Charles Simeon Commentary - Malachi 1:2 - 1:3

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Charles Simeon Commentary - Malachi 1:2 - 1:3

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This Chapter Verse Commentaries:



Mal_1:2-3. I have loved you, saith the Lord. Yet ye say, Wherein hast thou loved us? Was not Esau Jacob’s brother? saith the Lord: yet I loved Jacob, and I hated Esau.

THE scope of this prophecy is, to reprove the Jews for their impiety, after their re-establishment in their own land, especially for their neglect and profanation of God’s ordinances. To give the greater weight to his reproofs, he begins with reminding them of the mercies which they, above all people, had received; and which they, therefore, should have requited in a far different manner.

To us, no less than to them, may this address be applied. In considering it, I shall be led to shew you,

I.       The distinguishing mercies which we have received at God’s hands—

These may be contemplated,

1.       In our national capacity—

[It is in this view that our text must be primarily understood: for of the temporal condition of the Jews, as contrasted with that of the Edomites, the prophet evidently speaks; the Jews having been favoured with the possession of Canaan, and restored to it after their temporary captivity in Babylon; whilst the Edomites had a very inferior portion in Mount Seir, to which, now that they were expelled from it, no efforts of theirs should ever be able to restore them [Note: Compare Gen_25:23. with ver. 4, 5 and Jer_49:17-18.].

And what nation under heaven has ever been more highly favoured than ours? What nation has more to be thankful for, than we have at this time; having for so long a period escaped the desolations with which other countries have been visited, and been so elevated amongst the kingdoms after so many and great perils [Note: After the war, during the French Revolution.]? The very constitution of our kingdom is such as no other nation in Europe enjoys, or is found capable of enjoying; so great is the liberty possessed by every subject of the realm, and such safeguards existing in the very constitution itself for the preservation of it. As for our religious advantages, they are of incalculable value. No nation under heaven possesses either more light than we, or more liberty to walk, every one of us, according to the dictates of his own conscience. Not Israel itself was more highly favoured than we, in the administration of divine ordinances, or in the communications of God’s blessings by means of them.]

2.       In our individual capacity—

[St. Paul evidently understood our text as comprehending this also: for, having quoted the words in proof of God’s right to dispense his blessings to whomsoever he will, without any respect to their character, past, present, or future, he deduces from it this universal position: “So, then, it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy [Note: See Rom_9:16.].”

Let us see then, whether, as individuals, we have not received many distinguished mercies from God’s hands. If we look around us, may we not see thousands whose lot differs widely from ours, in that we are living in the enjoyment of health, and peace, and perhaps of plenty too, whilst others are pining away, under disease of body, or trouble of mind, or want of even the necessaries of life. Yet is not Esau Jacob’s brother? and are not we thus favoured solely through the good providence of our God?

But let us come to things of greater moment, even to those which affect our everlasting state. May I not say, that God has highly distinguished you, in that you have had, and that for the space of forty years, the Gospel ministered unto you, in all its freeness, and in all its fulness. If all the same truths have with the same fidelity been proclaimed in every place, whence is it that any stigma has been affixed to the ministrations which ye attend? I have no wish to speak of others: but, respecting the Gospel as preached unto you, I am in duty bound to speak; and to say, before you and the whole world, that “I have kept back nothing that was profitable unto you,” but “have declared unto you, as God has helped me, “the whole counsel of God.” Yes, verily, “many kings and righteous men have desired to see those things which ye see, and have not seen them; and to bear those things which ye hear, and have not heard them.” To some of you, too, I trust, the word has come with power, even to the quickening, and sanctifying, and saving of your souls; so that you are walking in the light of God’s countenance, and in a prospect of his glory, whilst others around you are yet sitting in darkness, and perishing in their sins. Yea, I must further add, that many, who were once partakers of all the same advantages with yourselves, are now gone beyond the hope of redemption, and suffering the vengeance of eternal fire; whilst ye are numbered with the saints of God, heirs and expectants of all the blessedness of heaven. Yet, “Is not Esau Jacob’s brother?” Are not those very persons, whose misery we have so much reason to bemoan, members of the same community with you; yea, perhaps of the very same family?

See, then, the truth of God’s assertion in my text: “I have loved you, saith the Lord.”]

Yet, whilst we contemplate these mercies, let us mark also,

II.      Our insensibility in relation to them—

The question with which God’s assertion was repelled by Israel may serve to shew us how his distinguishing favours are regarded by us.

1.       By some they are utterly disclaimed—

[This is the plain import of that impious reply, “Wherein hast thou loved us?” The same kind of reply is made to every accusation which is brought by the prophet; and it invariably imports a denial of his assertions [Note: ver. 6, 7 and Mal_2:17 and Mal_3:7-8; Mal_3:13-14.]. There is not any thing more offensive to the proud heart of man, than to be told that God has dealt with him in a way of sovereign grace and love. Men will not hear of God’s sovereignty: and, though they claim a right to dispose of their own things according to their own will, they deny that right to God. They affirm, that the idea of electing love is subversive of God’s justice: as though man had any claim upon the justice of his God. We had no claim on his justice, as creatures: he might, if it had so pleased him, have reduced us to a state of non-existence, the very hour after he had formed us: how much less can. we have claim on his justice, as sinners! The very devils have as much claim on his justice as we: and if mercy did not rejoice over judgment, there is not one of us that would not, in one moment, be a partaker of their doom.

