Christ in the Minor Prophets: No. 12 - Malachi

Malachi 1‑4  •  10 min. read  •  grade level: 7
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H. P. Barker
No. 12 — Malachi
6. A son honoureth his father, and a servant his master: if then I be a father, where is mine honor? and if I be a master, where is my fear? saith the Lord of hosts unto you, O priests, that despise my name. And ye say, Wherein have we despised thy name?
7. Ye offer polluted bread upon mine altar: and ye say, Wherein have we polluted thee? In that ye say, The table of the Lord is contemptible.
8. And if ye offer the blind for sacrifice, is it not evil? and if ye offer the lame and sick, is it not evil? offer it now unto thy governor; will he be pleased with thee, or accept thy person? saith the Lord of hosts.
9. And now, I pray you, beseech God that he will be gracious unto us: this hath been by your means: will he regard your persons? saith the Lord of hosts.
10. Who is there even among you that would shut the doors for naught? neither do ye kindle fire on mine altar for naught. I have no pleasure in you, saith the Lord of hosts, neither will I accept an offering at your hand.
11. For from the rising of the sun even unto the going down of the same my name shall be great among the Gentiles; and in every place incense shall be offered unto my name, and a pure offering: for my name shall be great among the heathen, saith the Lord of hosts.
The pages of Malachi deal with the grievous moral condition of the remnant of Jews whom God had mercifully brought back from captivity in Babylon. In particular the evil state of the priests is dwelt upon.
In turning to the prophecy one would naturally enlarge upon this, all the more so because the state of things which it depicts finds a close parallel in the present state of professed, and even of real, Christians. There is much valuable instruction, too, and great encouragement for those who seek to be true to Christ in the midst of wide-spread declension and apostasy.
All this, however, hardly comes within the scope of our chosen theme, which is Christ in the Minor Prophets. We must, therefore, confine our thoughts, in this paper, to the way in which He is presented in Malachi.
We find Him set forth in two principal characters: —
(1) As Jehovah’s Messenger.
(2) As the Sun of righteousness.
The prophet was himself a type of Christ in the former character. The very meaning of his name, “My Messenger,” indicates this. His service was to remind the people of Jehovah’s claims upon them, and of His love and willingness to bless (1:2, and 3:10).
“I have loved you, saith the Lord. Yet ye say, Wherein hast Thou loved us? Was not Esau Jacob’s brother? saith the Lord: yet I loved Jacob.”
“Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.”
In this he foreshadowed the Lord Jesus in His pathway of service here. None maintained so faithfully as He the claims of God; none was ever so jealous over what was due to Him. To this His memorable words bear witness: “Render... unto God the things that are God’s.”
Yet none spoke so tenderly of God’s love to His fallen creature man as He; and none proclaimed so constantly God’s willingness to bless. Take for instance the glowing parable in Luke 15 Here God is set forth under the similitude of a father, with a heart full of tenderest love to His erring son, running in eager haste to welcome him, and showering favors upon his undeserving head. Truly the blessed Lord, in uttering this parable, was God’s Messenger of grace to men.
“For the priest’s lips should keep knowledge, and they should seek the law at his mouth: for he is the messenger of the Lord of hosts.”
In the former of these passages the true Priest is described. The sons of Aaron should have answered to this description, but none have done so. The priestly functions here mentioned remain to be fulfilled in their entirety by the Lord Jesus Christ.
It was mainly because of the failure of the priests in Israel that prophets were raised up. The priesthood became corrupted, the law of truth ceased to be in the mouths of the priests, and their lips did not keep knowledge. Prophets were therefore raised up to be Jehovah’s messengers to the people. Zechariah has shown us, however, that in the day that is coming, prophets will be no more. In that day anyone who assumes to prophesy will at once be known as “speaking lies” (Zech. 13:33And it shall come to pass, that when any shall yet prophesy, then his father and his mother that begat him shall say unto him, Thou shalt not live; for thou speakest lies in the name of the Lord: and his father and his mother that begat him shall thrust him through when he prophesieth. (Zechariah 13:3)). The priestly function, taken up and exercised by Christ Himself in perfection, will render the special gift or office of a prophet unnecessary. He, the Priest upon His throne (Zech. 6:1313Even he shall build the temple of the Lord; and he shall bear the glory, and shall sit and rule upon his throne; and he shall be a priest upon his throne: and the counsel of peace shall be between them both. (Zechariah 6:13)) will fully answer to the description given in Malachi 2. The law of truth will be in His mouth; His lips will keep knowledge; men shall seek the law at His mouth, and He will be the true Messenger of the Lord of hosts.
