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348

CHAPTER XXVI

PROPHECY WITHIN THE LAW

“MALACHI” i.—iv.

Beneath this title we may gather all the eight sections of the Book of “Malachi.” They contain many things of perennial interest and validity: their truth is applicable, their music is still musical, to ourselves. But their chief significance is historical. They illustrate the development of prophecy within the Law. Not under the Law, be it observed. For if one thing be more clear than another about “Malachi’s” teaching, it is that the spirit of prophecy is not yet crushed by the legalism which finally killed it within Israel. “Malachi” observes and enforces the demands of the Deuteronomic law under which his people had lived since the Return from Exile. But he traces each of these to some spiritual principle, to some essential of religion in the character of Israel’s God, which is either doubted or neglected by his contemporaries in their lax performance of the Law. That is why we may entitle his book Prophecy within the Law.

The essential principles of the religion of Israel which had been shaken or obscured by the delinquency of the people during the half-century after the rebuilding of 349 the Temple were three—the distinctive Love of Jehovah for His people, His Holiness, and His Righteousness. The Book of “Malachi” takes up each of these in turn, and proves or enforces it according as the people have formally doubted it or in their carelessness done it despite.

1. GOD’S LOVE FOR ISRAEL AND HATRED OF EDOM

(Chap. i. 2–5).

He begins with God’s Love, and in answer to the disappointed[1002] people’s cry, Wherein hast Thou loved us? he does not, as the older prophets did, sweep the whole history of Israel, and gather proofs of Jehovah’s grace and unfailing guidance in all the great events from the deliverance from Egypt to the deliverance from Babylon. But he confines himself to a comparison of Israel with the Gentile nation, which was most akin to Israel according to the flesh, their own brother Edom. It is possible, of course, to see in this a proof of our prophet’s narrowness, as contrasted with Amos or Hosea or the great Evangelist of the Exile. But we must remember that out of all the history of Israel “Malachi” could not have chosen an instance which would more strongly appeal to the heart of his contemporaries. We have seen from the Book of Obadiah how ever since the beginning of the Exile Edom had come to be regarded by Israel as their great antithesis.[1003] If we needed further proof of this we should find it in many Psalms of the Exile, which like the Book of Obadiah remember with bitterness the hostile part that Edom played in the day of Israel’s calamity. The two nations were 350 utterly opposed in genius and character. Edom was a people of as unspiritual and self-sufficient a temper as ever cursed any of God’s human creatures. Like their ancestor they were profane,[1004] without repentance, humility or ideals, and almost without religion. Apart, therefore, from the long history of war between the two peoples, it was a true instinct which led Israel to regard their brother as representative of that heathendom against which they had to realise their destiny in the world as God’s own nation. In choosing the contrast of Edom’s fate to illustrate Jehovah’s love for Israel, “Malachi” was not only choosing what would appeal to the passions of his contemporaries, but what is the most striking and constant antithesis in the whole history of Israel: the absolutely diverse genius and destiny of these two Semitic nations who were nearest neighbours and, according to their traditions, twin-brethren after the flesh. If we keep this in mind we shall understand Paul’s use of the antithesis in the passage in which he clenches it by a quotation from “Malachi”: as it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated.[1005] In these words the doctrine of the Divine election of individuals appears to be expressed as absolutely as possible. But it would be unfair to read the passage except in the light of Israel’s history. In the Old Testament it is a matter of fact that the doctrine of the Divine preference of Israel to Esau appeared only after the respective characters of the nations were manifested in history, and that it grew more defined and absolute only as history discovered more of the fundamental contrast between the two in 351 genius and destiny.[1006] In the Old Testament, therefore, the doctrine is the result, not of an arbitrary belief in God’s bare fiat, but of historical experience; although, of course, the distinction which experience proves is traced back, with everything else of good or evil that happens, to the sovereign will and purpose of God. Nor let us forget that the Old Testament doctrine of election is of election to service only. That is to say, the Divine intention in electing covers not the elect individual or nation only, but the whole world and its needs of God and His truth.

