Mal_3:1-3. Behold, I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me: and the Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to his people, even the messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in: behold, he shall come, saith the Lord of hosts. But who may abide the day of his coming? and who shall stand when he appearelh? for he is like a refiner’s fire, and like fullers’ sope. And he shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver: and he shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer unto the Lord an offering in righteousness.
THE goodness and long-suffering of God are often made an occasion of profane derision and atheistical contempt. Because he does not instantly interpose to vindicate the honour of his injured Majesty, many will deny his interference in the concerns of men, and his determination to punish sin in a future world. We are assured that such scoffers will be found in the latter days, who will insultingly cry, “Where is the promise of his coming [Note: 2Pe_3:3-4.]?” And such there have been in every age and place. In the days of Malachi there were many who “even wearied God” by their impious language: they said, that God delighted in the wicked as much as in the good; and denied that he would everput any difference between them; “Where,” said they, “is the God of Judgment [Note: Mal_2:17.]?” It was in answer to that question that the Lord Jesus Christ inspired the prophet to announce his advent in the flesh, and to declare the discriminating effects that should be produced by it.
Let us notice what he says respecting,
Our Lord’s advent—
Jesus is here described under the most august titles—
[He is “the Lord,” the supreme Ruler and Governor of heaven and earth, “the Lord of all [Note: Act_10:36.],” even “Lord of lords, and King of kings [Note: Rev_17:14.].” Yet, notwithstanding his equality with the Father as God, he “assumes the form of a servant, and comes as “the Messenger of the covenant.” He made a covenant with the Father for us, and himself became “the surety of that covenant [Note: Heb_7:22; Heb_8:6.],” pledging himself to God, that our part should be performed, and to us also, that God’s part should be fulfilled. This covenant he confirmed and ratified with his own blood [Note: Luk_22:20. 1Co_11:25.]; and he “calls us into the bonds of it,” assuring us, that it is “ordered in all things and sure,” and that all the blessings of it shall be imparted to those who believe in him. In this office he was “an object of desire and delight” long before he came into the world: He was “the desire of all nations [Note: Hag_2:7.]:” not indeed that all actually sought and delighted in him; but he was the joy of all that knew him; they who saw his day, though at ever so great a distance, rejoiced in it [Note: Joh_8:56.]; and if all the earth had known his office and character, they would have been like-minded with those, who “waited for him as the consolation of Israel,” and “looked for redemption in Jerusalem [Note: Luk_2:25; Luk_2:38.].”]
The circumstances of his advent also are minutely foretold—
[He was to be preceded by a herald, or harbinger, who was to announce his speedy approach, and “to prepare” the minds of men for his reception. This messenger was John, who had the distinguished honour of pointing him out as that very “Lamb of God, who should take away the sin of the world [Note: Joh_1:23; Joh_1:29.].”
The temple was the place to which in a more especial manner he was to come: yes, it was while the second temple was yet standing, that he was to come. And thither was he brought at the purification of his mother, when that holy patriarch, Simeon, took him up in his arms, and blessed God for permitting him thus to embrace the promised Saviour [Note: Luk_2:27-29.]. It was at the temple also that his parents found him conversing with the doctors when he was but twelve years of age: and, when his mother expressed the sorrow that she and her husband had felt while seeking him, he answered, (doubtless in reference to this and similar prophecies,) “Wist ye not, that I must be at my Father’s [Note:
.]?” It was in the temple that he delivered many of his instructive discourses, and wrought many stupendous miracles, and he repeatedly purged it from the profanations which the venal priests had allowed [Note: Mat_21:12-14; Mat_21:23.].
His advent, however, though so long predicted, was to be “sudden,” as in fact it was: for though there was then a general expectation of his arrival, yet the manner of his appearance was so contrary to the carnal notions which were entertained respecting him, that he was overlooked; and, instead of being welcomed as the Messiah, was rejected as an impostor.
The repetition of this prediction in the close of the verse is remarkable as being intended to evince the certainty of the event predicted.]
