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Bible Commentaries

F. B. Hole's Old and New Testament Commentary
Malachi 4

 

 

Verses 1-6

The day when the Lord of hosts makes up His jewels will be a day of discrimination, and therefore of judgment as well as blessing. This comes clearly to light as we commence to read the last chapter of this short prophecy. The earth is of course in view, and when judgment does arrive it will be final and complete. Neither root nor branch will be left as far as the wicked are concerned. The Sun of righteousness will arise to exterminate the wicked, while He will bring healing and full blessing to those who fear His name.

In the Old Testament the Lord Jesus — the coming One — has been presented under a variety of beautiful figures; this closing figure comes home to us all, we trust, with singular force. He who has read through the 39 books, up to this point, has certainly surveyed a very dark scene with here and there little patches of light. We now close with the promise of God's resplendent day, introduced by the rising of the 'Sun', in whom all true light is concentrated, and who is specially to be the display of, and the enforcer of, righteousness in perfection. In a world ruined by sin everything is wrong: hence if an order of things is to be established according to God, the first consideration must be what is right. This is seen even in the Gospel that we preach today, as expounded in the epistle of the Romans. Paul was not ashamed of the Gospel since it is the power of God unto salvation; and it is that because in it righteousness of God is proclaimed, and made available by faith for sinners such as we were. Behind the righteousness lies of course the love of God, but that is not actually mentioned in the epistle until we reach Romans 5:1-21.

If righteousness be fully established it must mean the elimination of all that is wrong. Hence the beams of that glorious 'Sun' will burn like an oven destroying the ungodly, while bringing healing and fertility to those who fear God.

How different is the final presentation of the Lord Jesus in the New Testament, where He comes before us as the bright, Morning Star, which is the harbinger of the coming day. No thought of judgment enters here for, as the Lord Jesus Himself says, He sent His angel 'to testify unto you these things in the churches'. For only those who are in 'the churches', have the knowledge of Him, who is the 'Morning Star', and who are on the look-out for Him, while the world is still in darkness before the rising of the 'Sun'. When the Morning Star appears, there will be the first sign of the rising of the Sun of righteousness, and the coming of the day of the Lord; for there will be the 'rapture', or snatching away of saints, both dead and living, to present them before the Father in their heavenly home.

We now have to call attention to verse Malachi 4:4 of our chapter. It might strike us at first as a rather extraordinary command to be interjected at this very late hour in Israel's history, about a thousand years after the law was given through Moses. But enshrined in it we see two important principles. First, the law was given for 'all Israel' and it was given 'with the statutes and judgments'. The people in the land, to whom specially Malachi wrote, were comparatively few and in surroundings very different from the days of Moses, or even the days of David and Solomon, but if a man was an Israelite the whole law, in all its details was still binding upon him, and to be obeyed.

And in the second place, not only was it a case of all the law for every Israelite, wherever he might be, but it was also a case of all the time. The fact that many centuries had passed made no difference. In Malachi's day some Israelite might have been saying to himself — But circumstances are so different today; surely a lot of these minor details of the law are not so binding as at the beginning. Here then was the necessary word for one, such as that.

Exactly the same tendency confronts us today. As an instance of what we mean, take Paul's first epistle to the Corinthians, written at the outset of our dispensation, nine. teen centuries ago. There was much disorder among the Corinthian Christians, so the Apostle was inspired to lay down the order that should prevail amongst them both in their individual lives, and in their functions as members of the body of Christ, which is the church. In 1 Corinthians 14:1-40 he lays down the Divine administration for their assembly meetings, and concludes by calling upon them to recognize that the directions he gives are 'the commandments of the Lord'. Are any of us tempted to say, or even to think, — Yes, but the changes that have supervened during these many centuries are far greater than at any other period of the world's history, surely we are hardly bound to these small details of assembly life and practice. If we are so tempted let us consider this verse.

It is happily true that we, 'are not under the law, but under grace' (Romans 6:14), and yet we are furnished with many commandments. The commandments of the law were given, that by keeping them men might establish their righteousness before God. This they never did. Grace brings salvation to us who believe, and then teaches us to live sober, righteous and godly lives, as is stated in Titus 2:11, Titus 2:12, and then issues commandments, to guide us in so doing. But commandments they are, and not to be brushed aside while the dispensation lasts.

What we have indicated is further supported by the closing chapter of the New Testament. We have already noticed how Revelation 22:1-21 ends with the 'Morning Star', rather than the 'Sun of righteousness', and now we notice that it closes also with a strong assertion of the sacred integrity of the Word of God. No man is to add to, or take away from, its words. This has doubtless special reference to the Revelation, but coming at the close of the New Testament, we believe it has reference to the whole New Testament revelation, in a secondary way, just as the verse we have been considering applies to the whole Old Testament revelation.

In these closing words the minds of the people were not only carried back to Moses, but also onward to Elijah, as we see in verse 5. Through Moses the law had been given. By Elijah the ten tribes had been recalled to God and His law, in days when they were almost swamped by the worship of Baal. Before the coming of the predicted day of the Lord an 'Elijah' is to appear. We may remember that when John the Baptist was asked if he were Elijah, he answered, No. Yet he came in the spirit and power of Elijah, so that in regard to the first coming our Lord could say, 'If ye will receive it, this is Elias, which was for to come' (Matthew 11:14).

But the first coming of our Lord was the introduction of the day of grace. It is His second coming in power and glory that will introduce 'the great and dreadful day of the Lord'. Hence, we judge, this prediction in its fulness must still await its fulfilment. In Revelation 11:3-6, we read of 'two witnesses', marked by features in their testimony, reminiscent of Moses and Elijah, and these precede the second coming of the Lord. We may connect the Elijah of our verse with one of these. What we can say with assurance is that God ever raises up adequate witness, and gives adequate warning, before He acts in judgment.

What is stated in the last verse may seem rather obscure, but if we read Luke 1:17, the bearing of it is plain. The 'disobedient' will be turned to 'the wisdom of the just', and thus a people prepared for the Lord. Thus a godly remnant will be found, otherwise the whole earth would be smitten with a curse.

The Old Testament is the history of man under the law: hence its last word is, 'curse'. The New Testament is the story of the appearing of God's grace: hence the last word is, 'The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with all the saints' (New Trans.). How happy are we to live in a day when grace is on the throne, reigning through righteousness!

 


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Bibliography Information
Hole, Frank Binford. "Commentary on Malachi 4:4". "F. B. Hole's Old and New Testament Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/fbh/malachi-4.html. 1947.

Lectionary Calendar
Tuesday, June 2nd, 2020
the Week of Proper 4 / Ordinary 9
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