The event to which “Malachi” appeals as evidence for God’s rejection of Edom is the desolation of the latter’s ancient heritage, and the abandonment of it to the jackals of the desert. Scholars used to think that these vague phrases referred to some act of the Persian kings: some removal of the Edomites from the lands of the Jews in order to make room for the returned exiles.[1007] But “Malachi” says expressly that it was Edom’s own heritage which was laid desolate. This can only be Mount Esau or Se’ir, and the statement that it was delivered to the jackals of the desert proves that the reference is to that same expulsion of Edom from their territory by the Nabatean Arabs which we have already seen the Book of Obadiah relate about the beginning of the Exile.[1008]

352 But it is now time to give in full the opening passage of “Malachi,” in which he appeals to this important event as proof of God’s distinctive love for Israel, and, “Malachi” adds, of His power beyond Israel’s border (“Mal.” chap. i. 2–5).

I have loved you, saith Jehovah. But ye say, “Wherein hast Thou loved us?” Is not Esau brother to Jacob?—oracle of Jehovah—and I have loved Jacob and Esau have I hated. I have made his mountains desolate, and given his heritage to the jackals of the desert. Should the people of Edom say,[1009] “We are destroyed, but we will rebuild the waste places,” thus saith Jehovah of Hosts, They may build, but I will pull down: men shall call them “The Border of Wickedness” and “The People with whom Jehovah is wroth for ever.” And your eyes shall see it, and yourselves shall say, “Great is Jehovah beyond Israel’s border.”

2. “HONOUR THY FATHER” (Chap. i. 6–14).

From God’s Love, which Israel have doubted, the prophet passes to His Majesty or Holiness, which they have wronged. Now it is very remarkable that the relation of God to the Jews in which the prophet should see His Majesty illustrated is not only His lordship over them but His Fatherhood: A son honours a father, and a servant his lord; but if I be Father, where is My honour? and if I be Lord, where is there 353 reverence for Me? saith Jehovah of Hosts.[1010] We are so accustomed to associate with the Divine Fatherhood only ideas of love and pity that the use of the relation to illustrate not love but Majesty, and the setting of it in parallel to the Divine Kingship, may seem to us strange. Yet this was very natural to Israel. In the old Semitic world, even to the human parent, honour was due before love. Honour thy father and thy mother, said the Fifth Commandment; and when, after long shyness to do so, Israel at last ventured to claim Jehovah as the Father of His people, it was at first rather with the view of increasing their sense of His authority and their duty of reverencing Him, than with the view of bringing Him near to their hearts and assuring them of His tenderness. The latter elements, it is true, were not absent from the conception. But even in the Psalter, in which we find the most intimate and tender fellowship of the believer with God, there is only one passage in which His love for His own is compared to the love of a human father.[1011] And in the other very few passages of the Old Testament where He is revealed or appealed to as the Father of the nation, it is, with two exceptions,[1012] in order either to emphasise His creation of Israel or His discipline. So in Jeremiah,[1013] and in an anonymous prophet of the same period perhaps as “Malachi.”[1014] This hesitation to ascribe to God the name of Father, and 354 this severe conception of what Fatherhood meant, was perhaps needful for Israel in face of the sensuous ideas of the Divine Fatherhood cherished by their heathen neighbours.[1015] But, however this may be, the infrequency and austerity of Israel’s conception of God’s Fatherhood, in contrast with that of Christianity, enables us to understand why “Malachi” should employ the relation as proof, not of the Love, but of the Majesty and Holiness of Jehovah.

This Majesty and this Holiness have been wronged, he says, by low thoughts of God’s altar, and by offering upon it, with untroubled conscience, cheap and blemished sacrifices. The people would have been ashamed to present such to their Persian governor: how can God be pleased with them? Better that sacrifice should cease than that such offerings should be presented in such a spirit! Is there no one, cries the prophet, to close the doors of the Temple altogether, so that the altar smoke not in vain?

