Malachi 1
Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
The burden of the Lord to Israel by Malachi. Much of the work of the Old Testament prophets involved a serious strain on feeling, and may appropriately be figured as a "burden" which they were called to bear. A very large proportion of it consists of denunciations, declarations of swiftly coming and overwhelming Divine judgments. Those prophets were, in fact, raised up to meet a condition of society and national life of which God disapproved, and by which God was dishonoured. It should never be forgotten that the prophets belong to the Israelite my, and that was not God's ideal of government for his people. It brought and perils the significance of which the prophets were to declare. Malachi's is the last prophet voice of the Old Testament times. After him a great prophetic silence fell on the land. No direct utterance came from God for some three hundred years, until John the Baptist appeared. Nothing is certainly known concerning this Prophet Malachi. He is, indeed, only a name, and our interest lies entirely in his message. His name means, "The Messenger of Jehovah," and it calls us to attend to the message rather than to the speaker. We do know something of the times in which he lived, and we can understand what would be the burden of a Jehovah prophet at such a time. After Nehemiah had been working for some twelve years at the moral reformation of the people of Jersualem and Judea, he was recalled to Persia; and immediately on his departure the old evils which he had stoutly resisted came back like a food. In spite of the presence of Ezra in Jerusalem, it was seen that a reformation enforced by the civil power, rather than as the fruit of individual conviction, had no permanent vitality. When Nehemiah's back was turned, "the tithes due to the temple, the Levites, and the priests were not delivered, and the greatest distress was thus caused to all those who depended on them for maintenance. The choristers, the guards of the gates, and the ordinary Levites alike, were compelled to go back to their homes, and cultivate their fields for a living. Public worship was thus interrupted, and the temple, forsaken by its ministers, was neglected by the people. Nor was the refusal to pay tithes the only sign of an altered spirit. The sabbath was profaned, both in town and country, wine presses were busy in its sacred hours, and the roads and fields were dotted with the workers taking sheaves to the barn on their heavily laden asses. Jerusalem itself was disturbed by a sabbath fair, to which loads of wine, grapes, figs, and much else were carried in during sacred hours. After all the professed zeal to put an end to mixed marriages, things were rapidly drifting to almost a worse condition than of old. The very priests had rapidly lost their high tone. Their irreverence, indifference, and worldliness shocked the thoughtful. Everything that Ezra and Nehemiah had effected was well nigh undone." The Prophet Malachi had the "burden" laid upon him of recalling both priests and people to their duties. And this he did partly by vigorous denunciations of surrounding evils, and partly by anticipations of the times of Messiah. The Coming One would surely prove to be a stern Rebuker of national sin.

I. THE PROPHET'S MESSAGE WAS A BURDEN TO HIMSELF. Denunciations of wrong doing and wrong doers lose their true force when those who utter them enjoy their work. Then they put into them a bitter tone, which makes them ungod-like messages. Stern things have still to be spoken for God, but they must be spoken with pathos in the tone, and tears ready to start. No man can deliver a message of judgment aright, unless he feels it to be a burden.

II. THE PROPHET'S MESSAGE SHOULD BE A BURDEN TO THOSE ADDRESSED. A burden of holy concern. It should set them upon grave self-searching. It should burden them with anxiety about their sins, and with earnest efforts to put sin away. If it was not taken as a burden in that sense, it would become a burden as bringing upon them full, unrelieved, Divine judgments.

III. THE PROPHET'S MESSAGE MAY BE THOUGHT OF AS A BURDEN TO GOD. "Judgment is his strange work;" "In all their affliction he was afflicted;" "Have I any pleasure in the death of the wicked?" We are permitted to think that it troubles God to punish his people. He is burdened by the messages which our sin compels him to send. - R.T.

The burden of the word of the Lord, etc. Malachi - which means "Messenger" the last of the Hebrew prophets, is a man whose personal history is wrapped in utter obscurity. He is supposed to have lived after Haggai and Zechariah, and to be contemporary with Nehemiah. It is likely that he occupied a relationship to Nehemiah somewhat analogous to that which Haggai and Zechariah sustained to Zerubbabel. The general opinion is that he prophesied about the year B.C. 430. This was that brilliant period in Greece in which flourished some of its greatest men - Cimon, son of Miltiades, distinguished as a commander; Pericles, the greatest of Athenian statesmen, under whom Athens attained a splendour that made her the wonder and admiration of all Greece; Phidias, the celebrated sculptor, and a host of distinguished artists; Simonides and Pindar, eminent lyric poets; AEschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides, distinguished dramatists; and Herodotus, who has received a title really due to Moses, "the Father of History." From this passage the following truths may be legitimately deduced.

