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MALACHI CHAPTER 3
The forerunner, and coming of the Messiah to cleanse his church, and to judge the wicked, Malachi 3:1-6. The people are warned to repent, and turn from their sins, Malachi 3:7; particularly their sacrilege, Malachi 3:8-12, and impious blasphemy, Malachi 3:13-15. God’s blessing promised to those that fear him, Malachi 3:16-18.
The former chapter, as we have it cast, ended with an inquiry made by vicious and ungodly priests and people, who either doubted or denied the present government. or future judgment of God over the world. This being reproved ill the last verse of the second chapter, now God condescends to give a very full and particular answer to this question, for the instruction and consolation of the good, whatever use the evil will make of it.
Behold: this note in this place, and on this occasion, requires our best attention; consider it well, therefore, all ye that inquire with doubt, and all ye that inquire who belief, that he will come, who is God of judgment.
I will send; or, I am sending, I will shortly send: it is Christ who here speaketh, and who sendeth.
My messenger; John Baptist, the forerunner of Christ, as evidently appears from Matthew 11:10; Mark 1:2; Luke 7:27,Luke 7:28. He is this messenger, whom some by mistake have taken to be an angel; but though the word so signifieth, it doth also signify a messenger, and so it is very fifty rendered in this place: see Malachi 1:1.
He shall prepare the way before me, by preaching repentance because the kingdom of heaven was at hand, by baptizing, by calling them to believe on the Messiah, who should now ere long be revealed, &c.: so John Baptist made ready the people to entertain Christ, and to believe in him. This was he who came in the spirit and power of Elias, and such a one the Jews expected.
The Lord; Messiah, who is Lord and Christ, Acts 2:36; Lord of lords, Revelation 17:14; Revelation 19:16.
Whom ye seek; you ungodly disputers seek, but not aright, for you seek, i.e. inquire whether there be such a God of judgment. Beside these, there are others also, who did seek, i.e. humbly, longing and praying that he would come, and waiting, assured that he will come: it is these chiefly intended.
Shall suddenly come, after the coming of his forerunner: this suddenly in the text is not very fitly interpreted of a time so long as between this prophecy and the coming of Christ, but it very well suiteth to the time between John Baptist’s appearing to prepare the way, and Christ’s appearing now the way was prepared.
To his temple; that temple which was the second temple at Jerusalem, lately built by Zerubbabel and Joshua, into which the Messiah was to come; and so he did. There old Simeon met him, there he disputed with the doctors, thither he went to drive out buyers and sellers, and this according to what was foretold of him, Haggai 2:7; and all the religious Jews, who lived and died before the desolation of this second temple, did believe, and did confess, that the Messiah would come whilst that house did stand. He is then come, for that temple hath been ruined long since by the Romans.
The messenger of the covenant; the Angel of the covenant, not Elias, but Christ, the Messiah, in whose blood the covenant of grace was confirmed, for whose sake it is performed to us.
Whom ye delight in; you Jews, among whom few there are who do not please themselves to think of his coming, for the expectation of the best among the Jews was fixed on salvation, as that they hoped for by Christ. Others expected great but worldly advantage by his coming and setting up his kingdom among them.
Behold; behold again, saith the prophet, consider thoroughly what is foretold.
He shall come, at the time, to the place, in the manner foreshowed.
Saith the Lord of hosts; all confirmed by the word of the great God.
But, Heb. And. Who may abide the day of his coming? among the Jews were two sorts of inquirers after the day of the Messiah’s coming: some inquired with doubt of the truth of the promises, that he should come to set all right, like them Malachi 2:17,
Where is the God of judgment? Others inquired hoping for preferment in the kingdom of the Messiah: of these, who shall be able to endure, to abide this day, when the unparalleled afflictions of that time shall cut off so many Jews, when the sword of the God of judgment shall destroy the ungodly scoffers, when so many must, as in Zechariah 13:8,Zechariah 13:9,
be cut off, and so many must pass through the fire? This will be a terrible day to these ungodly ones. Nor will it be much better with those who, disappointed of the expected worldly grandeur of the Messiah, shall stumble and fall, and be snared and broken; who will reject that Messiah who appears in a character so extremely different from that they had preconceived; and when God shall punish for the rejecting the Messiah, it will be a dreadful day, as it is described, Matthew 24:6-8, &c.; Mark 13:2,Mark 13:8,Mark 13:12-14; the righteous will scarcely be saved; what then will become of the sinner?
