The Closing Scenes of Malachi and Jude: Part 1

 •  8 min. read  •  grade level: 7
In comparing these two inspired writings, we find many points of similarity, and many points of contrast. Both the prophet and apostle portray scenes of ruin, corruption, and apostasy. The former is occupied with the ruin of Judaism; the latter with the ruin of Christendom. The prophet Malachi, in his very opening sentences, gives, with uncommon vividness, the source of Israel’s blessing, and the secret of their fall.
“I have loved you, saith the Lord.”
Here was the grand source of all their blessedness, all their glory, all their dignity. Jehovah’s love accounts for all the bright glory of Israel’s past, and all the brighter glories of Israel’s future. While, on the other hand, their bold and infidel challenge,
“Wherein hast Thou loved us?” accounts for the deepest depths of Israel’s present degradation.
To put such a question, after all that Jehovah had done for them, from the days of Moses to the days of Solomon, proved a condition of heart insensible to the very last degree. Those who, with the marvelous history of Jehovah’s actings before their eyes, could say, “Wherein hast Thou loved us?” were beyond the reach of all moral appeal. Hence, therefore, we need not be surprised at the prophet’s burning words. We are prepared for such sentences as the following:
“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?”
There was the most thorough insensibility both as to the Lord’s love, and as to their own evil ways. There was the hardness of heart that could say,
“Wherein hast Thou loved us?” and “Wherein have we wronged Thee?”
And all this with the history of a thousand years before their eyes—a history overlapped by the unexampled grace, mercy, and patience of God—a history stained, from first to last, with the record of their unfaithfulness, folly, and sin.
But let us hearken to the prophet’s further utterances, or rather to the touching remonstrances of the aggrieved and offended God of Israel.
“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. 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... 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. 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. But ye have profaned it, in that ye say, The table of the Lord is polluted; and the fruit thereof, even his meat, is contemptible. Ye said also, Behold, what a weariness is it! and ye have snuffed at it, saith the Lord of hosts; and ye brought that which was torn, and the lame, and the sick; thus ye brought an offering: should I accept this of your hand? saith the Lord.”
Here then we have a sad and dreary picture of Israel’s moral condition. The public worship of God had fallen into utter contempt. His altar was insulted; His service despised. As to the priests, it was a mere question of filthy lucre; and as to the people, the whole thing had become a perfect weariness—an empty formality—a dull and heartless routine. There was no heart for God.
There was plenty of heart for gain. Any sacrifice, however maimed and torn, was deemed good enough for the altar of God. The lame, the blind, and the sick, the very worst that could be had, such as they would not dare to offer to a human governor, was laid on the altar of God. And if a door was to be opened, or a fire kindled, it must be paid for. Such was the lamentable condition of things in the days of Malachi.
But, thanks and praise be to God, there is another side of the picture. There were some rare and lovely exceptions to the gloomy rule—some striking and beautiful forms standing out in relief from the dark background. It is truly refreshing, in the Midst of all this venality and corruption, coldness and hollowness, barrenness and heartlessness, pride and stoutness of heart, to read such words as these:
“Then they that feared the Lord spake 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.”
How precious is this brief record! How delightful to contemplate this remnant in the midst of the moral ruin! There is no pretension, or assumption; no attempt to set up anything; no effort to reconstruct the fallen economy; no affected display of power. There is felt weakness, and looking to Jehovah; and this— be it observed and ever remembered—is the true secret of all real power.
We need never be afraid of conscious weakness. It is affected strength that we have to dread and shrink from.
“When I am weak, then am I strong” is ever the rule for the people of God—a blessed rule, most surely. God is to be counted upon always; and we may lay it down as a great root principle, that, no matter what may be the actual state of the professing body, individual faith can enjoy communion with God according to the very highest truth of the dispensation.
This is a grand principle to grasp and hold fast. Let the ostensible people of God be ever so sunk, individuals who judge and humble themselves before God can enjoy His presence and blessing, without let or limit.
Witness the Daniels, the Mordecais, the Ezras, the Nehemiahs, the Josiahs, and Hezekiahs, and scores of others who walked with God, carried out the highest principles and enjoyed the rarest privileges of the dispensation, when all lay in hopeless ruin around them.
In the book of Daniel we see earth’s proudest monarch prostrate at the feet of a captive Jew.
What do all these cases teach us? What lesson do they tell out in our ears? Simply that the humble, believing, and obedient soul is permitted to enjoy the very deepest and richest communion with God, spite of the failure and ruin of God’s professing people, and the departed glory of the dispensation in which his lot is cast.
Thus it was, as we may see, in the closing scenes of Malachi. All was in hopeless ruin; but that did not hinder those who loved and feared the Lord getting together to speak about Him and to muse upon His precious name.
True, that feeble remnant was not like the great congregation which assembled in the days of Solomon, from Dan to Beersheba; but it had a glory peculiar to itself. It had the divine presence in a way no less marvelous though not so striking.
We are not told of any “book of remembrance” in the days of Solomon. We are not told of Jehovah’s hearkening and hearing. Perhaps it may be said, there was no need. Be it so; but that does not dim the luster of the grace that shone upon the little band in the days of Malachi. We may boldly affirm that Jehovah’s heart was as refreshed by the loving breathings of that little band as by the splendid sacrifice in the days of Solomon’s dedication. Their love shines out all the brighter in contrast with the heartless formalism of the professing body, and the venal corruption of the priests.
“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.... 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. And ye shall tread down the wicked; for they shall be ashes under the soles of your feet in the day that I shall do this, saith the Lord of hosts.”
(To be continued)