By Henry Mahan
The preceding chapter (Malachi 2) is filled with rebuke and judgment against both the priests and the people for their sins.
The priests were apostates from the way of the Lord and caused the people to stumble (Mal. 2:8-9). The chapter closes with these words, 'You have wearied the Lord with your wicked words, it saying that the Lord takes delight in your evil ways and that there is no judgment and righteousness in God. You ask, 'Where is the God of judgment?' Chapter Three begins with the answer of our Lord to this question.
v. 1. 'Behold I will send my messenger.' This is John the Baptist, called the last of the Old Testament prophets, who was sent to 'prepare the way before him' (Isa. 40:3; John 1:6-9). The allusion is to kings and great men sending ambassadors before them to give notice of their coming. John said, 'I am not the Christ! I am not that prophet! I am not Elijah! I am the voice crying in the wilderness--behold the Lamb!' All of the prophets have written and preached of the Messiah's coming (Acts 10:43). Now the last of their number declares that the Messiah has been born of woman and is in the midst of them (John 1:29- 34).
'And the Lord whom ye seek shall suddenly come to his temple.' The Lord Jehovah is speaking of himself, the Son of God, the promised Messiah and Christ, the Lord and head of the church, the Redeemer of true Israel (John 4:25; Matt. 2:2-6).
Some were seeking him as a temporal deliverer, to free them from national bondage and to restore the earthly glory to Israel; but some, like Simeon, believed the word and waited for 'thy salvation' (Luke 2:25-32). When the Lord speaks of coming to his temple, he is actually talking about coming to the material temple in Jerusalem (the second temple--Haggai 2:1-9). The temple was built to be HIS, devoted to his worship, to reveal his glory and his mercy to sinners through the sacrifices and the mercy-seat. He came to that temple on several occasions (Luke 2:22-27; Mark 11:15-17). 'He was in the world and the world knew him not,' and 'He came unto his own (temple, priesthood, nation) and his own received him not' (John 1:10-11).
'Even the messenger of the covenant.' This is the covenant of grace, the everlasting covenant of which our Lord Jesus is not only the surety and mediator, but called here the messenger. He is called the messenger of that everlasting covenant of grace (Heb. 13:20-21; 7:22; 8:6) because it is revealed, made known, and manifested in and through him (John 1:14; 1 John 5:20; Eph. 1:8-10). As our king he reigns, as our priest he perfects us, and as our prophet he reveals the mysteries of God's covenant.
'In whom ye delight; behold he shall come.' All believers delight in him. 'Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory' (1 Pet. 1:8); and all believers delight in his covenant. David's last words on earth were words of joy and confidence in the Lord's covenant of grace (2 Sam. 23:1-5). We rejoice in the messenger of the covenant and in the covenant--its antiquity (2 Thess. 2:13), its sureness (Rom. 4:16), its immutability (Rom. 11:29), its fullness (Col. 2.19-10), its beloved messenger, surety, and advocate (1 John 2:1; 1 Tim. 2:5).
v. 2. 'Who shall abide the day of his coming?' Who shall stand when he appears? Who shall listen when he speaks? 'Who hath believed our report?' Is this not only Isaiah's question but the question of every prophet?
When he says, 'I and my Father are one,' who shall abide?
When he declares, 'My kingdom is not of this world,' my kingdom is a spiritual kingdom, a kingdom of righteousness, peace, and joy, who shall abide?
When he says, 'All that my Father giveth to me shall come to me,' and 'No man can come to me except my Father draw him,' who shall abide?
When he preaches the gospel of the cross, the tomb, and the glorious resurrection as our substitute and saviour, who shall hear?
When he talks of the new birth, eating his flesh and drinking his blood, of persecution and division caused by him, who shall abide?
'He is like a refiner's fire and like a fuller's soap.' His word is called a fire (Jer. 23:29). When it comes in power, it separates the gold from the dross, truth from error, genuine faith from false faith, and will try the works and preaching of men (1 Cor. 3:13- 15). These women would boil the garments in hot water. Then they were rubbed with fuller's soap, which whitened them and took out the spots. We are sanctified by his word of truth.
v. 3. 'And he shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver.' One can see the old refiner of precious metal. He made the fire; he knows how hot it should be; he knows when to put the metal into the fire, how long to leave it, and when to take it out. All the time he sits (unalarmed and untroubled) and waits for the purifying process to do its work. Our Lord Jesus Christ has come to this earth and finished the work given to him. He is exalted at God's right hand, seated until his church is called out and his enemies are made his footstool. This verse denotes his constant care over his church from the cradle to the grave. His eye is upon them in all their ways. He will purify these 'sons of Levi,' for they are all priests; and he will purge them that they may believe him, worship him, and offer sacrifices of faith, love, praise, and thanksgiving in righteousness; that is, in the righteousness of Christ (Jer. 23:5-6; 33:16). He began the work of purifying and purging, and he shall finish it (Phil. 1:6).
v. 4. All spiritual worship, faith, praise, and offerings are acceptable to God through the Lord Jesus Christ if such are offered in the faith of his righteousness imputed and his atoning sacrifice. Without Christ, nothing we do or say is acceptable to God (Rom. 8:8; Heb. 11:6).
vv. 5-6. The Lord declares that he will be a swift witness against all ungodly men and women and 'their foot shall slide in due time' (Deut. 32:35). But as he is unchangeable in his judgments against sin, he is unchangeable in his love and mercy to his people! Our confidence and assurance is based not upon our faithfulness but upon his! We are often called 'the sons of Jacob' because, as Jacob was loved, chosen, called, and blessed by the sovereign grace of God, so are we!
'All that I am, even here on earth,
All that I hope to be,
When Jesus comes and glory dawns,
I owe it, Lord, to thee.' (H. Bonar)