Part I. REPROOF OF THE PRIESTS FOR NEGLECT OF DIVINE SERVICE.
§ 1. Heading and author. The burden (Zechariah 9:1; Zechariah 12:1; see note on Nahum 1:1). The word of the Lord is heavy and full of threats, but, as St. Jerome notes, it is also consolatory, because it is not "against" but to Israel. By this name the whole covenanted nation is designated, here, perhaps, with some idea of reminding the people of Jacob's faith and patience, and stimulating them to imitate their great ancestor. By Malachi; literally, by the hand of Malachi (comp. Jeremiah 37:2). That Malachi is the proper name of the prophet, and not a mere official designation, see the proof in the Introduction, § II. The LXX. renders, ἐν χειρὶ ἀγγέλου αὐτοῦ, "by the hand of his angel," or" messenger," and some curious theories have been founded on this translation; e.g. that an angel was the real author of the book, or came and explained it to the people. A similar legend once obtained concerning Haggai, called" The Lord's Messenger" (Haggai 1:13). At the end of the verse the LXX. adds, "fix it in your hearts," which Jerome supposes to have been imported hither from Haggai 2:15.
§ 2. The prophet declares God's special love for Israel
I have loved you. The prophet, desiring to bring home to the people their ingratitude, lays down his thesis; then, in his characteristic manner, repeats the objection of the sceptics in an interrogatory form, and refutes it by plain argument. God had shown his love for Israel by electing them to be his people, and by his treatment of them during the whole course of their history. Wherein hast thou loved us! This was the inward feeling of the people at this time. They doubted God's love and faithfulness. Events had not turned out as they expected. They had, indeed, returned from captivity, and the temple was rebuilt; but none of the splendid things announced by the prophets had come to pass. They were not great and victorious; Messiah had not appeared. Therefore they repined and murmured: they were ungrateful for past favours, and questioned God's power and providence. Was not Esau Jacob's brother? God refutes their unjust charge by referring them to a palpable fact, viz. the different fate of the descendants of the twin brothers, Esau and Jacob. How miserable the destiny of the Edomites! how comparatively fortunate the condition of the Israelites! Yet I loved Jacob.
And I hated Esau. St. Paul quotes these words (Romans 9:13) in order to illustrate his position, "that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth." Even before his birth Jacob was the chosen one, and Esau, the elder, was to serve the younger. This mystery of Divine election has seemed to some to be stated so harshly that they have thought that the words of the text need to be softened, or to be modified by their explanation. Thus they give the glosses, "I have preferred Jacob to Esau;" "I have loved Esau less than Jacob;" or they have limited the terms "love" end "hatred" to the bestowing or withholding of temporal blessings; or they have affirmed that Esau was hated because God foresaw his unworthiness, and Jacob was beloved owing to his foreseen piety and faithfulness. The whole question is discussed by Augustine, 'De Div. Quint. ad Simplic.,' 1.18 (11.433). He ends by saying, "Deus odit impietatem: in aliis etiam punit per damnationem, in aliis adimit per justificationem." But Malachi is not speaking of the predestination of the one brother and the reprobation of the other; he is contrasting the histories of the two peoples represented by them; as Jerome puts it, "In Jacob vos dilexi, in Esau Idumaeos odio habui." Both nations sinned; both are punished; but Israel by God's free mercy was forgiven and restored, while Edom was left in the misery which it had brought upon itself by its own iniquity. Thus is proved God's love for the Israelites (Knabenbauer). That it is of the two nations that the prophet speaks, rather than of the two brothers, is seen by what follows. Laid his mountains … waste. While the Israelites were repeopling and cultivating their land, and their cities were rising from their ruins, and the temple and the capital were rebuilt, Edom, which had suffered at the hand of the same enemies, had never recovered from the blow, and still lay a scene of desolation and ruin. It seems that Nebuchadnezzar attacked and conquered Edom some few years after he had taken Jerusalem. This event happened during one of his expeditions against Egypt, one of which took place in the thirty-seventh year of his reign, as we learn from a record lately deciphered (see 'Transact. of Soc. of Bibl. Archaeology,' 7.210, etc.). (For Edom and its history, see the Introduction to Obadiah.) Dragons; rather, jackals (Micah 1:8); Septuagint, εἰς δώματα ἐρήμου, "for habitations of the desert;" Vulgate, dracones deserti, whence the Authorized Version.
