corner graphic

Bible Commentaries

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

Malachi 3



Verses 1-18

The full answer to all this is that God Himself was going to intervene in a very personal way. In the first verse we have in the first place, 'My messenger', or 'angel.' 'He is to prepare the way before Me'; the 'Me' here evidently being Jehovah. Then, thirdly, there is the 'Lord', or 'Master', who is the 'Messenger', or, 'Angel of the covenant', clearly distinguished from the angel first mentioned. In this very close way the coming Messiah is identified with the Jehovah who sends Him. In this remarkable verse the two advents are predicted, though not clearly distinguished: a feature we also see in Isaiah 61:2. At His first advent the messenger sent in advance was clearly John the Baptist, who prepared the way of the Lord, and came in the spirit and power of Elijah, though not the Elijah of which Malachi 4:5 speaks, for he is to come before the great and dreadful day of the Lord in judgment. John came after the fashion of Elijah, but before the coming of the Messiah in grace, who is the Master, identified here with Jehovah.

Suddenly to His temple the 'Lord', the 'Master' came. And He was the One in whom they delighted, as a matter of theory, in expectation, though, when He did appear, they saw no beauty in Him, that they should desire Him, as Isaiah had predicted. Hence He was rejected and crucified as we know; though that is not predicted here. In contrast thereto our thoughts are turned at once to His second advent, when He will be like fire and soap in their testing and cleansing power, and who will then be able to stand before Him? He will then be in majesty on the throne, and not standing as the Prisoner in Pilate's judgment hall.

So, as we said, both advents are here predicted, and the exact fulfilment of the first part gives us the assurance that the second part will in its season be fulfilled with equal exactitude.

In Malachi's day this was not apparent, and the point to the people of his time was that things would be brought to an issue, and their state judged by an intervention of God, such as they had never before known. All their hypocritical self-satisfaction would collapse, and reality be brought to light when He appeared.

It may be profitable now to digress a little and point out two things. First, let us observe that behind all this state of things so clearly manifested, lay the work of the adversary, making it certain that when Christ came in grace, He would be rejected. A few centuries passed and the state of things exposed by Malachi, developed into the Phariseeism and Sadduceeism, exposed in the Gospels and in the Acts. The former ardently followed a religion of outward observances; the latter favoured something of a more intellectual type, and therefore were unbelieving as to certain things that did not appeal to their reason. Both therefore were absolutely self-confident as to their own position, and bitterly resented anything that undermined it. The spirit that we see among priests and people in Malachi's day was so intensified, that when the Messiah did arrive His coming was no joy to them. This we see in Matthew 2:3. That an evil king like Herod should be troubled, when tidings of His birth came by the wise men from the east, need not surprise us. But look at the words, 'and all Jerusalem with him'. Let us each underline in our minds that word, 'all'. It evidently signifies — Pharisees and Sadducees included. True, these religious men had a knowledge of their Scriptures, for they could at once quote Micah 5:2, in reply to Herod's demand. Yet the only practical use made of their knowledge was to furnish Herod with an opportunity to kill the infant Messiah. There is no record of their doing anything about it, or welcoming Him.

There was of course a work of God, going on amongst the people in Malachi's day, as we shall presently see, and this worked out also, and was maintained till the coming of Christ as we see in the lovely picture of devout souls, who gladly received Him, given us in the opening of Luke's gospel. Through the years, however, these were few in number and comparatively unknown.

There is a second thing we ask our readers to observe. This strain of self-satisfied complacency, that resents and repudiates all criticism, evident in Malachi's day, and more decisively manifested when Christ came, is predicted in Revelation 3:1-22, as characterizing the end of the church's history. We refer to the Laodicean church, that felt itself to be so 'rich, and increased with goods', doubtless of a spiritual sort, as well as a material, that they had 'need of nothing'. To have need of nothing is for all practical pun poses to lay claim to perfection, and therefore to be beyond all criticism; and bitterly to resent it, if offered, even as they had begun to do when Malachi prophesied.

And let us note another feature. The outward ruin of Israel fairly started when 'that woman Jezebel' was married to Ahab, and nearly diverted the ten tribes to the worship of Baal. Then with the two tribes there was that time of deadness Godward in the days of Jeremiah, ended by the captivity. And then the mercy of God, permitting a remnant to return to the land and re-establish the temple worship, and amongst these were a number of really godly and devout souls. It was amongst that remnant that the evils, we have had before us, had developed.

Now notice a painful analogy. It may not be very pronounced and distinct, but it is there nevertheless. The addresses to the seven churches give us a prophetic outline of 'things which must shortly come to pass', as Revelation 1:1 states; and when we reach the latter part of Revelation 2:1-29, we find 'that woman Jezebel', dominating things in the Thyatira stage. And this is followed by the spiritual death that marked Sardis, and then some measure of recovery in Philadelphia, not anything great, for their strength was 'little', and they had the rather negative virtues of keeping the word of the Lord, when others were forsaking it, and of not denying His name, when others were doing so.