The passage shows us what a change has passed over the spirit of Israel since prophecy first attacked the sacrificial ritual. We remember how Amos would have swept it all away as an abomination to God.[1016] So, too, Isaiah and Jeremiah. But their reason for this was very different from “Malachi’s.” Their contemporaries were assiduous and lavish in sacrificing, and were devoted to the Temple and the ritual with a fanaticism which made them forget that Jehovah’s demands upon His people were righteousness and 355 the service of the weak. But “Malachi” condemns his generation for depreciating the Temple, and for being stingy and fraudulent in their offerings. Certainly the post-exilic prophet assumes a different attitude to the ritual from that of his predecessors in ancient Israel. They wished it all abolished, and placed the chief duties of Israel towards God in civic justice and mercy. But he emphasises it as the first duty of the people towards God, and sees in their neglect the reason of their misfortunes and the cause of their coming doom. In this change which has come over prophecy we must admit the growing influence of the Law. From Ezekiel onwards the prophets become more ecclesiastical and legal. And though at first they do not become less ethical, yet the influence which was at work upon them was of such a character as was bound in time to engross their interest, and lead them to remit the ethical elements of their religion to a place secondary to the ceremonial. We see symptoms of this even in “Malachi,” we shall find more in Joel, and we know how aggravated these symptoms afterwards became in all the leaders of Jewish religion. At the same time we ought to remember that this change of emphasis, which many will think to be for the worse, was largely rendered necessary by the change of temper in the people to whom the prophets ministered. “Malachi” found among his contemporaries a habit of religious performance which was not only slovenly and indecent, but mean and fraudulent, and it became his first practical duty to attack this. Moreover the neglect of the Temple was not due to those spiritual conceptions of Jehovah and those moral duties He demanded, in the interests of which the older prophets had 356 condemned the ritual. At bottom the neglect of the Temple was due to the very same reasons as the superstitious zeal and fanaticism in sacrificing which the older prophets had attacked—false ideas, namely, of God Himself, and of what was due to Him from His people. And on these grounds, therefore, we may say that “Malachi” was performing for his generation as needful and as Divine a work as Amos and Isaiah had performed for theirs. Only, be it admitted, the direction of “Malachi’s” emphasis was more dangerous for religion than that of the emphasis of Amos or Isaiah. How liable the practice he inculcated was to exaggeration and abuse is sadly proved in the later history of his people: it was against that exaggeration, grown great and obdurate through three centuries, that Jesus delivered His most unsparing words.

A son honours a father, and a servant his lord. But if I am Father, where is My honour? and if I am Lord, where is reverence for Me? saith Jehovah of Hosts to you, O priests, who despise My Name. Ye say, “How then have we despised Thy Name?” Ye are bringing polluted food to Mine Altar. Ye say, “How have we polluted Thee?”[1017] By saying,[1018] “The Table of Jehovah may be despised”; and when ye bring a blind beast to sacrifice, “No harm!” or when ye bring a lame or sick one, “No harm!”[1019] Pray, take it to thy Satrap: will he be pleased with thee, or accept thy person? saith 357 Jehovah of Hosts. But now, propitiate[1020] God, that He may be gracious to us. When things like this come from your hands, can He accept your persons? saith Jehovah of Hosts. Who is there among you to close the doors of the Temple altogether, that ye kindle not Mine Altar in vain? I have no pleasure in you, saith Jehovah of Hosts, and I will not accept an offering from your hands. For from the rising of the sun and to its setting My Name is glorified[1021] among the nations; and in every sacred place[1022] incense is offered to My Name, and a pure offering:[1023] for great is My Name among the nations, saith Jehovah of Hosts. But ye are profaning it, in that ye think[1024] that the Table of the Lord is polluted, and[1025] its food contemptible. And ye say, What a weariness! and ye sniff at it,[1026] saith Jehovah of Hosts. When ye bring what has been plundered,[1027] and the lame and the diseased, yea, when ye so bring an offering, can I accept it with grace from your hands? saith Jehovah. Cursed be the cheat in whose flock is a male beast and he vows it,[1028] and 358 slays for the Lord a miserable beast.[1029] For a great King am I, saith Jehovah of Hosts, and My Name is reverenced among the nations.