I. THAT SOME MEN ON THIS EARTH SEEM TO BE MORE FAVOURED BY PROVIDENCE THAN OTHERS, AND YET THEY ARE OFTEN UNCONSCIOUS OF IT. This is the communication or "burden" of the Divine message which Malachi had to deliver to Israel: "I have loved you, saith the Lord. Yet ye say, Wherein hast thou loved us?" Israel here stands for all the tribes, all the descendants of Jacob. The Israelitish nation was more favoured than any nation on the face of the earth. In relation to their privileges Paul says of the Israelites, "to whom pertaineth the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the Law, and the service of God, and the promises: whose are the fathers, and of whom as concerning the flesh Christ came' (Romans 9:4, 5). As individuals, some men are more favoured than others. As Jacob was more favoured than Esau, so some men in all generations are more blessed than others - blessed with more vigorous frames, more intellectual resources, more emotional wealth, etc. There is amongst men immense variety in the degree of natural endowments. Read the parable of the talents. But it is man nationally that is here referred to. "I have loved you" that is, "I have regarded you more than other nations." Is not our England more favoured than most if not all of the other nations of the earth? She is, in some respects, as far exalted above all existing states, as Israel of old was above all the heathen nations that surrounded it. But individually, as was said above, all men are not treated alike. Some are born of healthier parents than others, live in more salubrious climes than others, are endowed with higher faculties than others, brought up under more wholesome laws and higher educational influences than others. The existence of these distinctions is too obvious to require either argument or illustration. But whilst this is such a patent fact, the favoured ones are too often unconscious of the distinction. "Wherein hast thou loved us?" Israel did not realize its exalted privileges. How often is this the case! The men most favoured of Providence are often most unconscious of the favours, and they say, "Wherein hast thou loved us?" As a rule, perhaps the moat favoured of Providence are the greatest complainers. What ingratitude is here!

II. THAT THIS DIFFERENCE IN THE PRIVILEGES OF MEN IS TO BE ASCRIBED TO THE SOVEREIGNTY OF GOD. "I loved Jacob, and I hated Esau." Some read it, "I favoured Jacob, but rejected Esau." Why was Jacob more favoured than Esau? Not because he had a nobler moral character. In some respects he appears more despicable than Esau. It was simply because God chose to distinguish him. The reason of distinction was in the mind of God, and nowhere else. "He worketh all things according to the counsel of his will." His sovereignty does not imply either of two things.

1. Partiality on his part. The fact that the Jewish people, the descendants of Jacob, in their history endured, perhaps, calamities as great as those that befell the Edomites, the descendants of Esau, proved that it was no partiality on God's part. He is no Respecter of persons. Nor does it imply:

2. Irresponsibility on man's part. "They who have least," says Godwin, "and bear most, may become better and happier than they who have most and suffer least." The permanent value of all things depends on the use which is made of them: the first often becoming last, and the last first. But no argument can be drawn from differences in men's condition as to which will be the most morally advantageous or disadvantageous according to their conduct. Whilst the differences of one kind depend solely on the Divine will, the differences of the other kind are not irrespective of human choice.


1. The words teach us that they will have possessions destroyed. "I hated Esau, and laid his mountains and his heritage waste for the dragons [jackals] of the wilderness." These men, the men of Edom, struggled hard to build up their kingdom and to give it wealth and power, but the product of all their labours was utterly destroyed. Their great things, their "mountains," their wealthy things, their "heritage," the scenes of their power, gave place to the "dragons of the wilderness." Where is Edom now? If Heaven has determined that the fortune you have built up after years of earnest and indefatigable labour shall be swept away, it will depart as a vision of the night.

2. That their efforts were frustrated. "If Edom saith, We are impoverished, but we will return and build the desolate places; thus saith the Lord of hosts, They shall build, but I will throw down; and they shall call them, The border of wickedness, and, The people against whom the Lord hath indignation forever." They struggle to restore their position, labour hard to build the desolate places, but in every effort they are thwarted. It is in vain to strive against destiny. Mark that all that is here said concerns only the secular prosperity of men. Divine sovereignty is always in favour of spiritual prosperity, progress in intelligence, purity, and happiness. In all these matters men cannot labour in vain.

3. Their enemies prosper. "And your eyes shall see, and ye shall say, The Lord will be magnified from the border of Israel." Edom hated Israel from the beginning, fought hard against it for centuries, struggled continually to destroy it, but all in vain. The time came when it found itself in ruins and its enemy in prosperity. "The argument of these verses is this," says Dr. Dods, "if you would see the difference between hatred and love, look at the different condition and prospects of Edom and Israel. The desolation with which their territory is visited is irremediable: they have no glorious future beyond: whereas the wretched condition of which you complain is but the bleakness of seed time that precedes the richest harvest."