But then comes Laodicea. If God has granted a measure of recovery during the last century or two, and some of us have entered into a heritage of spiritual blessing, let us beware of this Laodicean spirit of self-occupation and self-conceit which so naturally would entangle us. Today we have not only the high class intellectualist, who believes he has a modernistic version of Christianity, which is beyond all criticism, but also a mystical type, great on the experimental side of things, who feel they have entered into something which is also beyond all criticism. They feel 'rich' because they increase in 'goods', in the form of increased light and further revelations.

We see the Laodicean delusion, if we may so call it, beginning in the days of Malachi. It is sadly evident in our day, and hence we need to be warned against it, for it is a deep-seated tendency of the flesh, which is in every one of us. The more worldly-minded believer may be tempted to glory in wisdom or nobility, and the more spiritually minded to glory in spiritual experiences, imagined or real, but the only safe ground of boasting is that stated by the Apostle Paul, 'He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord' (1 Corinthians 1:31).

The first verse of our chapter, as we saw, has in it predictions that found a fulfilment at the first advent of Christ. The second and third verses, however, make it clear that the main emphasis is on His second coming. Then it is that the fire of the refiner will come into action with purifying effect, and this means judgment as verse Malachi 3:5 states. The bringing of the advents together is not unusual in Old Testament prophecy. Take the later chapters of Isaiah for instance, where the humbled 'Servant' of Jehovah and the mighty 'Arm' of Jehovah, achieving His purpose, come before us. Isaiah 53:1-12, which predicts the sufferings of the Servant, begins by asking, 'To whom is the Arm of the Lord revealed?' In other words, 'Who identifies the glorious and irresistible Arm with the despised and humbled Servant?' This was not so plain in the days when the prophets spoke; but very plain in ours; so that we can all reply — Thank God, we do with joy identify them.

What His second advent will accomplish is stated in verses Malachi 3:4-5. There will be first a work of purification, and at last the offerings of a restored people will be pure and acceptable, as it had been at the beginning. The 'fuller's soap' will have had its effect. So also the 'refiner's fire' will have come into action judging and removing all the sins and evils, then so prevalent among the people. The fear of God will be established in every heart, and express itself in life.

And the guarantee of all this is found in verse 6. It is the unchangeable character of Jehovah. We might have expected the next words to be, 'Therefore ye sons of Jacob must be consumed;' but they are just the opposite. God exercises much forbearance, and He has power to reach His own purpose in the end. The Apostle Paul asks the question, 'Hath God cast away His people?' and he at once answers, 'God forbid' (Romans 11:1). At the time of the second advent judgment will fall on the Jew, yet a godly remnant of the 'sons of Jacob', will be preserved and blessed. The same thing of course is true today.

In verse Malachi 3:7 the prophet returns to his earlier theme, and lays against them the general charge of having departed from God and His Word, with the promise, if they returned to Him, He would return to them. The charge was most apparently true, yet they did not admit it, but rather called it in question. Again they resented and repudiated these words. So, in verse Malachi 3:8, the prophet brings against them a specific charge. They robbed God. by withholding that which was His due, according to the law.

Did they admit this? No. Once more they challenged the accusation. They had to be told that 'tithes and offerings' had been withheld. and so what should have been given to God had been spent on themselves. This it was that brought a curse upon them in the government of God. At the opening of Haggai's prophecy we saw how their ancestors were doing the same kind of thing, though perhaps on a smaller scale, when they stopped the building of the house of the Lord, and started the building of nice houses for themselves. In both cases the practice was to give the first place to their own things, and then any surplus to be given to God.

And what is the practice in Christendom today; and even among true Christians? We fear that very similar charge could be maintained against all too many of us. Small wonder then, if we see but small result from the work in which we do engage.

Thus they had been robbing God, and the prophet had to confront them with this solemn fact. But he also was authorized to assure them that if they reversed their practice and gave to God His due, there would open 'the windows of heaven' and pour out more than they could receive. The emphasis here is of course on material things for as the Apostle tells us, God 'is able to do exceeding abundantly above Revelation 1:1-20 that we ask or think' (Ephesians 3:20). So there is no limit on His side, though such failure, and so often, on our side.

The delightful state of things promised in verses Malachi 3:11-12, will only be reached in the age to come, when Christ returns, for only then will God be fully acknowledged and His claims fully met. Palestine will at last be a 'delightsome land', when Christ is on the throne. In Malachi's day things were different, and the people in their spirits far from God. This comes before us once more, and for the last time in verses Malachi 3:13-14.

