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Saturday, June 22nd, 2024
the Week of Proper 6 / Ordinary 11
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Bible Commentaries
Malachi 4

Preacher's Complete Homiletical CommentaryPreacher's Homiletical

Verses 1-5

CRITICAL NOTES.] The ungodly admonished for the day] of judgment. Results to the wicked awful. Burn] as an oven] or furnace (cf. Matthew 6:30). “A fire burns more fiercely in a furnace than in the open air” [Hengs.]. The proud] called happy (ch. Malachi 3:15), and all the wicked] like stubble] fit for fire: destroyed “root and branch,” i.e. utterly. 2]. To the righteous, the day an advent of justice and salvation. Sun] The Messiah set forth as most glorious and beneficent. What the sun is to the natural, he is to the moral world; the source of light, life, and beauty. Wings] i.e. beams, “on account of the velocity and expansion with which they spread over the earth” (cf. Psalms 139:9) [Henderson]. Go forth] as from the prison of darkness and misery. Grow up] Lit. leap in joy and freedom, like calves let loose from the stall. “The simile is designed to convey the ideas of freedom from outward restraint and the enjoyment of self-conscious liberty” [Henderson].

Malachi 4:3. Tread] The wicked, who were said to prosper, will be overcome: destroyed by the fire of judgment, they will lie like ashes on the ground. The condition of the godly reversed then.



The prophet confirms the preceding truth, awakens sinners in their slumber, and encourages saints in their faith by the prospect of a day of judgment: to punish some, reward others, and vindicate the ways of God.

I. A day of retribution to the wicked. To the ungodly “the day cometh that shall burn as an oven.” Those who are called blessed will then be cursed, and like stubble consumed by the fire.

1. Utter destruction. “It shall leave them neither root nor branch.” “There is hope of a tree, if it be cut down, that it will sprout again;” but if torn up by the roots there is no hope, no chance of life. So there will be no escape nor mitigation of punishment.

2. Universal destruction. “All the proud” and “all that do wickedly” will be unable to resist when God reveals his justice. That day will test every man’s character and condition. “Wood and hay will be consumed, gold and silver will abide and be purified. “Every man’s work shall be made manifest; for the day shall declare it (lay it open) because it shall be revealed by fire (judgment); and the fire shall try (prove) every man’s work of what sort it is” (1 Corinthians 3:13).

II. A day of salvation to the godly. The day will be as an oven to the wicked, but a source of joy, a sun to the righteous. “Unto you that fear my name shall the Sun of righteousness arise.” The sceptical complained that judgment did not fall upon the ungodly, and that justice was not given to the godly. But health, light, and everlasting salvation are promised.

1. The light of life. Darkness and disease shall be scattered away; warmth and gladness shall shine in Divine effulgence “Thy sun shall no more go down, for the Lord shall be thine everlasting light.”

2. The joy of freedom. “Ye shall go forth” from darkness and captivity; become free and active, frisky and playful “as calves of the stall.” This freshness of first love is only a foretaste of “the joy unspeakable, and full of glory.”

3. The conquest of foes. Not mere freedom from oppression, but complete triumph over enemies. The wicked often prosper and trample upon the godly; but a reversal shall come to both classes. “He that exalteth himself shall be abased, and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.”

III. A day of warning to all. “For, behold, the day cometh,” and lest any, even sinners, should be surprised, the trumpet-blast warns every one.

1. By teachers commissioned from God. “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet.” Ministers and messengers announce the coming King, are sent to prepare the way, and call upon proud scoffers and wicked priests to heed the word.

2. By the written word of God. Prophecy and preaching may be temporary and uncertain, but the law of God is never suspended. The Scriptures warn and invite, encourage and threaten. If men forget the living voice, they must remember the written law.

3. By the corrective providences of God. Compassionate judgments come before the final judgment—providences which correct and do not destroy. God seeks to separate and purify men now, before the final separation and settlement, “to bring the disobedient to the wisdom of the just.” Heed the warning now, lest you be smitten “with a curse” hereafter.


There can be no doubt with respect to the application. Our Lord is elsewhere called Light, which in Hebrew poetry is used of the sun, as the source of light. What the sun is to the natural world, that the Messiah is to the moral. The invaluable spiritual blessings which he dispenses are all comprehended under the two heads here specified—righteousness and moral health (cf. Isaiah 57:19). Both of these are indispensably requisite to the happiness of our guilty and depraved race, and from no other quarter can they be obtained than from him “who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption” [Henderson]. In this image we have many truths suggested.