The prophet, having thus foretold the Messiah’s advent, proceeds to declare,
Its diversified effects—
As the characters of those, to whom he was to come, were very various, so his advent was to prove,
[Many in that and every age have professed a great regard for the law of God, while they have really hated it in their hearts, and have shewn their utter enmity to God under the semblance of zeal for his honour. On the other hand, many, who have been despised of their fellow-creatures on account of some enormities they may have committed, have really possessed a broken and contrite heart, and have proved incomparably more willing to submit to Jesus, than any self-applauding Pharisee ever was. Now to discover these hidden dispositions of the heart was one intent of our Lord’s coming: “He was set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel, and for a sign that should be spoken against, that the thoughts of many hearts should be revealed [Note: Luk_2:34-35.].” And this was the very effect produced by him; for the Scribes and Pharisees, filled with a conceit of their superior knowledge and goodness, cast him out with abhorrence, while many publicans and harlots believed on him to the saving of their souls. This very effect also still follows from the preaching of his gospel; the precious are separated from the vile, and men, though unconscious of it themselves, are led to manifest their real characters, as careless Gallios, atheistical scoffers, proud Pharisees, or humble believers.]
[Some there were in our Lord’s day, who, the more they were rubbed with the fuller’s sope, and heated by the refiner’s fire, were the more freed both from their outward filthiness and their inward depravity: the apostle tells us of many, who, having once abandoned themselves to the most infamous lusts, were “washed, sanctified, and justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God [Note: 1Co_6:11.].” So at this time many of the “sons of Levi,” not ministers only, but people also (for all believers are now “priests unto God”) are “purified as silver and gold, and offer to the Lord their offerings in righteousness.” And it is no small consolation to them to know, that, while they are in the furnace, the Refiner himself “sitteth” over them, watching the process with all due solicitude, and taking care that they shall lose nothing but their dirt and dross.]
[A “refiner’s fire” will consume the dross, and “fullers’ sope” will destroy the filth, of that to which it is applied: so will our Lord eventually destroy many of those to whom he comes; He will prove to them no other than “a stumbling-block, and a gin, and a snare [Note: Isa_8:14.].” When he appeared in the days of his flesh, how many were there that could not “stand” the trial! their prejudices were excited, their enmity called forth, their hearts hardened, their sins multiplied. Thus it is also in this day: Christ comes, in the preaching of his Gospel, and “sits as a refiner and purifier of silver:” but do all, to whom his as a refiner and purifier of silver:” but do all, to whom his word is preached, approve themselves to be pure gold? Would to God that this were the case! But, alas! the greater part shew themselves to be but “reprobate silver,” or mere dross; who, instead of being purified and rendered “meet for their Master’s use,” are only “as vessels of wrath, fitted for everlasting destruction [Note: Rom_9:22.].”]
Let two questions close this interesting subject—
What reception have you given to Christ since his first coming?
[Ministers are sent, like John, to prepare his way; they are “a voice crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert an highway for our God!” Let me then ask, Are you “seeking this Lord?” Are you “delighting in him as the Messenger of the covenant?” Do you open your hearts to him as “his temple,” and invite “the King of glory to enter in?” Are you welcoming him even under the character of a refiner, and saying, ‘Put me, Lord, into any furnace, so that I may but come out of it purified as gold?” Is it your one desire and endeavour to “offer unto him your offerings in righteousness?” and do the sacrifices of prayer and praise ascend up daily from the altar of your hearts, inflamed by fire that you have received from heaven? This, this is the reception which he should meet with; God grant that he may be thus precious to all our souls!]
What preparation have you made for his future advent?
[It is no less certain that He will come again, than that he has already come. Nor will his advent be less “sudden” than at his first arrival: yea rather, as Noah’s flood, it will come wholly unexpected by the world at large [Note: Mat_24:37-39.]. “But who may abide the day of his coming? and who shall stand when he appeareth?” That will be a discriminating day indeed: all that have ever lived will have “the counsels of their hearts made manifest;” and the tares shall then be separated from the wheat, and the sheep from the goats. Alas! how will his fire then burn up the ungodly [Note: Compare Mal_4:1. Nah_1:6. Rev_6:15-17.]! and how strict a scrutiny must every one undergo, before he shall be finally approved [Note: 1Co_3:13-14.]! Brethren, are ye ready? Are ye “prepared to meet your God?” Have ye been so purified from the love of sin, that ye are now “meet for the inheritance of the saints in light?” Are ye so “seeking and delighting in Jesus” now, that ye can give up your account to him with joy and not with grief? O say not, Where is the God of judgment? Think not that he delighteth in any who commit iniquity: but know that “he will come even as a thief in the night;” and that it is to those only who look for him, that he will appear to their everlasting salvation [Note: Heb_9:28.].]