CONCLUSION. Are we not here in this England of ours among the peoples whom Heaven has specially favoured? Are not the words specially applicable to us, "I have loved you, saith the Lord"? But what is our practical response? Does not our daily life speak out the ingratitude and unbelief of Israel, "Wherein hast thou loved us?" We do not see it; we do not feel it; "Wherein?" What ought we to think of our civilization, our liberties, our fruitful laud and salubrious air? above all, what of our Christ? "Herein is love." - D.T.

The Lord had chosen Israel as his peculiar people, out of pure love and kindness, without any antecedent merit on their side. This love is strikingly exhibited by contrasting the Divine dealings with the two nations, Edom and Israel. Both came into Divine judgment for sin, and love triumphed in the restoration of Israel; but because of Edom's treatment of Israel, it was left, to its desolations. The word "hate" is employed, but South properly explains that "hating" is sometimes used comparatively for a less degree of love (Genesis 29:31; Luke 14:26). The English word "hate" has somewhat changed its meaning. Now it means, "have a personal aversion to," "regard with ill will." But when our Bible was translated, it had a simpler and kinder meaning, "love less," "show less favour to." It is important to note that the reference is not to God's personal feelings to individuals, but to his providential dealings with nations. Still, it stands out prominently that God's ways with Israel had been the indication of selecting love for her.

I. GOD'S LOVE FOR ISRAEL WAS A DISTINGUISHING LOVE. Of Israel, as of Christ's apostles, it could be said, "Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you." The race of Abraham is a selected race. It was separated in order to preserve, and to witness for, the great primary religious truths which are essential to the world's well being, but are imperilled by the free moral experiment of humanity. It was a sign of Divine love that Israel received such a trust.

II. GOD'S LOVE FOR ISRAEL WAS A PATIENT LOVE. And the patience was very severely tried by the wilfulness and waywardness of the loved ones. This can be illustrated from every stage of the history. The patience is seen in this, that God kept on endeavouring to correct By chastisement. Under no provocation did he give them up in despair, and let judgment prove finally overwhelming. Compare the case of Edom, which, as a nation, is lost beyond recovery. That patience of the Divine love is the holiest joy to us still.

III. GOD'S LOW FOE ISRAEL WAS A TRIUMPHANT LOVE. This is what seems chiefly in Malachi's mind. He wants the people to feel how the love had triumphed in their recovery from captivity, and their restoration as a nation. And these proofs of the Lord's love should have acted as persuasions to the Lord's service. - R.T.

The Lord's dealings with Edom are here introduced as contrasting with the Lord's dealings with Israel. And one chief point of contrast is this - Israel's expectations will be realized; but Edom's expectations will be disappointed. "Thus saith the Lord of hosts. They shall build, but I will throw down." There was an exceedingly bitter feeling between Israel and Edom, dating from the time when Edom insultingly refused to allow the passage of Israel through her territory, and so compelled God's people to take the weary and perilous way up the Arabah. Again and again we have hints of the unfriendly feeling between the kindred and neighbour nations; and that it was continued up to the time of the destruction of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar is indicated by the exclamation of the poet, in Psalm 137:7, "Remember, O Lord, the children of Edom in the day of Jerusalem; who said, Rase it, rase it, even to the foundation thereof." That Jehovah, as God and King of Israel, took its part against Edom is clearly intimated in the prophecy of Obadiah. The point of the passage before us is that on the efforts of Edom to recover itself as a nation no permanency would rest; whereas if Israel would but be faithful to its obligations, it as a kingdom should be established forever.

I. FAILURE IN LIFE'S ENTERPRISES IS A SIGN OF DIVINE DEALING WITH US. However we may say that such failure attends

(1) particular dispositions; or

(2) imperfect, training and culture, it remains true that a deeper explanation is possible.

The promise to the good is, "Whatsoever he doeth shall prosper." The judgment on the evil may be, "Whatsoever he doeth shall fail." There is no experience of life more trying than the disappointment of failing again and again. There is no misery like the hopelessness of feeling as if we could not succeed, and it is no use to try any more. The man is lost who feels that.

II. FAILURE IN LIFE'S ENTERPRISES MAY BE DIVINE DISCIPLINE, BUT IT MAY BE DIVINE JUDGMENT. Chastisement, to convince that we have done the thing wrongly. Judgment, as in the case of Edom, of some sin committed in early life, the spirit of which we have kept up through the long years. If we fail in life, we should searchingly inquire why God lets us fail. - R.T.

The figure of fatherhood is used in Scripture to suggest God's peculiar relation to Israel; and we are therefore invited to use the family sentiments and responsibilities in the endeavour to realize our obligations to God. Our Lord, in his teachings, made a similar appeal to family feelings: "If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father who is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?" And the writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews argues in a similar way, "Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence; shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live?" It is true that arguments based on human relationships must take due account of human infirmities; but there is an ideal human relationship in every case, which men in their hearts recognize, and the obligations connected with it may always be safely applied to our relations with God. But there is a special point in Malachi's pleading with the priests of his day. In common with Jehovah's people, they came under the children's claims and responsibilities; but, as priests, they were children honoured with special trusts. They were favoured children, and were bound to be model children. The obligation of the servant to the master is similar to that of the son to the father, but in the case of the child there is the help of personal affection. The two figures may be used to illustrate the point of this passage.

