THE PROPHECY LETTER
Studies in Malachi
H. E. Lafferty
The years of Malachi the prophet stretch from about 500BC to 478BC – about 100 years after the destruction of the Temple, and about thirty years after the return from Babylonian captivity. Malachi is a prophet of Judah, of course, and his name means “My messenger.”
Notice that his words are directed at “Israel,” the name now assumed by Judah after the exile. There have been no prophets for Israel, the northern tribes, since Hosea, who ceased his ministry around 712BC, immediately before the Assyrian captivity of the Ten Tribes.
Malachi 1:1 The burden of the word of the LORD to Israel by Malachi.
We will find that this prophet delivered, as God’s Messenger, five separate and distinct messages. They concern …
Malachi 1.1 himself,
Levitical Priests 2.7 the true Priests,
John Immerser 3.1 as a herald of the King,
Christ 3.1 Messiah,
Elijah 4.5 herald to Christ
This final prophecy introduces the fulfillment of YHVH’s prophecy to Moses, the first prophet to Israel, in Deuteronomy 18. 15-19. Cf., Acts 3. 18-26; 7.37.
It brings into consideration the Father’s principle of election: His inherent right to favor one person rather than another, even in disregard for His own incipient principles. He is the final Judge and Arbiter in every case; only He can make final decisions upon whom or what He will favor.
Mal 1:2 I have loved you (Israel – Hosea 11.1; Deuteronomy 7.8), saith the LORD. Yet ye say, Wherein hast thou loved us? Was not Esau Jacob's brother? saith the LORD: yet I loved Jacob,
Mal 1:3 And I hated Esau, and laid his mountains and his heritage waste for the dragons (jackals) of the wilderness.
This statement presupposes that the hearer realizes that Esau was the older of the twin boys, Esau having been delivered before Jacob. Therefore the blessings should normally have fallen upon Esau, but they fell upon Jacob instead.
Note that “Jacob” and “Esau” here are further put by metonymy for their posterities.
The next verse addresses the desolate conditions into which Edom had come at the time of Babylon’s invasion of Judea, for Ammon, Moab, and Edom had also been victims, along with Egypt.
Edom is here vowing to “return,” and so it has. The ancient territory of Edom today is well populated by both Jews and Arabs. Obadiah prophesies the fate of Edom, q.v.
Mal 1:4 Whereas Edom (Esau) saith, We are impoverished (that is, beaten down, or defeated), but we will return and build the desolate places; thus saith the LORD of hosts, They shall build, but I will throw down; and they shall call them, The border of wickedness, and, The people against whom the LORD hath indignation forever.
What was the wickedness of Esau? The writer to the Hebrews informs: Lest there be any fornicator, or profane person, as Esau, who for one morsel of meat sold his birthright. Hebrews12:16
Isaac’s son Esau thus exhibited some of the most ungodly characteristics that are noted among the human race, being a fornicator and “profane,” or pugnacious and derogatory in his speech.
But this latter word has a deeper meaning.
Merriam Webster’s Dictionary gives two definitions of “profane:”
1. To treat (something sacred) with abuse, irreverence or contempt; to desecrate; and
2. To debase by a wrong, unworthy or vulgar use.
The second definition brings into consideration Esau’s regard – rather, disregard – of his birthright, willfully giving it (“selling it”) to Jacob for a bowl of stew.
It must be one of the most far-reaching, colossally obtuse, mistaken acts of disregard or thoughtlessness in all history!
A preliminary promise of Israel’s final blessing is seen next …
Mal 1:5 And your eyes shall see (perceive, or understand), and ye shall say, The LORD will be magnified from the border of Israel.
But with the then-present generation, those who have returned to the Land from Babylon, there still abounds iniquity – not the idolatry that formerly afflicted the People, but that of offering inferior or sickly sacrifices, contaminated bread, inferior, unacceptable offerings. In addition, they were not properly addressing the loving care of their elderly persons, or giving righteous regard to family relationships (approving the commission of adultery, for example).
