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The burden of the Word of the Lord to Israel by Malachi.
A Divine burden
Some burdens are self-imposed; some laid upon us by our fellow-men; some by God. The prophets felt that the Word of God was a burden upon their souls.
I. It was a burden of Divine revelation. Words reveal. A true word is a manifestation of the soul. God was known by the utterances of these inspired men. His Word is now His choicest revelation. His Word is true, faithful, precious, enlightening, saving, eternal.
II. It is a burden borne by the holiest of men. God speaks through men. Many holy men now feel that the Word of God is in them. This burden should be borne by these holy men, humbly, prayerfully, thankfully, and conscientiously.
III. It is a burden borne for the world. God’s Word must not be hidden. Truth heard in the inner sanctuary of the soul must be proclaimed upon the housetops. God’s Word is for all nations. Whoever has it, has this burden for the world, He must carry it fearfully, distinctly, honestly, and unadulteratedly. Let the churches pray much for those who bear the burden of the Word. Often they are oppressed with their responsibilities. (W. Osborne Lilley.)
The burden of the Word of the Lord
The prophets of old were no triflers. They carried a burden. The servants of God mean business; they have something to carry, worth carrying. Those who speak for God must not speak lightly. God’s true servants, who are burdened with His Word, right willingly and cheerfully carry that burden. We bear a burden indeed, but we should be sorry not to bear it.
I. Why is the word of the Lord a burden to him that speaketh it? It is a burden because it is the Word of the Lord.
1. The Word of the Lord becomes a burden in the reception of it. No man can preach the Gospel aright until he has had it borne into his own soul with overwhelming energy. True preaching is artesian, it wells up from the great depths of the soul.
2. The Word of God is a burden in the delivery of it. He that finds it easy to preach, will find it hard work to give an account of his preaching at the last great day. To speak aright, God’s Word beneath the Divine influence is, in the speaking as well as in the getting of the message, the burden of the Lord.
3. When we have preached, the Gospel becomes a burden in after consideration. If God sends any of us to do good to our fellow-men, and to speak in His name, the souls of men will be a perpetual burden to us.
II. It is a burden because of what it is. What is it that the true servant of God has to bear and preach?
1. It is the rebuke of sin. If a man bears the burden of the Word of the Lord, he speaks most to his people upon the evil of which they are most guilty. Every true preacher must be careless of man’s esteem, and speak faithfully; but this is a burden to one of a tender spirit.
2. The Word of the Lord gives a rebuff to human pride. The doctrines of the Gospel seem shaped on purpose, among other objects, to bring into contempt all human glory. So human nature does not like our message. And such preaching becomes the burden of the Lord.
3. The true preacher has to come into contact with the vanity of human intellect. The things of God are hidden from the wise and prudent, but revealed unto babes; and the wise and prudent are indignant at this act of Divine sovereignty. To face false science with the “polishness of preaching,” and to set up the Cross in the teeth of learned self-sufficiency, is a burden from the Lord.
4. The most heavy burden is that which concerns the future. We are heavy at heart for the many who will not turn to God, but persist in destroying their own souls for ever.
III. It is a burden because of the consequences of our bearing it to you. Suppose that we do not preach the Gospel, and warn the wicked man, so that he turn not from his iniquity, what then? “He shall perish, but his blood will I require at thy hand.” What will my Lord say to me if I am unfaithful to you? Then it becomes a great burden to me to preach the Gospel when I think of what those lose who will not have it.
IV. It is often the burden of the Lord, because of the way in which men treat the Word of God. Some trifle with it. The preoccupation of human minds makes it such a burden when we are in earnest to reach the heart and win the soul. Quite a number hear with considerable attention, but forget all that they hear. The sermon is all done with when they have done hearing it. There are even some that hear to ridicule. The preacher is in anguish to save a soul, and they are thinking about how he pronounces a word.
V. It is a burden when the preacher remembers that he will have to give an account. There will come a time when it will be said, “Preacher, give an account of your stewardship.” Remember the great Lord of all true Gospel preachers bore a far heavier burden than we. Since it is a burden in itself, I ask you not to make it any heavier. You add to my burden, if you do not aid me in the Lord’s work. But the greatest increase of my burden comes from those who do not receive the Gospel at all. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
was not Esau Jacob’s brother?
saith the Lord: yet I loved Jacob, and I hated Esau, and laid his mountains and his heritage waste for the dragons of the wilderness.
From the fate of the hunter Esau, we learn the peril of life’s low ideals; the power of life’s crucial moments; the continuity of life’s irrevocable retributions; the anguish of life’s fruitless tears. The fortunes of Jacob are indeed too eventful, his character too complex, to allow any attempt at exhaustive analysis. But we may learn something which will aid us in our daily difficult endeavour to choose the good and not the evil, and to give our hearts and lives to God.
1. “I loved Jacob, and hated Esau.” Does not our first instinct almost rebel against this appeal? Do we not incline to prefer the elder, for all his frank earthliness, to the younger, with his mean servilities and subterranean shifts? Yet there the sentence stands; and all Scripture, and the long centuries of human history, set the seal of confirmation to the sacred verdict. The Aryan has prevailed in war and civilisation, but in all other things the Semite conquered his conqueror. More than any other nation, the Hebrew realised the intense grandeur and infinite supremacy of the moral law, and saw that the greatest and most awful aim for human life is not culture, but conduct. Let us see why Jacob, who seems to concentrate all the worst faults which we associate with the lowest type of Jewish character, is yet preferred to his more gallant and manly brother.
2. Let me reject at once two solutions of it. Some would settle it on the broad grounds of predestinated election and arbitrary decree, and would confuse our understanding with reasonings high of freedom and foreknowledge, will and fate. Others think it sufficient to silence us with the triumphant assertion, that we are but clay in the hands of the potter, that God may treat us as He wills. Others, again, argue that we must not judge Jacob’s sins as though they were sinful, because Scripture records them without distinct condemnation, and because he may have been acting under Divine directions. I do not only reject all such solutions, I declare the first to be blasphemous, and the second deplorable. God is no arbitrary tyrant, but a merciful, loving, righteous Father. And the moral law, in its inviolable majesty, infinitely transcends the wretched “idols of the theatre” which men have called theories of inspiration. If God chose Jacob, it was because the true nature of Jacob was intrinsically worthy of that choice.
3. According to the Hebrew idiom, the strong antithesis of the text connotes less than it asserts, being but a more intense way of saying that, in comparison with his brother, Esau neither deserved nor received the approval of God. A second abatement--though not removal--of the difficulty lies in the fact that Jacob seems worse to us because his faults were essentially those of an Oriental, and are therefore peculiarly offensive to the heart of a true Englishman. And long may falseness and meanness be utterly abhorrent to our Northern character! But our special national scorn of Jacob’s deceitfulness does not make it one whit more contemptible than Esau’s animalism.
4. Herein lies the first great moral of these two lives. That which is holy is not to be cast to the dogs. Esau lost the blessing because he reeked not of it. Jacob gained it, because his whole soul yearned for its loftiest hopes. Men, on the whole, do win what they will: they do achieve that at which they resolutely aim. This is perfectly true in worldly things. But there is one ambition which is worth the absorbing devotion of a human being. It is the ambition of holiness, the treasure of eternity, the object of seeing the face of God.
5. What a difference is made by different ideals. Each of these twin-brothers lost and gained much more beside their immediate wish. Esau the rough becomes by scornful memorial Edom the red; Jacob the supplanter becomes Israel the prince with God.
6. Another lesson is, that however lofty be our aims, we must not, in order to hasten them, deflect, were it but one hair’s breadth, from the path of perfect rectitude. Jacob inherited the blessing because his faith yearned for its spiritual promises; but because he compassed its immediate achievement by a crime, therefore, with the blessing there fell on him a retribution so heavy, so unremitted, as made his look back over life a bitter pain.
7. In spite of all which stained his life, Jacob was still a patriarch and a saint. You must not judge of him as a whole by the instances, so faithfully recorded, of his guilty plottings. In two main respects Jacob was certainly greater, better, and worthier than Esau. The sins of Esau’s life were, so to speak, the very narrative; the sins of Jacob’s life were but the episode of his career.
8. There is this further difference. There is not the faintest sign that Esau ever repented of his sin. But in Jacob’s life there was many a moment when he would have forfeited the very blessing to purchase back the innocence by which it had been gained. Learn lastly, that the continuity of godliness is the choicest gift of all, and innocence is better than repentance. And we see in the case of Esau’s red pottage and ravenous hour, that one failure under sudden temptation may be alike the ruin and epitome of a man’s career, because the impulse of the hour is nothing less than the momentum of the life. (Dean Farrar.)
The sovereignty of God in relation to man’s secular condition of life
1. Some men on this earth seem to be more favoured by providence than others, yet they are often unconscious of it. This is true of individuals, and of nations.
2. This difference in the privileges of men is to be ascribed to the sovereignty of God. That sovereignty does not imply either partiality on His part, or irresponsibleness on man’s part.
3. Those whom the sovereignty of God does not favour are left in a secularly unenviable condition. They will--
(1) Have their possessions destroyed.
(2) Their efforts frustrated.
(3) Their enemies prospering. (Homilist.)
God’s love to His Church
The first fault reproved in this people is their ingratitude, and not observing or esteeming of God’s love toward them, which therefore He demonstrates, from His choosing of Jacob their father, and preferring him to Esau the elder brother; not only in the matter of election to eternal life, but in that God had chosen Jacob to be the root out of whom the blessed seed should come, and the Church propagated in his posterity; and accordingly (as an eternal evidence of this rejection of Esau and his posterity) the Lord had given to him but a hilly, barren country, and had now cast them out of it, and laid it desolate, as a habitation for wild beasts; whereas the seed of Jacob had gotten a fruitful land, and were now restored to it again after their captivity. Doctrine--
1. The chief and principal study of the visible Church, and the godly in it, ought to be the love of God manifested toward them, as being that which God will not allow to be suspected, and which ought to oblige them to Him; that which will be the sad ground of a process when it is forgotten and undervalued; and that which, being looked on when God reproves, will encourage and strengthen to take with it, and make use of it. Therefore doth He begin this doctrine, and the sad challenges with this, “I have loved you, saith the Lord,” that is, all of you in general have tasted of respects suitable, and beseeming My Bride and the visible Church; and particularly the elect among you have tasted of My special love.
2. God’s love to His Church is often met with great ingratitude, in not being seen and acknowledged as becomes, especially under cross dispensations, in undervaluing the effects of it, when they fit not our mould, and in deeds denying it, while thoughts of it do not beget love to Him again; for “yet ye say, wherein hast Thou loved us?”
3. Election unto eternal life is a sufficient testimony of God’s love, to be acknowledged and commended, although all things else went cross, and seemed to speak disrespect: for in this--“The Lord loved Jacob, and hated Esau,” as is exponed (Romans 9:13); and this is sufficient to answer their quarrelling.
4. To be chosen and selected to be the Lord’s Church and people, speaks so much respect from God unto a nation, as may counterbalance many other hard lots.
5. The Lord’s love will not be so clearly seen and acknowledged, when we compare some dispensations with the privileges bestowed upon us, but when we consider our own original, and wherein we are dealt favourably with beyond others, as good as ourselves, if not better: for however Israel, looking on their many privileges, could not see God’s love in their low condition, yet it would better appear when they looked back that “Esau was Jacob’s brother” (and the elder too), yet “I loved Jacob and hated Esau.”