Whereas; rather, if, or although; Vulgate, quod si. If Edom were to attempt to repair its desolation, the Lord would not permit it—a striking contrast to the national restoration of Israel. We are impoverished; or, as the Revised Version, we are beaten; Septuagint, ἡ ἰδουμαία κατέστραπται, "Idumea has been overthrown." Vulgate, destructl sumus. The desolate places; Vulgate, quae destructa sunt, places once in habited and now deserted. Compare the boast of the Ephraimites (Isaiah 9:9, Isaiah 9:10). I win throw down. Edom never recovered its power; it became the prey of the Per starts, the Nabatheans, the Jews under the Maccabees, the Macedonians, the Romans; and finally the Mohammedan conquest effected its utter ruin. They (men) shall call them, The border of wickedness. Edom shall be called, "The territory of iniquity," its miserable condition attesting the wicked ness of the inhabitants thus punished by Divine justice. Hath indignation; Septuagint, παρατέτακται, "hath" been set in battle array;" St. Jerome, "My anger is proved by their enduring desolation; and in contrast to the evils experienced by your brother, ye shall experience the goodness of God towards you."
Your eyes shall see. Jacob is addressed. When you see these proofs of God's love for you, you shall leave off murmuring and be ready to praise God for his goodness and power. The Lord will be magnified; better, the Lord is great; Septuagint, ἐμεγαλύνθη κύριος, "The Lord was magnified." God makes his greatness known. From (over) the border of Israel. This means either beyond the limits of Israel, i.e. in all the world, or upon Israel, i.e. by the protection which he vouchsafes to Israel.
§ 3. Israel had shown no gratitude for all these proofs of God's love, and the very priests had been the chief offenders by offering defective sacrifices, and profaning the temple worship.
A son honoureth his father. The prophet commences with a general principle which every one allows, and argues from that what was the attitude which they ought to assume towards God. A father. God was the Father of Israel by creation, election, preservation, watchful guardianship (see Exodus 4:22; Deuteronomy 32:6; Isaiah 63:16; Isaiah 64:8, etc.). My fear. The fear, respect, reverence, due to me. O priests. He addresses his reproof to the priests, as the representatives of the people, and bound to lead them to obedience and holiness, and to be a pattern to the flock. Wherein have we despised thy Name? The priests have grown so callous, and have so obscured true religion by Pharisaical externalism, that they profess to be utterly unconscious how they have shown contempt of God. The Name of God is God himself and all that has to do with him.
Ye offer polluted bread (food) upon mine altar. The prophet answers the priests simply by detailing some of their practices. The "bread" (lechem) is not the shewbread, which was not offered on the altar, but the flesh of the offered victims (see Le Malachi 3:11, Malachi 3:16; 21:6; 22:25). This was "polluted" in that it was not offered in due accordance with the ceremonial Law, as is further explained in the next verse. Wherein have we polluted thee? They did not acknowledge the truth that (as St. Jerome says) "when the sacraments are violated, he himself, whose sacraments they are, is violated" (comp. Ezekiel 13:19; Ezekiel 20:9; Ezekiel 39:7). The table of the Lord is contemptible. This was the thought of their heart, if they did not give open expression to it in words. The "table of the Lord" (Malachi 1:12) is the altar, on which were laid the sacrifices, regarded as the food. of God, and to be eaten by the fire (Ezekiel 41:22; Ezekiel 44:16). They showed that they despised the altar by fancying that anything was good enough for offering thereon, as the next verse explains.
If ye offer the blind. The Law ordered that the victims should be perfect and without blemish (see Le 22:19-25). Is it not evil! It is more forcible to read this without the interrogation, "It is no evil!" and to regard it as the priests' thought or word, here introduced by the prophet in bitter irony. Their conscience had grown so dull, and they had become so familiarized with constant dereliction of duty, that they saw no wrong in these violations of the Law, and never recalled the people to their duty in these matters. Offer it now unto thy governor. The word for "governor" is pechah, as in Haggai 1:1 (where see note). It denotes a ruler set over a province by a Persian king. As Nehemiah had refused to be burdensome to the people (Nehemiah 5:14-18), it is thought that Malachi must have written this when some other person was acting as governor. But Nehemiah's generosity was exhibited in his earlier administration, and he may have thought it right to take the dues under a more prosperous state of affairs. The prophet may be putting the ease generally—Would you dare offer such things to your governor? At any rate, the question is not about provisions and dues supplied to the governor and liable to be exacted by him in his official capacity, but about voluntary offerings and presents, without which no inferior would presume to appear before his prince (see Introduction, § II.). To offer to such a one what was mean and defective would be nothing less than an insult; and yet they thought this was good enough for God. Accept thy person. Regard thee with favour (Genesis 19:21; Job 13:10; Job 42:8).