His main condemnation is upon the priests, who are held to be the chief cause … for it is the leaders of societies which set the standards for all others, is it not?
Mal 1:6 A son honoureth his father, and a servant his master: if then I be a father, where is mine honour? (they were giving Him no honor) and if I be a master, where is my fear? (they were not “fearing” or respecting God) saith the LORD of hosts unto you, O priests, that despise my name. And ye say, Wherein have we despised thy name?
YHVH’s detailed reasons for not accepting their offerings are now listed; note the range of transgressions …
Mal 1:7 Ye offer polluted bread upon mine altar; and ye say, Wherein have we polluted thee? In (doing) that, ye say, ‘The table of the LORD is contemptible.’
Mal 1:8 And if ye offer the blind for sacrifice, is it not evil? and if ye offer the lame and sick, is it not evil? offer it now unto thy governor; will he be pleased with thee, or accept thy person? saith the LORD of hosts.
As a true test, He advises, just try offering such provisions to your earthly masters.
Mal 1:9 And now, I pray you, beseech God that he will be gracious unto us: this hath been by your means: will he regard your persons? saith the LORD of hosts.
Mal 1:10 Who is there even among you (priests) that would shut the doors for nought? neither do ye kindle fire on mine altar for nought. I have no pleasure in you, saith the LORD of hosts, neither will I accept an offering at your hand.
A short f. n. in ESword offers this information: “Who: Instead of mi "who," (in) one manuscript … with the LXX, reads ki, "surely," which is adopted by Houbigant and Abp. Newcome, who renders, "Surely the doors shall be closed against you, neither shall ye kindle the fire of my altar in vain."
This explanation makes the text intelligible. The doors of the Temple are essentially “closed” to them because He now has no pleasure in them, and will not accept their sacrifices.
Note that to this point, no mention has been made of Gentile blessings. Now He informs Malachi that His blessings shall extend to the ends of the earth – specifically to the Gentiles. Offerings shall be presented to Him everywhere (“in every place”) – both incense and flesh offerings.
The general sense is that, given His People’s abject failure to accept and live according to His law, He will turn to the Gentiles. The Apostle Paul and his fellow disciple Barnabas literally did this in Acts 13: 46, using almost this same terminology!
Mal 1:11 For from the rising of the sun even unto the going down of the same my name shall be great among the Gentiles; and in every place incense shall be offered unto my name, and a pure offering: for my name shall be great among the heathen, saith the LORD of hosts.
This blessed condition is foretold in such succinct passages as Numbers 14: 21, q.v.
Their disregard for it, like the dismissiveness of Esau as to his inheritance, was colossal. The same word (ye have profaned it …) is applied to their attitude toward His favor.
Mal 1:12 But ye have profaned it, in that ye say, The table of the LORD is polluted; and the fruit thereof, even his meat, is contemptible.
Mal 1:13 Ye said also, Behold, what a weariness is it! and ye have snuffed at it (have denigrated it, or scoffed at it), saith the LORD of hosts; and ye brought that which was torn, and the lame, and the sick (all of which are unacceptable to Him); thus ye brought an offering: should I accept this of your hand? saith the LORD. Their offerings were in themselves inherently unsuitable in lockstep with their unrepentingly offering them. Both components were unacceptable to the Almighty.
Mal 1:14 But cursed be the deceiver, which hath in his flock a (healthy) male, and voweth, and sacrificeth (instead of the animal in good health) unto the Lord a corrupt thing (a diseased animal): for I am a great King, saith the LORD of hosts, and my name is dreadful among the heathen.
This verse seems to present overtones of the affair of Ananias and Sapphira, who lied to the Spirit of God, claiming to have given all the monetary proceeds of their avowed offering to the Ecclesia of their day when they had not. Cf., Acts 5. <HEL>
Castigation of False Priests
Mal 2:1 And now, O ye priests, this commandment is for you.
Mal 2:2 If ye will not hear, and if ye will not lay it to heart, to give glory unto my name, saith the LORD of hosts, I will even send a curse upon you, and I will curse your blessings: yea, I have cursed them already, because ye do not lay it to heart.