6. The grace of God is not dispensed differently in the world, upon any difference in the point of worth among men: but grace itself makes the difference in choosing out one, and leaving another, as good in himself, to his own ways, according to His pleasure, who hath mercy on whom He will have mercy, for Jacob and Esau are equal, till love makes the difference.
7. However, no man can know love or hatred by outward dispensations, simply considered in themselves, yet afflictions are to wicked men real testimonies of God’s displeasure, and God’s people, being at peace with Him, may look on external mercies as speaking special love; for Esau’s hilly land, and the desolation thereof, speaks “hating of Esau,” not only as rejection from Canaan was a type of the rejection from the Church and heaven, but as it was a judgment inflicted on a nation unreconciled, whereas (at least) the godly in Israel might look otherwise on their land and restitution. (George Hutcheson.)
The love of God undiscerned
God is love. This is true even when He afflicts, for whom He loveth He chasteneth. We must not therefore infer that He does not love because He afflicts. The gardener prunes the grape which he values, not the thistle which he hates. The fruit-tree that is highly prized is trimmed that it may bear more fruit: the forest tree that is designed for the flames is left to grow in unpruned luxuriance. God still addresses us with the same touching appeal, “I have loved you,” and He still meets the same hard, ungrateful response, “Wherein hast Thou loved us?” Men suffer many forms of outward evil and inward grief because of their sins; but instead of referring them to the proper cause--their own wickedness--they impiously accuse God in their hearts of being indifferent to their welfare. They refuse to look at the tokens of love strewed all along their history, and dwell in obstinate ingratitude on the evils that their own sin has entailed upon them. And yet that history is crowded with such tokens. (T.V. Moore, D. D.)
I. The prophet’s reproof. He is, in the name of God, taxing the people with ingratitude. There is no sin more hateful to God than the sin of ingratitude. Another charge is that of neglect. They offer a polluted sacrifice. All they want is a cheap religion. They are willing to make some offering, but not the best offering. They would be glad to do something for God, but it must cost them nothing.
II. The threat. There should, in consequence, be the rejection of their prayers, the rejection of their persons, and the rejection of their services, and a transfer of their privileges to others.
III. Practical lessons.
1. God’s service is a real service, not a nominal service. Formality is not enough.
2. It is a sure sign of want of grace in your hearts, when God’s service is a weariness.
3. Confidence in God is a necessary part of acceptable prayer and acceptable service. (Montagu Villiers, M. A.)
God’s declared hatred of Edom
The two nations, Israel and Edom, were utterly opposed in genius and character. Edom was a people of as unspiritual and self-sufficient a temper as ever cursed any of God’s human creatures. Like their ancestor they were “profane,” without repentance, humility, or ideals, and almost without religion. Apart, therefore, from the long history of war between the two peoples, it was a true instinct which led Israel to regard their brother as representative of that heathendom against which they had to realise their destiny in the world as God’s own nation. In choosing the contrast of Edom’s fate to illustrate God’s love for Israel, “Malachi” was not only choosing what would appeal to the passions of his contemporaries, but what is the most striking and constant antithesis in the whole history of Israel: the absolutely diverse genius and destiny of these two Semitic nations who were nearest neighbours, and, according to their traditions, twin brethren after the flesh. If we keep this in mind we shall understand Paul’s use of the antithesis in the passage in which he clenches it by a quotation from Malachi: “as it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated.” In these words the doctrine of the Divine election of individuals appears to be expressed as absolutely as possible. But it would be unfair to read the passage except in the light of Israel s history. In the Old Testament it is a matter of fact that the doctrine of the Divine preference of Israel to Esau appeared only after the respective characters of the nations were manifested in history, and that it grew more defined and absolute only as history discovered more of the fundamental contrast between the two in genius and destiny. In the Old Testament, therefore, the doctrine is the result, not of an arbitrary belief in God’s bare flat, but of historical experience; although, of course, the distinction which experience proves is traced back, with everything else of good or evil that happens, to the sovereign will and purpose of God. Nor let us forget that the Old Testament doctrine of election is of election to service only. That is to say, the Divine intention in electing covers not the elect individual or nation only, but the whole world, and its need of God and His truth. The event to which “Malachi” appeals as evidence for God’s rejection of Edom is the deso lation of the latter’s ancient heritage, and the abandonment to the “jackals of the desert.” (Geo. Adam Smith, D. D.)
Why should God say, Jacob I loved, Esau I hated? Why should He choose one nation of the earth to favour beyond all others? Is not that an arbitrary and unfair exercise of His will? Now, no doubt that is the case if we only put on election the interpretation common among the later Jews, and the one most familiar to ourselves. We need to correct it by the larger ideas which St. Paul suggests to us, and which are, at least, latent in the Old Testament. For one thing, let us remember that God’s purposes are wider than anything we can conceive of, and that we have to make allowances for that, whenever we seek to understand or criticise His providential dealings. As St. Paul tried to teach the Christians in Rome, God chose Israel not for the sake of Israel alone, but for the sake of the world. To him this explains at once the apparent arbitrariness of the choice, and the narrowness of the groove within which Israel had moved. God elected and trained the people for a certain special end. It was not that by nature they were specially fitted for that end, but rather that they were made to fit it by His grace. Here is one Semitic people out of many showing a peculiar temperament and genius for religion, and subjected to influences all of which tended to emphasise its peculiarities and fit it for its destiny among mankind. And its history can only be read aright in the light of some larger and even world-wide scheme, which it was being prepared to fulfil. But, of course, it is not only in Israel, or, indeed, in any of the nations of the world, that this apparent arbitrariness of Providence is to be seen. It runs through human life. Take the story of Jacob and Esau, as only referring to the men themselves, and we find that it is one that is constantly repeated in our experience. The inequality of human destinies is one of the stock themes of the pessimist; one man is chosen and another rejected, and it is certainly not of works but of Him that calleth. One of the most disconcerting things in all our experience is the apparent failure of goodness to secure its reward. Sometimes it is the most unworthy who is selected for the crown, while the saint is passed by or made to stoop under the cross. Then men enter for the race of life strangely and even unfairly handicapped. One man inherits a physique and a nervous system which means a happy temperament and unusual strength of character; another is the victim of congenital weakness, which dooms him to much misery and possibly to sin. One man is elected to conditions altogether favourable to the development of his higher self, while another’s circumstances tend constantly to drag him down. We have all experienced at times the baffling and tragic sense of wrong to which such thoughts as these give rise. But do we remember that most of our perplexity is due to the fact that we confine our views to the earthly and material side of life? We have to take much else into account before we can hope to face the prospect which God’s providence presents with anything like equanimity. His purposes are surely not confined in their scope either to the lives of individuals or to this world in which we now live in the flesh. Nor is the supreme object of His dealing with us the happiness of many or of most. If we are to trust all the indications of natural and revealed religion, God’s purpose is supremely ethical In His eyes goodness is as far above happiness as heaven is above the earth; and that even happiness should be sacrificed that high moral ends may be secured is something which should cause us no concern. Then, again, if we have read our Bibles to any purpose, or even studied intelligently the average experiences of men, we shall know that no view of life which leaves out of account its spiritual aspect can be either just or sane. We cannot, gaze as we will, see the end from the beginning. Events that seem most contrary and cruel in our experience have in them a soul of goodness for those that have eyes to see. The wicked may flourish like a green bay-tree, but he perishes like the green hay-tree too when his time comes; and the righteous may obtain no reward but that of a good conscience, yet in the end he is received into everlasting habitations. There is more being done all round us to redress the balance than we have any conception of, hut it is not until we come to look at life from a higher standpoint than that of mere earthly interests that we can see it. The work of Providence in a man’s life is not finished when the man himself has passed away; sometimes it is only just begun. But we need to bear in mind that God’s election of a man or of a race is not always, as we think, an election to favour or privilege alone. Under Providence special privilege means special responsibilities, and election is election to service. Men and nations alike are instruments in God’s hands, and He makes them serve His ends. Where there is a special endowment or fitness, there is a special function to be fulfilled, and this function is one in which many have an interest outside the individual. We must learn to judge therefore in the light, not only of the special endowment given, but of the special ends to be served by it. The history of Israel, for example, were almost inexplicable apart from its results on the religion of mankind. The key to it is to be found not in Moses or the prophets or the rabbis, but in Christ. The people had been fitted for a particular work, and it was their fitness which constituted their election. This helps to explain the strange one-sidedness there is in national life. It is a question of selection as well as election, the power or faculty most regularly employed growing at the expense of the rest. And to the religious mind each nation alike is an instrument of Providence, and in them all is to be seen something of the grand purpose of God working itself out slowly but surely, through difficulty and apparent defeat, towards that best which is yet to be. But we need to come a little closer to the subject yet. All that has been said may be quite true, but it does not dispose of the difficulty in our text. There may be a great deal to be said for the doctrine of election in the abstract; but when it is couched ill such language as this, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated,” it is difficult to avoid a sense of undue favouritism, and the thought that God is, after all, a respecter of persons, in the sense of having personal preferences. And yet we have only to look behind the words to see that the conclusion is unwarranted. As it is, we see behind the words a law or principle which we must not ignore. If we may argue from human analogies, it is but natural and just to say that God loves those who love Him. One of the things we learn most surely flora Bible history is that God does not look for moral perfection in those to whom He grants His favours, and whom He chooses to do His work. Jacob was far from being a perfect character; but with all his faults he had the supreme virtue of religion, he had learned to take God into account in his actions, and to work and think with reference to His will. Esau, on the other hand, is the type of those who are without God in the world--profane persons, who are blind to their highest interests, and live wilfully on the lower side of life. What wonder that from such God’s face should be turned away! God loves those who love Him, and the shadow cast by His love is His hatred of all that would lead men away from Him and keep them in the dark of selfishness and sin. As has been said already, we have to reckon with man’s will as well as God’s. He compels no man to be either righteous or sinful, and the fact that we are free adds a brighter halo to our goodness, and deepens immeasurably the stain of our guilt. We are always working either with God or against Him, and this fact, while it adds a new hope and assurance to our efforts after righteousness, makes the evil that is in us point only to despair. Judged by the only standards we can use, we have to lay the blame on man and not on God for whatever is dark and terrible in the words, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.” A subject like this brings vividly home to us the supreme needs of the religious man--faith in God and co-operation with Him. It is often cruelly enough revealed to us that in this life--in spite of the light of reason--we are as those that grope in the dark. After all, the world is only in the making as yet, and we have to learn to judge not by the intricate mass of scaffolding, rubbish heaps, and half-built walls that we see, but by the Architect’s plans. In spite of all the perplexities and inconsistencies which puzzle us here, we have to learn to look at the design which runs through them all, and the purpose which by them is being slowly evolved. Sometimes all we can do is to trust and wait, to be sure that there is a secret to this mystery and a solution to that riddle, but that we have not yet eyes to see them; and we must remember, too, that faith will never sit with folded hands doing nothing, but that true faith always works. The greater the trouble and the difficulty the more need there is for work, and the effort to do God’s will as far as it is known is the only means by which that will can be more clearly understood. (W. B. Selbie, M. A.)
The dragons of the wilderness.