Beseech God; literally, the face of God. This is not a serious call to repentance, but an ironical appeal. Come now and ask the favour of God with your polluted sacrifices; intercede, as is your duty, for the people; will he accept you? will he be gracious to the people for your sakes? This hath been by your means. These words form a parenthesis, implying that it was from the priests that the evil custom of offering blemished animals proceeded, and they were answerable for the consequences; that their intercessions were vain was the result of their transgressions in these matters. Others interpret, "The thing depends on you," i.e. whether God shows favour or not. Will he regard your persons? Will he show favour to any one because ye intercede for him? So it might be translated, Will he accept any because of you?
The prophet continues his severe reprobation of the priests. Who is there even among you that would shut the doors for naught, etc.? Thus rendered, the passage rebukes the mercenary spirit of the priests, who would not even shut the temple door nor kindle the altar fire unless they were paid for it; or else it means that, though all the officers of the temple were remunerated for their most trivial services, yet they were remiss in attending to their duties, and neglected the law of sacrifices. The Latin Version omits the negative in the last clause, Quis est in vobis qui claudat ostia, et incendat altare meum gratuito? The LXX; with some little variation in the reading, renders, διότι καὶ ἐν ὑμῖν σὐκλειθήσονται θύραι καὶ οὐκ ἀνάψεται τὸ θυσιαστήριον, μου δωρεάν, "Wherefore also among you the doors shall be shut, and my altar shall not be kindled for nothing," i.e. God threatens that the temple services shall wholly cease. But it is best to consider the passage as continuing the sarcastic strain of the preceding verse, and saying in effect that it would be better to have no pretence of worship at all than to have it thus profaned. Translate as in the Revised Version, Oh that there were one among you that would shut the doors, that ye might not kindle fire on mine altar in vain! The doors are those of the inner court of the temple, where the great altar stood; and the polluted sectaries is offered "in vain," because it offends God rather than propitiates him. An offering (minchah). Here not sacrifice in general, as many commentators suppose, because it would be unnatural to take the word in one sense in this verse, and in a different sense in the following, where it is confessedly used in its restricted signification. The term is applied technically to the offering of fine flour combined with off and frankincense, burnt on the altar (Le Malachi 2:1, etc.); though it is also occasionally used even of bloody sacrifices; e.g. of Abel's. As liturgically employed, it denotes the unbloody offering. So in this verse we may note a kind of climax. God would not accept the victims sacrificed, no, nor even the meat offering, which was naturally pure and unpolluted,
My Name shall be great. The course of thought is this: God does not need the worship of the Jews and their impious priests; he needs not their maimed sacrifices; his majesty shall be recognized throughout the wide world, and pure worship shall be offered to him from every nation under heaven. How, then, shall he not punish those who, being his elect, ought to have been an example of holiness, and prepaid the way for his universal reception? The LXX. treats this circumstance as already occurring at this time, τὸ ὄνομά μου δεδόξασται, "My Name hath been and is glorified." This could only be said if it was allowed that the heathen in some sense, however blindly and imperfectly, did worship the true God. But the notion cannot be upheld for a moment; and there is a general consensus of commentators in referring the time to the Messianic future, when God's power is acknowledged and worship offered to him, not in Jerusalem alone, but in every place. The participles in this verse may be rendered by presents or futures, but there can be little doubt that a prophecy is intended, and not a statement of a fact—which, indeed, could not be truthfully maintained. When such a future is in stere, is this a time for Jewish priests to dishonour Jehovah? Incense shall be offered unto my Name, and a pure offering (minchah). The universal worship is expressed in the terms of the Jewish ritual (see note on Zephaniah 3:10). The Hebrew is more forcibly rendered, In every place incense is burned, oblation made unto my Name, and indeed a pure oblation. Incense is to our minds a type of prayer (Revelation 5:8; Revelation 8:3, etc.); the pure oblation is the symbol of the Christian sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving; and the prophet, rising superior to Jewish prejudices, announces that this prayer and sacrifice shall no longer be confined to one place or one specially favoured country, but be universal, worldwide. The Fathers and mediaeval writers, and many modern commentators, see in this verse a prophecy of the Holy Eucharist, the "pure offering" commemorative of Christ's sacrifice, which is found in every nation under heaven where the Name of Christ is adored.