Abide; think of, as the Latin Vulgate: the forethought of those calamities would be a burden; who shall be able to stand under the heavy weight of those crosses which in that day will fall on all sorts of men?
The day of his coming: this day was from his preaching till the utter destruction of the city Jerusalem, about seventy years after the birth of Christ: days they were, had they not been shortened, which would have worn out all; but for the elect’s sake they were shortened, Matthew 24:22.
Who shall stand when he appeareth? an elegant ingemination, to confirm the thing, and to affect us with it.
For he is like a refiner’s fire: some are like metals, which nothing but a fierce fire can purge; such fire shall the troubles of these days be.
And like fullers’ soap; another allusion; though this may express the troubles of those times somewhat more tolerable, yet troublesome enough. The boiling waters into which spotted clothes are thrown, where they lie soaking ere they are taken out; the rubbing of them with the soap, by which the clothes are whitened and cleansed indeed, but withal fretted, weakened, and in time worn out: so that day of the Lord will prove to all a day of great trial, to purge and refine.
And he, King Messiah, Christ Jesus our Lord,
shall sit; as resolved to attend this work, he will set to it vigorously, and continue in it constantly, till it is finished.
As a refiner and purifier of silver; overlooking the furnace, that it be hot enough to melt down the silver and gold, and to consume the dross, and purify the best part of the gold.
He shall purify; the effect of this fiery trial, of this scouring, shall be the thorough cleansing of the persons that are to pass through it: these sufferings, together with his word, shall, by the power of the Spirit accompanying them, thoroughly purge the good, and they shall be a fire hot enough to burn up the wicked.
The sons of Levi; either the Jewish Levites, or all Christians, who are made priests unto God, to offer sacrifices to him, even prayers, praises, and alms, &c.; or such as should minister more immediately to God, in the services of the spiritual temple, as the Levites did in the material temple.
And purge them as gold and silver; that they may be vessels of honour, purified for holy employments.
That they may offer unto the Lord an offering: by the law phrase is set forth gospel worship, for it cannot be meant of legal offerings, which the Messiah did abolish at his coming.
In righteousness; in right manner, purely and uprightly.
Then; when the Lord, Messenger or Angel of the covenant, the King Messiah, shall be come, and set up his kingdom, framed his gospel church.
The offerings; the services and duties required of the church, and performed by it, expressed here in an allusion to the law services: such are now fervent prayers, Psalms 141:2, lively praises, thankful memorials of the death of Christ in the sacraments, attentive hearing the word, and giving up ourselves, soul and body, a holy, living sacrifice to God, Romans 12:1; and alms, Hebrews 13:15,Hebrews 13:16.
Of Judah and Jerusalem; the Christian church, expressed by the names of its type. Pleasant; delightful, as sweet odours to the smell, as savoury meats to the taste, as comely objects to the eye, every way acceptable to God.
As in the days of old, and as in former years; this acceptance God will give shall be as great and gracious as ever he gave to any of the services of his saints of old. We need not determine the precise times to which these expressions refer; it is certain God did greatly delight in the sacrifices and offerings of his people, when they offered them in right manner. He will give as gracious acceptance still, which implieth a continuance of these sacrifices which he will accept, and inferreth that this coming of Christ is not his coming to judge the world, his last coming.
And I; either God the Father, or Christ the Messiah, to whom the Father hath committed all judgment, John 5:22.
Will come near; you have spoken as if you thought I was far off, but by what I do you shall see I am near to you, and you shall feel my hand, that you may believe I am a God of judgment, and they happy who wait for him, and they miserable who fall under his judgments.