Ancient history is full of legends concerning the deadly power of dragons. The Bible has many references to these imaginary monsters. In Church history they are represented as winged crocodiles, and regarded as emblems of sin and the devil. There are spiritual dragons now. Consider--
I. These dragons. They are besetting sins, turbulent passions, sinful customs, fascinating vices, evil spirits, etc.
II. Where they dwell. The wilderness. The world, though beautiful, is yet cursed by sin. To the saintly heart it is often a wilderness--
1. For its loneliness.
2. For its barrenness.
3. For its dangers.
Dragons lurk there. They may pour forth their fire and fury upon us there at any time. Application. Be watchful. Seek the help of the great dragon-slayer--Christ. In all legends of the slaying of dragons it was one hero that did it--Hercules, Perseus, Siegfried, St. Michael, St. George--these slew the dragons, and delivered the people. (W. Osborne Lilley.)
They shall build, but I will throw down.
To separate our lives from God is folly; to live in opposition to Him is madness. Many not only disregard Him, but also oppose Him.
I. Who are these foolish builders?
1. Those who seek to build up a reputation with deceits.
2. Those who build up the fortunes of their houses with unrighteousness.
3. Those who build up a religious life without faith in Christ, the only foundation.
4. Those who build up their characters with evil principles and deeds.
5. Those who build up high positions by treachery and tyranny.
II. Consider the certainty of their overthrow. Woe be to the work that has God against it. It cannot stand. Think of His power, knowledge, and absolute control of all things. Everything that He does not smile upon must perish. History confirms this. Kingdoms created with great magnificence and might, but built in defiance of His laws, have, like Edom, fallen. Theological systems, and ecclesiastical despotisms that have been built up in opposition to Him, have been overthrown. Biography also confirms this. No life that has been spent in opposition to Him, however apparently influential, but has crumbled away like a falling tower. When God says, “I will throw down,” none can save. Experience also confirms it. Learn not to lay a stone in life without God. We should enter upon no work without first securing His aid and blessing. We can only erect a structure that will stand for ever, as we build in God’s way, and under the influence of the Spirit of Jesus. ( W. Osborne Lilley.)
The Lord will be magnified from (or upon) the border of Israel.
Each nation had its God
The deities were made to rival each other in the protection and blessing which they afforded to the nations that worshipped them.
I. This prophetic utterance. Evils abounded when the prophet lived. The sins of the people were eclipsing God’s glory; but the prophet knew that it would shine forth as the sun. It is therefore an utterance--
(1) Of holy faith;
(2) of firm assurance;
(3) of exultant expectation.
God must be magnified. It is necessary--
1. For the furtherance of His purposes.
2. For the vindication of His righteousness.
3. For the good of the universe.
II. How this utterance was, and may be fulfilled. The history of the Israelites abounds with confirmations of the prophet’s words. His faith would be strengthened as he remembered past dispensations. Though God’s ancient people were dispersed, the spiritual Israel remains. He has been magnified.
1. In the redemption of the cross.
2. In the interposition of providence in behalf of His Church.
3. In the holy lives and sufferings of His people.
4. In the missionary enterprises of His Church.
III. Where this should be fulfilled. In “the border of Israel.” The spiritual Israel must ever magnify God. This is the duty of the Church.
1. The Church should interpret all events so as to do this.
2. It should do it under all circumstances.
3. It should seek this first in all its organisations and evangelistic efforts.
Application. Let this be our aim continually--to magnify God. We often seek to magnify ourselves. Our truest greatness is in making Him great. (W. Osborne Lilley.)
A son honoureth his father, and a servant his master.
There is a sin common among us, which we may be unwilling to recognise, the sin of irreverence; a want of respect for the presence, power, and majesty of God, arising from thoughtlessness or practical unbelief. We need not attempt to prove that God has a right to expect from us the fullest tribute of veneration which we can offer, for this truth is a self-evident one. He is the Creator; we are the creatures. He is the Redeemer; we are they whom He has purchased to Himself. He is the Sanctifier; we are they who need sanctification. He is Eternal, Almighty, Infinite; we are mortal, weak, finite. As His mercy claims our love, so do His power and goodness claim our reverence. This conclusion we must have arrived at, if we had only the light of nature; it is fully sustained by revelation. In order to serve God acceptably, we must serve Him “with reverence and godly fear.” But on this point we are lamentably defective, so that the reproof addressed to Israel in the days of Malachi may, with as great, or even greater, appropriateness, be applied to ourselves. Malachi’s censure was, in the first instance, applied to the priests. But as it was with the priests, so is it now with all. We do not deny that God is our Father and Master. With our lips we acknowledge Him, but our hearts are far from Him. We do not consider the force of our words when we confess Him, or what they involve. We speak of Him as our Father and Master, but we tacitly persuade ourselves that in His case the paternal and domestic relation is something different from what it is among ourselves; that we are not His servants and children in the same sense as we are with regard to such of our fellow-creatures as hold such a connection with us. And it is true God has this further claim upon us, that He is our God. But this is a consideration from which we shrink, and so endeavour to persuade ourselves that His Godhead rather diminishes than enhances His claims upon us on other grounds. Irreverence in Malachi’s days was shown by the character of the offerings made to God. Instead of bringing the best and most perfect, men thought it sufficient to sacrifice what was torn and crippled, what was cheap and paltry, what was of no value in the market. They offered to God of that which cost them nothing. Have we no temptation to commit precisely the same kind of sin? Look at the state of our churches; and negligence in church-repairs. It may be said, “so as our hearts be right, it matters little under what external circumstances we worship.” The Israelites might have offered a similar plea. But let us examine whether our hearts are right, and whether we have as much reverence for God’s presence in His house as we ought to have. It is not in God’s own house only that we show our indifference to Him. The manner in which we treat His name, His day, His Word, His ministers, His sacraments, all is so much evidence against us that we have not that abiding awe of Him which is due to Him. From what causes such a spirit of irreverence has grown, and spread till it has taken possession of us; in what was its origin, and how it has been fostered, I cannot now stop to express an opinion. The fact is before us, and the bitter fruits of our profaneness and irreverence are ripening day by day. I do not say that our national and individual irreverence will end in open apostasy, but the tendency is, of course, that way; and we are in the greater peril, because the infection has spread both silently and universally. What then must be done? Let each endeavour to realise to himself more fully than he has yet done, the presence of God among us. He is present in His Church, in His sacraments, in His ministers, in His poor; present among us everywhere, and at all seasons. We must watch ourselves in little things, and reflect continually before whom they are done. We must avoid speaking of religious subjects before those who are likely to ridicule them. As a Father, we must pay God the honour that is due. We must not forget that, as our Master, He claims our fear as well as our love. (F. E. Paget, M. A.)
The honour due to God
This text is identified with general and permanent principles, and it admits of a general and permanent application, to be interpreted as a just pleading by Jehovah on behalf of His own glory, with the whole family of man.
I. Whence the claim of god upon the young arises. From His character as Father. The reason why the Most High is thus represented is, because from His creative will and power men derive their being, and because by His providential arrangements and care their being is supplied and preserved. Hence His paternal character is extensive as the world and permanent as time. It is designed to be recognised by us as involving the two great attributes of authority and kindness--authority which is supreme and unimpeachable, kindness which is unfailing and unbounded.
II. What the claim of God upon you involves. He claims a Father’s right to be honoured. The mode of address here implies the guilt omission of men to render to God what is His due. “Where Is Mine honour?” A vast proportion of the human family have attempted to banish God as an alien from the universe He has made.
1. The honour which your Father requires is your adoring reverence of His perfections.
2. Your practical obedience of His law.
3. Your zealous devotedness to His cause.
III. How Is the claim of God upon you commended? He whom you are summoned to honour possesses an absolute right to you.
1. Your compliance with the claim of God as your Father will secure your dignity.
2. It will secure your usefulness.
3. It will secure your happiness.
Your consciences will be perturbed by no agitations. Your happiness will be that arising from gratitude and from benevolence. The knowledge that you have imparted happiness to others will be delightful. (James Parsons.)
The Father’s honour
The claim of God upon the confidence and obedience of man is based upon the unalterable fact that man is the son of God. For the answer to this ceaseless appeal to the filial instinct of humanity the world’s Father stands waiting with tireless patience and unspeakable compassion at the door of every heart. There is a stage in the spiritual development of most lives when this transcendent truth passes from a dim instruct into a radiant certainty, it is the stage of “knowing the Lord.” The instinct of sonship has never been absent from the race. The ancient Aryans spoke of the Eternal as “Dyaus Pitar”; the Greeks as “Zeus Pater”; the Latins as “Jupiter”; the Norsemen as “Thor,” each word foreshadowing with stammering lips the Pater-noster--our heaven Father. Christ alone revealed the truth in perfection, and taught it in power. He, the revealer of the Father’s moral and affectional nature in the limitations of a human body. This new clement infused into the thought of the world possesses individual hearts but slowly. The mind perceives that as the self-existent primal cause of all has conditioned Himself in natural phenomena that all thinkers might recognise Him as an Intelligence; so Almighty fatherhood has conditioned His moral attributes, His love, tenderness, and sacrifice in the workings of a human mind, and the words of a human voice, and the actions of a human life, in the Incarnation. As he looks on Jesus he sees Him as the great Sacrament of the Fatherhood, the visible embodiment of the all-pervading Father-Spirit. Just here comes in the searching power of the individual application of the appeal of God for the spiritual evolution of man. “If I be a Father, where is Mine honour?” The test of knowing the Lord is hearing the voice: ears that are deafened by the din of second causes hear not the voice. The conscious moral act whereby a son of God accepted the challenge, is deliberate mental disentanglement from second causes, and the recognition of God in every concern of life. The Father’s demand, “Where is Mine honour?” is not satisfied without witness, enthusiasm, and loyalty. The duty of witness is clear and inalienable. No son of God can claim exemption. As to enthusiasm; one characteristic of the civilised heathenism of the age is the undisguised contempt ever poured upon enthusiasm. The Archetypal Man was an enthusiast; He loved the people with passion, and He turned the world upside down. And loyalty to the heavenly citizenship, and the guidance of the Eternal Spirit. (Canon Wilberforce, D. D.)
A Fatherly exposulation
Every relationship has its rights and duties. God’s claims are paramount. As our Father He has a right to our veneration and love. He requires us to possess the filial spirit.
I. Consider the truth assumed. “If then I be a Father.” God’s Fatherhood has been generally recognised. He has always acted as a Father towards men--
1. In bringing them into existence.
2. In stamping upon them His own image.
3. In providing for their needs in the bounties of nature.
4. In redeeming them from sin.
5. In adopting them into His heavenly family.
6. In arranging life so as to discipline them.
II. God’s appeal in view of this truth. “Where is Mine honour?” This appeal is just and right. It is our duty to render honour to God. This involves--
1. Reverence toward Him. Always to speak of Him with respect and love; revering His ordinances; worshipping in His sanctuary.
2. Obedience to His commandments. Making them the rule of our lives, and delighting in them as the expression of His will.
3. Trust in His goodness. Believing that He will never err in the arrangements of His providence, but that all things will work together for our good.