Then will be fulfilled Isaiah’s prophecy: “He will teach us of His ways” (2:3). Then shall the earth be full of the knowledge of the Lord.
“Behold, I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before Me: and the Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to His temple, even the messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in: behold, he shall come, saith the Lord of hosts.”
But He is also the Messenger of the covenant; that is, it is in Him that the covenanted blessings shall be made good to Israel.
Malachi 2 ends with the unbelieving inquiry, “Where is the God of judgment?” The opening words of Malachi 3 supply the answer. God would send His messenger (John the Baptist) to prepare the way for the coming of Him for whom they had inquired. The Lord, of whom they had been asking “Where is He?” would suddenly come. But His coming, who would abide? and who, would stand when He appeared? For as the refiner’s fire consumes the dross, He would purge away all that was obnoxious to Him, so that what is pleasant in His sight might remain.
The prophecy has been partially fulfilled. The messenger was sent to prepare the way of the Lord, and the Lord Himself did come to His temple.
But the prophecy looks on to His coming again. The whole of the intervening period of grace is passed over, and our thoughts are carried forward to the time when Jehovah will fulfill the terms of His gracious covenant, and when Christ, the Messenger of that covenant, will come. His presence will test everybody and everything. The sons of Levi are specially mentioned as coming under his hand for purification, whilst He will be a “swift witness” against those who practice evil and fear Him not.
“Then they that feared the Lord spoke often one to another: and the Lord hearkened, and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before Him for them that feared the Lord, and that thought upon His name. And they shall be mine, saith the Lord of hosts, in that day when I make up My jewels; and I will spare them, as a man spareth his own son that serveth him. Then shall ye return, and discern between the righteous and the wicked; between him that serveth God and him that serveth him not.”
“For, behold, the day cometh, that shall burn as an oven; and all the proud, yea, and all that do wickedly, shall be stubble: and the day that cometh shall burn them up, saith the Lord of hosts, that it shall leave them neither root nor branch. But unto you that fear My name shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in His wings; and ye shall go forth, and grow up as calves of the stall.”
But a special promise is given to those who fear His name. A remnant in the midst of a remnant, they have sweet communion with one another in the Lord’s things. They speak often one to another. They think upon Jehovah’s name. And they are of peculiar value in His eyes. He delights to claim them as His own — His jewels.
Of course the reference, prophetically, is to the remnant of Israel in the future day, after the present period (of Christianity) ends, and the Church is caught away to be with the Lord. In the days which immediately precede His coming in glory, the tide of evil will run swiftly indeed. Then will be found these godly people, a little remnant, caring for Jehovah’s interests, and with hearts beating true to Him.
Without in any way assuming to be a remnant (for a “remnant” in any given day includes all the godly), surely the readers of these lines may seek to follow the practice of these devoted people. May not we, who fear the Lord, speak often to one another of Him? May we not thus enjoy sweet communion in His things? Will not such practice be acceptable in His eyes?
The special promise given to those who feared Jehovah’s name was that to them the Sun of righteousness should arise, with healing in His wings.
To those who live in the glare of man’s day, no “sun” is necessary. They have their reward already. The future will bring darkness, not light, for such. But to those who fear the Lord, the time of His absence is as a dark night. To them the promise is given of the Sun of righteousness, which will turn their night to day.
Christ is the Sun of righteousness. When He arises the dark night will be over. Sorrow and sighing will be things of the past, for those who are His.
In contrast with this, the Christian’s hope is the Bright and Morning Star (Rev. 22:1616I Jesus have sent mine angel to testify unto you these things in the churches. I am the root and the offspring of David, and the bright and morning star. (Revelation 22:16).) The morning star rises before the sun appears. Christ is the Morning Star. Before He comes with healing in His wings for this sin-stricken earth, He will come to take us to be with Himself on high. Then will follow a period of deepening darkness, only to be ended when the Sun of righteousness flings His welcome beams of light and warmth upon the scene.
Our study of the minor prophets is ended. We have sought to find therein Him whom our souls love. To Him they one and all bear witness. If we know Him in a deeper and fuller way through the pages of the New Testament, and if a closer relationship with Himself is ours than that which the prophets set forth as existing between Him and the chosen and beloved nation, yet it is Himself, the same blessed One, whom we contemplate in the writings that have been before us.
May God be pleased to make Him increasingly precious to our hearts. Christianity, apart from Him, is mere philosophy; doctrine, unless presented in living connection with Him, is mere theology; prophecy, unless taken up with Himself as its known and loved center, is but an intellectual study. He is the sum and substance of it all, the fulfillment of every promise, the goal of every hope. Time spent at His feet, learning of Him, is time well spent, and will bear fruit in the days of eternity yet to come.