleasing men, they bring upon themselves contempt: in faithfulness and pleasing God, they gain the testimony of a good conscience and the approval of God.
ILLUSTRATIONS TO CHAPTER 2
Malachi 2:6-9. It really is fine to observe with what native ease Malachi rises into the higher region of thought. While dwelling on the sins of the priests he moves in the lower, the ceremonial elements; he insists on the maimed rites and blemished sacrifices, on the perfunctory and the contemptuous spirit with which they lounged through the service of the Temple. But no sooner does he attempt to frame a conception of what the true priest should be, than all that is forgotten; we hear no more of altar and sacrifice: his thoughts are riveted on the moral aspects of the priestly vocation—how holy a man, how wise a teacher, how careful and friendly a guide, the priest should be. When we are thinking only to hear that the sons of Levi are to offer clean and perfect, instead of blemished and polluted, sacrifices, to delight in the ministrations of the sanctuary instead of despising them, as much to our surprise as pleasure, he places before us a lofty spiritual ideal of character and service, well-nigh, if not altogether, beyond the reach of mortal powers: he pronounces a eulogium on Levi which we should hardly dare to inscribe, as an epitaph, on the tomb of the holiest saint, or even on that of an inspired apostle [S. Cox].
Malachi 2:10.] A fresh section, “the condemnation of marriages with heathen women (Malachi 2:10-12), and of the frivolous dissolution of marriages with Israelitish women, which was the natural consequence of the former” (Malachi 2:13-16) [Keil]. The same course as in previous rebukes adopted (cf. Nehemiah 12:23-31 with this section). One] Common origin, which gave them a new relation to each other. Treacherous] A violation of duty to God was an offence against each other, on account of this common relationship. Covenant] (Exodus 19:6; Exodus 19:6; Exodus 24:8; Deuteronomy 14:2.)
Malachi 2:11. Holiness] Profaned or desecrated by marriages expressly forbidden. Judah] i.e. the whole nation, commits this abomination in Israel] a holy nation!—and in Jerusalem] the capital of the nation.
Malachi 2:12. Cut] Punish. Master and scholar] Lit. him that watcheth, and him that answereth. The watcher goes his rounds by night to keep guard, the other answers, i.e. responds to his cry (cf. Illus. end of ch.).
Malachi 2:13. This] A second sin performed. Tears] By ill treatment their wives were driven to weep at the altar. Hence God will not accept the offering] nor bless the offerer.
Malachi 2:14. Say] Why does he not accept? Witness] The people are not ashamed, and wickedly ask why? Jehovah declares himself (an avenging witness, some) of the marriage which took place (cf. Proverbs 2:17), which should have been sacred. The divorced wife tenderly called a wife and companion of joys and sorrows of youth, and a wife of the covenant for life made between them.
Malachi 2:15.] Most difficult verse of all prophecy. Taken by many as recalling the institution of marriage, of Divine sanction from the beginning. Did Jehovah not make one flesh (Genesis 1:27), why only one pair? Had he not the residue of the Spirit? His creative power was not exhausted; he might have created many women for one man. That he might seek to perpetuate a godly seed], a design counteracted by frequent divorce [Lange]. Others say, that the Jews defended their conduct by the precedent of Abraham, who took Hagar to the injury of Sarah, his lawful wife. To this the prophet replies: “No one (ever) did so in whom there was a residue of intelligence (discriminating between good and evil): and what did the one] (Abraham, to whom you appeal for support) do, seeking a goodly seed? His object (viz. not to gratify passion, but to obtain the seed promised by God) makes the case inapplicable to defend your position” [Hengs.]. Many explain it according to Malachi 2:10. He made (us Israelites) one. Our isolation from other nations was not because there was no residue of the Spirit left for the world. Why, then, did he thus isolate us? One] (Heb. the one) people? That he might have a goodly seed, i.e. have a nation, the repository of his will, and a witness for him among idolatrous peoples.
Malachi 2:16. Putting away] Divorce. Covereth] They wrap up or cover their sins as with a garment.
Malachi 2:17.] This verse really belongs to the following chapter. A class of murmurers addressed (Jewish sceptics, or wicked heathens), who enjoyed prosperity, excused themselves (wherein?) declared, that God delighted in evil doers, and sneer, Where is the God of judgment?
UNLAWFUL MARRIAGES.—Malachi 2:10-12
Reproof is now administered to the people, especially the priests, for flagrant violation of law in marrying foreigners, and divorcing their wives when married. This was—
I. A violation of God’s law. Marriage with the Canaanites and with all idolaters was forbidden (Exodus 34:16; Deuteronomy 7:3; 1 Kings 11:1-2). The high priest was to take a virgin of his own people (Leviticus 21:14-15); and the priests who married strange wives defiled “the covenant of the priesthood” (Nehemiah 13:29). “Be not unequally yoked together with unbelievers.”