4. Submission to His chastisements. Bearing affliction as from His hand.
5. By revealing His image. Showing in our dispositions and deeds that we are His children.
III. How this appeal should be responded to.
1. By serious reflection.
2. By true repentance.
3. By earnest prayer for the possession of the spirit of sonship promised in Christ.
4. By constant efforts to honour God in the future. (W. Osborne Lilley.)
Of God’s being the Father and Master of mankind
I. How truly God is the Father, and the Master of mankind.
1. The Father. God gave being to the world and all things in it. St. Paul styles Him “the Father, of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named,” the Head of the rational system, the Father both of angels and men, who all derive their being from Him, and in the constitution of their nature bear some features and resemblances of the great original from whence they sprung. God created man in His own image. It is evident from our consciousness and experience, that we have such powers of perception and understanding, such a sense of good and evil, right and wrong, and such principles of honesty and goodness in our nature as ally and unite us to the Father of spirits, and give us a striking resemblance of Him, in some of His most glorious attributes and qualities. God is also to be considered the Father of mankind, as He has made an ample provision for the improvement and happiness of the excellent nature which He has given them.
2. The Master. As God hath all power in Himself, and as by this alone the universe subsists, all creatures whatsoever are necessarily in a state of subjection to Him. There is something implied in the notion of God’s being the Master of men, more than His merely exercising an uncontrollable dominion over them. But God is a perfectly holy, righteous, and good Potentate, governing rational agents according to the dictates of the highest sanctity and justice, and consulting their happiness in all His administrations towards them. That He is the righteous Governor of men is evident from His having laid us under the law of righteousness in the constitution of our being. The foundation of God’s moral government over men is firmly laid in His own nature and in ours. A just order is plainly prevalent in the conduct of human affairs, notwithstanding the irregularities and confusions which are to be observed in them.
II. What is that duty which we owe to God as Father and Master? Expressed in the terms honour and fear.
1. Honour. No sentiments are made universal and better known to the mind than those of respect, duty, and submission, which children entertain for their parents in this world. If this be the temper which becomes us with respect to the fathers of our flesh, how much more must we cultivate the same temper towards the Father of our spirits. Surely the devotion of our minds towards Him must rise into a perfect adoration of His goodness, accompanied with the sincerest gratitude and love, the firmest affiance in Him, the most absolute resignation to His will, and the most earnest endeavours to obey His laws and to imitate His purity and benignity in our whole conversation.
2. Fear. As the masters of this world are of different tempers and characters, so the fear of their subjects or servants in regard to them is of very different kinds. God has nothing in His nature resembling the qualities of the arbitrary or oppressive masters and rulers of this world. His government is founded on the maxims of perfect wisdom, goodness, and righteousness, therefore a slavish fear of Him can be no part of thee homage which His worshippers and servants are to pay to Him. The only fear of God which it becomes us to entertain, is a mixed affection of mind, made up of a high reverence of His perfections, particularly His wisdom, justice, purity, goodness, and power; an affectionate esteem of His laws, an earnest solicitude to obey those laws, and a great dread of transgressing them, from a sense of the baseness and odiousness of trampling upon the authority of our rightful and most gracious Lord and Saviour. The cultivation of these principles, the honour and fear of God, should be earnestly commended. Let us not, upon any pretences, excuse ourselves from the cultivation of a becoming temper towards the Deity, but cheerfully pay Him all that honour and love, that obedience and submission which, as our most compassionate and indulgent Father, and our most gracious and righteous King and Lawgiver, He claims and demands from us. (J. Orr, D. D.)
Truth learned from our human relations
As we form our notions of the Divine character and perfections from our consciousness of similar affections in our own minds, so all our ideas of the relations in which we stand to Deity are derived from the relations in which we am placed to our brethren of mankind. We could have no ideas or conceptions of the perfections of God unless we had some corresponding and similar powers in our own minds. Man was formed after the image of God; and, although that image has been tarnished and defaced by his fall and his transgression, he retains those capacities and susceptibilities of soul, which remind him of the moral glory from which he has fallen. He knows, from reflection on his own nature, and capacities, what is meant by wisdom, power, justice, truth, goodness. When he views these qualities as attributes of Divinity, he regards them as free from every imperfection, uninterrupted in their operation, and incapable of change or decay. In a similar manner we form our notions of the relations in which we stand to Deity, and of the affections and duties which these relations imply and demand. As we know of the relation of a father to his children, the Scriptures do not explain the nature of the relation, but urge the duties which it implies. In the very forcible and touching appeal of the text, we are reminded of that honour and obedience which we owe to God as His children and servants, and are pointedly charged with having withheld them. Endeavour to state the nature and reasonableness of that claim which God, as our Father and Master, has to our honour and fear, and urge the inquiry, whether the claim has been recognised and obeyed. The first characteristic of that honour and fear which a son and servant show to a father and master, is delight in his presence and society. Wherever the filial relation is felt and sustained with the affection which it implies, it prompts the child to seek the presence and company of his parent. A servant, too, that fears his master with sincere regard, delights in his presence. Similar to this is that honour and fear which God requires of those who profess to be His sons and His servants. If our relation to God be anything more than a name, His presence will be the object of our most ardent desire, and communion with Him the highest happiness we shall seek to know. But can this be said to be the experience or the taste of many who call God their Father and Master? In the second place, obedience to the Divine commandments is another indication of that honour and fear which God, as a Father and Master, demands of those who profess to be His sons and His servants. An implicit confidence in the wisdom of his parents is one of the earliest instincts which nature has implanted in the bosom of a child; and to merit parental approbation and love is one of the most amiable and powerful desires that influence his conduct. Every expression of a father’s will commands respect, and the sweetest music that falls upon the ear is the voice of paternal applause. It is this cheerful, childlike, and affectionate obedience which our heavenly Father claims from those who profess to be His sons and servants. We say, He is our Father--let Him have our filial love and obedience. We profess to bow to Him as our Master and Lord--let us devote ourselves unreservedly to His service and honour. In the third place, the relation should prompt a desire after resemblance of God in His moral excellence. The principle of imitation is one of the earliest and most active tendencies of our nature. As reason advances, the principle of imitation retains its power, and exerts its influence. Its power and influence are chiefly discernible in the resemblance which it generates in the temper and affections of the child to those of the parent. It is true that the tendency may be very strikingly modified by counteracting circumstances. But the truth holds good, that there is a strong and ever-operating tendency in a son to imitate his father; and where this imitating tendency is exercised by virtue in the parent, it is the source of the highest reciprocal satisfaction and delight, what the Father of our spirits requires of us is to elevate and ennoble this tendency to imitation by directing it to Himself. In the New Testament this imitation or resemblance of God is repeatedly pointed out as the prominent and characteristic distinction of His children. The moral excellences of the Divine character are presented as at once the sources of our comfort and the objects of our imitation. Only at an infinite distance from the moral glory of the Divine character the sons of mortality must for ever remain. In every renewed heart there is the ardent and ceaseless, and ever active desire to grow in resemblance to the moral grandeur which it adores and loves. In the fourth place, acquiescence in the appointments of His providence, and submission to His chastisement, distinguish those who are the sons and servants of God. In the exercise of his authority, and to promote the happiness and preserve the virtue of his children, the father must sometimes insist on privation and restraint, and give inflictions which he administers with reluctance and pain. Our Heavenly Father, who knows our waywardness and frailty, puts forth His hand in chastisement upon us. He doth not afflict willingly, nor grieve the children of men. Then what is the state of mind in which they should be met and endured? Have the visitations of Providence always been met in a right spirit? Have we not often, by the fretfulness of our temper in the hour of visitation, evinced the absence of the childlike spirit that becomes those who profess themselves the sons of God? (J. Johnston.)
Obedience the practical test of affection
This address was made to the priests of the Lord, at a very corrupt age of the Jewish Church. The whole Church was exceedingly polluted. Every precept of the law was violated and every rite of the sanctuary perverted. It will be no violation of the spirit of the text if we apply it to an impenitent world, embracing those who have no show of godliness, as well as the whole family of false professors. We find in the lips of many who make no pretensions to a change of heart, high professions of respect for the character and government of God. They claim Him as their Father, and would have us believe that they respect and obey His laws. We inquire whether men of this character yield Him that filial esteem, that dutiful subjection, which are due to a Father and a Master.
I. Contemplate the government of God, and see if we can discover Him dealing with all His rational creatures as a Father and a Master.
1. As a Father and Master He protects them. This the son and servant expect. God keeps His eye on all His intelligent creatures, and puts underneath them His arm of mercy.
2. He provides for all His creatures. No man could make his seed vegetate, or render his fields fertile, or ensure success in trade independently of his Maker.
3. He makes us know His will. We have some lessons from the broad sheet of nature; but in His Word He has opened all His heart; has made every duty plain, and placed it in the power of every son and servant of His to do His pleasure.
4. He has made our duties light. The service He requires is pleasant and easy.
5. He provides for our future happiness.
II. How will a kind and dutiful son or servant treat a Father or Master?
1. The son loves his father, and the good servant his master. If we have any love to God, we must love His whole character, and must learn His character from the Bible. The question is, do that class of men who speak so highly of their Maker, love the whole of the Divine character? They are pleased with only a part of the Divine character. Hence they will deny such doctrines as clash with their views of God. If they loved God they would believe what He says.
2. The good child loves the society of his father; and the faithful servant loves to be with his master.
3. A good son and a faithful servant will be cheerfully obedient. A dutiful temper is indispensable in either of these stations. Will the class of men addressed in the text stand this test? Are they uniform in regard to their duty? Have they a tender conscience which fears to do wrong, fears to neglect a duty, fears to violate an obligation, dreads the least deviation from the most perfect rectitude?
4. The son and servant will each be attached to his father s or his master’s family. Do these people attach themselves to the family of Christ? Do they love His disciples and choose them as their intimates?
5. The servant and son are very jealous of the honour of their father and master. But do we discover this delicacy of feeling in that class of men who would be esteemed religious, but who have no pretensions to a change of heart?
6. The kind son and the dutiful servant will wish to have others acquainted with their father and their master. (D. A. Clark.)
Devotion to a master
Admiral Sir George Tryon, to whose fatal error of judgment (his only mistake as a commander, it is said) the loss of the Victoria was due, was much beloved and trusted by his subordinates. As he stood on the bridge of the fast sinking ship, he was heard to say to a midshipman standing beside him, “Go, my lad. Save yourself while there’s time.” But the midshipman answered, “I’d rather stay with you, sir.” And he did. Christian! The duties and trials of life are daily testing your devotion to a Master who makes no mistakes. (S. S. Chronicle.)
Honour shown in conduct and in sentiment
A young man who occupies pleasant rooms in a large city was entertaining a guest from his country home. “You see I honour my father and my mother,” he said, pointing to two portraits which hung in prominent positions on the walls of his sitting-room. “You do in sentiment, Frank,” answered his visitor; “but if you will forgive an old friend speaking plainly, your principles do not honour them to the same degree. Those portraits have looked down on a good many card parties and wine suppers and wasted hours. They have seen neglected the work which you came to the city to do, and your old habits of plain living and high thinking’ forgotten very often. Think it over, won’t you?” The young man, it may be said, did think it over, and he did not need another such reminder. Instances of inconsistency between sentiment and rules of conduct can be discovered by everyone in persons around him easily, in himself not quite so easily perhaps, but pretty surely. (Christian Age.)