To you O Jews; not those very persons Malachi preached to, but those who should be then living when the Messiah cometh, which was more than four hundred years after Malachi’s preaching, by which time his hearers were all dead.
To judgment, against the wicked, to whom he would be what fire is to the dross in the furnace; to the righteous what the fire is to purer parts of the gold: he will consume the wicked, he will refine the good, he will be terrible to both in doing this.
I will be a swift witness: in that he will be a witness, they may be assured that they should. not be quitted in judgment for want of evidence; and in that a swift witness, they may be sure he will come in timely enough against them. And further yet, he that comes near as Judge to call them to an account, was always near them to observe all they did, all they spake, or thought, and he will be near as witness against them.
Against the sorcerers: sorcery was forbidden, and God testifies his detestation of the sin, and such as practise it, Deuteronomy 18:10-14; the people of God, who may consult with their God, his word, and prophets, do very abominably if they consult with the devil; a sin their fathers learnt among the Egyptians, a sin they had learnt among the Chaldeans during the captivity, and practised under the second temple.
The adulterers; who transgressed the law of nature and of God, Exodus 20:14; Deuteronomy 5:18; Deuteronomy 22:22; and were by the law to die for it.
False swearers; perjury, against which Zechariah 5:3,Zechariah 5:4, and God hateth this sin, Zechariah 8:17.
Those that oppress the hireling in his wages; either detaining it, or lessening it, Jeremiah 22:13; James 5:4.
The widow; who should be relieved, Deuteronomy 24:19-21, not oppressed, Isaiah 1:17.
The fatherless: such are not only those who have lost their fathers by death, but all friendless ones; God requires us to assist and help such, not oppress them, Psalms 82:1-4.
That turn aside the stranger from his right; pervert judgment, or wrest the law, or admit false witness against a stranger. Not doing right is ill, though to an enemy, but it is a crying sin to do wrong to a stranger, and God will punish it when it crieth, as he did upon your fathers, Ezekiel 22:7, with Malachi 3:13-16.
And fear not me; neither reverence my precepts to keep them, not tremble at my threats to prevent the execution of them by declining the sins I threaten. Irreligion is the root of all these oppressions, and God will punish them.
This introduceth the final and full confirmation of what hath been foretold in the verses before, the God of judgment will come, &c.
I change not: as he loved righteousness, and hath purposed to defend and reward it, yea, hath promised it shall be well with the righteous, so he now loveth righteousness, and purposeth to deal well with them that love and practise it; these may rejoice, I change not. And so on the other hand, I do, as I ever did, hate wickedness, and will, as I have threatened, punish it; I change not, my mind toward the things or persons that are wicked is the same.
Therefore ye sons of Jacob; either taken for all the natural branches of Jacob, or taken for such as are the sons of Jacob according to the faith, who did indeed fear God.
Are not consumed; since the same hatred of sin and resolution to punish is accompanied with the same longsuffering and patience, that you, sons of Jacob by nature, (but not by imitation,) who have provoked me, and deserve to be destroyed, might yet have time to repent and amend, since my long-suffering changeth not, you are not yet consumed in your sins. So for the good, though they are oppressed and suffer, yet not consumed, for God changeth not, he now doth love as he ever hath loved them, and preserveth them. In brief, God is the same in his wisdom to order the rewards of good and bad in fittest season, and therefore neither the one or other are consumed, but both preserved to the season appointeth of God, the just Judge, and then each shall be dealt with according to what they are.
Even from the days of your fathers: we need not fix a particular time or age wherein this apostacy began; it is an old apostacy that is here charged on them, and they were notoriously guilty of it.
Ye are gone away; are turned away by the examples and by the corrupt doctrines of your fathers and false teachers; yea, you have voluntarily and of choice gone away.
From mine ordinances; which either directed my worship, or your dealings one with another; so that you have sinned greatly by polluting my temple with your own additions or diminutions, with idolatry, or corrupt manner of performing my service; and you have sinned against one another by injustice, unfaithfulness, and cruelty, since you have gone away from my laws, which direct the way of righteousness and equity.
