The Aftermath of a Revival.
by W. Hoste
A Study in the Prophecy of Malachi.
THE return from Babylon was no less a Divine work than the Exodus, but the points of contrast between them are striking. The Exodus was in spite of the opposition of Pharaoh. The Return, with the hearty co-operation of Cyrus. The former was with mighty signs and wonders, the latter without miraculous intervention. That included every Israelite in Egypt, this only a minority of the exiles in Babylon (both however were for the fulfilment of the word of the Lord to the former, to Abraham, the latter to Jeremiah; the Exodus was, so to speak, the birth of a nation; the Return was the revival of a remnant). It was indeed, true revival—the people restored to their true place (may we not say, to their first love?) the Word of God once more their rule of life and their final appeal and the altar and temple set up according to the commandment of Jehovah to Moses. The movement was all headed up under Nehemiah by a solemn renewal of the legal covenant between the people and Jehovah. The object of this paper is to consider the condition into which the returned remnant had fallen in the closing days of Old Testament history, as shown in the testimony of Malachi. His was a hidden prophecy, like those of Nahum and Habakkuk, therefore one of peculiar weight and solemnity. The condition of Israel called for this. The “older brethren” of the “return” had long since passed away; their children had been born in a position for which they had not paid the price. The state of things was much like that described in the Message to Laodicea—lukewarmness—spiritual poverty, self-contentment. I would divide the consideration of the prophecy under seven heads.
I. The Love of Jehovah Doubted (Chap. i: 2).
The first word of the Lord to His backsliding people was not “Ye ought to love Me,” that would have been law, nor “Ye have not loved Me,” that would have been truth, but “I have loved you,” that was grace. “Grace and truth” came by Jesus Christ, the order is significant. “I have loved you” is grace. The people had not lost the fact of His love, but they had lost the sense of it, nay more, the faith of it. “Wherein hast thou loved us?” and Jehovah condescends to reason with them, “Was not Esau, Jacob’s brother, yet I loved Jacob and I hated Esau” (words quoted in Rom. ix alongside those other, “The elder shall serve the younger,” yet divided from them by the whole Old Testament and by even a greater distance in principle). The special proof of love quoted is noticeable—the restoration of Israel from Babylon to their land, a mighty blessing not sufficiently appreciated to-day. In Edom, there was no restriction, for Edom stands for apostasy—and for such, neither individual nor collective is there any return.
II. His Altar Defiled (Chap. i: 7).
Relationship involves responsibility. “A son honoreth his father and a servant his master, if then I be a father, where is mine honor, if I be a master, where is my fear?” The double reproach addressed to the priests, corresponds to these two relationships. The table speaks of the provision of the Father’s house, the altar of His sovereign claims. The burnt offering offered on the prayer altar was wholly for Jehovah. No priest partook of it. It was entirely consumed upon the altar. It spake of Christ in the Godward aspect of His work. How important that the offering should be unblemished. The priests had lost their sense of the Divine requirements. They offered “the lame, the torn, and the blind” and men to-day have their “Carpenter of Nazareth,” their “Ethical Jesus” their human Christ, fallible and peccable. We would know Him “whose goings forth were from eternity,” and confess Him to God as the Eternal Word Incarnate—Perfect God and Perfect Man—the Spotless victim of Calvary—Ruined, Ascended, Glorified.
III. His Table Despised (Chap. i: 7).
This is the Father’s table for His priests, but they had lost their taste for it. “Ye have profaned it, in that ye say the table of the Lord is polluted and . . . His meat contemptible.” The twelve loaves upon the table before the Lord tell of the perfection of Christ in connection with the twelve tribes. To eat these loaves in the holy place was one of the highest priestly privileges. But alas, in those dark days, the priests were saying, “Behold, what a weariness it is!” All this called for a solemn warning. Let them see light lest these very blessings become curses, and this brings us to the fourth point of controversy between Jehovah and His people.
IV. His Holiness Denied (Chap. ii: 17).
Their moral standard was as low as their condition, and they would “make Jehovah even such a one as themselves.” They wearied Him with their words, “Everyone that doeth evil is good in the sight of the Lord and He delighteth in them.” “Where is the God of judgment?” What can be said of Christian homes where the women rule if not the children, or of professing believers whose standard of honorable dealing for financial integrity would make upright worldlings blush, but that correct position and ecclesiastical exactness may co-exist with low practical godliness. Israel had returned from Babylon, but they had in heart gone back to Egypt. The next chapter foretells the coming of the Lord to His people “as a refining fire.” If loving kindness failed, judgment must do her work. “Then shall the offering of Judah and Jerusalem be pleasant unto the Lord as in the days of old.” The fire would not destroy but purify, “For I am the Lord, I change not, Therefore, ye sons of Judah are not consumed.”
V. The Store-house Depleted (Chap. iii: 8).
Still Jehovah would spare them the chastening if they would even then return to Him. But wherein should they return? “Bring ye all the tithes into the store-house . . . and prove me now therewith 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.” The Lord had been reproaching His Levites, but He would not have His people neglect their needs. The word has never been recalled. They shall have “all the tenth in Israel for an inheritance.” In addition to this, the Israelite was to pay a tithe for the great feasts and also every three years, a further tithe for the feast to the poor and the stranger (see Num. xviii), from which it would appear that each Israelite contribute yearly a quarter of his income to the work of God. The Christian is not under of the law of tithes and of course is not limited to this. “There is that scattereth and yet increaseth and there is that withholdeth more than is meet but it tendeth to poverty.”
VI. The Service of the Lord Disliked (Chap. iii: 10).
The last reproach that Jehovah had against His people was that they despised His service, which they had once delighted in and envied the proud and the evil doer and the froward, once the objects of their pity and dismay. One day they would know the difference that God makes “between him that serveth God and him that serveth Him not.”
VII. The Ear of the Lord Delighteth (Chap. iii: 16).
We may close this sad book with a happy contrast. There was amid the discord, one bright note of cheer. “There”—at the very time that the stouthearted ones were replying against God, there was another company very otherwise employed—“Then they that feared the Lord, spake with one another.” They were a remnant amidst the remnant. No doubt, they realized the low state of the people of God and took their share in it, but they also took sides with God and justified Him in His words and ways. “And the Lord hearkened and heard,” and their words so delighted His ear that “a book of remembrance was written before him for them that feared the Lord and that thought upon his name, and they shall be mine, saith the Lord of hosts, in that day when I make up mine jewels.”
“Our Hope” 1911