V. The sinful withholding of tithes and offerings. Malachi 3:6-12.
8. Will a man rob God? For ye have robbed me. Yet ye say, wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings.
9. With a curse are ye cursed, for me have ye robbed this whole nation.
10. Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be provision in my house, and prove me in this, saith Jehovah of hosts, if not I will open to you the windows of heaven, and pour your out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.
11. And I will rebuke for your sake the devourer, and not shall he destroy to you the fruit of the ground, neither shall be unfruitful to you the vine of the field, saith the Lord of hosts.
12. And shall pronounce you blessed all nations; for you shall be a land of delight, saith Jehovah of hosts.
8. Will a man rob God?—that is what they do. Yet ye say, wherein have we robbed thee?—They refute the charge and demand an explanation. In tithes and in offerings.—These they withhold and thereby they defraud Jehovah. The last word means literally heave offerings. Here it denotes all the offerings specified by the law. How the fraud was perpetrated is stated in 1:6-14. The ordinance of the tithes is contained in Deut. 14:22ff., Lev. 27:30ff., Num. 18:21ff. Offerings and tithes were the only means of support for priests and Levites. Some portions of the tithes they may have been giving, but they were cutting down on the proper percentage. 9. With a curse are ye cursed. Jehovah has already shown that He is angry with them, but still they continue in their sinful way. How the curse operates is not stated, but verses 10-12 imply that it causes scanty harvests, drought and perhaps a plague of locusts. And the curse comes upon the whole nation, because the whole nation is guilty. 10. Bring ye the whole tithes—All the tithes. The emphasis rests on all. Defrauding Jehovah must cease.
That they commit a great sin is plain from what the Israelite must declare while he still stands before Jehovah’s face with his offerings. It is this:
A Syrian ready to perish was my father, and he went down into Egypt, and sojourned there with a few and became there a nation, great, mighty and populous.
And the Egyptians evil treated us, and afflicted us with hard bondage.
And we cried unto the Lord of our fathers, the Lord heard our voice and looked upon our afflictions, and our labor and our oppression.
And the Lord brought us forth out of Egypt with a mighty hand, and with an outstretched arm, and with great terribleness, and with signs and with wonders, and brought us into this place, and hath given us this land, even a land that floweth with milk and honey.
And now, behold, I have brought the first fruits of the land, which thou, O Lord hath given me . . . . .
Look down from thy holy habitation, from heaven, and bless thy people Israel, and the land which thou hast given us, as thou swearest to our fathers, a land that floweth with milk and honey (Deut. 26:5-15).
Withholding the first fruits and the tithes was a denial of the truths set forth in this word. It was a repudiation of Jehovah as Israel’s Savior and king. Only the Israelite who denied his stewardship and thus exalted himself in his mind to the position of absolute owner of God’s things would withhold the tithes. Such a one showed by his action that he refused to be with his possessions in the service of Jehovah as the sheep of His pasture. For the tithes and the first fruits represented by divine ordinance the entire harvest. We may add that tithing was a symbolical-typical institution; it belonged to the things that waxed old and vanished away. It is no longer compulsory as was then the case. The will of God for us is: “Give as the Lord hath blessed thee,” that may be placing one under the obligation of giving more than the tenths.
That there may be food in my house—That there might be provision for God’s. altars and for the ministers of the sanctuary. Prove me—Whether or not for Christ’s sake Jehovah prospers the penitent, the people that fear Him and keep His covenant. If I will not open to you the windows of heaven—Such will find that in the way of repentance blessings will come like a pouring rain however ill-deserving they may be apart from Christ. There will not be room enough—There shall be superabundance. According to the context tile prophet has in mind rain in season and plentiful harvest. Such material blessings were sent to the true Israel of that day as a, token of Jehovah’s love of them, it being the dispensation of shadows. The seasonal rains by which Canaan was changed into a land flowing with milk and honey during Israel’s residence in it was a wonder of grace. And I till rebuke—The rebuke of Jehovah will make an end of the devourer, the locust, so-called because of his destructiveness.For your sakes—The penitent, the true Israel. The impenitent evildoers must be excluded. For they shall be destroyed when Jehovah comes in judgment, Malachi 3:6-12. Your vine shall not cast her fruit in the field—Shall not fall from the vine before it ripens. Shall call you blessed—The prosperity of God’s people will be so remarkable that all nations will call them blessed. Thereby also they will express their approval. A delightsome land—A land where joy and blessedness reigns supreme.
We must hear the law in this connection. Lev. 18:5, “Ye shall therefore keep my statutes, and my judgments: which if a man do, he shall live in them.” Deut. 27:26, “Cursed be he that confirmeth not all the words of the law to do them.” Let us take notice, “which if a man do he shall live in or by them,” that is, in the statutes and judgments of the law. That man lived not in Christ but in the commandment as did Adam in the state of integrity. Paul quotes both these passages, the first to describe the righteousness of the law in contradistinction to the righteousness of Christ (Ram. 10:5), and to show that, since all men are totally depraved, no man is justified. by the law in the sight of God (Gal. 3:2), and the second to show that accordingly as many as are of the works of the law—as many as vainly imagine that they keep the law—are under its curse (Gal. 3:10), And so it is. For the law demands aperfect obedience and it curses the man that does not fulfill this requirement.