Mal 2:3 Behold, I will corrupt your seed, and spread dung upon your faces, even the dung of your solemn feasts; and one shall take you away with it.
Their entire relationship with the Almighty had thus become irreparably compromised – their ability to be reproved and instructed had been destroyed by their conduct and attitude.
Mal 2:4 And ye shall know that I have sent this commandment unto you, that my covenant might be with Levi (among which were the true priests), saith the LORD of hosts.
Mal 2:5 My covenant was with him (with Levi: Deuteronomy 3: 8-10) of life and peace; and I gave them to him for the fear wherewith he feared me, and was afraid before my name. Thus Levi’s conduct was contrasted sharply with theirs.
Mal 2:6 The law of truth was in his mouth, and iniquity was not found in his lips: he walked with me in peace and equity, and did turn many away from iniquity.
The True (Levitical) Priests
Mal 2:7 For the priest's lips should keep knowledge (note that “keeping” means responsible custody, and therefore also faithful transmission of His knowledge to their subjects), and they should seek the law at his mouth: for he (the true priest) is the messenger of the LORD of hosts.
The word “messenger” is translated from the Hebrew malak, meaning “an angel (also a prophet, priest or teacher): ambassador, angel, king, messenger.” The acceptable service of Levitical priests was therefore elevated to the level of angelic service!
Mal 2:8 But ye are departed out of the way; ye have caused many to stumble at the law; ye have corrupted the covenant of Levi, saith the LORD of hosts.
Mal 2:9 Therefore have I also made you contemptible and base before all the people, according as ye have not kept my ways, but have been partial in the law.
Mal 2:10 Have we not all one father? hath not one God created us? why do we deal treacherously every man against his brother, by profaning the covenant of our fathers?
Their deceitful behavior toward their brethren belied the dignity of their station – having been created by “one God” – and was an overt act of defiance of Him.
Mal 2:11 Judah hath dealt treacherously, and an abomination is committed in Israel and in Jerusalem; for Judah hath profaned the holiness of the LORD which he loved, and hath married the daughter of a strange god.
Mal 2:12 The LORD will cut off the man that doeth this, the master and the scholar, out of the tabernacles of Jacob, and him that offereth an offering unto the LORD of hosts.
Mal 2:13 And this have ye done again, covering the altar of the LORD with tears, with weeping, and with crying out (that is, with false, insincere supplication), insomuch that he regardeth not the offering any more, or receiveth it with goodwill at your hand.
Mal 2:14 Yet ye say, Wherefore? Because the LORD hath been witness between thee and the wife of thy youth, against whom thou hast dealt treacherously (the Hebrew word for “treachery” is bagad, meaning unfaithfully) : yet is she thy companion, and the wife of thy covenant.
What was the nature of this “treachery?” From the prophet’s words, it was probably adultery – the forsaking of one’s marriage vows … and had been consistently practiced in the parallel sin of idolatry – the forsaking of YHVH for an idol.
Mal 2:15 And did not he make one (that is, did He not make the man and his wife one? Cf. Genesis 2: 24)? Yet had he the residue of the spirit. And wherefore (why did He make them) one? That he might seek a godly seed. Therefore take heed to your spirit, and let none deal treacherously (unfaithfully) against the wife of his youth.
Mal 2:16 For the LORD, the God of Israel, saith that he hateth putting away: for one covereth violence with his garment, saith the LORD of hosts: therefore take heed to your spirit, that ye deal not treacherously.
Mal 2:17 Ye have wearied the LORD with your words. Yet ye say, Wherein have we wearied him? When ye say, Every one that doeth evil is good in the sight of the LORD, and he delighteth in them; or, Where is the God of judgment?
