Then the offerings of Judah and Jerusalem will please the LORD, as in days of old and years gone by.
pleasant to God reminds one of Noah's sacrifice on the cleansed and restored earth: "And Noah builded an altar unto the Lord; and took of every clean beast, and of every clean fowl, and offered burnt offerings on the altar. And the Lord smelled a sweet savour." The opposite sentiment, God finding man's offerings unpleasant, and even offensive, reminds of Isaiah's opening reproaches, uttered in God's name: "Incense is an abomination unto me .... Your new moons and your appointed feasts my soul hateth: they are a trouble unto me; I am weary to bear them" The carelessness of the Levites in the time of Malachi had been making the offerings an offence to God. It was evident enough that they were routine and formality. One sign, and the first sign, of spiritual purification would be that the public sacrifices and services would take a new and acceptable tone.
I. THE GRACE OF GOD WHICH FINDS PLEASURE IN MAN'S OFFERINGS. It might have been that God only required offerings, and felt no personal concern in the offerings, as expressing the feelings of the offerers. It is the marvel of God's grace that he puts personal feeling into men's acts and relations; and by his personal feeling calls upon us to put our personal feeling into those acts. Then the value of an offering lies not in what is, but in the pleasure which it gives to God; and that pleasure depends not on its mere value, but on the feeling of the offerer which it carries. The test of every offering is this - Can God be pleased with it? Of the supreme offering of the obedient Son, God said, "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased." Of some offerings the apostle could say, "With such sacrifices God is well pleased."
II. THE DUTY OF MAN TO FIND GOD PLEASURE THROUGH HIS OFFERINGS. A duty resting on
(3) personal affection.
If we realize what God claims, we must seek to please him. If we realize what he has done for us, we must seek to please him. And the impulses of love will surely lead us to seek to please him. What man asks by his gifts and sacrifices is, "Make thy face to shine upon thy servant." "The essence of all sacrifice is the same in every age. No sacrifice is pleasing to God, if not accompanied with the sacrifice of the heart and will, and of all the faculties, intellectual, spiritual, bodily, of the offerer; and no sacrifice is pleasing to God, except by virtue of its reference to the one sacrifice of the dearly beloved Son, in whom he is well pleased" (Bishop Wordsworth). Still, to God, formality is an offence; routine a weariness; hypocrisy the supreme offence; and still, to God, humility, thankfulness, trust, and love are a holy joy. - R.T.
The days of old.
I. THE DAYS OF OLD HAVE CREATED THE PRESENT DAYS. Time is a development, society a building, humanity a growth. No age can begin for itself. The past surrounds us everywhere. "You will find fibrous roots of this day's occurrences among the dust of Cadmus and Trismegistus, of Tubalcain and Triptolemus: the top-roots of them are with Father Adam himself and the cinders of Eve's first fire." — Carlyle. You cannot understand the present without a knowledge of the past. This is true politically, socially, and religiously. It is true of nations and of each individual life.
II. THE DAYS OF OLD ARE FULL OF EXAMPLES WORTHY OF IMITATION. "History is philosophy teaching by examples. — Bolingbroke. Jewish history was full of examples that might have improved and instructed the degenerate age in which Malachi lived. Good men's lives are for all time. They are God's gifts to the world. They brighten the days of old and make them influential. We can best discover what those days were by the lives of the men who lived in them —
"There is a history in all men's lives
Figuring the nature of the times deceased."
= — Shakespeare.One age may imitate another. Biographies teach more powerfully than philosophical deductions.
III. THE DAYS OF OLD ARE FULL OF DIVINE REVELATIONS. God reveals Himself in many ways. Each age has its own revelations. God revealed Himself to the world in past ages as He does not now. The patriarchs, prophets, and apostles had visions of His glory denied to men of this generation. God was manifested in the flesh in days of old. Heaven seemed nearer to the earth then. God expects us to learn His will by His acts in past times; by the working out of His purposes; by rewarding the righteous and punishing the wicked; by revealing His self-sacrificing love in the cross of Christ. The Bible is God's record of the "days of old." We may learn what He will be to us in our days by what He was to men then. His faithfulness, mercy, and truth are written unmistakably on those wondrous days.
IV. THE DAYS OF OLD SHOULD BE SURPASSED BY THE PRESENT DAYS. Men should be more virtuous and pure as the days roll on. Human experience should lead to advancement in holiness. All departures from the past are not in the line of true progress. Some ages have prided themselves in their onward movements when they have really been retrograding. Sad when in the life of a nation, or in the life of a man, the former days are nobler than the present. Ages should be stepping stones for humanity to rise to God. Every age should be an advance upon that which has preceded it.
(W. Osborne Lilley.)
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