I. A MASTER'S CLAIM ILLUSTRATES THE DIVINE CLAIM. "If I be a Master, where is my fear? saith the Lord." This is taking the lowest ground. There is no necessary affection in this relationship, There is simply obligation and duty. A servant is bound to serve. Apply to the priests, who were precisely the servants of Jehovah's house, or temple. He had a right to claim service that would honour him, that would show a cherished sense of reverence and fear, and would make others think highly of him. But just that service the priests of the day were failing to render. Still, if no higher relation be realized, God claims our service as his servants.

II. A FATHER'S CLAIM ILLUSTRATES THE DIVINE CLAIM. This is higher ground to take, because it is a relation involving personal affection, and the refusal of the claim is therefore the more unworthy. Work out that if the father figure as presented in the Old Testament was a great persuasion of the Divine claims, much more must the Father figure be as revealed in the teaching and Sonship of Jesus Christ. - R.T.

A son honoureth his father, and a servant his master: if then I be a Father, where is mine honour? 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? etc. The subject of these words is the profession and the practice of religion; and they suggest two thoughts.

I. THE PROFESSION AND THE PRACTICE SHOULD ALWAYS BE IN ACCORD. "A son honoureth his father, and a servant his master." This is stated as a fact. The son here, of course, must be supposed to be worthy of the name son. There are some children who are destitute of natural affection. What Aristotle of old said will be endorsed by all thoughtful men. "A son must always be his father's debtor, because he can never repay him for those greatest of all benefits, birth and upbringing, and in these the fathers resemble God." This being so, and you Israel being "my son, my firstborn, a relationship which you profess, where is mine honour? If the language is, as some suppose, specially addressed to the priests, the appeal gets new emphasis. The idea is - You profess to regard me as your Father and your Master, and you should, therefore, in your life treat me with honour, reverential fear, and loyal devotion. "Why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things that I say?" Any discrepancy between our profession and our practice is morally unnatural. Our conduct should accord with our creed, our deeds with our doctrines.

II. THE PROFESSION AND THE PRACTICE ARE OFTENTIMES AT VARIANCE. The priests to whom these words were addressed practically contradicted their profession. They called him Father and Master, and yet see how they treated him in their sacrifices in the temple. Look at them in their offerings. They showed:

1. A lawless spirit. "Ye offer polluted bread upon mine altar." This is directly contrary to the Law as given in Deuteronomy: "If there be any blemish therein, as if it be lame, or blind, or have any ill blemish, thou shalt not sacrifice it unto the Lord thy God." "The sin with which the priests are charged is that of polluting God's altar by offering beasts not ceremonially clean, unfit for sacrifice. Any beast was passed as good enough for sacrifice, the lame or blind, that had become useless for work, sick or torn, the beast that was dying on its feet, and could not be used for meat, or that which had been stolen, and so marked that it would not sell - anything, in short, that could serve no other purpose, was good enough for God. His courts had the appearance of a knacker's yard."

2. A niggardly spirit. Not only were they polluted, which is contrary to ceremonial law, but they were worthless: blind, lame, wretched skeletons were the beasts offered, worth nothing in the tidal or the market, mere refuse. "A cheap religion," says one, "costing little, is rejected by God, worth nothing: it costs more than it is worth, for it is worth nothing, and so proves really dear." God despiseth not the widow's mite, but he disdains the miser's gold.

3. A captious spirit. They say, "Wherein have we despised thy Name?" "Wherein have we polluted thee?" So blind aunt so insensible were they to moral propriety that they insulted the Almighty even in their formal efforts to serve him.

4. A thoughtless spirit. "Offer it now unto thy governor; will he be pleased with thee, or accept thy person? saith the Lord of hosts? 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." This sentence is ironical: Ye dare not go before your governor with such presents; but come now, I pray you, enter God's presence, and use your stock phrase of supplication (Numbers 6:25), that he "would be gracious unto us." Will he regard your persons? How many who profess God to be their Father and their Master act out, even in their religious services, this lawless, niggardly, captious, thoughtless spirit! Herein there is the discrepancy between profession and practice. But, alas! how common is it!

With lip we call him Master,
In life oppose his Word,
We ev'ry day deny him,
And yet we call him Lord!

No more is our religion
Like his in soul or deed
Than painted grain on canvas
Is like the living seed.

In the balance we are weigh'd
And wanting we are found,
In all that's true and Christly
The universe around.