Their consistent practice was to offer inferior sacrifices with insincerity, without repentance, offering with rote stereotyping, without feeling, even denying YHVH’s will or even His ability to punish them or bring evil upon them; yet all the while seeking His blessing upon them. <HEL>
Herald for Messiah
Now the prophet begins a short treatise upon the Messenger of YHVH who should make known Messiah through his unique work. That messenger is usually known as John the Baptist, but we prefer John Immerser, or John Baptizer for obvious reasons (he was not “Baptist” as to religious conviction!).
His work was essential to the manifestation of Jesus the Christ – the Anointed Savior – and was performed by John in complete oblivion as to just Whom the Savior would be! John’s bounden duty was to preach repentance to Israel of his day, a means by which he should prepare the way of the Lord, Who was about to “come to His temple,” meaning to appear at Jerusalem in order to fulfill the first portions of His work of salvation by offering His Blood of the Everlasting Covenant, thus opening the way to salvation which had been closed for so many millennia.
Mal 3:1 Behold, I will send My messenger (whose name was John. See John 1. 6, 7), and he shall prepare the way before Me: and the Lord, Whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to His temple, even the Messenger of the covenant (Christ), whom ye delight in: behold, He (that latter “Messenger”) shall come, saith the LORD of hosts.
Although these words may speak of His ultimate, Second Advent, in context, we believe that they refer more perfectly to Jesus’ first appearance. In a certain sense, He was “brought to the temple” by being born in Israel according to the divine will. In the most literal sense, He was brought to the Temple (“came to His temple”) when He was circumcised, and again when His and Mary’s days of purification had been accomplished.
It was after THAT time that John Immerser did his work of introducing Messiah to his people by baptizing repentant Jews in the wilderness with “John’s baptism.” It was a baptism for the remission of sins only; it was being administered to Jews – the People of the Covenant already (a national covenant between themselves and God).
After due critical consideration of all the relevant texts, we reject the notion that John Immerser will come to Israel just prior to the Second Coming of Messiah to His people in the end-time as so many seem to be convinced.
Jesus Himself testified of John Immerser, in His own day, that … if ye will receive it, this is Elias, which was for to come. Matthew 11. 14. Cf., Matt 11.10; Luke 7.27.
In clearer terms, “This is Elijah who was prophesied by my servants, to appear and to prepare the way of the LORD.”
In these simple words, the Master adequately explains that the prophecy here in Malachi 3: 1 is exhausted (fulfilled) in the ministry of John Immerser.
But even in Jesus’ phraseology, He seems to be prophesying that many of the end-time will not understand His words in this way!
Our practice is to take the LORD Jesus at His word in such instances.
If “Elias” is destined appear to Israel prior to the Second Coming of Christ, why does one suppose that they are ignorant of the true identity the Personage that they see, and are filled with wonderment, when they behold a new Ally among them, combating their mortal enemies overtly before their eyes, as in Isaiah 63: 1-6? In that divine forecast, they cry, mystified, “Who is THIS Who comes from Edom? With dyed (blood-stained) garments from Bozrah?”
The prophet’s next words do leap forward to His Second Advent, where His fury and judgment are referenced – His being a Refiner … and a “Fuller,” both terms meaning one who brings matters to perfection and a satisfactory conclusion – complete purity and extreme whiteness, or righteousness.
These are the days of His Judgment upon the wicked …
Mal 3:2 But who may abide the day of His coming (His Second Coming, in our opinion – the days of His fury and judgment)? and who shall stand when He appeareth? for He is like a refiner's fire, and like fullers' soap:
His judgment in that day shall not be limited to those of the exterior races which oppose Him and His people; He shall refine those of His immediate polity as well – beginning with the priests of that day – assuring that their service to Him is just and righteous.
Mal 3:3 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.
Mal 3:4 Then shall the offering of Judah and Jerusalem be pleasant unto the LORD, as in the days of old, and as in former years.
We believe these phrases refer to the restoration of the Temple service in the Millennium, in whatever form it takes. Many refuse to accept the restitution of animal sacrifices in the kingdom age, but He reveals through Zechariah (in 14.6) the specific information that … it shall come to pass, that every one that is left (note, this is now a “remnant” of the opposers of His People, now evidently converted to His way) of all the nations which came against Jerusalem shall even go up from year to year to worship the King, the LORD of hosts, and to keep the feast of tabernacles.