II. A desecration of the community. Israel was a holy people, but this was an “abomination committed in Israel.” If they allied themselves with those from whom God had set them apart, they broke the national league, and profaned the covenant of their fathers. Hence—
1. They polluted the temple. The very seat and centre of God’s presence. “In Jerusalem.”
2. They polluted the people. They fell from their lofty dignity, and tainted others by their influence. “Why do we treacherously every man against his brother?”
III. A condition of hopeless calamity. The imprecation or menace is severe.
1. Posterity will not escape the punishment. In whatever sense these words be taken, the master and the scholar, or (as marg.) him that waketh and him that answereth—the camp would be silent. The posterity of him that violated the marriage law would be cut off, and not one left in “the tabernacles of Jacob.”
2. Sacrifice will not atone for the sins. There will be none to offer a sacrifice for the sinner, or if there were, they could not shield from the penalty. “Insomuch that he regardeth not the offering any more.”
A COMMON FATHERHOOD.—Malachi 2:10
God was the Father, the Creator of Israel in a special sense (Isaiah 63:16). But all men have a common relation to God, who is our common Father and Creator. God is looked upon as Judge and Ruler of men, but the Fatherhood of God is forgotten. Hence the evils which afflict society.
I. In the Fatherhood of God we have an argument for personal piety. As dependent creatures, we should acknowledge him. “Hath not one God created us?” We are not simply God’s creatures, but his offspring, children in paternal likeness (Acts 17:28). Hence—
1. A motive to obedience. As children, we should seek to know and practise God’s will.
2. A protest against idolatry. Material, intellectual, and spiritual idolatry should be forsaken. Our filial relation should teach us the spirituality of the Godhead, and the folly of atheism. “Be ye, therefore, followers (imitators) of God, as dear children” (Ephesians 5:1).
II. In the Fatherhood of God we have a bond of human brotherhood. He “hath made of one blood all nations of men.” In the common origin we have the unity of the human race—a natural tie to cement them together in their migrations and settlements. But nations have broken asunder, set up divinities, and forgotten God’s purpose in organizing them. Science and philosophy, treaties and commerce, have failed to unite them again. Wars, selfishness, and lusts still prevail. Only when men are taught that a Father in heaven rules their interests, and settles their rights and wrongs, will they cease to hate. “O foolish people and unwise, is he not thy Father that hath bought thee?—hath he not made thee and established thee?”
III. In the Fatherhood of God we have a motive to philanthropy. In our creation we have a natural, in Christ a spiritual, relation to God; every offence is a violation of these relationships to God, and an injury to our fellow-men. Sin against the brethren is sin against Christ (1 Corinthians 8:12). “Why deal treacherously every man against his brother?” Social sins are treachery against the community, violations of faith and confidence. “Did not he that made me in the womb make him?—and did not one fashion us in the womb?” “Love one another.”
UNHOLY MARRIAGES.—Malachi 2:11
The Jews commanded to keep themselves separated from nations around them—to maintain their position as custodians of revelations, and abiding witnesses of God’s existence. But they often disobeyed, and formed idolatrous connections. Thus, the holiness of Jehovah was profaned, and Judah became an abomination. Nehemiah and Ezra sought to remove the evil which Malachi condemns.
I. This evil may now be committed literally. Strange gods are worshipped in every community. Names and shapes of idols have changed, but in essential characters remain the same. Every woman not truly devoted to Jehovah is “a daughter of a strange god,” under the influence of the god of this world. Christian men, for the sake of sensual and worldly considerations, sometimes marry such. 1. They marry women who sacrifice their noblest feelings for wealth.
2. Women who have bound themselves upon the altar of fashion.
3. Women who sacrifice their holiest impulses for pleasure.
4. Women who are devoted to the triumphs of ambition. Christians should never violate their union with Jehovah to unite themselves with idolaters. This, under even the most plausible circumstances, is—
(1) to disobey a Divine command;
(2) to lose the Divine blesssing;
(3) to incur the Divine displeasure.