But ye have profaned it; ye profane God's Name. The prophet contrasts the negligence and profanity of the priests with the piety of the Gentile nations, which he foresees. The table of the Lord (see note on Malachi 1:7). The fruit thereof, even his meat. The food and meat of the altar are the victims offered thereon. By their conduct the priests made both altar and offerings contemptible. Septuagint, τὰ ἐπιτιθέμενα ἐξουδένωται βρώματα αὐτοῦ, "Its meats that are laid thereon are set at naught;" Vulgate, Quod superponitur contemptibile est, cum igne qui illud devorat. This is either a free paraphrase, or for "meat" Jerome must have read a participle, "eating," and taken "that which eats" the offering to be the fire which consumes it, as "lick up" (1 Kings 18:38). Others explain the Vulgate to mean that the priests complain of the scantiness and inferiority of the victims, the flesh of which formed their support. But as this was owing to their own neglect, they were not likely to make it a subject of complaint
What a weariness is it! The reference is to the table of the Lord. Despising the altar, and performing their duties without heart or faith, the priests found the services an intolerable burden. Vulgate, ecce de labore, which seems to be an excuse of the people, urging that they offer such things as their toil and poverty allow. Septuagint, ταῦτα ἐκ κακοπαθείας ἐστί, which has much the same meaning. The present Hebrew text is represented by the Authorized Version. Ye have snuffed at it; i.e. at the altar. The phrase expresses contempt. "It" has been supposed to be a "scribes' correction" for "me." The Septuagint and Syriac give, "I snorted at them." That which was torn; rather, that which was taken by violence—that which was stolen or unjustly taken. Septuagint, ἁρπάγματα: Ecclesiasticus 34:18 (31:21), "He that sacrificeth of a thing wrongfully gotten, his offering is ridiculous ( μεμωκημένη)" Lame... sick (see Le 22:19-25). Thus ye brought an (bring the) offering (minchah). Subject to analogous defects is even your meat offering, the accessory to other sacrifices, and therefore it is unacceptable.
But (and) cursed be the deceiver. The curse is fulminated against all who are guilty of these violations of the Law. The prophet mentions two instances out of many. The first is of one who offers a female victim, on pretence that he has no male in his flock. This will be clearer if we translate, with Keil, "And cursed is he who deceives, whereas there is in his flock a male animal." Septuagint, "Cursed is he who was able and bad in his flock a male." And voweth … a corrupt (blemished) thing. The second case is of one who in some emergency vows an offering, and then pays it by presenting a blemished animal (Le Malachi 3:1, Malachi 3:6). With a slightly altered punctuation, some editors give, "a faulty female." For I am a great King. This is the reason that they are cursed who dishonour him. Dreadful. Held in awe and reverence. Septuagint, ἐπιφανές, notable." He whom the Gentiles honour will not permit his own people to profane his Name.
Malachi and his burden.
I. MALACHI, THE LAST OF THE PROPHETS OF THE OLD TESTAMENT. He may be compared to:
1. A late evening closing a long day of light and blessing, and which is itself:
2. A midsummer twilight in some northern latitude, bearing on its besom the new and still brighter day of the gospel.
3. A finger post pointing across an untrodden waste of time in the direction in which the ages should move onwards towards the advent of their expected King.
4. A faithful minister, the last of a noble succession, resigning his trust (the prophetic gift), but bidding his flock expect to "see greater things than these," and expiring with the gospel on his lips (Malachi 4:2-6).
II. THE PROPHET'S BURDEN. Any word of the Lord is:
1. A burden of responsibility to the bearer (1 Corinthians 9:16, 1 Corinthians 9:17). Especially so are messages of judgment with which Malachi was charged. So Jeremiah felt (Jeremiah 15:10-21; Jeremiah 20:8-10), and Paul (Philippians 3:18), and our Lord Jesus Christ (Luke 19:41-44). It is thus a test of fidelity (Proverbs 30:6; Ezekiel 3:17-21) and of courage (Micah 3:8).
2. Messages of judgment should be felt to be burdens by the sinner because they proceed from a God to whom judgment is "a strange work," yet who hates sin more than suffering, and whose holiness is seconded by his omnipotence. Only by repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ can the burden be changed into a beatitude, the curse into a blessing.
The sovereign love of God.
Remembering that the scriptural sense of "hate" in this and corresponding passages is to love less in comparison, or to reject when there is a competition of claims, we nevertheless learn from this passage—
I. THAT GOD'S LOVE TO INDIVIDUALS AND TO NATIONS IS A SOVEREIGN LOVE. By this we mean that it is a love which bestows special favours, for reasons which cannot be discovered in those that enjoy them, but in the gracious purpose of God.
1. In the case of the two brothers personally we note the following facts: Esau was the elder, yet not the heir of the promise. He suffered at the hands of a brother in some respects less noble than himself. He thus lost his father's chief blessing and had to take the remnants, and to be satisfied with a poorer inheritance, while Jacob received "the glory of all lands."