CONCLUSION. A fact narrated to me by the late Revelation Dr. Leifchild some years ago affords a striking illustration of the discrepancy between profession and practice in religion. He told me that there was an old lady in his Church, very wealthy, and very loud in her professions, and apparently very enthusiastic in her devotions, but whose contributions for religious purposes were of the most niggardly kind. One Sunday, in singing a hymn with which they closed the service of the Lord's Supper, she being near to the table, be observed her as the deacons were going round, according to their custom, collecting subscriptions for the poor. It so happened that the verse they were singing at the time the deacon came to her with the plate was -

Were the whole realm of nature mine,
That were a present far too small:
Love so amazing, so Divine,
Demands my heart, my life, my all."
No one in the whole congregation seemed more hearty in shouting out those words with his voice than she. Meanwhile the deacon held the plate right under her eye, but she let it pass without enriching it by even a copper. - D.T.

What was consumed upon the altar was regarded as God's portion, and may, in a figure, be called "the bread of God." "The offerings of the Lord made by fire, and the bread of God, they do offer: therefore they shall be holy" (Leviticus 21:6). By "polluted bread" we are to understand maimed and blemished sacrifices. The Divine reproach is that the priests show how little value they have for the worship of God, since they do not care in how slight and contemptuous a manner it is performed. The Prophet Malachi deals very largely with the unfaithfulness, the unpriestliness, of the priests of his day. It was at once a sign of a sad condition of morals and religion when the priests failed of their duty; and the way to recover the nation to righteousness, when the priests were recalled to the sense of their obligations.

I. SOCIETY REVEALED IN THE UNFAITHFULNESS OF THE PRIESTS. These may be taken as representing the clergy of the Christian generations. It has always been true that society is reflected in the moral standard of the clergy. This is embodied in the saying, "Like priest, like people;" and it is a wider and more searching truth than is usually apprehended. The clergy are the moral barometers by which the atmosphere of an age is discovered. The priests of Malachi's time declare the moral and religious degeneracy of the people. "The saddest sign of all was the degeneracy of the priesthood which Malachi, though perhaps himself a priest, was specially commissioned to denounce. The lack of all real faith and moral soundness in the very order which ought to have kept alive among the people the essential elements of the spiritual life, was eating like a cancer into the heart of the national sincerity" (Farrar). It may be shown that priestly indifference and unfaithfulness are products and results of neglected personal religious life. So long as priestly duties are instinct with spiritual feeling they will be worthily performed. When personal godliness fails, they become perfunctory, and then if in seeming they are kept up, in reality they deteriorate. It is in maintaining the personal religious life that priests lead the nations.

II. SOCIETY IS RECOVERED BY THE RECOVERY OF THE PRIESTS. Therefore Malachi appeals to them. It may be that the priests are the last to yield to the society evils; but they must always be the first recovered. They must become forces on the side of Cad in the restoration of moral health to a nation. Revivals are always hopeless things unless their first effect is the spiritual revival of the clergy. - R.T.

It must be such as would be acceptable if offered to any earthly official. This, indeed, is but taking low ground, but that the prophet should take this position, and use this argument, is in itself a revelation of the sad condition into which the priesthood of the day had fallen. He could not take high grounds, and make his appeal directly to the holiness of the claims of the infinitely Holy One. "It argues a great contempt of Almighty God when men are less careful in maintaining the decencies of his worship than they are in giving proper respects to their superiors." It should be borne in mind that the Levitical system very rigorously demanded that only sound and clean animals should he presented in sacrifice. It is always necessary to check the meanness of men, which tempts them to put God off with that which they themselves do not greatly value (see Leviticus 22:22, etc.). The sin of offering the imperfect to God can be tested in two very simple ways.

I. OFFER AN IMPERFECT GIFT TO YOUR FRIEND. For a birthday time find something you have done with; something you do not care for; something out of taste in your own house, which you are glad to get rid of; something damaged, or soiled, or broken. You send it, saying in your heart, "It is good enough for him." That gift dishonours the friend, and morally degrades you as the giver. If that friend has any spirit, he despises such gifts, and sends the coldest of acknowledgments of their receipt. Is God in Christ our Friend? What shall be the love gifts which alone can be acceptable to him?

II. OFFER AN IMPERFECT GIFT TO YOUR GOVERNOR. If a man wants to show his respect, or to indicate his gratitude for some favour received, he is always most particular in the selection of his present. He takes care that there is no flaw in it; he selects the best possible; he is most anxious about its being conveyed without injury. If the governor has any spirit, he will not look at or receive anything but the very best. Is God our supreme Governor? Then how can we fail to offer the very best possible to him?

III. OFFER AN IMPERFECT GIFT TO YOUR GOD. Has he not more claim than either friend or governor to the perfect offering? How should we respond to

(1) his authority;

(2) his holiness;

(3) his redemption?

Though out of our sight, he searchingly tests all our gifts, offerings, and sacrifices. Open out how we may be offering the imperfect in

(1) our acts of worship;

(2) our acts of benevolence;

(3) our acts of ministry and service. - R.T.