This feast was instituted as recorded in Leviticus 23.34 et seq and consisted of the Israelites’ making booths (aka “tabernacles”) in which to dwell in the outdoors (as in the desert of the wilderness Exodus from Egypt) for seven days, beginning with and ending with an “holy convocation,” which should have been a designated (not a natural) Sabbath.
On those days they were commanded to make certain continuous offerings – Seven days ye shall offer an offering made by fire (the burnt offerings) unto the LORD: on the eighth day shall be an holy convocation unto you, and ye shall offer an offering made by fire unto the LORD … Leviticus 23:36.
The offering “by fire” is, in Hebrew, ishshah, and specifically refers to the burnt offerings of the flesh of animals, but can include “meat” offerings (vegetative matter), and “drink” offerings, which were libations.
We are suspicious that this scriptural fact will still not allay the opinions of those who refuse to accept such sacrifices during the kingdom age. So, not to be argumentative, we must therefore wait and see for ourselves the meaning of these words!
Mal 3:5 And I will come near to you to judgment, and I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers, and against the adulterers, and against false swearers, and against those that oppress the hireling in his wages, the widow, and the fatherless, and that turn aside the stranger from his right, and fear not Me, saith the LORD of hosts.
These heinous transgressions – unfeeling and unmerciful as they were of Israelite to Israelite – will bring His retribution in that future day; it will be swift and decisive, and not delayed by the Almighty’s patience or forbearance as in the days of Malachi and Isaiah.
Mal 3:6 For I am the LORD, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed.
Mal 3:7 Even from the days of your fathers ye are gone away from Mine ordinances, and have not kept them. Return unto Me, and I will return unto you, saith the LORD of hosts. But ye said, Wherein shall we return?
These words bear some extra scrutiny. Does “return unto Me” mean simply returning to His ways? Or does it have some extended, here unexpressed, meaning?
The Hebrew term translated “return” is shub, and has many meanings, some of which are, “to draw back, or fetch back home again … to restore … to retrieve … to cause to return (home) … to recall (to a former place).”
Therefore it means, first of all, a PHYSICAL return to their place of origin – to the Promised Lands of Abram and his Seed of Genesis 12 et seq.
In our considered opinion, this is the first and primary meaning of the word shub; but it includes a spiritual return to God as well – which shall be accomplished ONLY after the People shall have returned to the Land or heritage.
The first (the physical return) is perceived to be necessary and the preamble to the second.
It is interesting that a 19th century rabbi whose last name was Rabbi Alkalai, was one of two prominent East European rabbis as I recall, who proposed just this theorem: that the Jews must return (physically) to their Land before they can return (spiritually) to their God – that the two are interconnected and must be sequential.
Their problem was, at the time, extreme repression of any immigration of Jews to the Ottoman region of Palestine; they were therefore not yet permitted to “return” to Him.
That is the sequences which we have seen take place in our lifetimes; therefore Rabbi Alkalai’s thesis has proven to be correct, although the People have not yet returned to their Father (spiritually) as this prophecy also predicts. That is an event which must await the Second Advent of the LORD from heaven to His People. Cf., Zechariah 12 and 13.
Mal 3:8 Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say, Wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings.
Mal 3:9 Ye are cursed with a curse: for ye have robbed me, even this whole nation.
Yet the way of Redemption is open to them; He describes it here. It involves compliance with His will and way … compliance which brings with it abundant blessings of basket and store – and the blessing of recognition of the nations of the earth of Israel as the People of God, and the forthcoming premier nation of the earth!
Mal 3:10 Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the LORD of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.
A vivid example of such overabundant favor of the LORD is recorded as it occurred, in 2Chronicles, where it is written … And Azariah the chief priest of the house of Zadok answered him, and said, Since the people began to bring the offerings into the house of the LORD, we have had enough to eat, and have left plenty: for the LORD hath blessed his people; and that which is left is this great store. 2Chronicles 31:10.