Before we pass from this passage we must notice in it one very remarkable feature—perhaps the most original contribution which the Book of “Malachi” makes to the development of prophecy. In contrast to the irreverence of Israel and the wrong they do to Jehovah’s Holiness, He Himself asserts that not only is His Name great and glorified among the heathen, from the rising to the setting of the sun, but that in every sacred place incense and a pure offering are offered to His Name. This is so novel a statement, and, we may truly say, so startling, that it is not wonderful that the attempt should have been made to interpret it, not of the prophet’s own day, but of the Messianic age and the kingdom of Christ. So, many of the Christian Fathers, from Justin and Irenæus to Theodoret and Augustine;[1030] so, our own Authorised Version, which boldly throws the verbs into the future; and so, many modern interpreters like Pusey, who declares that the style is “a vivid present such as is often used to describe the future; but the things spoken of show it to be future.” All these take the passage to be an anticipation of Christ’s parables declaring the rejection of the Jews and ingathering of the Gentiles to the kingdom of heaven, and of the argument of the Epistle to the Hebrews, that the bleeding and defective offerings of the Jews were abrogated by the sacrifice of the Cross. But such an exegesis is only possible by perverting the text and misreading the whole argument of the prophet. Not only are the verbs of the original in the present tense—so also in the early versions—but 359 the prophet is obviously contrasting the contempt of God’s own people for Himself and His institutions with the reverence paid to His Name among the heathen. It is not the mere question of there being righteous people in every nation, well-pleasing to Jehovah because of their lives. The very sacrifices of the heathen are pure and acceptable to Him. Never have we had in prophecy, even the most far-seeing and evangelical, a statement so generous and so catholic as this. Why it should appear only now in the history of prophecy is a question we are unable to answer with certainty. Many have seen in it the result of Israel’s intercourse with their tolerant and religious masters the Persians. None of the Persian kings had up to this time persecuted the Jews, and numbers of pious and large-minded Israelites must have had opportunity of acquaintance with the very pure doctrines of the Persian religion, among which it is said that there was already numbered the recognition of true piety in men of all religions.[1031] If Paul derived from his Hellenic culture the knowledge which made it possible for him to speak as he did in Athens of the religiousness of the Gentiles, it was just as probable that Jews who had come within the experience of a still purer Aryan faith should utter an even more emphatic acknowledgment that the One True God had those who served Him in spirit and in truth all over the world. But, whatever foreign influences may have ripened such a faith in Israel, we must not forget that its roots were struck deep in the native soil of their religion. From the first they had known their God as 360 a God of a grace so infinite that it was impossible it should be exhausted on themselves. If His righteousness, as Amos showed, was over all the Syrian states, and His pity and His power to convert, as Isaiah showed, covered even the cities of Phœnicia, the great Evangelist of the Exile could declare that He quenched not the smoking wicks of the dim heathen faiths.

As interesting, however, as the origin of “Malachi’s” attitude to the heathen, are two other points about it. In the first place, it is remarkable that it should occur, especially in the form of emphasising the purity of heathen sacrifices, in a book which lays such heavy stress upon the Jewish Temple and ritual. This is a warning to us not to judge harshly the so-called legal age of Jewish religion, nor to despise the prophets who have come under the influence of the Law. And in the second place, we perceive in this statement a step towards the fuller acknowledgment of Gentile religiousness which we find in the Book of Jonah. It is strange that none of the post-exilic Psalms strike the same note. They often predict the conversion of the heathen; but they do not recognise their native reverence and piety. Perhaps the reason is that in a body of song, collected for the national service, such a feature would be out of place.

3. THE PRIESTHOOD OF KNOWLEDGE (Chap. ii. 1–9).

In the third section of his book “Malachi” addresses himself to the priests. He charges them not only with irreverence and slovenliness in their discharge of the Temple service—for this he appears to intend by the phrase filth of your feasts—but with the neglect of their intellectual duties to the people. The lips of a priest guard knowledge, and men seek instruction from his mouth, for he is the Angel—the revealing Angel—of 361Jehovah of Hosts. Once more, what a remarkable saying to come from the legal age of Israel’s religion, and from a writer who so emphasises the ceremonial law! In all the range of prophecy there is not any more in harmony with the prophetic ideal. How needed it is in our own age!—needed against those two extremes of religion from which we suffer, the limitation of the ideal of priesthood to the communication of a magic grace, and its evaporation in a vague religiosity from which the intellect is excluded as if it were perilous, worldly and devilish.[1032] “Surrender of the intellect” indeed! This is the burial of the talent in the napkin, and, as in the parable of Christ, it is still in our day preached and practised by the men of one talent. Religion needs all the brains we poor mortals can put into it. There is a priesthood of knowledge, a priesthood of the intellect, says “Malachi,” and he makes this a large part of God’s covenant with Levi. Every priest of God is a priest of truth; and it is very largely by the Christian ministry’s neglect of their intellectual duties that so much irreligion prevails. As in “Malachi’s” day, so now, “the laity take hurt and hindrance by our negligence.”[1033] And just as he points out, so with ourselves, the consequence is the growing indifference with which large bodies of the Christian ministry are regarded by the thoughtful portions both of our labouring and professional classes. Were the ministers of all the Churches to awake to their ideal 362 in this matter, there would surely come a very great revival of religion among us.