A life expected worthy of the Divine Master
A former queen of Madagascar, gathering some of the palace officers together, said to them, “I am aware that many of you are numbered among the praying people; I have no objection to you joining them if you think it right, but remember, if you do so, I shall expect from you a life worthy of that profession.
O priests, that despise My name.
The priests challenged
“And ye say, Wherein have we despised Thy Name?” This is the worst kind of impiety, because it displays utter ignorance of one’s self. The caution is not against open or violent hostility; there may be simple ignorance, or unconscious contempt, or that sort of passivity and indifference which amounts to positive neglect. We go down not by a plunge, but by an inclined plane. The plane is lubricated, is well-oiled, so that we slip own little by little, and hardly know that we are slipping. “Ye offer polluted bread upon mine altar.” The retort is, “Wherein have we polluted Thee?” In this way. “Ye say, The table of the Lord is contemptible.” There the error was fundamental. This is the charge that is levelled against all men to-day. Why patter with incidental errors, why not lift up the impeachment to its proper dignity, and charge men with having left the Lord, with having turned their backs upon the Lord? (J. Parker, D. D.)
Ye offer polluted bread upon Mine altar.
The sacrament polluted
What closeness of attention, what concentration of thought does it not require of us, if we consider the great and comprehensive views, which animated the Saviour of the world when He instituted the sacrament of the Supper! Behold Him prepared to finish the great work, which heaven has given Him to do. He comes to substitute Himself in the room of those victims whose blood could do nothing towards the purification of guilty man. What shall He do to support Himself in the prospect of such tremendous arrangements? Love formed the generous design of the sacrifice which He is ready to offer up; and love will carry Him through the arduous undertaking. He says to Himself, that the memory of this death, which He is going to endure, shall be perpetuated in the churches, even to the end of the world. He Himself institutes the memorial of it. Malachi severely censures the priests of his day, because called, as they were, to maintain good order in the Church, they calmly overlooked, or avowedly countenanced, the open violation of it. He reproaches them for this misconduct, by the example of what a son owes to his father, and a servant to his master. (James Saurin.)
The table of the Lord profaned
1. Let us state the parallel between the altar of burnt-offerings, the table of the shew-bread, and the sacramental table of the Lord’s Supper; the offerings which were presented to God on the first, and those which we still present to him on the second. The viands presented on both the one and the other are the meat of God, or the bread of God. The sacred ceremonies are destined to the same end, and represent the same mysteries, namely, the intimate union which God wishes to maintain with His Church and people. The august ceremony of the holy sacrament is a mystery of reconcilia tion between the penitent sinner and the God of mercy. What made the ancient Jews profane the table of the Lord How came they to say, The table of the Lord is contemptible”? It was--
(1) Because they formed not just ideas of the end which God proposed to Himself, when He enjoined the observance of these solemnities.
(2) It arose from their unwillingness to fulfil the moral engagements which the ceremonial observance imposed.
(3) It proceeded from their wanting a just sense of the value of the blessings communicated by these. The sources of unworthy communicating in the Christian world are the same--want of illumination; want of virtue; want of feeling. Apply to those who, on reviewing their former communion services, see cause to consider themselves as chargeable with the guilt which God imputed to the Jews who lived in the days of Malachi. Reflect on the shortness of the time usually devoted to preparation for partaking of the Lord’s Supper. And on the slightness of the changes which these solemnities produce. Do not deceive yourselves. Study to know and feel the whole extent of your felicity and let a sense of the benefits with which God hath loaded thee, kindle the hallowed flame of gratitude in your hearts. (James Saurin.)
The profession ant the practice of religion
1. These should always be in accord. Any discrepancy between them is morally unnatural. Our conduct should accord with our creed, our deeds with our doctrines. These priests showed--
(1) A lawless spirit.
(2) A niggardly spirit.
(3) A captious spirit.
(4) A thoughtless spirit. (Homilist.)
If ye offer the blind for sacrifice, is it not evil?
The old law demanded that God should be honoured with the sacrifice of a man’s best. Every oblation was to be free from spot or blemish. Such laws had their symbolic and spiritual meaning. They asserted God’s right as first and supreme. They embodied the law of sacrifice, which is the law of all holy beings, and they formed a test of the faith and love of those who professed to be worshippers of God. The reality of the test was manifest in the fact that there were those who sought to escape the demand. In their view, anything would do for sacrifice. Are there not multitudes still whose professed worship is nothing more than a mere miserable pretence? Surely our temptations to disobey are just as powerful as ever. Our business now is not with the blasphemer or the infidel, but with those who either render, or fancy that they render, God some service.
1. The appeal of the text may be addressed to all whose service does not include the sacrifice of the heart. Many give their souls to the world,--to what remains God is welcome. They are found in God’s house, but though they are present there they do not render any spiritual worship. What is this but offering the blind and lame and sick for sacrifice; and is it not evil? Can it be that it is thus God is content to be served? Not thus would even man be satisfied. It is God only whom we expect to please by a service that lacks every element of thorough heartiness, and is nothing more than a piece of mechanism. Yet is there no other whom it is so utterly hopeless to deceive. He asks the heart, and He knows that, despite all the beauty of our outward rites, the heart is what we absolutely refuse. But such religion is no religion at all
2. The language may be applied to those who purpose to render to God the service of their last hours. They will take thought for the present life, and the soul, with all its immortal interests, they will leave to the uncertain contingencies of a future which may never be theirs. This is bringing the blind, the lame, the sick for sacrifice; and is it not evil? We need not deny the possibility of death-bed repentance; we may not limit the grace of God. But if not impossible, it is in every way improbable that the sacrifice of life’s last hour is what God will accept.
3. These words may be addressed to the secret disciple. You will do just so much as is necessary to ensure your salvation, but beyond this nothing more,--there is no love to Jesus constraining devotion, making you rejoice even in the cross which you bear for Him, teaching you, as with a holy ingenuity, to find out modes in which you may glorify Him. And is not this evil?
4. The question may be directed to the half-hearted professor. There are many sharing in our worship who are lacking in all heartiness and fervour. They do not disgrace their profession: they observe with a certain regularity the ordinances; but in all generous, noble, devoted consecration they are found wanting. Let me address myself earnestly to you. Does not the text describe your sacrifice? Everywhere else, if the heart is interested at all, you are full of intense zeal. In religion you are cold and indifferent. Review your own service; compare it with what you do for other lords, and say, does it not correspond with the description of the text? (J. G. Rogers, B. A.)
The Divine appeal
I. The appeal.
1. To the dictates of conscience.
2. To the usages of human life.
II. The lessons the appeal suggests.
1. We have all failed in the discharge of our duty to God.
2. Our failure in the discharge of our duty to God is incapable of defence.
3. We need a Saviour.
4. Our services can be accepted by God only through the mediation of the Lord Jesus Christ. (G. Brooks.)
A strange test
They performed solemn duties hypocritically. Malachi would show them their folly by asking them to test their conduct by the way in which the (Persian) governor of the land would regard it.
I. Men often act towards God as they would not act towards an earthly ruler. Men generally respect human authorities. If gifts are presented to them they are of the best. They humble themselves before human majesty, and fear to insult it. But men act differently towards God.
1. How many stand in His presence and profane His name. Let them offer that to their governor.
2. How men treat His authority and disregard His commands.
3. How many pretend to make sacrifices for His cause, and yet give only that which is worthless, or what they think will bring the man equivalent in temporal good.
4. How many render heartless homage and selfish service. Men act in these ways sometimes through
(1) Spiritual insensibility;
(3)erroneous conceptions of God; or
God has a right to all that we possess. No earthly governor has such a claim upon us. To act towards Him deceitfully is foolish, ungrateful, and ruinous.
II. Our conduct towards God may be tested by the way in which it would be received by an earthly ruler. Such rulers are not always just. This is a test that is--
1. Easily applied.
2. One that the humblest can comprehend.
3. One that may reveal much.
4. One that should be applied honestly.
III. The displeasure of an earthly governor may reflect the displeasure of God. This is not always the case. Rulers have been displeased with and persecuted the most holy. But the honest displeasure of a ruler against hypocritical pretensions and deceitful gifts is a reflection of the Divine displeasure. Would thy “governor” be “pleased with thee”? If not, there is--
1. Just cause to fear.
2. Need of reformation.
3. And of a truer consecration of yourselves and your property to God.
Learn--Our holiest acts need examination. Our sacrifices may be worthless. It is a great sin to act niggardly towards God. (W. Osborne Lilley.)
Anything good enough for God
In Malachi’s time the people seem to have been utterly indifferent as to God, and openly insolent. “Behold,” said they, “what a weariness it is!” They thought any thing was good enough for God, and offered Him the refuse of their households. Even the priests had become a set of mercenary hirelings, refusing to do anything without reward. This state of things was a result of living so long in the idolatrous land of Babylon. The people had lost their habits of devotion, and had become accustomed to a life of listlessness and carelessness, and now they found it difficult to submit to the restraints of religion. And these of ours are worldly days. The general idea is that anything is good enough for God. A spare minute, an hour, when we can do nothing else, is all we can devote to God. Notice--
I. The Christian sacrifice. Times have changed, but circumstances have not. God does not demand expiatory sacrifice, but He requires spiritual. We are to render Him certain services, and these services are the New Testament sacrifices.
1. There is the heart--penitent, repentant, soft.
2. There is the body--a living sacrifice; for use, for work.
II. The imperfections by which these services are blemished.
1. Spiritless worship. The form without the spirit.
2. Blind sacrifice. How many crimes have been committed in the name of zeal.
3. Lame offerings. Professors of religion who live in conformity to the world.
4. Sick gifts.
Half-hearted prayers, languid attendance at His house, the hand working without the heart, songs without melody. There are preachers who preach ill and sickly sermons. There are Sunday school teachers who offer sickly lessons. It is a terrible thing to offer to God that which is diseased. (W. R. F.)
The true sacrifice
Malachi begins with rebuking the unthankfulness of Israel, and ends with a threat of coming and smiting the earth with a curse. Israel gave indeed, a melancholy example of the unthankful heart of man. God’s law was, “If there be any blemish therein, as if it be lame, or blind, or have any ill blemish, thou shalt not sacrifice it unto the Lord thy God.” Yet they offered the blind, the lame, the sick for sacrifice, and thought to be accepted of God, though they durst not have offered such things to their governor. But this conduct of Israel is only a lively representation of the way in which God, the giver of all good things, is commonly treated by the receivers of His bounty. Men have found Him so overflowing in kindness, so long-suffering, that they have come to think He will take up with anything. They think not, that though God does not speak out He is watching, and preparing to reckon with them. And, however slow He may be, He will set all right on the great day when He will separate the chaff from the wheat, and the tares from the corn. Applying to ourselves, let us remember what the Lord commands us to offer. Paul says, in His name, “Present your bodies a living sacrifice.” We are to serve in “newness of the spirit,” and not in the “oldness of the letter.” The living sacrifice of our body is not only keeping its members in all purity, as we would be members of Christ’s body, but also giving to the Lord that “from which all purity must come, a heart devoted to His service, and well instructed for that purpose in all heavenly knowledge and spiritual wisdom. See the particulars of the text.