1. Christ is the source of light. Whatever be the radiance of other lights, they borrow from him. The moon in her beauty and the stars in their brilliance only shed reflected lustre upon the world. Amid ignorance, error, and sin, he is the light of truth, holiness, and God, in person, doctrine, and work. “I am the light of the world.”

II. Christ is the source of life. “With healing in his wings.” Sin brought death into the world. Christ quickens the dead in trespasses and sins. As the sun in spring rouses dormant energies of nature, and clothes trees and fields with beauty, so Christ is the essential principle and primal source of spiritual life. “In him was life; and the life was the light of men.”

III. Christ is the source of beauty. To the sun we owe the bright colours which delight our eyes, and the golden beams which gladden our hearts. He tints the sky, paints the flowers, and adorns all nature. Beauty “is the fringe of the garment of God.” Christ blesses the soul and beautifies the life with purity and praise. His grace removes moral deformity, and prepares for eternal perfection.

IV. Christ is the source of joy. When the sun bursts through the clouds, and pours floods of light over the earth, the birds begin to sing, and children shout for joy. It smiles upon the cottage of the poor, cheers and brings new life to the fainting heart. Joy in Christ may be overcast, but will break out again with greater sweetness and splendour. “And as the morning light he shall arise—a sun” (2 Samuel 23:4).


Malachi 4:1. The oven, the fuel, the intensity of the heat. The throne (of the Ancient of days) was a fiery flame, and his wheels as burning fire. A fiery stream issued and came forth from before him.

Malachi 4:2. Sun of righteousness.

1. As asserting and vindicating the righteousness of God, called in question by blasphemers.

2. As bestowing upon his people a double righteousness (imputed and imparted), as the sun doth light (John 1:16). It is further said that he shall arise, that is, he shall appear and show himself on earth, who now lieth hid, as it were, in heaven, as the material sun doth under the horizon.

1. He was manifest in the flesh, out of the bosom of the Father, out of the types of the law.

2. In the whole course of his life he enlightened and warmed the dark and dry hearts of men, and filled them with fruits of righteousness (John 15:5).

3. He is still in continual motion for the good of the Church, as the sun in heaven for the good of the world. Under a cloud in his passion, he broke forth again in his resurrection. From heaven he daily darts forth his beams of righteousness, and showers down all spiritual blessings in heavenly privileges (Ephesians 1:3). Lastly, at the great day he will show himself in a special manner a “Sun of righteousness;” clearing all obscurities, bringing to light the hidden things of darkness, causing his people’s most holy faith, that now lies hid in great part, to be found to praise, honour, and glory, cheering up their spirits after manifold tribulations, and healing all their spiritual maladies [Trapp].

Healing in his wings.

1. Moral sickness of men.
2. Christ the great Physician.
3. Faith the method of cure. Trust, rest under his wings, for shelter and salvation.

Go forth and grow up as calves. The figure sets forth—

1. Slavery.
2. Freedom.
3. Activity.
4. Growth.
5. Joy. “Grow up; more probably bound, as the animal which has been confined exults in its regained freedom, itself full of life and exuberance of delight” [Pusey]. They were before in darkness and disease, both of which confine. But the Sun of righteousness arises, health is restored, they become free and active. They go forth and grow up as calves of the stall. No creatures, perhaps, increase so rapidly and observedly as these, when, as here, they are well attended and fed, for the very purpose of fattening [Jay].

Malachi 4:3. The great reversal. The wicked overcome, trampled upon as ashes. Victory visible and complete to the saints (Micah 4:12-13; Joel 3:14; Romans 16:20).


Malachi 4:1. Proud. Heaven often regulates effects by their causes, and pays the wicked what they have deserved [Corneille].

Malachi 4:2. Sun. The self-same sun that shines upon his court hides not his visage from our cottage, but looks on both alike [Shakespeare].

“O sun! of this great world both eye and soul” [Milton].

Malachi 4:4. Law. Prize the word of God by the worth of it, that you may not come to prize it by the want of it [Dyer]. There never was found, in any age of the world, either religion or law that did so highly exalt the public good as the Bible [Bacon]. Remember. Memory, like books which remain a long time shut up in the dust, needs to be opened from time to time; it is necessary, so to speak, to open its leaves, that it may be ready in time of need [Seneca].

Malachi 4:5. Elijah. Since the days that John began to preach, since he began to call the world to repentance, there has been a rush into the kingdom of God. Men, roused from their spiritual slumbers, startled by a sense of their own sin and ruin, have earnestly applied for pardon and salvation. The echo of the words he proclaimed on the Jordan still lingers and rings in the souls of men, and the result is a pressing every day into the empire of redemptive truth [Dr. Thomas].