2. The two nations, Israel and Edom, were separated like two rivers issuing from the same fountain, the one destined to be a highway of commerce and a source of fertility, the other to be lost in the sands of the desert. Israel, blessed with a priesthood, a succession of prophets, and a covenant "ordered in all things and sure," in spite of many apostasies; Edom, allowed to drift into idolatry and crime till it became known as "the border of wickedness," etc. (Malachi 1:4). Such gifts and calling of God cannot be annulled any more than his sentences of judgment can be reversed (Malachi 1:4). In those judgments and in those mercies men shall see the finger of God, and shall stand in awe of the glory of God (Malachi 1:5). These truths applicable to God's dealings with nations now.
3. The salvation of individuals is no less the result of sovereign love, inasmuch as the very beginnings of spiritual life are of God, and are "according to his own purpose and grace," etc. (2 Timothy 1:9). Election is not "an order of merit," but a cord of love. The experience of all Christians confirms the doctrine of God's sovereignty in salvation, though it cannot answer the many questions suggested by God's varied dealings with individuals, or explain the reasons of his eternal purposes. Note St. Paul's "conclusion of the matter" (Romans 11:33-36).
II. THAT THIS UNMERITED LOVE OF GOD MAY BE IGNORED BY THE RECEIVERS. "Wherein hast thou loved us?" This may arise from:
1. Forgetting past mercies under the presence of present trials, like Israel (Psalms 106:12-14).
2. Forgetting our present blessings as contrasted with the lot of others.
3. Having an imperfect sense of our absolute dependence on the unmerited mercy of God (Deuteronomy 7:7, Deuteronomy 7:8).
4. And therefore taking even our spiritual blessings very much as a matter of course, and indulging in self-complacency rather than cultivating grateful humility in view of "the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord" (cf. 1 Corinthians 4:7, 1 Corinthians 4:8).
The reverence due to God.
Earthly analogies to Divine relationships are instructive though imperfect. Neither the most absolute master nor the most affectionate father can adequately represent God. Yet God reminds us of the reverence due to himself from the fear and honour expected by them. The appeal should be most powerful to those who, like the priests here appealed to, are in any positions of authority. It should be a most tender plea to all parents. It falls in tones of deepest pathos on those who have received the adoption and the spirit of sons through Jesus Christ. But the appeal binds all to whom in any sense God stands in the sacred relations of "the Father of spirits" (Exodus 4:22; Deuteronomy 32:6; Isaiah 63:16; Isaiah 64:8). We assume the case of a father who combines that wise authority and tender love which makes him a type of the heavenly Father. A son honoureth such a father—
I. BY OBEDIENCE. This is the first lesson a child must learn. After the early conflicts with self-will, it becomes part of the child-nature. It may rise to self-denial or even heroic self-sacrifice. Illust.: Henry Havelock, as a boy, waiting for hours in a crowded street of London, in obedience to his father, who had forgotten him; or Casa Bianca's son blown up in the French flag ship at the Battle of the Nile. God is greatly honoured when our obedience is habitual and cheerful, when we "worship" the "sweet will of God," and can say, "I delight," etc. (Psalms 40:8; Psalms 119:128).
II. BY LOVE. The instinctive love of an infant makes way for the intelligent affection, founded on esteem, which the youth feels towards a father who has trained him in habits of obedience. Disobedience begets dislike; submission strengthens love. The pruning and training of wise discipline is rewarded by the copious fruits of love. We most honour God when our love is not merely the love of gratitude even for redemption, but of complacent delight in the character of our Father. In that character there are no flaws such as a partial son may nevertheless see in his earthly father (James 1:17). Let him not have to say John 5:42.
III. BY REGARD TO HIS REPUTATION. A boy's eye flashes with indignation if a stranger assails his father's reputation. How do we regard the dishonour done to God by profanity, by reckless criticisms on his character and government, and on the work of Christ ("The Father wounded through the Son")? Can we say, with Christ, "The reproaches," etc. (Psalms 69:9)? Let us beware, however, of the zeal of a Jehu (2 Kings 10:16-31) or of the Pharisees (Matthew 23:15). Let our lives he answers to our prayers, "Hallowed be thy Name."
IV. BY UPHOLDING HIS AUTHORITY.
1. When it has to be exercised in discipline on ourselves (Hebrews 12:5-11).
2. When it is resisted by others. There is a rebellion in the great family of God which requires every true child to take an active part on the side of God. While grieved (Psalms 119:158) and indignant (Psalms 139:21), we shall yet be labourers together with God, that in the spirit of the sinless Son we may seek by all means to save some (1 Peter 4:10, 1 Peter 4:11).
Malachi 1:7, Malachi 1:8
Irreverence-its causes and signs.