Will he regard your persons? The idea of the verse is somewhat difficult to trace; but it appears to be this: "You are expecting that God will accept you just because you are priests, on account of your official standing alone. You think that it does not matter to him what you are morally, so long as you go through the routine of his service according to the standards;" It is intimated plainly enough that their intercessions on behalf of the people must be in vain so long as they are acting unworthily.


1. He deals with each individual, never loses the one in the many; each person stands out distinctly before him as if there were no other. This truth needs to be dwelt on, because men readily hide themselves from their own view, and think to hide themselves from God's view, in the class to which they belong. The sins of the priests may not deeply humble any particular priest.

2. He deals with a man's moral condition. That belongs exclusively to the man. It is his personality. It is the matter of supreme concern to God.

II. THE SENSE IN WHICH GOD DOES NOT REGARD THE PERSON. He is no "Respecter of persons." This enlarges the idea, and we may see:

1. That God takes no account of bodily peculiarities. "Man looketh on the outward appearance, but God looketh on the heart."

2. God takes no account of social rank. He pays no deference to the high-born and rich; he shows no indifference to the low-born and poor. His supreme interest is in men, not in the accidents of men. This is not meant to imply any failure in our estimating the value of social status and influence; it only emphasizes that these are not the matters of Divine consideration. They do not belong to the essence of manhood.

3. God takes no account of official position. No man stands in the special favour of God because he is a king, and no man has any special ground for pleading with God in the fact that he is a priest or clergyman. A man's power of intercession with God is dependent on his personal relations with God, but it is assumed that every priest and every minister is what he ought to be - in accepted personal relations with God. No matter what our office may be, if there is not at the heart of it a right state of mind and heart, the acceptance of the ministry of that office cannot be assured. - R.T.

One of the works on which Nehemiah looked back with most satisfaction was that he had secured to the Levites the payment of a sufficient remuneration for their work. It was a right thing in itself. It asserted what we have learnt to call the principle of an 'established' Church, and of a fair division of its income. But that spirit might easily pass, and had actually passed, into the temper which is always clamorous for rights and privileges, which will work only when those rights and privileges are secured. The spirit of the hireling takes the place of that of the worshipper. And so, amongst the foremost sins which the prophet is called on to condemn we find this, noted with special reference to the functions of those Levites over whose interests Nehemiah had been so watchful. 'Who is there even among you,' he asks, 'that would shut the doors for naught?' And the hireling spirit, once fostered, showed itself, as it always does, in neglect, evasion, dishonesty (Plumptre).

I. THE WORKMAN IS WORTHY OF HIS HIRE. This sentence embodies a good working principle, which has its proper application in religious as well as in secular spheres. They who minister in spiritual things may reasonably claim to be ministered unto in carnal things. Clergymen share all common bodily and family wants; and we have no sympathy with those who talk as if some wrong were done when spiritual men are concerned for their material interests. Priests and Levites deserved their pay.

II. THE WORKMAN IS WORTHY ONLY WHEN HE DOES NOT WORK FOR HIS HIRE. This is only true in a higher sense of the Levite; it is really true of every workman. A man is on a low plane when he works just for his wage. He is but a time server, a self-server. The best work never is done by such men; and their work is never the best blessing to them. A man must work for the love of his work if he is to do it nobly. A religious man must work for God if his work is to be acceptable. To work

Who is there even among you that would shut the doors for naught? etc. The subject of these words is wrong worship, and they suggest the following remarks.

I. THAT WRONG WORSHIP IS WORSE THAN NO WORSHIP AT ALL. "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." Keil gives a version mere in accordance with the original, "Oh that there were one among you who would shut the doors, that ye might not light mine altar to no purpose! I have no pleasure in you, saith Jehovah of hosts, and sacrificial offering does not please me from your hand." "As if," says Dr. Dods, "God were to say it were far better that the temple were shut than that such profane and fruitless worship were carried on in it (Isaiah 1:12). Better that you and your offensive beasts be together shut out of the temple, and that no smoke ascend from the altar, since all such offerings as you present are offered in vain. The Hebrew word translated 'for naught,' is the etymological equivalent of 'gratis;' but the meaning here is not 'without reward,' but the closely allied, secondary meaning 'without result;' it is not the mercenary but the fruitless character of the services which is pointed at." There is a deal of wrong worship in the world, not only in heathen regions but in Christendom, not only in Popery but in Protestantism, not only in the Church but in Dissent. Some of the hymns used are not only gross but blasphemous, and some prayers, too, are repugnant alike to reason and conscience. No worship is a thousand times better than wrong worship. Wrong worship insults the Infinite Father, and degrades the human soul.