II. This evil may be committed spiritually. Union to God often represented in Scripture as marriage—the closest of bonds. God has right to our devotion, service, and love. From this celestial marriage spring all virtues and graces. But the worship of strange gods has been most prolific in pernicious customs, degrading vices, and dangerous errors. These evils abound, captivate, and allure, as heathen women did the Jews. Men marry the daughters of a strange god spiritually:
1. When they join themselves with popular customs which have emanated from the spirit of idolatry.
2. When they embrace false and erroneous systems of religion.
3. When they associate themselves freely with unholy religionists. God requires his people to separate themselves from all fascinating forms of evil, and to be wholly his. He has no agreement with idols, nor must his people with evils arising out of idolatry. All unholy unions are breaches of a marriage covenant—a voluntary preference of evil to God.
III. This evil, whether committed literally or spiritually, will produce disastrous results.
1. Literally. It results in—
(1) domestic unhappiness;
(2) a divided household;
(3) ill-trained children—probably generations of evildoers;
(4) neglect of true religion on the part of both. “If David marry Maacah,” says Adams, “their issue proves an Absalom. If Solomon love idolatrous women, here is enough to overthrow him, with all his wisdom; by joining his heart to theirs, he shall disjoin it from God. One religion matching with another not seldom breeds an atheist—one of no religion at all.”
2. Spiritually. It results in—
(1) blindness in spiritual things;
(2) loss of Divine favour;
(3) wandering in deceptive errors;
(4) loss of religious influence;
(5) being given up by God. “Ephraim is joined to idols; let him alone.” Learn to guard against uniting with anything which separates us from God. An evil association has often been a devil’s chain, binding the soul to everlasting wretchedness (The Study and The Pulpit).
UNLAWFUL DIVORCE.—Malachi 2:13-16
“This have ye done again;” a second accusation is brought against them. To marry strange women, they divorced their lawful wives, drove them in tears to the sanctuary, and brought contempt upon their worship. Men add one sin to another, until the wrath of God is poured out upon them.
I. Divorce shamefully cruel. They afflicted their own wives so cruelly that they fled to the altar, and covered it “with weeping and loud cries.” Those who are wronged and insulted may obtain redress before God’s throne. He hears the cries of the helpless. The tears of the innocent rise above the incense and worship of their persecutors.
II. Divorce strangely aggravating. The offence was committed against constant warning, was most aggravating in its nature and results.
1. They broke the tenderest ties of humanity. “The wife of thy youth,” who plighted her troth to thee in the freshness of life. “Thy companion,” sharing thy joys and sorrows, hopes and interests, thy associate and help-meet in all the circumstances of life. Above all, “the wife of thy covenant,” given and taken with most solemn pledges, yet now cast away in scorn and lust! Even the heathen believed marriage to be a sacred act, and guarded it by solemn sanctions: what, then, must be the guilt of divorce under such circumstances!
2. They defied the witness of God.” The Lord hath been witness “to the solemn engagement between them. To him the appeal was made. To violate this covenant is to deal treacherously, and God will avenge the transgressors. “Which forsaketh the guide of her youth, and forgetteth the covenant of her God.”
III. Divoroe boldly defended. Some take Malachi 2:15 as alluding to the example of Abraham, who sinned against Sarah the wife of his youth, by taking Hagar. This seemed to sanction their sin, and the prophet meets the objection or defence, “What did that one?” God promised Abraham seed, a child who should be the hope of the chosen people, and the blessing of the world. He mistakenly followed the counsel of his wife, instead of the counsel of God, and sought that seed by marrying the Egyptian. But you have not the promise of Abraham, nor are you actuated by the same motives. If you were pure in motive, you are sinful in act; for God hates divorce, and acts of cruelty which you commit. “Therefore, take heed to your spirit;” have no light thought of this offence; for you cannot excuse yourselves by the errors of great men.
IV. Divorce which frustrated the design of lawful marriage. Others take Malachi 2:15 as referring to the first pair, between whom and between all others born after them, God willed that there should be one indivisible union. This law should not therefore be broken. But “wherefore one?” That he might see a godly seed. From lawful marriage, religious offspring may be secured by God’s blessing. Divorce and polygamy counteract the interests of piety, and have even been unfavourable to the education and godly training of children.
V. Divorce which ended in serious consequences. The unity of marriage faithfully kept is in harmony with God’s will, but violated is pernicious to society.
1. It is treachery to society. “Deal not treacherously” (Malachi 2:16).
2. It is insulting to God. “The Lord God of Israel saith, that he hateth putting away.” God permitted Israel, on account of hardness of heart, to divorce (Matthew 19:8; Mark 10:5). But the legislation of Moses was in advance of the common morality of the time, and taught that marriage was not “a mere natural tie and temporary alliance,” but a solemn covenant to be dissolved only in cases of adultery (1 Corinthians 7:15) and flagrant infidelity, and by a legal bill given into the hands of the offender (Deuteronomy 24:1).