1. “If ye offer the blind for sacrifice, is it not evil?” They had plenty of cattle without blemish to offer to the Lord. But they wanted these for themselves. The Christian has a body given him which he may present a living sacrifice unto the Lord, without blemish of sight. In it he has an eye to read the Word of God, an understanding to receive it: an eye to lift up to heaven in prayer, an understanding to offer prayer and praise in the name of the Lord. The eye should be withdrawn from all unholy sights; it should be single and pure. Instead of this, to what service is the eye and understanding commonly devoted! The true and living sacrifice of the body in this particular is the growing in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Never forget that growth in grace and growth in knowledge go together. Instead of using their eye and understanding in the spiritual service of the Lord, men waste their light in the pursuit of vanity and sin, until at last there comes the appointed hour of their departure from earth. Then at length--and often in vain--they turn their eye and their thoughts unto God.
2. If ye offer the lame and sick, is it not evil?” The Christian is compared to a runner, and his life to a course. He is to run well, so that he may obtain. But when do men generally begin to set themselves to this race? Just as their course in this world is finishing; when their strength has been wasted in running for earthly prizes. Is not health the season for serving the Lord on every account? Yet many think they have nothing to do with the Lord but in the day of sickness.
3. “Offer it now to thy governor.” Men will treat God, their heavenly Sovereign, as they dare not treat man, their earthly sovereign. Some go through life with a fixed purpose of giving to the Lord only the refuse. The man who bows to the ground, and anxiously seeks favour in the sight of his sovereign, and keeps himself continually in his view by doing something which may please, and make his person accepted, will think it a great thing if he kneel in the house of God for a short time once a week. Men who are most particular in wording a petition to be delivered at the throne of their sovereign, and endeavour to turn and polish every sentence, these very men will not trouble themselves to prepare a prayer to be delivered at the footstool of the throne of heaven. Let us all be wise in this, that we fully recognise the high claims of God, and loyally, lovingly, worthily try to meet them. (R. W. Evans, B. D.)
This hath been by your means.
A solemn charge
Irreligion is the cause of social chaos and national ruin. Calamities frequently arise from spiritual conditions. Outward circumstances are often very closely linked with the inner life.
I. Men have power to bring evils upon themselves and others. Man is a centre of causation. Deeds do not end in the doing of them. We may meet them in the results of after years. More than half the evils that afflict men are self-wrought. God seldom interferes with the sequences that follow our action. Man is not the creature of circumstances, but the creator of them. He is treated as being responsible for his own happiness or misery. Man cannot keep the results of his actions from affecting others. One man has ruined thousands. Godless parents ruin families; hypocritical pastors destroy their flocks; depraved senators overthrow a nation.
II. Evil-doers seldom admit this pointed charge. There is a disposition in men to look for the cause of their afflictions anywhere rather than in themselves. They have come from fate, from misfortune, from accident, from the errors of others, from the vindictive anger of God. Honest confession is rare. Not to admit this charge is--
2. It will only increase our guilt.
3. It will hinder our reception of mercy. (W. Osborne Lilley.)
Who is there even among you that would shut the doors for nought?
1. Wrong worship is worse than no worship at all.
2. Wrong worship will one day be practically repudiated.
3. Wrong worship is sometimes rendered even by the religious teachers of mankind. These priests made worship appear contemptible and burdensome.
4. Wrong worship evermore incurs the just displeasure of heaven. (Homilist.)
A sordid religion
I. It is common. “Who is there even among you that would shut the doors for nought?”
II. It is God-displeasing. “I have no pleasure in you, saith the Lord of hosts, neither will I accept an offering at your hand.” It is displeasing to Him--
1. Because it is repugnant to love. Something like this a noble father would say to his son who paid him attention only for what he could get, a true husband would say to the wife who did the same. Genuine love sickens at such service, disdains and refutes it. Pure love in man is the same as pure love in God. It is displeasing to Him--
2. Because it is opposed to happiness. It is an eternal law of mind, that it can never be happy in self-seeking. He who searches for happiness as an end will never find it. It will always be to him a mirage; as he thinks i.e. approaches it, it will vanish into thin air. God’s great law in His spiritual universe is this--that souls shall only get happiness as they pursue goodness. When goodness is pursued as an end, full happiness gushes up at every step in the march. (Homilist.)
My name shall be great among the Gentiles.
God’s name shall be great
Prophecy has a double sense--or rather, an inferior and a higher designation: not only to keep the faith and the hope of the Church in exercise by the presentation of a grand consummation, but to edify, to warn to comfort, and to instruct the Church. The prophets were the ordinary preachers of righteousness. Though their lessons of morality and religion were conveyed in the figured strains of poetry, they were highly conspicuous and impressive. We behold, in the discourses of those holy m-n, a faithful and fearless statement of the principles of pure theology. Malachi closes the prophetic dispensation. He appears in the worst part of tile Jewish history. Darkness came upon them, and for four hundred years that darkness seemed to increase in depth. Malachi gives a revelation of the coming of the Lord. Here he declares that God shall be magnified and honoured and worshipped by all nations.
I. The prophecy embraced the revelation of God’s name amongst the gentiles. God cannot be magnified or revered or worshipped unless He is known. God can only be known as He is pleased to reveal Himself. He has given us a revelation of Himself, clear and full, so that we may know God. The name of God denotes Himself, His nature, His moral character, and all that can be made known of Him to the mind of man.
1. It denotes His self-existence. That existence is absolutely eternal, immortal, invisible. As He thus exists, He exists independently. All existence, however varied and modified, must be an emanation from Himself. And thus He appears to us, arrayed in the awful attributes of the Creator and Governor of all things. He is the parent of all; and on Him all depends.
2. It denotes the spirituality of His nature. This would follow from the infinite perfection of His nature. God is capable, as Spirit, of occupying immensity without displacing matter. A real Christian carries about with him a solemn sense of the spiritual presence of God; and he connects with that the presence of all His attributes--of power and purity and love. Wherever we go we have a present God.
3. It denotes the mysterious existence of the Trinity in the unity of the godhead.
4. It denotes the harmony of His attributes.
II. The majesty of God’s government. “My name shall be great among the Gentiles.” It shall be magnified--it shall be a name of weight, of authority; before it every name shall bow. Wherever the name of Jesus is published, that name becomes dominant. The majesty of the Redeemer’s kingdom is demonstrated by its interior and intellectual design. Human beings under no other government are ruled by truth, by interior influences, which bring the mind and the affections to God. And the Lord’s government is demonstrated by the silent but irresistible agency employed.
III. The celebration of His worship. The worship will be spiritual, but it will be offered “in every place.” Spiritual worship is enlightened: it is the result of knowledge; it perceives its object, and rejoined in its object; it takes hold of a promise, or fixes on a precept; it must be the result of faith, for faith sees the great Invisible; it must be the kindling of the Holy Spirit. There will be living offerings: it will not be a cold, irrational service, but the service of a warm heart; each man will offer himself to God, and each man will be a holy and a purified oblation, kindled by the fire of God. And thus myriads of spirits everywhere, all over the world, shall be ascending in flames of pure devotion to God. (Theophilus Lessey.)
The name of Jesus among the Gentiles
The Rev. Mr. Broadhead, returned missionary from India, related a beautiful incident when preaching foreign missionary sermons in the county of Durham. Whilst in India it was made known to him that not far from his residence there was an extraordinary piece of architectural work in the shape of a temple, most luxuriously designed in white marble. This edifice was erected in memory of some female, but one of the things that specially attracted the notice of the missionary was the great number of arches which it contained. On nearing the entrance the attendants told him that if he whispered a word inside the building it would be re-echoed from every arch proceeding into the interior. The missionary breathed out the word “Jesus,” and instantly the echoes were resounding from every part of the building. The effect was magnificent. The desire of every Christian heart is--
“Let the echo fly
The spacious earth around.”
Christ’s influence increasing
Speaking on the day of Mr. Gladstone’s funeral, the Rev. F. B. Meyer said: “One of the marks which distinguishes Jesus Christ from every human teacher and reformer is the fact that His influence is ever increasing. The influence of Gladstone, to-day so great, will diminish year by year, but Jesus Christ’s influence was never so great as it is now.”
Of the meaning of the name of God
I. The principal scriptural acceptations of the “name.”
1. Sometimes it signifies God Himself. Praising or blessing the name of God is praising God Himself. By His name being “great” is meant their acknowledging or professing Him to be the true God, and their adhering to the worship of Him only, in opposition to all idolatry and false religions.
2. Sometimes it is used to signify His true religion and worship. “The place which the Lord your God shall choose,. . . to put His name there,” means the place where He shall appoint His servants to appear before Him with the external tokens of their homage and worship.
3. In other places of Scripture the “name” expresses those adorable perfections or attributes which are, as it were, the proper denomination and character of the Divine nature. See Exodus 34:5.
4. Once more, the “name” signifies the authority of God, or His Divine commission.
II. The event predicted. In it is evidently contained--
1. To the Jews, something comminatory.
2. In relation to the Gentiles, a particular promise; joined with a general declaration concerning the state and condition of the universal Church in the future and latter ages of the world. Whatever be the true meaning of these and the like prophecies; whether there be a time still to come, wherein they shall be accomplished literally, or whether they are intended only to express the natural tendency of the universal and sincere practice of Christianity in the present world, and the real effect which shall be obtained by it in the world to come, we must not be too curious about particular times and seasons. Learn--
(1) Our duty to promote the knowledge of God, and interest of true virtue among men.
(2) To justify to ourselves the various methods in which the wisdom of God has chosen to reveal itself to the world.
(3) If we, under the clearer light of the everlasting Gospel, still live corruptly, how much heavier must be our punishment than that of the Jews. (S. Clarke, D. D.)
And in every place incense shall be offered unto My name.
The future glory of Messiah’s kingdom
Two phenomena of the moral world severely task the faith of religious persons. One is, that so large a portion of the globe should not even be nominally Christian. The other is, that Christendom itself should be so corrupt and so scantily imbued with vital godliness. Attempts may be made to reconcile our minds to this difficulty in the moral administration of the world, by urging that the scheme of nature lies open to similar objections, and that much physical energy runs to waste in abortive efforts and through counteracting forces. But analogies of this kind are more ingenious than conclusive; they silence rather than satisfy. We may find comfort in such reflections as these--
1. It is the prerogative of an infinite Being to be deliberate and slow, whereas haste and precipitation are the characteristics of s limited nature.
2. Much may be going forward by secret and unnoticed processes, conducive and preparatory to the development of Messiah’s kingdom.
3. God has consulted His own glory in thus far contracting the supply of His Spirit; since He has thereby made apparent the insufficiency of moral means, and the strongest objective inducements, although accompanied with common grace, to overcome the repugnance of the human heart to the humbling doctrines and self-denying precepts of the Gospel.
4. Contrasted with the stage of thick darkness or glimmering twilight between which the world has been so long divided, the glory of that unclouded day will be the more conspicuous, when “the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.” But the prophecies have a special virtue, reviving our drooping faith. This text contains a sublime annunciation of that triumphant era when Messiah “shall have dominion from sea to sea.” It is usual with the prophets to describe the dispensation of the Gospel by terms and analogies taken from the Mosaic ritual.