And now this Charge for you, O priests: If ye hear not, and lay not to heart to give glory to My Name, saith Jehovah of Hosts, I will send upon you the curse, and will curse your blessings—yea, I have cursed them[1034]—for none of you layeth it to heart. Behold, I ... you ...[1035] and I will scatter filth in your faces, the filth of your feasts....[1036] And ye shall know that I have sent to you this Charge, to be My covenant with Levi,[1037] saith Jehovah of Hosts. My covenant was with him life and peace,[1038] and I gave them to him, fear and he feared Me, and humbled himself before My Name.[1039] The revelation of truth was in his mouth, and wickedness was not found upon his lips. In whole-heartedness[1040] and integrity he walked with Me, and turned many from iniquity. For the lips of a priest guard knowledge, and men seek instruction[1041] from his mouth, for he is the Angel of Jehovah of Hosts. But ye have turned from the way, ye 363 have tripped up many by the Torah, ye have spoiled the covenant of Levi, saith Jehovah of Hosts. And I on My part[1042] have made you contemptible to all the people, and abased in proportion as ye kept not My ways and had respect of persons in delivering your Torah.

4. THE CRUELTY OF DIVORCE (Chap. ii. 10–17).

In his fourth section, upon his countrymen’s frequent divorce of their native wives in order to marry into the influential families of their half-heathen neighbours,[1043] “Malachi” makes another of those wide and spiritual utterances which so distinguish his prophecy and redeem his age from the charge of legalism that is so often brought against it. To him the Fatherhood of God is not merely a relation of power and authority, requiring reverence from the nation. It constitutes the members of the nation one close brotherhood, and against this divorce is a crime and unnatural cruelty. Jehovah makes the wife of a man’s youth his mate for life and his wife by covenant. He hates divorce, and His altar is so wetted by the tears of the wronged women of Israel that the gifts upon it are no more acceptable in His sight. No higher word on marriage was spoken except by Christ Himself. It breathes the spirit of our Lord’s utterance: if we were sure of the text of ver. 15, we might almost say that it anticipated the letter. Certain verses, 11–13a, which disturb the argument by bringing in the marriages with heathen wives are omitted in the following translation, and will be given separately.

Have we not all One Father? Hath not One God 364 created us? Why then are we unfaithful to one another, profaning the covenant of our fathers?...[1044] Ye cover with tears the altar of Jehovah, with weeping and with groaning, because respect is no longer had to the offering, and acceptable gifts are not taken from your hands. And ye say, “Why?” Because Jehovah has been witness between thee and the wife of thy youth, with whom thou hast broken faith, though she is thy mate[1045] and thy wife by covenant. And ...[1046] And what is the one seeking? A Divine Seed. Take heed, then, to your spirit, and be not unfaithful to the wife of thy youth.[1047] For I hate divorce, saith Jehovah, God of Israel, and that a man 365 cover his clothing[1048] with cruelty, saith Jehovah of Hosts. So take heed to your spirit, and deal not faithlessly.

The verses omitted in the above translation treat of the foreign marriages, which led to this frequent divorce by the Jews of their native wives. So far, of course, they are relevant to the subject of the passage. But they obviously disturb its argument, as already pointed out.[1049] They have nothing to do with the principle from which it starts that Jehovah is the Father of the whole of Israel. Remove them and the awkward clause in ver. 13a, by which some editor has tried to connect them with the rest of the paragraph, and the latter runs smoothly. The motive of their later addition is apparent, if not justifiable. Here they are by themselves:—

Judah was faithless, and abomination was practised in Israel[1050], and in Jerusalem, for Judah hath defiled the sanctuary of Jehovah, which was dear to Him, and hath married the daughter of a strange god. May Jehovah cut off from the man, who doeth this, witness and champion[1051] from the tents of Jacob, and offerer of sacrifices to Jehovah of Hosts.[1052]

5.“WHERE IS THE GOD OF JUDGMENT?”

(Chap. ii. 17—iii. 5).