Verses 4-6


Malachi 4:4-6.] Exhortation to avert coming judgment. Since no further communications were to be given, they were to remember those they already possessed. The law] A solemn admonition to Israel and to us, not to disregard God’s word with its statutes] and judgments], its morals and religion.

Malachi 4:5.] To avert the curse from Israel the prophet] would be sent to reform the nation—a prophet in the power and spirit of Elijah. This applied to the Baptist (Matthew 11:14; Matthew 17:12-13. Dreadful day] (cf. Joel 2:31), the destruction of Jerusalem, but applicable to the last day; for “all God’s judgments are hours, marked on the dial plate, and struck by the alarm of that great day” [Words.].

Malachi 4:6. Turn] Family harmony restored, say some; better, a reconciliation of ungodly, estranged from the piety of their ancestors and pious forefathers, by repentance. John’s ministry removed family feuds, prepared multitudes for the Messiah, and thus laid the foundation for the recovery of thousands to the faith of the Gospel (cf. Luke 1:16-17; Acts 21:20). A curse] Lit. a ban, one of the most awful words the Jews could use; fell upon Judea, by which it is devoted to destruction and excluded from common use—a desolation remaining to this day. This word, which closes the prophecy, and with it the Old Testament, should ever ring in our ears, and remind us of the more awful curse of the ungodly (1 Corinthians 14:22; Revelation 20:15).



The prophet closes with special directions to the people. Since no other messenger was to follow him, till Jesus and his forerunner should come, they must consult and remember the written word. Malachi thus closes by showing what must be done to escape the curse and secure the salvation of God at the judgment day. A needed lesson for us.

I. Remember the end of the law. To be the standard of faith and practice; to guide our feet in paths of righteousness; to help in times of darkness and perplexity; and never to supersede, but ever confirm, the teaching of the ministry. The law foreshadows the gospel. Malachi, the last of the prophets, exhorts us to remember Moses, and preaches Christ, in whom the law and the prophets are fulfilled. Thus in every age we learn the importance and the necessity of a careful study of the written word.

II. Remember the auth rity of the law. “Which I commanded him.” The law of Moses is the word of God, given in thunder and smoke, by the ministry of angels and the finger of God. Nature teaches that if we believe in the existence we should submit to the authority of God. Hence Numa, Lycurgus, and Mahomet derived their laws from heaven to secure obedience on earth. The Bible takes the place of “open vision,” and is the representative of God in the world. To neglect it is to despise and to disobey it, to reject the authority of God. “Obey my voice, and do all which I command you.”

III. Remember the reward of obedience to the law. Duty is performed not by respect to some enactment, nor by general consent, but sincere obedience to the whole law, “with the statutes and judgments.” Forgetfulness is the source of every evil. Faithful remembrance will lead to Christ, and prepare for judgment. “I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live.”


Christ is not easily recognized in his coming among men. Hence, lest they should mistake, warnings are given, and messengers are sent to prepare the way. Elijah’s ministry is again realized in the person of the Baptist. Like the prophet, John was to be endowed with extraordinary gifts to fit him for his work. His ministry is commended for the aim and the efficacy of it, and may be taken as a type of the Christian ministry.

I. A ministry Divinely commissioned. “I will send you Elijah.” It was presumption to intrude into the priestly office of old, and to take unwarranted commission is to usurp authority in the Church. Christ himself was not self-commissioned. How then shall his servants “preach except they be sent”? An ambassador must have express authority and instructions from his sovereign. “He who is called to instruct souls is called of God, and not by his own ambition,” says Bernard. John appeared by command, in the name of a royal personage, and made a royal proclamation. What John’s preaching was all preaching should be—the voice, the vocation of God to men. To the uncalled awful failure may-result. “I sent them not, nor commanded them: therefore they shall not profit this people at all, saith the Lord” (Jeremiah 23:32).

II. A ministry moral in its design. John was a reformer. Political theories and metaphysical disputes were not for him to settle. “Repent,” was the cry which resounded in the wilderness, “for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

1. It prepared for Christ. “I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee.” The true minister by his life and preaching will “make ready a prepared people for the Lord.”

2. It saved from curse. Elijah was to come to prepare God’s people, lest at his coming he “smite the earth with a curse.” The destruction of Jerusalem, the curse of Judæa, and the sufferings of the Jews remind us of the Canaanites in the past, and of the impenitent in the future. But the minister of God will warn every man, and urge every man to flee for refuge to the hope set before him in the gospel.