Notice how in many places Malachi puts the thoughts of sinners into bold and bald words. He interprets their conduct in speech, that they may see the offensiveness of their thoughts and acts. Sins of the heart may sometimes be best exposed by translating them into unsubmissive or even impious prayers. They cannot endure the light when they are paraded in speech under the scrutiny of our fellow men. Still less can they tolerate the brightness that proceeds from the throne of grace, where God seeth in secret, that he may answer him "that setteth up his idols in his heart" "according to the multitude of his idols" (Ezekiel 14:3, Ezekiel 14:4). In this section the irreverence of the priests and people is exposed y the prophet calling things by their right names. Note—
I. SOME OF THE CAUSES OF IRREVERENCE.
1. Inadequate views of the holiness of God and the sinfulness of men. We forget the names and titles of the God with whom we have to do—"Jehovah," "Lord of hosts," "Master," "Father," "a great King," "glorious in holiness, fearful in praises, doing wonders," etc. We forget our own utter sinfulness and unworthiness as "dust and ashes," "the imagination of whose heart is evil from our youth," to have any intercourse with the Thrice-holy One (cf. Job 40:3-5). If it is hard to appreciate this, we may be helped by the contrast between what we see in the characters of Christ and of ourselves. Illust.: Peter (Luke 5:8).
2. Familiarity with sacred things. It may "breed contempt." The altar and its offerings were regarded as commonplace or even despicable objects. The worship of God, the table of the Lord, the most sacred acts and objects may be observed and resorted to without the slightest expectation of gaining good. They might be means of grace, but familiarity makes them contemptible.
3. The indolence which shrinks from the effort needed to stir up ourselves to take hold of God (Isaiah 64:7). Worship must be a spiritual service; it may be a "conflict" an ἀγών (Colossians 2:1). Indolence may beget irreverence, and will, in its turn, be a sign of it.
II. SOME OF THE SIGNS OF IRREVERENCE. We may copy the evil example of the Jews in bringing blind, lame, sick, or polluted offerings.
1. Formal and half-hearted services. "Blind is the sacrifice of the soul which is not illumined by the light of Christ. Lame is his sacrifice of prayer who comes with a double mind to entreat the Lord" (Jerome; Matthew 15:8).
2. Superstitious services; e.g. blind obedience to a man claiming to be a priest, which may save the trouble of searching for God with all the heart. Unintelligent worship, perhaps in an unknown tongue, as though a lesson learned by rote would suffice for the Divine Teacher.
3. Offering to God what we should not dare to offer to an earthly superior (verse 8). As though we would say, "God is not very particular." Yet he requires the very best service we can render. Such conduct is virtual dishonesty, for the intention to sacrifice to God at all implies the sacrificing of our best. Illust.: David (2 Samuel 24:24; cf. Matthew 22:37). Note how the revelation of God in Christ shows still more impressively his claims on our highest services. "The Lamb that was slain" is worthy to receive everything and the best of everything we can offer to him (Revelation 5:12).
4. Still grosser forms of irreverence are seen in the Corinthians feasting at the Eucharist, and thus despising the Church of the living God (1 Corinthians 11:22), and making the table of the Lord contemptible; or in men celebrating a sacred rite as a passport to some secular office; or in getting rid of a base coin at a collection, like "the deceiver" in verse 14.
1. The many subtle forms of a deep-seated sin of the heart (Jeremiah 17:9).
2. The need of radical remedies such as Divine power alone can employ (Luke 6:43 45; Psalms 19:12-14).
God's honour secured in spite of his people's sins.