And have not kept them: it is a further asseveration, confirming the truth of the charge, and added to make them more sensible of their sin. Some tell us that this chargeth on them their sins against negative precepts, as the other charged them with sins against positive precepts; so the whole law was now, and had long been, broken by their fathers and themselves.
Return unto me; it is the only course you can take, repent ere it is too late, return whilst there is hope.
And I will return unto you; I will yet pardon, accept you, establish, and bless you; amend your ways and doings, and I will soon amend the state of your affairs.
But ye said, Wherein shall we return? as to other, so now to this advice, they return a proud, shameless, and self-justifying question; Wherein, or what is the evil from which we should return to thee? what is our sin?
Will a man rob God? among the many deviations from God’s law (which they do not, because they will not, see) the prophet chargeth them with this kind of sacrilegious theft; they had detained his tithes, shortened him in that portion which he had reserved to himself and for his service, which is, as our version expresseth it, a robbing of God. And as the words lie in the original, they do, by arguing from the less to the greater, aggravate this sin; as they may be read, Will a man rob a great man, or, a judge? for the word used will bear these notions. Or, Will a man rob the gods? i.e. do not heathens abhor the foulness of such a fault, and fear the punishment of sacrilege, and therefore would not rob their idols? as another prophet asked once the question, Have any of
the nations changed their gods, which yet are no gods? Jeremiah 2:11; so now, Have the nations robbed their gods? Yet ye have robbed me; but blush, ye shameless priests and Jews, you have robbed not a great man, but the great God; not judges, but the Judge of judges; not an idol, but the living God! How great is your crime!
Wherein have we robbed thee? a question just like those Malachi 1:7; Malachi 2:17; Malachi 3:7, which see.
In tithes: the people robbed God not paying the full tenth, which God appointed should be paid to him. The priests robbed God in tithes, while they took too much, or it may be all, for their own particular and family use, and did not distribute them to all that by God’s law had a right to a proportion of them.
And offerings; either first-fruits, or other oblations and gifts, which were appointed to be brought to the temple for the service of God; in all which the people and priests had given him less than his due.
Ye, O priests, your sin, your sacrilege, of which you are guilty, hath provoked me.
Are cursed with a curse; are greatly cursed, and are likely still to be cursed, the curse shall continue whilst you continue in this your sinful course.
For ye have robbed me; this brought, increased, and multiplied your curse. Or, as some, yet ye do rob me! Strange that you dare sin, whilst I am punishing for this very sin! Or by way of question, and do ye rob me? will you go on thus to sin when you are under the curse for it? will you, as Ahaz, sin when in distress; or, Pharaoh-like, harden under the judgment?
Even this whole nation: like priest like people; the priests and Levites did unduly employ the tithes and offerings, and the people did unduly pay: it is like the people observed how much of the tithes were laid out otherwise than the law directed, and they were ready to think they might do well enough to keep that for a use better (as they did think) than the use the priests and Levites put it to, they thought it was ill spent by the priests, and well saved by them; but this, however seemingly excuse them to themselves, it leaves them guilty before God: the whole nation is sacrilegious, and the whole nation cursed for it.
Bring ye: if these persons spoken of be the priests, then they are required not to detain the tithes in their own hands, but, as was their duty, to bring them into the public storehouse. If the people are the persons, ye, people, it requires them to make g punctual and full payment of all tithes of corn, wine, oil, &c.: about this did Nehemiah contend with the rulers, and made them honester, and all Judah obeyed and did the like, Nehemiah 13:10-13.
The storehouse; which was one or more large rooms built on purpose for this use, to lay up the tithes, and to keep them for holy uses. It was some large and stately chamber, for we find that Eliashib had befriended Tobiah, letting him have it for an apartment to dwell in, Nehemiah 13:5-7, &c.
That there may be meat in mine house, for the priests and Levites to live upon; that they flee not, as many had done, from the service of God in the temple, to take care of their country affairs, and by their industry provide maintenance for themselves and theirs, Nehemiah 13:10.