II. THAT WRONG WORSHIP WILL ONE DAY BE PRACTICALLY REPUDIATED. "From the rising of the sun even unto the going down of the same my Name shall be great among the Gentiles." A modern expositor expresses the idea thus: "Since ye Jewish priests and people 'despise my Name,' I shall find others who will magnify it (Matthew 8:11). Do not think I shall have no worshippers because I have not you, for from the east to the west my Name shall be great among the Gentiles (Isaiah 59:19; Isaiah 66:19, 20), these very peoples whom ye look down on as abominable. 'And a pure offering,' not the blind, the lame, and the sick, such as ye offer." "In every place" implies the catholicity of the Christian Church (John 4:21-23; 1 Timothy 2:8). The incense is figurative of prayer (Psalm 141:2; Revelation 8:3). Sacrifice is used metaphorically of the offering of a "broken and contrite heart."

1. This period, though far in the future, is certain to dawn on the world. God hath promised it, and it is "impossible for him to lie." "And the Gentiles shall come to thy light, and kings to the brightness of thy rising Then thou shalt see, and flow together, and thine heart shall fear, and be enlarged; because the abundance of the sea shall be converted into thee" (Isaiah 60:3-5).

2. This period will exclude all false worship. It will he in "every place." No room for the knee in the temple of the false worshipper. Neither in this mountain nor in that mountain shall ye worship the Father. "God is a Spirit, and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth."

3. In this period all human souls will be blended in love and devotion. No more divisions. "Thy Name shall be great among the heathen." He will be the great centre around which all souls will revolve, from which all will draw their heat, their light, their harmony.

III. THAT WRONG WORSHIP IS SOMETIMES RENDERED EVEN BY THE RELIGIOUS TEACHERS OF MANKIND. "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." From these words we learn that these priests made worship appear:

1. Contemptible. Perhaps these priests did not literally say the Lords table was contemptible, but in their acts they declared it. Is the word "contemptible" here intended to express the feeling of the priests themselves? Some have considered it as referring to the revenue which the priests drew from their services at the altar. The beasts which were brought for offering were so lean, diseased, and wretched, that the flesh which fell to their share for food was so poor that they could not eat it, it filled them with disgust, it was contemptible. As if they had said, "The reward which we have for our services at the altar is truly contemptible." But this view can scarcely be adopted, inasmuch as they themselves accepted those worthless animals for sacrifice. It rather means that they had made worship appear contemptible to others, that their services had brought worship into contempt. How often do the religious leaders of mankind, by the crudity of their thoughts, the narrowness of their creeds, the worldliness of their spirits, bring religion into popular contempt!

2. Burdensome. "Behold, what a weariness is it!" etc. This is not, alas! an uncommon occurrence. Religious leaders, perhaps the majority of them, have in all ages, by their hoary platitudes, their vain repetitions, their long, dull prayers, their monotonous tones, their prosy twaddlings, made their hearers often exclaim, "Behold, what a weariness is it!" In truth, religious service is a weariness to all who have not their hearts in it. Dr. Pusey well remarks, "The service of God is its own reward. If not, it becomes a greater toil, with less reward from this earth than the things of this earth. Our only choice is between love and weariness."

IV. THAT WRONG WORSHIP EVERMORE INCURS THE JUST DISPLEASURE OF HEAVEN. "But cursed be the deceiver," etc. He is here called the deceiver, who has the means of presenting a valuable sacrifice, and yet presents a worthless one. He "hath in his flock a male," something that is valuable. It is not the man who openly denies God, and who makes no pretence of serving him, that is here cursed, but the man who professes to serve him, and yet is destitute of the true spirit of devotion. He who offers to him the mere dregs of his time, his strength, his means, virtually presents that "polluted bread" upon the altar which is abhorrent to the Almighty.

CONCLUSION. Let all eschew vain worship, a worship that may be either the worship of a wrong god, some idol, or the worship of the right God in a wrong way. Let those of us who presume to be the religious leaders of our race take care that we do not bring public worship into contempt; and by our lack of spiritual vivacity and the exciting inspiration of true devotion, cause the people to exclaim, "Behold, what a weariness is it!" - D.T.

These words are usually taken as a prophetic announcement of the future rejection of Israel and calling of the Gentiles; but it is difficult to trace the connection of thought, if this be regarded as the prophet's meaning. The LXX. rightly uses the present, not the future, tense throughout this verse. "My Name is great," etc. This gives an actual preset comparison of the fear of God's Name among Gentiles and among Jews, to the manifest disadvantage of the Jew. God found a devoutness, earnestness, and sincerity outside his own people, which wholly put to shame their indifference, formality, and time serving. This suggestion is in the line of Malachi's teaching, whereas a description of future religious conditions seems to introduce a new subject. Dean Plumptre says, "It was given to the last of the prophets to proclaim, with an entirely new distinctness, not only as Isaiah had done, the accession of Gentile proselytes to the worship and faith of Israel, but the acceptance of their worship wherever it might be offered." The Gentile religion in the mind of the prophet was probably that of Zoroaster, the purest form that Gentile religion has ever taken.