Their words had indeed been 'stout' against the Lord, as this short book bears abundant witness. Yet they did not admit even this. If we have counted rightly, the prophet cites what they were saying no less that twelve times, and of these twelve no less than eight were cases of priests and people indignantly repudiating the accusation that God had to bring against them. They were not prepared to admit anything, and resented the words of God. They would not even admit that they had resented and repudiated the truth.

If we glance at such scriptures as Jeremiah 2:30; Jeremiah 6:3; Jeremiah 7:28; and Zephaniah 3:2; we find that a similar spirit prevailed among the people in Jerusalem just before its destruction by Nebuchadnezzar. They who refuse 'correction', thereby claim to be Revelation 1:1-20 they should be. In Malachi's day, as we are seeing, all correction was being refused; and the same thing meets us in Revelation 3:1-22, since Laodicea is so rich as to have need of nothing, and therefore no need of correction. So again we have to remind ourselves of our danger in this direction, which is specially acute as we draw near to the end of the church's history.

The disastrous effects of this spirit we see in verses Malachi 3:14-15. The people had been serving God in this official and ceremonial way, and they felt they got nothing out of it in the form of material gain, which was what they wanted. Hence their sense of real values was entirely perverted. In their view to be proud was to be 'happy'; and evil amongst them became exalted. This is just what we see in the record of the Gospels; the proud Pharisee was accounted the happy man. Because of this, when on the mountain the Lord 'opened His mouth and taught', the very first of His beatitudes was, 'Blessed are the poor in spirit; for their's is the kingdom of heaven' (Matthew 5:3). To be 'poor in spirit' is the exact opposite to being proud in spirit, as the leaders were in Malachi's day, as well as in the day when Christ came; and we fear it is not absent in our day also.

In verse Malachi 3:16 we find something more in keeping with our Lord's beatitude. Amidst all this proud self-conceit and intolerance of correction, there was found a godly remnant, who are characterized as 'they that feared the Lord'. This 'fear' produced a reverence for God and His will, that made Him the governing factor in their lives. This at once put them into complete contrast with the mass of priests and people, that surrounded them.

Certain features that marked these pious folk are given, and we find them very instructive. The fear of the Lord was the fundamental thing, but this led them to think 'upon His name'. They recognized that they were a people called into relationship with Jehovah, according to the way He had revealed Himself to their fathers, and they were therefore responsible to live lives in keeping with the revelation made, so that His name might be honoured. Consequently, they could be acknowledged as 'righteous', and as serving God, as verse Malachi 3:18 shows.

These features, we have just noticed, were Godward, but they led to a happy state of things manward; that is, among themselves. They did not remain as a number of isolated units, but recognized each other and sought one another's company for spiritual help and encouragement. This they did 'often', and their intercourse was of so good a character that though it has not been recorded on earth, a heavenly record has been kept. No small honour this!

We turn to the opening chapters of Luke's Gospel, and we find that though several centuries have passed a godly remnant still persists. And here we are permitted to read a few of their utterances. Let us take as a sample what old Anna spoke about when she went visiting 'all them that looked for redemption in Jerusalem' — they could not have been a very great number; could they? — her theme was this, 'she spake of Him', The advent of the long looked-for Messiah was her only theme.

Once again we may turn to Revelation 3:1-22, for in the address to the assembly at Philadelphia we find similar good features appearing. Though having only a little strength they too had kept the word of the Lord and had not denied His name — and the name, in the light of which they walked, went in its claims beyond anything known in Malachi's day, or even in the day when Anna spake of Him.

It is an encouragement to know that, however dark the day, God will maintain a witness to Himself. Let us seek grace and humility from God to be within that witness today; for, as this scripture shows, it is of value in His eyes. A day is coming when these obscure, unknown saints of Malachi's day are going to be owned as 'Mine', by the Lord of hosts and that will take place when He will 'make up My jewels'; the inference being that He will count even them, as being jewels in His sight. A person might point to a casket of jewels and tell us they are but small pieces of stone. Yes, we should reply, but they possess the property of reflecting light, and sparkling in various hues as it is turned upon them. The figure therefore is an apt one, for the saints of God are partakers of the divine nature, and so have the capacity to reflect the light into which they are brought. In Revelation 21:1-27, the foundations of the heavenly city are precious stones, and in them the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.


Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.

Bibliography Information
Hole, Frank Binford. "Commentary on Malachi 3:4". "F. B. Hole's Old and New Testament Commentary". 1947.

Commentary Navigator
Search This Commentary
Enter query in the box below
To report dead links, typos, or html errors or suggestions about making these resources more useful use our convenient contact form
Powered by Lightspeed Technology