Such beneficence involves His taking away any deterrence to their production of a wealth of food and other essential goods.
He vows to exercise His “rebuke” of such forces in the following words …
Mal 3:11 And I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes, and he shall not destroy the fruits of your ground; neither shall your vine cast her fruit before the time in the field, saith the LORD of hosts.
We see the application of these words at this very hour (2019). As we visited Israel recently we observed active field-burning by fire kites and fire balloons launched by Hamas from Gaza – offensive weapons with one intention: to devour Israel’s fields and forests.
We also recall that, during our recent visit to Israel, one morning, on our trek to Masada, road traffic was halted for miles because, during the previous night, three Palestinian Arabs from Jerusalem had set fire to a forest preserve and burned several dozen hectares of trees before the fire could be brought under control. This amount to wanton destruction ... devouring for the sake of devouring! But these are soon to be subdued and destroyed!
Mal 3:12 And all nations (kol goi – all the heathen “round about” who survive, but eventually ALL nations) shall call you blessed: for ye shall be a delightsome land, saith the LORD of hosts.
Mal 3:13 Your words have been stout against me, saith the LORD. Yet ye say, What have we spoken so much against thee?
Mal 3:14 Ye have said, It is vain to serve God: and what profit is it that we have kept his ordinance, and that we have walked mournfully before the LORD of hosts?
Such folk lack in their vision of the Almighty’s ultimate blessing – and of His propensity to see their transgressions, and to make mental notes to that effect.
Mal 3:15 And now we call the proud happy; yea, they that work wickedness are set up; yea, they that tempt God are even delivered.
Their emphatic praises of one another were misplaced as much as were their sentiments regarding service to the LORD.
Isaiah had already recorded these words as they relate to that attitude: Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter! Isaiah 5:20.
But now, the prophet addresses the faithful among the People – those who “feared” (respected, and willingly served) the LORD. These quickly become the favored of the Master – and have their names written eternally in His Book of Life, here called “a book of remembrance.” Cf., Philippians 4.3; Revelation 21.7.
Mal 3:16 Then they that feared the LORD spake often one to another: and the LORD hearkened, and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before him for them that feared the LORD, and that thought upon his name.
How could the rewards of complete and fervent devotion of His people be more perfectly expressed than in these precious words? They emphasize not only adoration of His Name, but sincere adherence to His will – demonstrating not only the idealism but also the achievement of each one. Their outlook and expectation is unspeakably favorable – exemplary and praiseworthy.
It is a matrix that we have been privileged long to have fostered in our publications, our eTPL, and Gospel Proclamation League websites ... speaking several times monthly of these incredibly fulfilling developments to everyone who is even remotely concerned with current events and their obvious direction (toward the establishment of the Kingdom!).
Mal 3:17 And they shall be mine, saith the LORD of hosts, in that day when I make up my jewels; and I will spare them, as a man spareth his own son that serveth him.
Precious stones are symbols of our Father’s great favor – of the highest estimation by the Father of His children.
Of all wealth, they are some of the most portable – and secretable (as protected and esteemed in the ultimate degree, as His People shall be in that day).
The figure of their becoming the jewels of His crown is unspeakably worthy of praise and reflective of salvation – their ultimate status before their LORD, which He shall award them when He returns to them!
First His People were required to return – physically, as has been demonstrated by history – as the preamble to His (physical) return to them. He refers to that event in his next words …
Mal 3:18 Then shall ye return, and discern between the righteous and the wicked, between him that serveth God and him that serveth him not.
In view of the next words of the prophet, these words must refer to the end-time, when Messiah comes to His People and exercises His judgment among them, perhaps as He purges out the rebels, forbidding their entry into His nascent worldwide Kingdom. It will be the ultimate result of His teaching them righteousness. <HEL>
If these next words are decipherable at all, they are surely words of His judgment of many who are responsible to the LORD – probably and primarily His natural people of Israel.