It must not be imagined therefore that in admonishing this ill-deserving post-exilic community to bring into the house of the Lord the tithes, the prophet was telling them that their only hope lay in their fulfilling the requirements of the law. For then he would have been telling them that their case was utterly hopeless and would have been putting the period here. Then his message to them would have been one solely of despair. For with the exception of a few, the whole people was guilty of withholding the tithes. But even the most holy among them was in the service of God only in principle. They, too, were sinful men by themselves under the curse. Though true children of God, they were still continually sinning. And so the prophet’s admonition to the effect that they cease cutting down on the proper percentage of their tithes was a call to repentance. It was, rightly considered, and exhortation that the offenders, cursed of the law, confess and forsake their abominations and cast themselves upon the mercy of Jehovah to be assured of Him that for Christ’s sake, by whom all the requirements of the law were to be fulfilled, they were forgiven and delivered from His wrath. To preach repentance in the true sense is to preach Christ. And that is what the prophet (prophets) was doing always, as truly as let us say Paul. “Return unto me, and I will return unto you, saith Jehovah of Hosts” (Mal. 3:7). “I am the Lord, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed” (Mal. 3:6). This is gospel, isn’t it. The prophet was no more of a legalist than Paul was a legalist.
The elect by the grace of God did repent. And by faith they kept the commandments of God in principle. That was their privilege, chosen as they were in Christ unto life in glory. And the Lord did open to them the windows of heaven and poured out blessings for Christ’s sake, and in token that they were the object of His favor. And at His second coming they shall appear ‘with Him in glory on the new earth. Certainly at no time in Israel’s history was the Lord sending rain in season and giving abundant harvest because His people were fulfilling the requirements of the law. He blessed them always solely for Christ’s sake.
VI. A new vindication of Jehovah’s justice, Malachi 3:13, 4:3.
13. Strong against me have been your words, said Jehovah. Yet ye say, what have we spoken against thee?
14. Ye have said, It is vain to serve Gods and what gain is it that we have kept his ordinance, and that we have walked in black before Jehovah of hosts?
15. And now we call happy the proud; yea, are built the workers of wickedness yea, they that tempt God are delivered.
Strong . . . . your words—Their words are hard, severe, wicked. They contain an accusation that brings Jehovah under a cloud. Yet you say—In lodging his charge the prophet again speaks in general terms. And so his hearers request that he be specific. He tells them what they have been saying. Serve God . . . kept his ordinance . . . walked in black—They claim that they serve God, do what the law requires of them, fast and clothe themselves in sackcloth in token of their contrition of heart. But they argue, if they have done this, they should flourish, be built and delivered. As it is, it goes evilly with them. This is not explicitly stated, but it is implied in their complaint. But the point to their argument is not primarily that they do not prosper nor even that they suffer affliction; what especially perplexes them is that at the same time the wicked live in ease and prosperity. The proud—According to the context definitely the arrogant persons within the Jewish community. There is no fear of God in their hearts. Asaph (Ps. 73) describes these persons. They set their mouth against Heaven, and their tongue walks through the earth. The workers of iniquity—Those that oppress the hireling, widows and orphans. They that tempt God are delivered—They that challenge God by their wickedness are helped of Him out of their difficulties. And they are built and whatsoever they do prospers.
It is this that makes it seem to the complainers that it is utterly vain, senseless, to serve God.
Can this be the doing of a just and righteous God? They were the skeptics in the community. The prophet excludes them from the class of God-fearing persons that he next addresses. Yet they were not committing the unpardonable sin so that they could not be brought to repentance. For the God fearing Asaph of Ps. 73 fell into the same skepticism. Yet there was a difference. From fear that he would be offending against the generation of God’s true children Asaph kept his thoughts to himself. Moreover he went with his perplexities into the sanctuary of God where all was made plain. But these skeptics did not go into the sanctuary of God but instead they gave public expression to their unbelief. It seems to have been a topic of daily conversation with them. What it indicates is a malicious spirit rather than honest doubt. They hated God and therefore made far too much of the inequalities of which they complained. It is not invariably true that the wicked prosper in this life. It was not invariably true then. To say that it was is to make the same mistake that the three friends of Job made.
16. Then spake they that feared Jehovah each to his companion: and listened the Lord and heard, and was written a book of remembrance before him that feared the Lord and thought upon his name.
17. And they shnll be for me, said Jehovah of hosts, for the day in which I shall act, a peculiar possession; and I will pity them, as pities a man his son the one that serves him.
18. Then shall ye return and discern between the righteous and the wicked, between him that serves God and him that serves him not.