The heartlessness and negligence of the priest leads God to say that the fires of the altar might as well be extinguished, and the temple shut up as it had been in the days of Ahaz; for no offerings would any longer be accepted at their hands, and "Ichabod!" "No glory!" was written on the altar. The godly remnant of the Jews naturally begin to say, "What a dishonour that would be to the God of Israel!" and to ask, like Joshua (Joshua 7:9), "What wilt thou do unto thy great Name?" And even the formalists, who had not entirely cast off God, but wished to keep on speaking terms with him, would shrink from such a public slight being offered to the God of their nation. To all such fears God gives an answer in the declaration and prediction of verse 11, "My Name shall be magnified; my honour shall be secured, in spite of my people's sins:"
I. AMONG NEW AND MORE NUMEROUS WORSHIPPERS. It was an inveterate superstition of the Jews that the honour of God was in some way bound up with sacred places or persons. He had taught them in the past that his glory was not attached to the ark, as they thought when they took it into battle (1 Samuel 4:1-22.), or to one line of priests (1 Samuel 2:27-36), or to the tabernacle at Shiloh (Psalms 78:59-64), or to the temple (Jeremiah 7:1-16). He now teaches them that his glory is independent both of the revived priesthood, the restored temple, and the nation brought back from captivity. The temple may be again destroyed; the priesthood may be abolished; the people disinherited. God has a larger temple than the sanctuary on Mount Moriah, or even than the land of promise itself. His temple extends "as far as the east is from the west." His worshippers shall be as numerous as the tribes and the tongues of the heathen world. No longer shall it be especially true that "In Judah is God known; his Name is great in Israel;" "For from the rising of the sun," etc. Comparing this prediction of the kingdom of Christ on earth with others, we are reminded of a few truths respecting the way in which God's honour would be secured among the nations of the earth. His judgments would arouse them (Isaiah 59:18, Isaiah 59:19). His free love would seek those who knew him not (Isaiah 65:1). The atoning sacrifice on the cross would attract their sin-burdened consciences (John 12:32), and the beneficence of the reign of Christ would allure all classes to accept his dominion (Psalms 72:8-14, especially Psalms 72:12, "For," etc.). Thus the Name of God would be glorified in his Son. Apply this truth:
1. To those who refuse to give to God the glory due unto his Name. So did the Jews in the days of Christ. But God's honour could be secured in other ways (cf. Matthew 21:41-43; Luke 19:37-40). Note in the former and latter parts of Psalms 22:1-31. the contrast between Psalms 22:6-8 and Psalms 22:27-31. "His own received him not," but "the Gentiles glorified the word of the Lord" (Acts 13:48; cf. Isaiah 49:3-9; Matthew 8:11, Matthew 8:12).
2. To those who are tempted to shrink from honouring God because of the risk to themselves or the sacrifice required at their hands. Illust.: Esther 4:10-14. The loss will be only our own (Matthew 10:39). God will find other servants in our place to render the honour he asks at our hands, and to receive that which he bestows in return (1 Samuel 2:30).
3. To God's faithful servants who are needlessly anxious about his glory in "a day of trouble and of rebuke and of blasphemy;" e.g. Moses (Numbers 14:11-21), Joshua (Joshua 7:9). But God is more jealous for his own honour than we can be (Deuteronomy 32:26, Deuteronomy 32:27), and is wiser than we can be in answering the prayer he has taught us, "Hallowed be thy Name."
II. BY PURER AND MORE SPIRITUAL SACRIFICES.
1. By the revelation of God in Christ as "the Saviour of all men," God's Name was truly magnified (Psalms 96:1-13. and 98.). That revelation included a sacrifice, the sacrifice of a sinless soul to suffering in order to do the will of God (Hebrews 10:7-10), and thus to offer a propitiation for the sins of the whole world. Thus the prayer was answered (John 12:28) and the prediction fulfilled (Romans 15:8, Romans 15:9).
2. By the spiritual sacrifices the acceptable services, like fragrant incense, presented by Gentile hearts, e.g. the penitence of the woman of Samaria; the pertinacious prayers of the Syro-phoenician; the marvellous faith of the centurion; the alms and prayers of Cornelius; the unrecorded acts of faith and service of unknown worshippers in the heathen world;—these are accepted by God, while the tainted sacrifices of the Jewish priests are refused. This a warning to all formalists.
3. By pure offerings from all hearts that "in every place call upon the Name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours" (cf. John 4:21-24). Our hearts were once impure, but have been cleansed by the blood and the Spirit of Jesus Christ. And now we are eager, impatient to express our sense of the greatness and goodness of God by acceptable sacrifices, our "bodies" (Romans 12:1), our gifts (Philippians 4:18), our praises, our good deeds, and any means by which we can "communicate" to others, and thus glorify our Saviour-God (Hebrews 13:15, Hebrews 13:16).
Notice, in conclusion, what an encouragement this truth may be to those who long to give unto God the glory due unto his Name, but are dissatisfied with their own efforts. God's honour will be secured in spits of our failures. These may stimulate us to seek that greater purity by which our offerings may themselves become purer. It will not provoke us to envy, but rejoice our hearts that others are able to render to God more useful service than we do. And if, in the midst of our efforts to offer such pure offerings and fragrant incense as our poor hearts can present, we are called away from this service, we may rejoice to know that God's honour will not suffer because our services are withdrawn. Illust.: In one Roman Catholic convent there is a chapel of "perpetual adoration," where, every hour, night and day, some service is being offered at the altar. So will be the true worship of God throughout the world—universal and perpetual.