Prove me now herewith; make the experiment. The prophet doth in the name of God offer to put it to a short trial: By doing your duty try whether I will not make good my promise, and give you a blessing instead of a curse.
Open the windows of heaven: this form of speech is used Genesis 7:11, when those mighty rains that helped to drown the world were poured forth; and now here plentiful and fruitful rains are promised in the same phrase, in a kind of proverbial speech, to express great abundance of the thing intended.
Pour you out a blessing; first of rain, to water the earth, and to make it fruitful; next a blessing of corn, wine, and oil, and all other products of the earth, for the use of man and beast.
That there shall not be room enough; your barns and storehouses shall not be large enough to receive it all. Your
fats shall overflow, Joel 2:23,Joel 2:24. Or, as it is Amos 9:13, you shall have harvest work, and vintage work, and sowing work, as much, or more, than your labourers can well finish in their seasons.
I will rebuke; lay a restraint upon, or prohibit, and the prohibition shall be effectual; if God so check, no creature is or dares be deaf to it; such a check not only quiets the unruly sea, but can dry it up.
The devourer; all kinds of devourers, the locust, the canker-worm, caterpillar, &c., pests of those countries very often; though they are in mighty armies and incredible multitudes, yet a rebuke from God will check them all at once as if they were but one.
For your sakes; not for merit in you, but for good to you.
He shall not destroy; consume and eat it, as those vermin always did wherever they came.
The fruits of your ground; corn sown by your hand, and grass springing up of its own nature, both which these locusts devour wheresoever they come, and leave penury or famine behind them.
Neither shall your vine cast her fruit; no blasting or burning winds shall make them drop, no frosts or hails shall destroy your vines. This was once the plague of Egypt, Psalms 105:33-36.
Before the time; your vines shall carry their fruit till they are fully ripe.
In the field; where they had large vineyards and oliveyards planted, and God will make them prosper if this people will return to him.
All nations, all that are about you, that know you, and see God’s dealings with you, shall call you blessed; praise the state and condition you are in, and pronounce you to be a very happy people, whose God is the Lord, and whose mercies come thus from God.
Ye shall be a delightsome land; of delights, or desirable for its pleasantness; a land so good man would desire it; and when purged, it will be a land the Lord will delight in, and give it the name Hephzibah.
Saith the Lord of hosts; added as an assurance that it shall be according to this promise, forasmuch as he who is Lord of hosts hath engaged his word to do it, and his word will do it, can make all creatures co-operate for that purpose.
Your words; your discourses concerning my providences over you and others, your reasonings, censures, and verdicts passed on your own ways, and on the ways of your God.
Have been stout; proudly justifying yourselves as deserving better usage from God, or insolently arraigning God for his kindness to others, who in your judgment are worse than yourselves, by such words as those Malachi 2:17.
Yet ye say, What have we spoken so much against thee? you think you have spoken nothing so proudly and stoutly, and challenge me to tell you wherein, or with what words you have showed such insolence.
Ye; ye that are the children of forefathers who had this good land given to them, and ever made fruitful while they feared and obeyed their God; you that have been well rewarded for your obedience, or you priests who have tithes, sacrifices, offerings, and first-fruits given you for your services.
Have said; have thought first, and next have discoursed it; unthankful to your God, you have atheistlike maintained it in disputes, that
it is vain to serve God; all is lost labour, no profit to God nor any to yourselves; therefore better sit still and do nothing, than to no purpose.
What profit is it that we have kept his ordinance? while what they have before their eyes is the fruit of God’s goodness, and what they want is punishment of their not doing it better; whilst a very unsuitable observing the ordinances of God hath so much profit for you, dare you say there is no profit? Sottish atheists! who will not try what a more agreeable service would do.
And that we have walked mournfully: so the hypocrites and ungodly object against God, Isaiah 58:3; yet their dissembled mournings, as Ahab’s, had their reward, and infinitely better than they
And now, or now therefore; on these false reasonings of these deceived ones, they proceed to further impiety and audacious blasphemy.