By many, it is supposed, that, to speak of an interest in God’s electing love, must necessarily be an indication of the most insufferable pride. But who, I would ask, are lifted up with pride; those who acknowledge every blessing to be the unmerited gift of God; or those who imagine that God has had respect to some goodness in them, as the ground on which he has been constrained to distinguish them from others? Who, I say, are obnoxious to the charge of pride, they who give all the glory to God’s free and sovereign grace; or they who arrogate to themselves some good qualities, as determining God in his selection of them in preference to others? If, of two stones lying in a quarry, a builder take one, and polish it with care for a conspicuous ornament to his edifice, and leave the other without so much as giving it any place in his building; has that favoured stone any ground for glorying? Or, if a potter take of one lump of clay a portion, to make it a vessel of honour, whilst of another portion, equally good in itself, he makes a vessel into dishonour; has the one any reason to glory, or the other any reason to complain? This is St. Paul’s own application of our text [Note: Rom_9:19-21.]. One distinction indeed he makes; and it is of great importance that we should make it also; namely, that the vessels of honour are made so by Him; whereas the vessels of dishonour are made so by themselves [Note: Rom_9:22. See the Greek.]: but this is clear, beyond a possibility of doubt, that it is not the person who refers every thing to God as its Author, and acknowledges his obligation to His free and sovereign grace; it is not he, I say, that is to be accused of pride; but he who founds his hopes on some past or future good within his own bosom, as the determining cause with God for the bestowment of his blessings, and the procuring cause of them to his own soul.

Those, therefore, who, in the language of my text, deny the exercise of God’s sovereign grace, are justly obnoxious to his heaviest displeasure.]

2.       By others they are received with sad indifference—

[This is the least that the question in my text can possibly import: “You speak of God’s love to me; but I need to be informed what evidence you have of it: for, if any instances of it have occurred, I have quite forgotten them.”

Now, it is in this way that God’s mercies are, for the most part, received by us. How little do we reflect on the blessings of a free government, which, as Britons, we possess in rich abundance! And how sadly are our personal and domestic comforts overlooked! But, not to dwell on matters of subordinate importance, how little are we sensible of the blessings of a preached Gospel? How many refuse to avail themselves of the advantages they enjoy! and how many make no better use of them than to lull their consciences asleep in sin! Even of those who, in the judgment of charity, are partakers of salvation, how few are impressed with this privilege as they ought to be! Little do they think of the awful state of the Esaus that are around them, and of the obligations they owe to God for his distinguishing love and mercy. My dear brethren, if our minds were in a proper state, we should scarcely find time to think of any thing else but of the wonders of God’s love to us in Christ Jesus, and of the privileges we enjoy as his redeemed people. Suppose an angel were sent down from heaven to occupy our post, would he ever have occasion to put the question, “Wherein has thou loved me?” No: he would never for a moment be insensible of God’s love towards him. And, though we cannot hope to attain to the perfection of angels, this should, on the whole, be our state; more especially because our calls for gratitude infinitely exceed all that angels have ever experienced.]

Let us learn, then, from hence,

1.       To trace all our mercies to the proper source—

[God’s love is the true source of all. And if we were in the habit of tracing them to this, how sweet would our smallest and most common mercies appear! Verily, such a habit as this would be a foretaste even of heaven itself. But the mercy which swallows up, as it were, every other, is the gift of God’s only dear Son to die for us: “God so loved the world, that he gave his only-begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life [Note: Joh_3:16.].” In this we are told, “God commendeth his love towards us [Note: Rom_5:8.]:” referring to it as the most stupendous display of his love that ever was, or ever can be, exhibited to mortal man. On this, then, we should dwell with wonder and amazement: for no such mercy was ever vouchsafed to the fallen angels; yet as creatures, they were our elder brethren: nor is the knowledge of him vouchsafed to above one-sixth of the human race; yet are that vast majority descended from one common parent with us: nor, where his name is known, is his Gospel truly preached, probably not to one part in a hundred of the Christian world: and of those to whom it is ministered, how few receive it in truth! Yet, “Is not Esau Jacob’s brother?” What thanks, then, do we owe to God, if it has been made the power of God to the salvation of our souls! Beloved brethren, trace ye this to its proper source. God has loved you with an everlasting love; and therefore with loving-kindness has he drawn you: and whereinsoever ye differ from others, “it is He, and he alone, that has made you to differ.”]

2.       To improve them for their proper end—

[The Apostle tells us, “We love him, because he first loved us.” And, verily, so it ought to be. The mercies of God ought so to affect our minds, as to make us “yield up our whole selves as living sacrifices unto him.” This is “our reasonable service:” and to perform it should be the continued labour of our lives. What was it that wrought so powerfully on the heart of Paul, and made him so zealous in the service of his God? He tells us, “The love of Christ constraineth me [Note: 2Co_5:14.];” or, as the word imports, ‘carries me away, like an impetuous torrent.’ Thus, then, should it operate on us: and verily it would so operate, if we reflected on it as we ought. If we strove, as we ought, to “comprehend the height and depth and length and breadth of the love of Christ, it would surely fill us with all the fulness of God [Note: Eph_3:18-19.].” I am perfectly persuaded, that the reason of our making such low attainments in religion is, that we forget to meditate on this glorious subject, and occupy our minds with considerations which tend only to depress them and to enervate all their energies. Let us turn our eyes from the world and from our various discouragements, to view the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ; and we shall soon be “changed by it into the same image, from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord [Note: 2Co_3:18.].”]