III. A ministry blessed in its results. “He shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children,” &c. Alienated from God, men are alienated from one another. The Jews had fallen away from the faith of their ancestors, and were at strife with the Gentiles. But John, in the spirit and power of Elias, brought back the faithless generations of his day to the God of their fathers, and “restored (regulated, reformed) all things” (Matthew 17:11). Families are now disturbed by worldliness, hatred, and apostasy. Ungodly sons are at variance with godly parents. Society is estranged from God. Love, the bond of union, is broken. Ministers have to fill up the chasm, unite all classes, and bring men back to God. Their work is a reformation, a restitution to original peace and purity, “to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to (by) the wisdom of the just” (or righteous) (Luke 1:17). Thus men will be restored to mutual affection, benevolence will accompany true religion, and morally a new heaven and earth will be created by the gospel. Hearts and lives will be prepared for the coming, and people will enroll themselves as willing subjects of the heavenly kingdom. “The number of the children of Israel shall be as the sand of the sea, which cannot be measured nor numbered.”


Malachi 4:4.

1. Men never left without a rule of life. If not the living voice, they have the written law, a law “for all Israel.”

2. Men apt to forget this rule of life. “Remember the law of Moses.” “Even when we have made considerable advances in knowledge, we must still retain the first principles of practical religion, and resolve to abide by them. Those that study the writings of the prophets and the Apocalypse must still remember the law of Moses and the four Gospels.”

“Men are men; the best sometimes forget” [Shakespeare].

Malachi 4:5. John’s resemblance to Elijah.

1. In the endowments of his mind.
2. In the habits of his life.

3. In the exercise of his ministry. There were many points between Elijah and John. Both prophesied in a time of great unbelief and apostasy from the law; both sought to bring back the people to the piety of their fathers; both prophesied before great and terrible judgments. The historical circumstances in which they lived were remarkably parallel. Ahab appears in Herod, Jezebel in Herodias. The words of Mark 6:20, where he speaks of Herod fearing John, and did many things, may apply without any alteration to Ahab. Their very appearance, the fashion of their dress, and their mode of life were identical [Lange]. Both fell on evil times; both witnessed fearlessly for God; neither was much seen save in the direct exercise of their ministry; both were at the head of schools of disciples; the result of the ministry of both might be expressed in the same terms: “many (not all, nor even the majority, but still many) of the children of Israel did they turn to the Lord their God [D. Brown].

Malachi 4:6. The words indicate the work of the Christian minister. A reconciler turning men’s hearts towards God and one another. A herald to announce the approach of Christ. A pioneer to prepare the way. He has to awaken right feeling, warn of coming judgment, and point to Christ as the only hope of escape. “Flee from the wrath to come.”

The closing of the Old Testament in Malachi is unspeakably solemn. On its last leaf we find the blessing and the curse, life and death, set before us. As its first page tells us of the sin and curse of our first parents, so its last speaks of the law given by Moses, of sin, and the curse following, mingled with promises of the grace which was to come by Jesus Christ. So on the last page of the New Testament we read of “plagues written in this book,” but its last words are gracious words: “Surely I come quickly. Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus! The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen” [Lange].


Malachi 4:4. Law. Prize the word of God by the worth of it, that you may not come to prize it by the want of it [Dyer]. There never was found, in any age of the world, either religion or law that did so highly exalt the public good as the Bible [Bacon]. Remember. Memory, like books which remain a long time shut up in the dust, needs to be opened from time to time; it is necessary, so to speak, to open its leaves, that it may be ready in time of need [Seneca].

Malachi 4:5. Elijah. Since the days that John began to preach, since he began to call the world to repentance, there has been a rush into the kingdom of God. Men, roused from their spiritual slumbers, startled by a sense of their own sin and ruin, have earnestly applied for pardon and salvation. The echo of the words he proclaimed on the Jordan still lingers and rings in the souls of men, and the result is a pressing every day into the empire of redemptive truth [Dr. Thomas].

Malachi 4:6. Curse. Parting words are always solemn, as closing the past, and opening out a future of expectation before us. The position of Malachi, as the last of the prophets, bids us more solemnly prepare for that dread day—our Lord’s second coming—which he foretold, in one with the first, warning us that we deceive not ourselves, in unconsciousness of our own evil and remembrance of our seeming good, until he profess unto us, “I never knew you; depart from me, ye that work iniquity” [Pusey].

And of the twelve prophets let the memorial be blessed, and let their bones flourish again out of their place (Sir. 49:10).

Bibliographical Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Malachi 4". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/phc/malachi-4.html. Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1892.
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