We call the proud happy; we (say they) see before our eyes, and must pronounce what we see, that the proud contemners of God and his law are the flourishing ones; they are at present happiest, and there appears no sign of any change of affairs to them. They do boldly and despitefully oppose God, and yet prosper. And could this be, say they, if there were a God of judgment to call men to account, and to deal with them according to their ways?
They that work wickedness are set up who contrive, and then work wickedness; who choose it, study it, and glory in it, as the whole of their life; are built up, are advanced to honours, and filled with riches, and have fair probability that all this will last to them and theirs. And could this be, say these priests and Jews, under the eye of a just and sovereign Judge? where is the God of judgment when such disorders are every where seen?
They that tempt God are even delivered; they that dare him to his very face, that do the highest affronts to God, purposely to prove whether he would or could punish the sinners amongst men. Those escape punishment though the law and prophets threaten them; and would you have us (say these men) believe there is such a God of judgment, when all is so disorderly carried in the world? Thus far the proud behaviour of these against God.
Then; when atheism and bold contempt of God was grown so high, and was so plainly and smartly reproved by the prophet.
They that feared the Lord; those that were truly religious, that knew God’s judgments were a great deep, and that his ways were as high above our ways as heaven above the earth.
Spake often one to another; discoursed aright of God’s mercy, justice, patience, holiness, and wisdom in his government and manage of the sells of men; established one another against the assaults of such proud, contemptuous disputers; encouraged each other to wait for God in the way of his judgments. Though it is not said what they spake, we have reason to believe it was as good of God and his proceedings as the discourse of the wicked was evil. The godly spake things that did as much become the ways of God, as what the wicked spake did disparage the ways of an omniscient, holy, patient, and just God.
The Lord hearkened: after the manner of man, the Lord is represented as if he did listen to hear more distinctly, and as if he did incline his ear.
And heard it; clearly, perfectly, and fully understood and observed, and what the godly spake of him and for him.
A book of remembrance was written before him; a registry was made of the persons and their discourses. This is after the manner of men spoken of God, whose omniscience seeth, knoweth, and remembereth all; but this book is written before the Lord, he will have every good man, every good word of such, and every good thought such have for him, entered under his eye, that they may be assured of a comfortable reward for it.
For them, on their behalf, that feared the Lord: see above.
That thought upon his name, with love, esteem, and holy admiration.
They shall be mine; though now they seem to lie unregarded, as if they were not worth the owning, they shall appear to be mine.
In that day; the day wherein God will sever between men and men, and between actions and actions, which day, though ye know it not, is well known to the Lord; and beside the great day of final discrimination, God hath several other days of visitation, which are times where. in he will own his, as the good figs, &c. Jeremiah 24:0. The day that God hath appointed, and will and did bring upon this people in the destruction of Jerusalem by Titus Vespasianus.
When I make up my jewels, or peculiar treasure, that which I highly value and keep most safely; now they are packed up among things of no great value, but when the casket is opened these jewels shall be laid up among the richest treasures: as when they were all sent to Pella, not one Christian left in Jerusalem; and which shall be fully made good in the last great day of final judgment, and in heaven to eternal ages.
And I will spare them; in the mean time they shall be spared, pitied, preserved, and loved: now their weaknesses covered and pardoned, their good-will approved and accepted; then their worth owned, published, and rewarded.
As a man spareth his own son that serveth him; as a tender father doth with his son, his own son, that serveth him, so will God spare such as in an atheistical world do speak for God, do fear God, and highly value both his law and government, and so obey him.
Then, when that day of the Lord punishing the Jews by the Romans shall come, and he shall do thus for his jewels, shall ye, the blasphemous scoffers, proud contemnors of God and. religion, return; return to your reason, enforced by the convincing power of God’s judgments to come to yourselves, or to change your opinion of God and his government.
Discern between the righteous and the wicked; clearly see, with envy towards them, with horror and grief in yourselves, the unexpected escape and happiness of the righteous who served God and your misery that served him not, but were wicked, and perish now in your wickedness.
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Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Malachi 3". Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. https://studylight.org/
the Second Week of Advent