They may speak directly to His intention to purge out from among them the rebels against His way, forbidding them entry into His Kingdom nation in its nascent stages as the First Dominion of His Kingdom.
Our speculation is that His summary judgment upon the People who greet Him at His Second Advent will allow some leeway in their recognizing the Messiah that they are beholding and comprehending for the first time.
We must fearfully admit that these condemnations may also apply to those who are rejected at the Judgment Bema and are turned aside into everlasting darkness and eternal death. As such they represent the detritus of His sacred people, those who were unfaithful to Him and did not fulfill their appointed role as His adopted children. They are useless to Him and His future plans for the earth, and for mankind.
These words of excoriating condemnation seemingly apply equally to those of natural Israel as well as those of spiritual Israel at His Second Coming.
They are contrasted with those who fear His name of verse two, who, in opposition to these evil ones who are obliterated, “go forth and grow up as calves of the stall.”
Mal 4:1 For, behold, the day cometh, that shall burn as an oven; and all the proud, yea, and all that do wickedly, shall be stubble: and the day that cometh shall burn them up, saith the LORD of hosts, that it shall leave them neither root nor branch.
Mal 4:2 But unto you that fear my name shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in His wings (beams); and ye shall go forth, and grow up as calves of the stall.
''Calves of the stall'' infers complete subservience of those so designated. These are gently and mercifully approved by their gracious LORD as they enter into His kingdom in full trust in His providence for them.
But their appointment involves other duties and privileges as well – that of spreading and enforcing His will in the earth among the mortal nations that remain.
Many of the inhabitants of the earth in that day shall not accept His lovingkindness – or His Kingdom’s authority over them. So they shall stubbornly resist His edicts with fury and determination – witness Psalm 2, which reveals the incredible confrontation from them that His Kingdom shall receive early in its career:
Psalm 2:1 Why do the heathen (the nations (the goyim) – presumably all of them) rage, and the people imagine a vain thing?
Psa 2:2 The kings of the earth (kings who are about to lose their kingdoms as they are systematically dethroned, and their domains absorbed by the Kingdom of God, which shall abolish all nations, and shall itself cover the earth) set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD, and against His Anointed, saying,
We can imagine the fury and the excitement of their counsels of war – of their vehement and determined resistance to Him and His authority.
They are already feeling the stinging pressure issuing from Him to change their ways from greed and avarice to that of subservience to Him – and to replace their own volition in all public matters to comply with His demand that they serve Him. Indeed, this reaction is doubtless to His “everlasting gospel,” which shall have gone forth into the entire world: “Fear God and give glory to Him!” Revelation 14: 7.
They are not amenable to such changes … or alteration of their former habits. Their counsel is …
Psa 2:3 Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us.
Psa 2:4 He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh: the Lord shall have them in derision.
These are words of advice spoken into the tumultuous winds of change then blowing upon the habitable!
The Hebrew word for “derision” is la’ag, meaning to confuse, to cause to stutter, to laugh to scorn, and to mock upon … and is a perfect description of their confounded reaction to His edicts – their rejection of the greatest blessing mankind could conceive – because it does not fit their fleshly ambitions or lofty idealism of satisfying men’s natural desires for power and dominion!
His reaction to their stubborn objection is rapid – and extremely decisive – in His righteousness …
Psa 2:5 Then shall he speak unto them in his wrath, and vex them in his sore displeasure.
Notice particularly the phraseology, “he shall speak to them in His wrath,” as it is graphic fulfillment of the picture given by Jesus Himself in His Revelation to John, in which He prophesies … And out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron: and he treadeth the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God. Revelation19:15.
The only “weapon” employed by Him is that vocal Sword of the Spirit which He wields – and which the Saints in His company also wield – a presumption we must assume – for the enormous members of the “armies which were in heaven followed Him, clothed in fine linen, clean and white.”
In an earlier verse, these are described as a multitude of righteous ones, now immortal, who vocally declare their eternal relationship to Him in the words, Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and His wife hath made herself ready.
