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Bible Commentaries

Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments
Malachi 3

 

 

Verses 1-18

Malachi 3:1. Behold, I send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me. John the baptist, as our Saviour himself expounds this passage. Matthew 11:7-18.

The Lord whom ye seek, and for whom ye wait, as the Desire of all nations, shall suddenly come to his temple. Here a flood of light broke in upon the prophet’s mind. “He saw the Lord always before him,” even the brightness of the Father’s glory. He saw that the jewish state and temple would subsist for more than four hundred years, and that the city and temple would then be burned, as Daniel had foretold: Daniel 9:26. The Hebrew is, Ha-Adon, he the Lord, by way of eminence, who cannot be confounded with any created intelligence. He the Angel of the covenant declared to Abraham, and confirmed to David, and in both instances with an oath. Luke 1:72-73. St. Jerome quotes a jewish prayer, on bringing forth the book of the law. “Oh Lord, animate and strengthen us, and send us the Angel, the Redeemer. Let Elias thy prophet surely come in our days, with Messias, the Son of David, thy servant.”

The three words used by our prophet, of this glorious personage—they expected him—they sought him—they delighted in him—mark a Presence expected in the temple more than human; even the Messenger of the covenant. Archbishop Newcome says, “This is the only place where this phrase occurs,” and by consequence it ought not to have much weight. But in what does it differ from Isaiah 63:9. “The angel of his presence,” or literally, the angel of his face, “saved them.” He is indeed the angel of his face, the brightness of the Father’s glory, and the express image of his person. He is the Shiloh, the glory of the mercyseat. He is the Saviour, the Consolation of Israel. In a word, he is the Son, who came to his Father’s house, and cleansed it. He came clothed with all the glory essential to his mission, full of grace and truth. His miracles declared him to be the Lord of universal nature, and the almighty Saviour of men.

Malachi 3:2. But who may abide the day of his coming. It was once terrible to the jews; what will it be to the infidel and the unitarian world, who will not have this man to reign over them. But how dreadful are his own words. “When the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth.”

Malachi 3:5. I will be a swift witness against the adulterers. They sin in secret, but the Lord will bring their iniquity to light.

Malachi 3:7. Return ye to me, quoting the words of Zechariah: chap. 1:3.

Malachi 3:10. Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse. See on Deuteronomy 26:12. Assuredly the men learned in the law of the Lord, who organized this vile and immoral race that returned from Babylon, who daily instructed the people in righteousness, and were fathers and friends of the whole community, deserved bread as much as he who tilled the lands which otherwise had belonged to the priests. Their short harvests demonstrated the displeasure of God against their sin.

Malachi 3:14. Ye have said, it is vain to serve God. The prophet reproves sadducean principles, which ever existed since Cain disputed against Abel. Simon, the just, succeeded Ezra as president of the school in Jerusalem. Antigonus was a pupil of Simon, and Zadok, who founded the sect of the Sadducees, was a disciple of Antigonus. Thus colleges foster error as well as truth. See on Matthew 3:7.

Malachi 3:16. Then they that feared the Lord spake often one to another. The righteous in synagogues, as St. Paul states in meetings of church- fellowship, “might all prophesy one by one,” and declare what God had done for their souls. What is this but the body edifying itself in love, building up one another in our most holy faith, and strengthening each others hands in the Lord. The catechumens in the primitive church were put under tutors and deaconesses for this purpose. The Roman catholics have long had their spiritual guides; the pietists, among the Lutherans, have had in the vestries their social meetings, as the Methodists have had their class meetings.

Malachi 3:17. They shall be mine—in that day when I make up my jewels. God records the name of holy men in his book, seals them by his Spirit before the day of visitation, and accounts them his most precious jewels. The term is also applied to illustrious men. Livy reports that when the mother of the two Grachuses paid a visit to a Roman lady, she was shown all her jewels; and when the visit was repaid, the lady asked the same favour in return. The mother made some excuse for a time; and when her boys came home from school, she took one under each arm, and presented them to the lady with eclât. Here, madam, said she, are my jewels. A faint emblem of the value which the Lord sets upon his redeemed, and of the proof he will give of that endearment another day, when nothing will be saved but what is most valuable or indestructible. Cities, nations, the earth with all its works shall be burnt up; but the Lord will gather up his jewels, as the only treasure to be saved out of the wreck and ruin of an expiring world.

