Malachi 1:3: A Bright Beginning

Malachi 1:3  •  2 min. read  •  grade level: 10
I must, however, turn aside from this for a moment.
The returned captives at their beginning, give some beautiful samples of faith and service. They are left, as we may see presently, by Malachi, in a very sad moral condition. But there had been brighter, earlier moments. Great events, greater than had been known for centuries in Israel, had been witnessed: such as their journey from Babylon, the building of the temple, the building of the wall, the purifying of the congregation again and again. Yet there was no miracle: all was accomplished by force of moral energy—the Spirit of God working in the people, rather than the hand of God working for them. There was no cloudy pillar to conduct them across the second desert; but they went, the fast and the prayer on the banks of the Ahava bespeaking the virtue of the Spirit that was among them. They refused Samaritan alliances, as a people that knew their Nazaritism. The customs of the nations, the traditions of the elders, their own thoughts and wisdom, had no place in forming their character or conduct. The word of God was their law. Individual grace and gift shine eminent, as in Ezra and Nehemiah. The light that was in Ezra, the single-heartedness that mark Nehemiah, could carry the people through difficulties, when the rod of Moses was no longer in the camp to do its marvels, as in the sight of the enemy.
I speak not of Mordecai and Esther, though strange and admirable was their way, without a miracle in their behalf, because they represent Israel in the dispersion, and not as returned captives. (The virtues which would have duly given character to the remnant of Israel, or the returned captives, showed themselves to perfection in the Lord Jesus, who was, as we may say, the Remnant in His day. He would have His disciples refuse Samaritan alliance, and yet bow to the Gentile. “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s,” may be read as the summary of the religion of returned captives.)
But these brighter moments had now faded, and Malachi gives us our last Old Testament sight of the state of Israel, sad and humbling as indeed it is.