We readily connect these facts with the words recorded in these words of David, inferred from Psalm 145: 1 as the author of these last five psalms…
Psalm 149:4 For the LORD taketh pleasure in His people: He will beautify the meek with salvation. 5 Let the Saints be joyful in glory: let them sing aloud upon their beds. 6 Let the high praises of God be in their mouth, and a two-edged sword in their hand; 7 To execute vengeance upon the heathen, and punishments upon the people; 8 To bind their kings with chains, and their nobles with fetters of iron; 9 To execute upon them the judgment written: this honour have all his saints. Praise ye the LORD.
Returning to the Second Psalm, we continue with a summary outline of His final plans …
Psa 2:6 Yet have I set my king upon my holy hill of Zion.
Psa 2:7 I will declare the decree: the LORD hath said unto me, Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee.
Psa 2:8 Ask of me, and I shall give thee the heathen (nations, or goy) for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession.
Psa 2:9 Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron; thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel.
Psa 2:10 Be wise now, therefore, O ye kings: be instructed, ye judges of the earth.
Psa 2:11 Serve the LORD with fear, and rejoice with trembling.
Psa 2:12 Kiss the Son (attach yourselves to Him, respect Him), lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all they that put their trust in him.
This is the graphically detailed depiction of the extended obligations of the Bride of the Lamb as She and Her Husband sally forth into the wicked, pagan world to subdue it to His will – the final result of which is …
Mal 4:3 And ye shall tread down the wicked; for they shall be ashes under the soles of your feet in the day that I shall do this, saith the LORD of hosts.
His final words to Judah on this occasion, through Malachi, are sober orders to respect the Law of God by following His ways … citing the Law of Moses, certainly not as an institution to be continued during the Kingdom age, but as the highest recitation of the Father’s standards of righteous conduct.
It was a code of conduct unattainable by every mortal being (except the LORD Jesus) of that earlier time ... but a regimen of conduct to which all the Immortals of that day shall readily follow, thus rendering the ultimate measure of fealty to their Elder Brother’s sovereignty.
Mal 4:4 Remember ye the law of Moses my servant, which I commanded unto him in Horeb for all Israel, with the statutes and judgments.
And finally, the prophet is inspired to mention once again their Agent of Salvation, Who is destined to come and save them from their enemies and those who hate them (cf., Luke 1: 71, 74) ... but also from the certainty of death, and to elevate their nation in great honor and glory before their God.
In this, they shall fulfill the destiny which had been fully comprehended in the gracious Promises made to the Fathers of Israel, and to their Seed, which is Christ (including all those who are His). Galatians 3: 16.
Elijah, Herald of Messiah
Mal 4:5 Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD:
Mal 4:6 And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.
Some have opined that John Immerser did not “turn the hearts of the fathers to the children” and vice versa (that is, create unity in the people, and mutual respect of fathers and their children – and even especially to turn the hearts of the People to their Father, thus evoking His favor of them in return).
But the LORD of all to Whom John introduced Him, DID perform that activity within all His followers, engendering within them the mutual respect which this verse describes. And that was an entirely new beginning – His beginning of a new creation in the earth (cf., Revelation 3:14), which should eventually cultivate a great and adoring multitude of faithful followers of the Man of Nazareth, their Bringer of Salvation, and the prospect of immortality that He alone could convey – the ultimate reward for the discipline and the love that is implied in this statement.
As already discussed, our conviction is that these words refer to the day of the Lord’s initial ministry among us, during which the leaders and the priests refused to recognize their Messiah even though clearly revealed by the Holy Spirit’s actions at the baptism of Jesus by John, and the Voice of Approval that on that occasion boomed from the heavens.
It is recorded that they misunderstood this so greatly that some merely thought that it thundered. John 12.29.
Indeed, it HAD “thundered,” declaring that “This is My Beloved Son, in Whom I am well pleased!” Matthew 3: 17.
<HEL 4P> 6700 words. April 12, 2017; February 14, 2019.