Malachi 3:18. Then shall ye return, and discern between the righteous and the wicked. There are but two classes of men in the world, those which are here mentioned; all other distinctions are lost and swallowed up in this, which alone has reference to an eternal world. Yet essential as this difference is, it is not always apparent, or clearly to be discerned in the present state. Amidst a number of prominent characters, there still are many more who appear to have no character at all. Some indeed are manifestly righteous; we see them uniformly devoted to God, habitually just and kind, and living for the good of others, and it is easy to discern to what class they belong. Others are as manifestly wicked, and notorious for their impiety and enmity to all religion. But there is a still larger number of undecided characters, who seem to inhabit the confines of both these provinces; they are neither for Christ nor against him, neither cold nor hot; too good as it were to be classed directly with the wicked, yet not good enough to be considered as truly righteous; such in short, of whom an apostle might stand in doubt. Galatians 4:20. But amidst the darkness that covered the earth, and the corruption which overwhelmed the church in Malachi’s time, it is probable that the prophet more especially refers to the mysteries of providence, which seemed to overlook all difference of character, and to leave it doubtful whether any or what advantages attached to true religion. Judging from present appearances, the wicked would seem to have the better portion. Egypt and Babylon triumph while Israel is oppressed. Jezebel is rioting in luxury, while a hundred prophets of the Lord are fed with bread and water. Cæsar is on a throne, and Paul in a dungeon. The mercenary priests in Malachi’s time lived on the fat of the land, while those who feared the Lord were driven into holes and corners.—But wait awhile: the day is coming when all these difficulties will be cleared up. The righteous will then be more eminently righteous, the wicked more eminently wicked; the difference of character will be more strongly marked than it has ever been in the present state. Here we only see the bud and the leaf, but then the full corn in the ear. Wide also will be the distinction which marks the divine conduct at that awful period. The Lord will no longer treat his enemies as if they had been his friends, though here he had indulged them with a profusion of goodness, and exercised towards them all longsuffering and mercy. Some of them also he had suffered to abide in his house, as if they had been his sons; yet now that the day is come for a final distinction and separation, he will for ever disown the hypocrite and the unrighteous. Nor shall those that fear his name be any longer overlooked, or go unrewarded; they shall shine as the sun in the kingdom of their Father, and as the firmament for ever and ever.

REFLECTIONS.

The national priesthood having by their mercenary conduct, by their ignorance and impiety, “caused many to stumble at the law,” and brought religion into general contempt, we here find a torrent of corruption overwhelming all classes of society. The common people are become impious and profane, treacherous and abominable towards one another, full of all manner of excess, and abounding in every crime. Those enumerated in the fifth verse would he disgraceful to any heathen nation.

Even those who professed to be the worshippers of God were the subjects of great hypocrisy; they defrauded the altar of tithes and offerings, oppressed the poor, the widow and the fatherless, till the proud and the opulent were accounted happy, being the only persons who appeared to be favoured of providence. They that wrought wickedness were exalted to stations of honour and dignity, and they that tempted God were even delivered.

In such a state of things, and at such a time, it is not a little refreshing to find that there were a few who feared the Lord, and were preserved from the moral contagion which prevailed around them. Good men will be good men in the worst of times; and though only a small remnant, scattered amidst an extensive population, they can always find one another out. True religion has a language of its own, and features of its own, by which its subjects are recognised and become known to each other. In the very worst of times the Lord will have a people to bear witness for him, and to testify their love to his holy name.

These pious individuals are represented as keeping up a close communion with each other, and conversing often together. Men of the world were all alive to their secular interests; and those who feared the Lord were alive too, but it was to the interests of true religion. The seed of the serpent were in league with each other, and the seed of the woman communed together. Their communings and their conversation must have been edifying, or it would not have been recorded in heaven; but the Lord hearkened and heard. They might have occasion to admonish, to instruct and comfort one another, in such a state of things as then existed; and the more wicked the world is, the more need there is of christian fellowship, of watchfulness and prayer.

It is sweet also to observe, and highly encouraging, that these same individuals whose conduct was so graciously noticed of heaven, were only engaged in some of the humblest acts of social piety; not in any great enterprize, nor in any enlarged or extensive plan for the revival of the public interests of religion. It is only said of them, that they “thought upon the name of the Lord,” while those around appeared to have forgotten it, or cared nothing about it. God’s honour and the success of his cause in the world lay near their hearts; and they were ready to say, If I forget thee, oh Jerusalem, let my right hand forget. They thought upon his name with grief, to see how it had been dishonoured; and with love, to devise means for its being glorified.

We have in the instance before us a criterion of true religion, as well as a proof of its identity in all ages of the world. Wherever it exists it will manifest itself in a supreme affection for the name of the Lord; his cause and interest will occupy our thoughts, we shall labour to introduce his gospel where it is not, and place our chief happiness in the gladness of his nation, and in glorying with his inheritance.

 


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Bibliography Information
Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on Malachi 3:4". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jsc/malachi-3.html. 1835.

Lectionary Calendar
Tuesday, August 20th, 2019
the Week of Proper 15 / Ordinary 20
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