In this section “Malachi” turns from the sinners of his people to those who weary Jehovah with the 366 complaint that sin is successful, or, as they put it, Every one that does evil is good in the eyes of Jehovah, and He delighteth in them; and again, Where is the God of Judgment? The answer is, The Lord Himself shall come. His Angel shall prepare His way before Him, and suddenly shall the Lord come to His Temple. His coming shall be for judgment, terrible and searching. Its first object (note the order) shall be the cleansing of the priesthood, that proper sacrifices may be established, and its second the purging of the immorality of the people. Mark that although the coming of the Angel is said to precede that of Jehovah Himself, there is the same blending of the two as we have seen in previous accounts of angels.[1053] It is uncertain whether this section closes with ver. 5 or 6: the latter goes equally well with it and with the following section.

Ye have wearied Jehovah with your words; and ye say, “In what have we wearied Him ?” In that ye say, “Every one that does evil is good in the eyes of Jehovah, and He delighteth in them”; or else, “Where is the God of Judgment?” Behold, I will send My Angel, to prepare the way before Me, and suddenly shall come to His Temple the Lord whom ye seek and the Angel of the Covenant whom ye desire. Behold, He comes! saith Jehovah of Hosts. But who may bear the day of His coming, and who stand when He appears? For He is like the fire of the smelter and the acid of the fullers. He takes His seat to smelt and to purge;[1054] and He will purge the sons of Levi, and wash them out like gold or silver, 367 and they shall be to Jehovah bringers of an offering in righteousness. And the offering of Judah and Jerusalem shall be pleasing to Jehovah, as in the days of old and as in long past years. And I will come near you to judgment, and I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers and the adulterers and the perjurers, and against those who wrong the hireling in his wage, and the widow and the orphan, and oppress the stranger, and fear not Me, saith Jehovah of Hosts.

6. REPENTANCE BY TITHES (Chap. iii. 6–12).

This section ought perhaps to follow on to the preceding. Those whom it blames for not paying the Temple tithes may be the sceptics addressed in the previous section, who have stopped their dues to Jehovah out of sheer disappointment that He does nothing. And ver. 6, which goes well with either section, may be the joint between the two. However this be, the new section enforces the need of the people’s repentance and return to God, if He is to return to them. And when they ask, how are they to return, “Malachi” plainly answers, By the payment of the tithes they have not paid. In withholding these they robbed God, and to this, their crime, are due the locusts and bad seasons which have afflicted them. In our temptation to see in this a purely legal spirit, let us remember that the neglect to pay the tithes was due to a religious cause, unbelief in Jehovah, and that the return to belief in Him could not therefore be shown in a more practical way than by the payment of tithes. This is not prophecy subject to the Law, but prophecy employing the means and vehicles of grace with which the Law at that time provided the people.

368For I Jehovah have not changed, but ye sons of Jacob have not done with (?).[1055] In the days of your fathers ye turned from My statutes and did not keep them. Return to Me, and I will return to you, saith Jehovah of Hosts. But you say, “How then shall we return?” Can a man rob[1056] God? yet ye are robbing Me. But ye say, “In what have we robbed Thee?” In the tithe and the tribute.[1057] With the curse are ye cursed, and yet Me ye are robbing, the whole people of you. Bring in the whole tithe to the storehouse, that there may be provision[1058] in My House, and pray, prove Me in this, saith Jehovah of Hosts—whether I will not open to you the windows of heaven, and pour blessing upon you till there is no more need. And I will check for you the devourer,[1059] and he shall not destroy for you the fruit of the ground, nor the vine in the field miscarry, saith Jehovah of Hosts. And all nations shall call you happy, for ye shall be a land of delight, saith Jehovah of Hosts.

369

7. THE JUDGMENT TO COME

(Chap. iii. 13–21 Heb., iii. 13—iv. 2 Eng.).