1. For behold the day cometh, that shall burn as an oven; and shall be all the proud and all that do wickedly for stubble: and the day that cometh shall bum them up, saith Jehovah of hosts, that it shall not leave them either root or branch.
2. But shall rise unto you that fear my name the sun of righteousness and with healing in his wings; and ye shall go forth and thrive as calves in the stall.
3. And ye shall tread down the wicked; and they shall be ashes under the soles of your feet in the day that I act, said Jehovah of hosts.
Then (vs. 16)—When the skeptics were giving expression to their doubts, They that feared Jehovah—The true people of God within the community. They had passed through the same perplexities but their faith had not faltered but had continued to blossom. They spake each to his companion—Daily they sought out each other. It is not stated what they said. But that can be easily conjectured seeing that in such circumstances the conversations of the faithful always run in the same well-known channel. They spake words of exhortation, consolation and encouragement. They told each other that sometime Jehovah, breaking His silence and making an end of His inactivity, would manifest His righteousness in the punishment of the wicked and in the rewarding of the just. They thought upon His name, His revelation of self through all His marvelous works of the past: They declared His praises and their soul waited upon His salvation. And listened the Lord and heard—He was attentive to their conversations. And was written a book of remembrance—So pleased is He with them—they are His workmanship—that their names are written in His book. According to another figure (Isa. 49:16) expressive of the same idea, they are always before Him as engraved on the palms of His hands. For the day on which I shall act (vs. 17)—When He shall come in judgment, these faithful ones shall be for Him a peculiar possession. He will not destroy them with the wicked. And will pity them—In His pity He will spare them and give them life in glory.As pitieth a man his son the one that serves him—This pity is a creatural reflection of the Lord’s pity of them that fear Him. Then shall ye return and discern(vs. 18)—Indicated is the skeptics. In the day of reckoning they shall return. They shall cease accusing Jehovah of injustice then when they see the wicked destroyed and the faithful exalted. Then they shall be compelled openly to discern between him that serves God and him that serves Him not. For in that day it will be so obvious who the wicked are and who the righteous that every excuse for being confused and maliciously accusing Jehovah of injustice in His dealings with His moral creatures will be gone.
It is doubtful whether this return of the skeptics must be construed as a true conversion. For it takes place in the judgment day when every tongue shall be justifying God including the tongues of the wicked who perish in their sins. It would seem therefore that these skeptics must be comprehended in the class of godless in the community that did not come to repentance. Supporting this view is the fact that they are excluded from the class of God-fearing persons.
Chapter 4:1. For—connects these verses (1-3) withMalachi 3:18. The skeptics shall discern because of the doings of Jehovah set forth in these verses. The day that cometh, that shall burn as an oven—The manifestation of Jehovah’s fierce anger on that day shall be like a fire that burns in a furnace: it consumes everything combustible such as stubble. All that do wickedly—though they now prosper, on that day they shall be for stubble; they shall be burnt up by Jehovah’s anger root and branch.
The sun of righteousness—This is a title that must be applied directly to Christ, because then only does it take on for us a real meaning. He is the sun. The sun of our earthly creation is His symbol. The virtue of its light reflects in a creatural way the goodness of His light. The healing power of His light, here compared to wings, is marvelous. It causes the dead to live, the blind to see, the deaf to hear and the lame to leap. It dispels all the gloom of the weary night of sin and transforms the wilderness into a garden of delight. It fills those in whose heart it shines with peace and * makes them to shout with joy.
Such is the virtue of His light the reason being that He, the Christ, is the sun of righteousness. Implied is the following. 1. He loved righteousness and practiced it. He knew no sin. There was no deceit .found in His mouth. It was His meet and drink to do the will of His Father. 2. He fulfilled for His own all righteousness and bore their curse as activated by a pure love. 3. And He gives life and righteousness not alone but He is our sanctification, justification and redemption forever. Believing in Him we have life. And in the final judgment He shall again rise unto them that fear His name. And the result will be that they shall rise from their graves unto life in glory. In the imagery of our text, they shall go forth and thrive as calves in the stall.
And they shall tread down the wicked (vs. 3)—Not apart from Christ but through Him their head and glorified Lord in whom they are forever grafted by a faith living and indestructible because He prays for them and with whom therefore they reign. For they shall be ashes under the soles of your feet in that day—Their victory over the adversary will be that complete and absolute.
The sun of righteousness—some conceive of this righteousness as a personal attribute of God and translate: The sun, namely righteousness (of Jehovah). By its revelation and operation the wicked are destroyed and His believing people healed from all the hurts and pains that now afflict them. But also this exposition necessitates bringing in Christ. For the righteousness of God would not be righteousness were it not operative as a saving healing power on the ground of Christ’s atonement and for His sake. But the chief objection to this exposition is that it makes God’s righteousness an abstraction. The exposition that applies the expression directly to Christ is well founded. Elsewhere in the Scriptures Christ is called the light of men, the light of the world, a light to the Gentiles (Is. 49:6), a great light (Is. 9:1), the true light, the day-spring on high, sun and shield.