HOMILIES BY R. TUCK
"The burden of the Lord to Israel by Malachi." Much of the work of the Old Testament prophets involved a serious strain on feeling, and may appropriately be figured as a "burden" which they were called to bear. A very large proportion of it consists of denunciations, declarations of swiftly coming and overwhelming Divine judgments. Those prophets were, in fact, raised up to meet a condition of society and national life of which God disapproved, and by which God was dishonoured. It should never be forgotten that the prophets belong to the Israelite my, and that was not God's ideal of government for his people. It brought and perils the significance of which the prophets were to declare. Malachi's is the last prophet voice of the Old Testament times. After him a great prophetic silence fell on the land. No direct utterance came from God for some three hundred years, until John the Baptist appeared. Nothing is certainly known concerning this Prophet Malachi. He is, indeed, only a name, and our interest lies entirely in his message. His name means, "The Messenger of Jehovah," and it calls us to attend to the message rather than to the speaker. We do know something of the times in which he lived, and we can understand what would be the burden of a Jehovah prophet at such a time. After Nehemiah had been working for some twelve years at the moral reformation of the people of Jersualem and Judea, he was recalled to Persia; and immediately on his departure the old evils which he had stoutly resisted came back like a food. In spite of the presence of Ezra in Jerusalem, it was seen that a reformation enforced by the civil power, rather than as the fruit of individual conviction, had no permanent vitality. When Nehemiah's back was turned, "the tithes due to the temple, the Levites, and the priests were not delivered, and the greatest distress was thus caused to all those who depended on them for maintenance. The choristers, the guards of the gates, and the ordinary Levites alike, were compelled to go back to their homes, and cultivate their fields for a living. Public worship was thus interrupted, and the temple, forsaken by its ministers, was neglected by the people. Nor was the refusal to pay tithes the only sign of an altered spirit. The sabbath was profaned, both in town and country, wine presses were busy in its sacred hours, and the roads and fields were dotted with the workers taking sheaves to the barn on their heavily laden asses. Jerusalem itself was disturbed by a sabbath fair, to which loads of wine, grapes, figs, and much else were carried in during sacred hours. After all the professed zeal to put an end to mixed marriages, things were rapidly drifting to almost a worse condition than of old. The very priests had rapidly lost their high tone. Their irreverence, indifference, and worldliness shocked the thoughtful. Everything that Ezra and Nehemiah had effected was well nigh undone." The Prophet Malachi had the "burden" laid upon him of recalling both priests and people to their duties. And this he did partly by vigorous denunciations of surrounding evils, and partly by anticipations of the times of Messiah. The Coming One would surely prove to be a stern Rebuker of national sin.
I. THE PROPHET'S MESSAGE WAS A BURDEN TO HIMSELF. Denunciations of wrong doing and wrong doers lose their true force when those who utter them enjoy their work. Then they put into them a bitter tone, which makes them ungod-like messages. Stern things have still to be spoken for God, but they must be spoken with pathos in the tone, and tears ready to start. No man can deliver a message of judgment aright, unless he feels it to be a burden.
II. THE PROPHET'S MESSAGE SHOULD BE A BURDEN TO THOSE ADDRESSED. A burden of holy concern. It should set them upon grave self-searching. It should burden them with anxiety about their sins, and with earnest efforts to put sin away. If it was not taken as a burden in that sense, it would become a burden as bringing upon them full, unrelieved, Divine judgments.
III. THE PROPHET'S MESSAGE MAY BE THOUGHT OF AS A BURDEN TO GOD. "Judgment is his strange work;" "In all their affliction he was afflicted;" "Have I any pleasure in the death of the wicked?" We are permitted to think that it troubles God to punish his people. He is burdened by the messages which our sin compels him to send.—R.T.
Malachi 1:2, Malachi 1:3
The Lord's love for his people.
The Lord had chosen Israel as his peculiar people, out of pure love and kindness, without any antecedent merit on their side. This love is strikingly exhibited by contrasting the Divine dealings with the two nations, Edom and Israel. Both came into Divine judgment for sin, and love triumphed in the restoration of Israel; but because of Edom's treatment of Israel, it was left, to its desolations. The word "hate" is employed, but South properly explains that "hating" is sometimes used comparatively for a less degree of love (Genesis 29:31; Luke 14:26). The English word "hate" has somewhat changed its meaning. Now it means, "have a personal aversion to," "regard with ill will." But when our Bible was translated, it had a simpler and kinder meaning, "love less," "show less favour to." It is important to note that the reference is not to God's personal feelings to individuals, but to his providential dealings with nations. Still, it stands out prominently that God's ways with Israel had been the indication of selecting love for her.
I. GOD'S LOVE FOR ISRAEL WAS A DISTINGUISHING LOVE. Of Israel, as of Christ's apostles, it could be said, "Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you." The race of Abraham is a selected race. It was separated in order to preserve, and to witn