There are two great ordinances which Divine Wisdom has instituted in this world; and when one or both of them are wretchedly profaned, there is good reason to expect such a sharp rebuke from the Lord as that which we find coming from the lips of His prophet in this chapter. The first of these ordinances is the ministry of the Gospel, which is a special gift to the Lord’s people; and it is designed for the maintaining and preserving of the Church. But in Malachi’s day, this ordinance of ministry was profaned by those very men who were dignified and entrusted with the honor of its holy office. They profaned the holy things of God; and for this crime, they were severely threatened (verses 1-9).
The second of these great ordinances is that of the marriage-covenant, which is a common gift to the whole world of humanity; and it is designed for the maintaining and preserving of the human race. But this was also sadly profaned in the prophet’s day, in a variety of ways, by both the priests and the people. They were guilty of marrying heathen foreigners (verses 11-12), treating their wives unkindly (verse 13), putting them away (verse 16), and herein dealing treacherously (verses 10, 14, and 15). And that which was at the bottom of this and all other instances of their profaneness and practical atheism was their incorrect view of God (verse 17); they imagined Him to be just like their own wicked selves – which was, in effect, to say, “There is no God.” And these reproofs that were originally preached to the ancient Jews are still applicable as warnings to us today.
The words in the foregoing chapter were directed to the priests who despised the Lord’s name (chapter 1:6). But the crimes which were there charged upon them related to the sacrifices that were offered at the Temple, and so they might be inclined to think that they could find some excuse in the fact that they merely offered what the people brought; and if they were not so good as they should have been, it was not their fault, but the people’s. However, if the priests had given the people better instructions, then the people would have been more likely to bring better offerings; and that is why the blame chiefly returned upon the priests. They should have taught the people the good knowledge of the Lord, and how to worship Him aright. And since they failed in this solemn responsibility, the Lord promised them that He would curse their blessings. Does not the curse of the Fall rest upon every one of us, and upon every act that we do, until it is taken away by Christ?
In order to show the wicked priests of Malachi’s day how far they had strayed, the Lord sets before them the ideal of the true priesthood, as He had established it with the family of Levi centuries before (verses 4-7). The Lord had made a covenant with them, and they were to have the Law of God upon their lips, so that thereby they might instruct and teach the people. However, even when the Levitical priesthood was at its best, the priests still fell short; for after all, they were only men, just like those persons to whom they were ministering. All that is here said of Levi and the Levitical priesthood must chiefly be understood as a picture or foreshadow of the Lord Jesus; for never could it truly be said of anyone except Christ that iniquity was not found in His lips! (verse 6) When we read these blessed verses in this light; and when we see them to be speaking of our Great Levi, the Lord Jesus; and when we connect these words with our relationship to Him – what can be equally lovely or blessed? It is with Him that Jehovah has declared His covenant of peace! And this thought is made even more precious when we remember that He with Whom the covenant was made is the Fulfiller of it, the Messenger of it, the Administrator of it, and the Preserver of all the blessings of it. So truly blessed, therefore, is this declaration of our God, that we can never be sufficiently thankful that He has thus revealed His gracious mind concerning it!
Corrupt practices are the fruit of corrupt principles; and he who is false to his God will not be true to his fellow human beings. So it is no surprise, then, that the Lord moves immediately from His reproofs of the priests for their failure in their ministry, to rebuking both priests and people for their contempt of the marriage-covenant (verses 10-17). On more than one occasion after the Jews’ return from Babylonian captivity, they became guilty of putting away their wives from their own nation, in order to make room for heathen wives from among their foreign neighbors. Thus they embittered the lives of those women who were their lawful wives (verse 13). Needless to say, this was very displeasing to the Lord. A man’s wife is his nearest and dearest relation in the world; she is not to be looked upon as his servant, but as his best friend. God could have made another woman for Adam in addition to Eve, if He had desired for him to have more than one wife. Why, then, did He make only one woman for one man for life? It was so that their sons and daughters may be a Godly offspring. When the marriage-covenant is broken, it casts a bad reflection upon that which the covenant represents – namely, Christ’s own loving and everlasting union between Himself and His Bride, the Church. His love is a very serious and abiding matter; He will love her throughout eternity. He loved her so much that He died for her; and therefore, we may be assured that His love for her will never die. “He hateth putting away” (verse 16). Let us pray for grace to imitate Him in all of our relationships, especially in our marriages!
Thank You, dear Lord Jesus, for the assurance that You love us with an everlasting love, and that You will never put us away from You! Amen.
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