This is another charge to the doubters among the pious remnant of Israel, who, seeing the success of the wicked, said it is vain to serve God. Deuteronomy was their Canon, and Deuteronomy said that if men sinned they decayed, if they were righteous they prospered. How different were the facts of experience! The evil men succeeded: the good won no gain by their goodness, nor did their mourning for the sins of their people work any effect. Bitterest of all, they had to congratulate wickedness in high places, and Jehovah Himself suffered it to go unpunished. Such things, says “Malachi,” spake they that feared God to each other—tempted thereto by the dogmatic form of their religion, and forgetful of all that Jeremiah and the Evangelist of the Exile had taught them of the value of righteous sufferings. Nor does “Malachi” remind them of this. His message is that the Lord remembers them, has their names written before Him, and when the day of His action comes they shall be separated from the wicked and spared. This is simply to transfer the fulfilment of the promise of Deuteronomy to the future and to another dispensation. Prophecy still works within the Law.

The Apocalypse of this last judgment is one of the grandest in all Scripture. To the wicked it shall be a terrible fire, root and branch shall they be burned out, but to the righteous a fair morning of God, as when dawn comes to those who have been sick and sleepless through the black night, and its beams bring healing, even as to the popular belief of Israel it was 370 the rays of the morning sun which distilled the dew.[1060] They break into life and energy, like young calves leaping from the dark pen into the early sunshine. To this morning landscape a grim figure is added. They shall tread down the wicked and the arrogant like ashes beneath their feet.

Your words are hard upon Me, saith Jehovah. Ye say, “What have we said against Thee?” Ye have said, “It is vain to serve God,” and “What gain is it to us to have kept His charge, or to have walked in funeral garb before Jehovah of Hosts? Even now we have got to congratulate the arrogant; yea, the workers of wickedness are fortified; yea, they tempt God and escape!” Such things[1061] spake they that fear Jehovah to each other. But Jehovah gave ear and heard, and a book of remembrance[1062] was written before Him about those who fear Jehovah, and those who keep in mind[1063] His Name. And they shall be Mine own property, saith Jehovah of Hosts, in the day when I rise to action,[1064] and I will spare them even as a man spares his son that serves him. And ye shall once more see the difference between righteous and wicked, between him that serves God and him that does not serve Him.

For, lo! the day is coming that shall burn like a furnace, and all the overweening and every one that works wickedness shall be as stubble, and the day that is coming shall devour them, saith Jehovah of Hosts, so 371 that there be left them neither root nor branch. But to you that fear My Name the Sun of Righteousness shall rise with healing in His wings, and ye shall go forth and leap[1065] like calves of the stall.[1066] And ye shall tread down the wicked, for they shall be as ashes[1067] beneath the soles of your feet, in the day that I begin to do, saith Jehovah of Hosts.

8. THE RETURN OF ELIJAH (Chap. iii. 22–24 Heb., iv. 3–5 Eng.).

With his last word the prophet significantly calls upon the people to remember the Law. This is their one hope before the coming of the great and terrible day of the Lord. But, in order that the Law may have full effect, Prophecy will be sent to bring it home to the hearts of the people—Prophecy in the person of her founder and most drastic representative. Nothing could better gather up than this conjunction does that mingling of Law and of Prophecy which we have seen to be so characteristic of the work of “Malachi.” Only we must not overlook the fact that “Malachi” expects this prophecy, which with the Law is to work the conversion of the people, not in the continuance of the prophetic succession by the appearance of original personalities, developing further the great principles of their order, but in the return of the first prophet Elijah. This is surely the confession of Prophecy that the number of her servants is exhausted and her message to Israel fulfilled. She can now do no more for the people than she has done. But she will summon up her old energy and fire in the return of her most 372 powerful personality, and make one grand effort to convert the nation before the Lord come and strike it with judgment.

Remember the Torah of Moses, My servant, with which I charged him in Horeb for all Israel: statutes and judgments. Lo! I am sending to you Elijah the prophet, before the coming of the great and terrible day of Jehovah. And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the sons, and the heart of the sons to their fathers, ere I come and strike the land with the Ban.

“Malachi” makes this promise of the Law in the dialect of Deuteronomy: statutes and judgments with which Jehovah charged Moses for Israel. But the Law he enforces is not that which God delivered to Moses on the plains of Shittim, but that which He gave him in Mount Horeb. And so it came to pass. In a very few years after “Malachi” prophesied Ezra the Scribe brought from Babylon the great Levitical Code, which appears to have been arranged there, while the colony in Jerusalem were still organising their life under the Deuteronomic legislation. In 444 B.C. this Levitical Code, along with Deuteronomy, became by covenant between the people and their God their Canon and Law. And in the next of our prophets, Joel, we shall find its full influence at work.

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