I. The prediction that “incense shall be offered unto the name” of Jehovah. The “incense” denotes primarily the intercession of the Saviour. He hath given Himself for us, “an offering of a sweet-smelling savour.” The Word is, in the original, the past participle of a verb which means to fume, and may properly denote any sacrifice which, being consumed by fire, was carried up in smoke. Its spiritual meaning should not be restricted to proper acts of worship, but should be held to comprise all those holy works which are the produce of a spiritual nature--those “sacrifices of righteousness” with which God is well-pleased. Then translate the passage, “In every place whatever is fumed shall be brought near unto Thy name,”--then what else is represented to the mind save the universal reign of evangelical righteousness? What is meant by the phrase, “offered unto Thy name”? There is strong presumptive evidence for believing that this denomination of Jehovah is no meagre expletive, but carries a direct and explicit allusion to Christ the Mediator. This appellation of God is strictly associated with the character He sustains in redemption. The elder patriarchs appear to have understood the “name” as a sacramental term, by which Jehovah exhibited Himself conversing with guilty men through the promised Intercessor, the Word made flesh.
II. The prediction that a pure offering should be everywhere presented to Jehovah. We have considered the offering of incense to imply the benign effect of our Lord’s pacification, in rendering the worship and service of mankind acceptable to Jehovah, and surely the “pure offering” will express the sanctification of the Church, and of each individual believer, and the consequent purity of those offerings which are brought near to Jehovah by His spiritual household. In this pure “offering” see--
1. The extraordinary extension and purity of the Church. Contemplate the entire extermination of the lewd and sanguinary rites of paganism, and the abolition of all bloody sacrifices, through the oblation of one great victim, who by actually putting away sin has annulled all symbolical immolations. Henceforth we are to render only unbloody offerings--the sacrifice of thanksgivings. We are warranted to contemplate the Catholic Church as one magnificent offering to Immanuel. The Church, indeed, teems with nominal Christians, self-deceivers, and hypocritical pretenders. But from this it shall hereafter, even in its visible pale, be wholly or extensively purged. Another thing constituting the adult Church “a pure offering “ will be this--that its worship will be no longer debased with fiction and mummery. The doctrines of transubstantiation, indulgences, masses, penances, purgatory, and supererogation will fall to the ground, and with them will expire the adoration of images, saints, and angels. And the universal Church will be free from sectarian distinctions. We may also anticipate a considerable abridgment of ecclesiastical ordinances.
2. The religious worship of that brilliant age will have a peculiar purity, owing to the improved character of the individual Christians. They will have attained a much higher illumination. The conscience will then be thoroughly pure and undefiled. There will be none of that double-mindedness and self-delusion with which the purest minds of this silver age are more or less alloyed. We are even led to expect a state of perfect exemption from the dross of earthliness. The kingdom of Christ will be developed in their bosoms in all its purity and fulness; and to them it will be not less easy than delightful to have “their conversation in heaven.” The promise of the text is most encouraging. What manner of persons, then, ought we to be? If the blessed Trinity is incessantly employed in this work of regeneration, shall we not help it forward as humble but zealous instruments, with the best faculties that we have? (J. N. Pearson, M. A.)
A worshipping world
I. The glorious prediction of a worshipping world. We accept any promise according to the known worth or truthfulness or power of him who gives it. Here is the very highest authority, even that of God Himself. The image is very significant; it is taken from the wide circuit and prevalency of solar light which visits every portion of the globe. There can be no vividly more glowing nor general promise of the widespread power of the Gospel than this is.
II. This divine time of general happiness includes millennial glory for the world. The second image employed indicates the glorious season of true religion possessing the hearts of men in all its Divine purity and hallowed devotions. The contrast is lovely between the two figures used. Light, the most beautiful element in nature; perfume, the sweetest of elements; the incense of most precious odours represents the purity of soul-worship presented to God, whether in public devotions or from private hearts. We need not enter on the question, whether this Divine time shall be before or after the second advent in glory. The sweet incense and pure offering which Jehovah now demands and loves are spiritual devotions, true prayers, praise, obedience, love, and charity. These are to be found “in every place.” The coming glory of Christ in the conversion of the world is the earnest prayer of faith now; it is the glowing object of Divine hope now; it is often the warm pulse and action of Christian love and charity.
III. Our imperative duty to extend the Gospel of Christ in all lands.
1. This is the Christian’s duty of obligation.
2. Efforts for the conversion of the heathen always bring down rich blessings on the soul. (J. Angley, M. A.)
I. The worship which God ordains. All true worshippers “worship the Father in spirit and in truth.” The first idea relative to God’s ordination of worship is, that human inventions in the worship of God are rejected as hateful to Him. Open vice is not more evil in the sight of God than the mockery which is offered in human inventions. There is one offering that is pure, and that is the offering of God in Christ for us, and that alone God will accept. Its purity constitutes its value. We must keep an eye upon the two natures of Christ, and the purity of both, in order to get at the pure offering.
II. The exaltation of the name of Jehovah. In Scripture the one prominent object the Lord has in view everywhere is the glory of His own name. The honour of Jehovah’s name is to be constantly eyed, in doctrines received, in experience enjoyed, and in practice manifested; and the interests of the living Church are involved therein. (Joseph Irons.)
The universal spread of the Gospel
For our Lord’s obedience unto death His Father appointed unto Him a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages should serve Him. The world-wide spread of Christ’s Gospel is the truth announced here.
I. The scripture testimony to the ultimate universal spread of the Gospel. This testimony is full, clear, and decisive. It is given alive under patriarchal, Mosaic, and Christian dispensations.
II. The same truth is evident from the nature of the case.
1. The need of redemption is universal. All false religions bear testimony to the need. And to their own insufficiency to satisfy this need.
2. The Gospel alone can satisfy this craving of mankind. It proclaims the one oblation by which Christ hath for ever perfected, etc. It shows the chains of evil broken by the great Deliverer.
3. The Gospel is fitted for universal diffusion. All other religions are adapted only for local influence; even the Jewish religion was suited only to Palestine. But the Gospel is at home under every clime, and with every race of man.
4. The Gospel implants the instinct of universal diffusion. It produces hatred of sin, and love to God and man. It impels the Christian to say to his brother, “Know the Lord.” It finds a brother where the Samaritan found a neighbour. It brings us to our knees to pray, “Thy kingdom come.”
5. The kingdoms of providence and grace are united under the same sceptre. The revolutions of nations ultimately further the Gospel.
III. The voice of history confirms the conclusions. Here we have God’s works confirming His words. The witness of history is to the point, whether we consider--
1. The importance of the conquests hitherto won by the Gospel. Christianity has conquered every religion with which it fairly came in contact--Greek, Roman, Egyptian, Persian, Scandinavian, Celtic, Phoenician, Polynesian.
2. The proved weakness of the only weapons with which it can be assailed. Persecution, false philosophy, and priestcraft. Then--
(1) Let us submit ourselves to Christ’s authority.
(2) Let us fervently pray for the advancement of the kingdom.
(3) Let us cherish and promote the missionary spirit.
(4) Let us contribute liberally and cheerfully of our substance to this good end. (Evangelical Preacher.)
A pure offering.--
An acceptable sacrifice
The world rose in vision before Malachi, as one great altar, burning everywhere with the incense of devout hearts, and covered with its myriad races, offering themselves to God as a “pure offering.” The vision must have comforted him. The glorious era which Malachi gazed on for a moment has not yet come. We may, however, offer unto God “a pure offering.”
I. The duty suggested. From the earliest ages the custom of presenting offerings to God has prevailed. It might have arisen from instructions given to our first parents, or from the natural instinct of gratitude or of fear. The first family presented their offerings. Christianity does not remove from us this obligation, though Christ has offered Himself without spot for us. He offered Himself that we may be able to offer ourselves through Him. Ourselves are the best offerings we can give. If we had no sense of possession in ourselves we could not consecrate ourselves to God. Every sacrifice, sincerely made for the world’s advancement, is an offering presented to God.
II. What a pure offering is. Many offerings are not pure. Men defile their offerings by their own impurity. How can man present an offering that shall be pure in God’s sight?
1. It must come from a purified heart. Men’s hearts may be purified and yearn after God. Holy love may prompt the gift. Cleansing fountains abound on this polluted earth. Angelic ministries, the sanctifying spirit, the purging flame of God’s truth, the fountain of forgiving love opened at the Cross, are all ours to take away our guilt, as we seek to present our offerings to God.
2. It must proceed from a penitent and obedient spirit. The disposition of the offerer will be regarded more than the offering. Gifts separated from the inner life are of no value to God.
3. It must emanate from a spirit of entire consecration to God. Entire consecration purifies. To devote ourselves to God is to separate ourselves from sinful defilements. Offerings ever derive their value from the devoted spirit of the offerer. Entire consecration is difficult to our depraved hearts. All lingering covetousness must be conquered.
III. How it should be presented. We should seek not to mar our offering by the way in which we present it. It should be--
1. In faith. Which will lay hold of God’s willingness to accept our gifts, however lowly and insignificant they may be. Faith will lead us away from the altar, rejoicing in the assurance that God has accepted our offerings.
2. By Jesus Christ. He is the High Priest of humanity. He presents prayers, praises, works for us. He presents the saints themselves as an offering without blemish to God.
3. With sincerity. God looks into the heart of the offerer. Some offerings are presented only for the eves of men.
4. With grateful eagerness. All lukewarmness should be banished. Grateful love should animate us.
IV. Blessings attend the presentation of a pure offering. We have a consciousness of Divine approval. Every time we present ourselves as a pure offering to God we receive ourselves back again from His hands with every spiritual power quickened and enlarged. (W. Osborne Lilley.)
The Christian sacrifice
I. A definition of the christian sacrifice. As the ancient Church meant it. Not the mere sacrament of the body and blood of Christ; but the whole sacred action or solemn service of the Church assembled. The sacrifice of praise and prayer through Jesus Christ, mystically represented in the creatures of bread and wine. This is the sacrifice which Malachi foretold the Gentiles should one day offer unto God. Incense denotes the rational part of the sacrifice. Mincha the material part of it. The rational part is prayer, thanksgiving, and commemoration. Mincha, the material part, is a present of bread and wine. It is called a pure offering--mincha purum; wherein does this “purity” consist? Some think the meaning is purely or spiritually offered. Others say pure, by reason of the disposition and affection of the offerer. I prefer to understand, pure in respect of Christ, whom it signifies and represents a sacrifice without spot or blemish. Six particulars contained in the definition of the Christian sacrifice.
1. That this Christian service is an oblation.
2. That it is an oblation of thanksgiving and prayer.
3. An oblation through Jesus Christ commemorated in the creatures of bread and wine.
4. This commemoration of Christ is also a sacrifice.
5. The body and blood of Christ, in this mystical service, was made of bread and wine which had been first offered unto God, to agnize Him the Lord of the creature.
6. This sacrifice was placed in commemoration only of Christ’s sacrifice upon the Cross, and not in a real offering of His body and blood anew. The sacrifice of Christians is nothing but that one sacrifice of Christ once offered upon the Cross again and again commemorated. (Joseph Mede, B. D.)
Should I accept this of your hand?
saith the Lord.
(taken with Isaiah 1:13):--Each age has its characteristic. No two are just alike; and though history repeats itself, yet there is progress. Its processes are those of a spiral.