3. It is detrimental to Christian worship. “Insomuch that he regardeth not the offering any more” (Malachi 2:13). God rejects the gift when the heart of the giver is wrong. He does not “receive it with good will” at his hand. Family discords and family quarrels hinder worship, and prevent access to God. Let parents and children take heed, and dwell in peace, “that your prayers be not hindered.”
PRACTICAL INFIDELITY.—Malachi 2:17
The prophet’s words are directed against the spirit of discontent and murmuring which prevailed among the people, who lost faith in all the promises of God, because the expected manifestation of the glory of the Lord for the good of his people did not take place at once, and in their despair called even the holiness and justice of God in question, and began to deny the coming of the Lord to judge the world [Keil].
I. They had perverted views of God’s character. Men, impatient under affliction, murmur. Because God prospers the wicked, and does not help them, they think that he approves of sin, and delights in the sinner. “Every one that doeth evil is good in the sight of the Lord, and he delighteth in them.”
II. They had perverted views of God’s providence. God had no concern for men at all, or, if he had, he was not just and impartial. “Where is the God of judgment?” Men carve out a providence of their own reason, as they would like things to be. They do not see Divine justice; sentence is not executed upon wicked men, therefore they say God will not punish. They see the prosperity of the wicked, and conclude that God delights in them. First, men quarrel with God’s dispensations, and then deny his providence. Thus are they proud under the rod, and tempted to atheism. When they cherish this evil disposition, and break out into blasphemous expressions, God is offended, and will make them feel that he is of purer eyes than to behold sin, and cannot endure to look upon it with pleasure (cf. Habakkuk 1:13; Psalms 5:4). “Ye have wearied the Lord with your words.”
HOMILETIC HINTS AND SUGGESTIONS
Malachi 2:11. Scandalous sin in the Church. 1. Belies Christian profession.
2. Violates sacred obligation.
3. Profanes distinguished privileges.
Malachi 2:12. Master and scholar. Unfit for their place, sent out of the school, and Divinely punished. “The Lord cuts off,” and sends them “out of the tabernacles of Jacob,” where he deals impartially with sin, and without respect of persons with men.
Malachi 2:14-15. The sanctity of marriage.
1. Undertaken in solemn covenant. Both parties mutually bound to love and help each other. So sacred the obligation, that it is termed “the covenant of God” (Proverbs 1:7).
2. Witnessed by a Holy God. If undertaken in his fear, the knot is tied by his hand. “What, therefore, God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.”
“Speak it not lightly! Oh! beware, beware;
’Tis no vain promise, no unmeaning word;
Lo! men and angels list the faith ye awear,
And by the High and Holy One ‘tis heard.
O, then, kneel humbly at his altar now,
And pray for strength to keep the marriage vow. [Anon.]
Malachi 2:16. Garment. Violence, like an outer garment, as in Psalms 73:6.A garment hiding sin, and exposing to shame and punishment. The livery of the devil—opposed
(1) to the garment of the meek, by which the godly cover themselves (Ephesians 4:24; Colossians 3:10);
(2) to the white robes of the redeemed saints in heaven (Revelation 7:14). “The figurative expression may be explained from the idea that the dress reflects the inward part of a man, and therefore a soiled garment is a symbol of uncleanness of heart” (cf. Zechariah 3:4; Isaiah 64:5; Revelation 3:4) [Keil].
“The soul of this man is in his clothes” [Shaks.]
“The apparel oft proclaims the man” [Shaks.].
Malachi 2:17. Wearying God. Spoken after the manner of men. God is said to be tired, fatigued—
1. With their formal worship.
2. With their blasphemous words; and
3. with the justification of themselves in sin. God is infinitely patient with our infirmities and prayers, but wearied with our sins and impenitent hearts. “Thou hast made me to serve (burdened, overcome by labour) with thy sins, thou hast wearied (disgusted) me with thine iniquities” (Isaiah 43:23-24).
ILLUSTRATIONS TO CHAPTER 2
Malachi 2:10. Father. Man is thy brother, and thy father is God [Lamartine]. The universe is but one great city, full of beloved ones, Divine and human, by nature endeared to each other [Seneca].
Malachi 2:12. Master. To a single teacher, the hope of an entire city is often entrusted [Scriver]. Scholar. The greatest scholars are not the wisest men [Regnier]. Men must be taught, as though you taught them not [Pope].
Malachi 2:13-16. Marriages are styled matches, yet amongst those many that are married, how few there are that are matched! Husbands and wives are like locks and keys, that rather break than open, except the wards be answerable [W. Secker].
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Malachi 2". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29