I. THE BASIS OF THE UNIVERSAL WORSHIP. The prophet must not be regarded as giving a complete account of the universal worship. He deals with it only in view of his immediate object, and to point his appeal to the unfaithful and time-serving priests. He brings out three points.

1. One characteristic of the universal worship is reverence for the Divine Name. "My Name is great among the Gentiles," No religion can ever fit to the needs of men which does not at least seem to honour the Divine Name. This is our first test of every religion.

2. Another is the demand for prayer. "Incense is offered." Every true religion provides communion with God, and gives man hope in prayer. "When we have learned by experience the unutterable value of prayer, then shall theism become a religion fit for humanity."

3. Another is sincerity shown in purity of offerings. Our Lord expressed the universal worship in a sentence, when he said," The true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth."

II. THE REPROACH OF THE UNIVERSAL WORSHIP. It reproaches all who fail to meet these primal conditions, whatever their historical standing might be. It reproached the Jewish priests of Malachi's time, for they were dishonouring the Name, putting routine for prayer, and making unworthy and impure offerings which revealed their insincerity. - R.T.

Ye said also, Behold, what a weariness is it! It is clearly a bad sign when the people find the worship of God to be a weariness; but it is a much worse sign when the ministers of religion both feel the worship to be a weariness, and show that they feel it to be such.


1. Take it as the proper and fitting expression of the creature's dependence on his Creator. It ought to be full of the joy of thankfulness.

2. Take it as the natural impulse of the sinner's love to his Saviour. Man fallen should feel a joy in worship even beyond that of man unfallen. The song of the redeemed is an altogether nobler song than the innocent can ever sing. And religious worship, kept within the lines of Divine claims, never need be a weariness. It is religion with the multiplied added demands of men that is in danger of proving a weariness. No reasonable man could say that Mosaism was a weariness, so far as it was a Divine institution. But every man could say that Rabbinism was a weariness; for it laded men with burdens too grievous to be borne. Spiritual religion is always simplifying worship. As spirituality fails, exacting demands are increased, and religion tends to become a weariness.

II. THROUGH THE MOODS OF MEN RELIGIOUS WORSHIP BECOMES A WEARINESS. What the priests of earlier times had done gladly and joyfully, the priests of Malachi's time dragged through. The joy of Levites in their work is expressed in the Korahite psalms (Psalm42:84, etc.), which are full of longings for restoration to the temple service. There was no difference in the worship. The difference was in the moods of the men. Their spiritual life was low. They had no personal joy in God, so they could have no joy in the routine of God's worship. The sadness of the restored Judaism of the exiles was that, to so large an extent, it was the restoration of the Jewish formalities, without the restoration of that spiritual life which would have vitalized the formalities. And still the weariness men feel at the length of Christian services, etc., is the revelation of their wrong mood; of their lost personal joy in God their Saviour. - R.T.

The idea in the word "dreadful" would be better conveyed by "awe-ful," if that were a word in familiar use. "Dreadful" we reserve for something that is unusually calamitous and destructive. Awe of God; reverence of his august majesty; fear which leads to the symbolic removal of the shoes; - these things are essential to right and acceptable worship, and these things are absolutely befitting to man the creature, and much more to man the sinner. A man may be tested by the measure of his reverent awe of the Divine Name (comp. Joshua 7:9). "With a startling reiteration, after every specific denunciation of the sins of priests and people, they are represented as asking, as if in utter unconsciousness of their sin," 'Wherein have we polluted thee? Wherein have we despised thy Name?' They have fallen into the last stage of selfish formalism when conscience ceases to do its work as an accusing witness, into the hypocrisy which does not even know itself to be hypocritical; the hypocrisy, in other words, of the scribes and Pharisees."

I. REVERENCE FOR THE DIVINE NAME IS A SIGN OF SPIRITUAL LIFE. It was necessary that God should demand reverence for his Divine Name in one of his ten great commandments, "Thou shalt not take the Name of the Lord thy God in vain; for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh his Name in vain." But that law is never needed by any man who has and cherishes right thoughts of God; he simply cannot take his Name in vain. All worship is truly reverent according to the spiritual life that is at the heart of it. Therefore we train children in reverence for the Divine Name, because it is the basis of spiritual religion.

II. FAILING REVERENCE FOR THE DIVINE NAME IS A SIGN OF FALLING SPIRITUAL LIFE. It is one of the first, and one of the surest, signs. A light tone of speech, in reference to the infinitely Holy One, at once tells of lost spiritual health. Leech the sense of awe, and innumerable evils can creep in. Reverence for the great Name keeps the gate of the soul safe shut against intruders; and it is our continual inspiration to pare and holy living. - R.T.

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