I. In the age of Isaiah the Jews were full of religiosity. Sacrifices were not neglected--a multitude were offered. They brought the best of all kinds, not as in the days of Malachi, the lean and the poor, but abundantly they brought the blood of bullocks, of lambs, and of he-goats. Clouds of incense arose; they carefully kept the new moons, the Sabbaths, the assemblies, and the solemn meeting, not only all appointed feasts, but even others they observed in an intense devotion to the forms of religion. Why were their oblations vain? Why were they not regarded in their sacrifices and accepted in their persons?
1. As in the days of the Saviour, so now, whilst they were careful to tithe, mint, anise and cummin, they omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith.
2. They were offered without faith. This whole chapter shows such to be the case. This was just what made the difference between Abel’s sacrifice and Cain’s offering.
3. Their offerings were unaccompanied with repentance; for repentance implies confession of sin, the forsaking it, and the reformation of life.
II. This positive sinfulness is clearly made out.
1. They were laden with iniquity.
2. There was no soundness in them, from the sole of the foot even unto the head.
3. Their rulers were like the princes of Sodom, and themselves like the men of Gomorrah.
4. Their hands were full of blood. The rulers did not punish the people, and reciprocally the people abetted their rulers in their blood-guiltiness.
5. The times were full of evils, unredressed and unavenged. Their princes had become companions of thieves and bribe-takers.
III. On the other hand, god still remembers grace and mercy.
1. There was still a remnant left (verse 9).
2. All are called to repentance (verses 16, 17).
3. Those that repent shall obtain mercy, but the contumacious shall not be spared (verses 18-24).
4. And still further, God holds up the gracious promise to send times of reformation and refreshing (verses 25-27).
1. Do we preach and pray, and is there no answering fruit--no conversions, and no increase of piety?
2. Can the reason be found in devotion to the forms of religion and the neglect of its spirit?
3. Are our people characterised by an absorbing devotion to the world?
4. Then to us as to Israel is the call to repentance; to us as to them, the hope of forgiveness; to us as to them, the promise of revival upon repentance and reformation. God forbid that we should merely possess the forms of religion and be destitute of its life-giving power. (L. O. Thomson.)
Hypocrisy in public worship
All that wears the appearance of religion is not sincere piety. This remark will particularly apply to those acts which constitute what we call public worship. For in privacy, where no eye is upon us but that of the Omniscient, there is less temptation to, and less danger of insincerity. Malachi is here remonstrating with the people for the “iniquity of their holy things.”
I. The criminal charge he fixes on this professing community. It is aggravated by three things.
1. By the salutary discipline to which they had recently been subjected for their backslidings and rebellions against God.
2. By the fact that they thus sinned against the clearest knowledge.
3. By the majesty of the object against whom their offence was directed. We censure and condemn the Jews, but “are we better than they”?
II. The uses to be made of this remonstrance.
1. Here are materials for your deepest humiliation and penitence.
2. How incompetent are all the rites and ceremonies of religion to save the soul!
3. See the fallacy of pharisaism.
4. How welcome, then, is the evangelical intelligence which is brought to us, to awaken a hope of the acceptance of our persons and services in the sight of a holy God. (J. Clayton.)
But cursed be the deceiver.
A cursed one
Curses are the echoes that sin awakens. All deceivers are cursed.
I. The deceiver. He may be a self-deceiver, or a deceiver of others, or both. Some may unconsciously deceive; others intentionally. It is the intentional deceiver that is cursed; he who aims to deceive others. These abound in--
1. Religious communities. The wily priest, the glib teacher of error, the hypocrite.
2. In the social circle. The liar, the seducer, the false friend.
3. In commerce. The unreliable employee, the concocter of lying prospectuses, the swindling merchant.
4. In political movements. The bribing agent, the self-seeking adventurer, the unscrupulous statesman. Men sometimes turn themselves into incarnate falsehoods for the sake of worldly success. The advantages gained are only seeming, not real. The deceiver is--
(1) Foolish. He injures himself for the sake of uncertain good.
(2) Despicable. Society treats the exposed deceiver with contempt. All honest men shun him.
(3) Treacherous. He is like a splintered staff, a rotten cable, a sandy foundation, a spider’s web, a wrecker’s beacon, a flower-covered bog, a desert mirage, etc.
(4) Mischievous. He lays traps for the innocent. He destroys social confidence.
(5) Diabolical. Like Lucifer, he “sins in wily guise.” He is a true son of the father of lies.
II. HIS CURSE. This may be suspicion, discredit, fear of discovery, exposure, stings of conscience, spiritual blindness, the execrations of his victims; the contempt of all good men; the displeasure of the Almighty, hell-fires, etc. His curse is certain. In a universe where a God of truth and righteousness reigns, the deceiver is sure to be punished. The curse is terrible and eternal. Application--
1. Let us guard ourselves against all deceivers.
2. Let us beware of deceit.
3. Better be deceived than deceive. (W. Osborne Lilley.)
And sacrificeth unto the Lord a corrupt thing.
The service of God an unblemished offering
The prophets were God’s messengers, commissioned to witness in His name against the sins of the people. To understand this remonstrance aright, we must remember what were the laws respecting the offerings. The prime of each offering was to be presented to God. But these profane priests thought that anything would serve for a sacrifice, though never so coarse and mean. They picked out the worst they had, that which was neither fit for the market nor for their own tables, and offered that at God’s altar. With every sacrifice the law commanded them to bring a meat-offering of “fine flour, mingled with bread”: but they brought “polluted bread,” of coarse and refuse material. The principle illustrated is--that the service of God admits of nothing short of the most perfect offering that can be presented; and everything below this affixes upon the offerers the character of “deceivers,” and the condemnation of being “cursed.”
I. The service of religious worship.
1. It is profane service whenever it is not intelligent, whenever it is not founded on a right understanding of the object of worship. You, who have watched the movements or the torpidity of your minds at the time of supposed prayer, will bear me witness how often you have failed to recognise the simple being of the God before whom you bow down.
2. No offering of worship is acceptable which is not also solemn and reverential. This it could not fail to be if we were possessed by a just sense of the transcendent greatness of Him to whom prayer is presented. His majesty is infinite and ineffable, and therefore we stand at an immeasurable distance from Him. And yet to such a Being we address ourselves in prayer. Do any of us detect in ourselves the vacant gaze, the roving thought?
3. Acceptable worship must be spiritual. Why so? “God is a Spirit, and they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth.” They must so worship Him, because it is not possible that He should receive any other. Do you assert that “God is a Spirit,” then you contract Him into the narrow dimensions of your own being if you give Him no more than the devotions of the body, if you give Him not the ardent services of your soul.
4. If our worship be genuine, it will be marked by intentness of mind. Languor and laxness of the spirit are sure tokens that it” is not a glad offering, but an irksome task. In all these cases what is the sin which we charge home but that very sin for which the prophet utters his rebuke? They have a better offering which they might offer. They are capable of a worship more worthy of God. Instead, they bring the lame, and the sick, and the torn, they “sacrifice unto the Lord a corrupt thing.”
II. The habitual service of the life. Here too the service of God admits of nothing short of the most perfect offering that can be presented. Our baptismal covenant, made for us in our unconscious infancy, when our own reason was not privy to the engagement, is sealed and confirmed in maturer age; and then it is that we deliberately and personally “vow” to give the choice thing in our flock. But where is he to be found that fully recognises and performs the baptismal oath? The baptised man, the communicant, and the parent for his child, and he who is in near danger, has vowed, deliberately, unto God, the male that is in his flock; but he leaves off with sacrificing unto the Lord “a corrupt thing.” (R. Eden, M. A.)
I am a great King, saith the Lord of hosts.--
Jehovah a king
What God is Himself, what constitutes His essence no language can describe. What God is to His creatures, and what relations He sustains with respect to them, may without difficulty be stated in language sufficiently intelligible. Sometimes God styles Himself a father, sometimes a master, and sometimes a king.
I. Jehovah is a king. A king is the political head or supreme ruler of a kingdom. There are kings by right, and kings in fact. The king by right has claim to the throne, though he may not possess it. The king in fact actually possesses the throne, though he may have no right to it. He alone who has both the right and the possession can properly be called a king. And such a king is Jehovah. His kingdom is the whole created universe, and of this kingdom He is in actual and full possession. And He is the rightful sovereign of the universe. All men were born into the dominions of Jehovah. Men cannot cease to be His subjects without ceasing to exist. He possesses all the insignia of royalty. He has a throne, a crown, royal robes, etc.
II. Jehovah is a great king. Great is the Lord, and His greatness is unsearchable. See the greatness, duration, and stability of His empire. His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom.
1. If God is a king, He is under obligations to make laws for His subjects. When He assumes any office He binds Himself to perform all the duties of that office. The first and most indispensable duty of an absolute sovereign is to make laws for his subjects. It is as much his duty to make laws, as it is their duty to obey them when made.
2. He is under obligations to make the wisest and best laws possible. It was incumbent on him to consult, not the private wishes and inclinations of individuals, but the great interests of his whole kingdom.
3. He is under obligations to annex some penalty to every violation of his law. A law without a penalty annexed is not a law, that is, it cannot answer the purpose of a law.
4. He is bound to enforce his laws, and to inflict the threatened punishment on all who transgress them. He must not bear the sword in vain, but be a terror to evil-doers. Justice in a sovereign ruler consists in treating his subjects according to their deserts. He may be guilty of injustice by treating them better than they deserve, as well as by treating them worse than they deserve. But God cannot act unjustly.
5. We may learn the necessity of an atonement for sin. Something which shall maintain the authority of God’s law, secure the great interests of His kingdom, and answer all the ends of government, no less effectually than the infliction of merited punishment upon transgressors. Without such an atonement God cannot consistently with justice, or His obligations as a sovereign, pardon a single offender.
6. If Jehovah is king, sin is treason and rebellion, and every impenitent sinner is a traitor and a rebel.
7. If Jehovah is king, it is requisite that He should have ambassadors, in order that His will should be communicated to His subjects. God’s inspired messengers, the prophets and apostles, were ambassadors extraordinary. His ministers are His ambassadors to-day. (E. Payson, D. D.)
God a great King
Men reveal their conceptions of God by the kind of homage they render to Him. God was dishonoured by the hypocritical worship of His own people; they were representing Jehovah as a senseless idol To reprove them He here declares His greatness.
I. This declaration which Jehovah makes respecting Himself. God places Himself towards us in various aspects. He is a king. He has in Himself all the qualities of kingly greatness. Kings should be the greatest of men. He has all the attributes of a great king. His power, authority, majesty, etc. His dominions are great. His kingdom is eternal.
II. What lessons may be learnt from this declaration. Learn--
1. To reverence Him.
2. The importance of securing His favour. He has shown us the way to secure it--by repentance, faith, and obedience.
3. To trust implicitly in His overruling providence.
4. To submit ourselves to His government.
5. To expect great blessings from His hands. Great expectancy in His creatures pleases Him. Great expectations from Him are never disappointed. (W. Osborne Lilley.)
God is a great king
In one country abroad, much plagued by invasions from heathens, a grand old custom sprang up in their churches. When the Apostles’ Creed was repeated the noblemen and men-at-arms drew their swords, and did not sheathe them again until the creed was over. They meant it as a sign that “God was their king,” and that they would show their earnestness in saying so, if need be, by fighting and dying for that God to whom they owed all, and that Church of God to which they belonged. (C. Kingsley.)
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Malachi 1". The Biblical Illustrator. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Christ the King / Proper 29 / Ordinary 34