The coming of Christ. (1-6) The Jews reproved for their corruptions. (7-12) God's care of his people; The distinction between the righteous and the wicked. (13-18)
Verses 1-6 The first words of this chapter seem an answer to the scoffers of those days. Here is a prophecy of the appearing of John the Baptist. He is Christ's harbinger. He shall prepare the way before him, by calling men to repentance. The Messiah had been long called, "He that should come," and now shortly he will come. He is the Messenger of the covenant. Those who seek Jesus, shall find pleasure in him, often when not looked for. The Lord Jesus, prepares the sinner's heart to be his temple, by the ministry of his word and the convictions of his Spirit, and he enters it as the Messenger of peace and consolation. No hypocrite or formalist can endure his doctrine, or stand before his tribunal. Christ came to distinguish men, to separate between the precious and the vile. He shall sit as a Refiner. Christ, by his gospel, shall purify and reform his church, and by his Spirit working with it, shall regenerate and cleanse souls. He will take away the dross found in them. He will separate their corruptions, which render their faculties worthless and useless. The believer needs not fear the fiery trial of afflictions and temptations, by which the Saviour refines his gold. He will take care it is not more intense or longer than is needful for his good; and this trial will end far otherwise than that of the wicked. Christ will, by interceding for them, make them accepted. Where no fear of God is, no good is to be expected. Evil pursues sinners. God is unchangeable. And though the sentence against evil works be not executed speedily, yet it will be executed; the Lord is as much an enemy to sin as ever. We may all apply this to ourselves. Because we have to do with a God that changes not, therefore it is that we are not consumed; because his compassions fail not.
Verses 7-12 The men of that generation turned away from God, they had not kept his ordinances. God gives them a gracious call. But they said, Wherein shall we return? God notices what returns our hearts make to the calls of his word. It shows great perverseness in sin, when men make afflictions excuses for sin, which are sent to part between them and their sins. Here is an earnest exhortation to reform. God must be served in the first place; and the interest of our souls ought to be preferred before that of our bodies. Let them trust God to provide for their comfort. God has blessings ready for us, but through the weakness of our faith and the narrowness of our desires, we have not room to receive them. He who makes trial will find nothing is lost by honouring the Lord with his substance.
Verses 13-18 Among the Jews at this time, some plainly discovered themselves to be children of the wicked one. The yoke of Christ is easy. But those who work wickedness, tempt God by presumptuous sins. Judge of things as they will appear when the doom of these proud sinners comes to be executed. Those that feared the Lord, spake kindly, for preserving and promoting mutual love, when sin thus abounded. They spake one to another, in the language of those that fear the Lord, and think on his name. As evil communications corrupt good minds and manners, so good communications confirm them. A book of remembrance was written before God. He will take care that his children perish not with those that believe not. They shall be vessels of mercy and honour, when the rest are made vessels of wrath and dishonour. The saints are God's jewels; they are dear to him. He will preserve them as his jewels, when the earth is burned up like dross. Those who now own God for theirs, he will then own for his. It is our duty to serve God with the disposition of children; and he will not have his children trained up in idleness; they must do him service from a principle of love. Even God's children stand in need of sparing mercy. All are righteous or wicked, such as serve God, or such as serve him not: all are going to heaven or to hell. We are often deceived in our opinions concerning both the one and the other; but at the bar of Christ, every man's character will be known. As to ourselves, we have need to think among which we shall have our lot; and, as to others, we must judge nothing before the time. But in the end all the world will confess that those alone were wise and happy, who served the Lord and trusted in Him.
This chapter begins with a prophecy of John the Baptist, the forerunner of Christ; and of the coming of Christ, and the effects and consequences of it, with respect both to the righteous and the wicked; and it contains accusations and charges of sin against the Jews, intermixed with exhortations to repentance. John the Baptist is promised to be sent, and is described by his office as a messenger, and by his work, to prepare the way of the Lord; and the Messiah is prophesied of, who is described by his characters; with respect to himself, the Lord and Messenger of the covenant; with respect to the truly godly among the Jews, as the object of their desire and delight; whose coming is spoken of as a certain thing, and which would be sudden; and the place is mentioned he should come into, Mal 3:1 and this his coming is represented as terrible to the wicked, and as trying and purifying to the righteous, expressed by the various similes of a refiner's fire, and fuller's soap; and the end answered by it, their offering a righteous offering to the Lord, Mal 3:2-4 but with respect to the wicked, he declares he should be a swift witness against them, whose characters are particularly given, and this assured from his immutability; the consequence of which to the saints is good, being their security from destruction, Mal 3:5,6 and next a charge is commenced against the wicked Jews, as that in general they had for a long time revolted from the Lord, and were guilty of sins of omission and commission, and are therefore exhorted to return to the Lord, with a promise that he will return to them, and yet they refuse, Mal 3:7 and, in particular, that they were guilty of sacrilege, and so accounted, even the whole nation, in withholding tithes and sacrifices, which they are exhorted to bring in; to which they are encouraged with promises of blessings of prosperity and protection, Mal 3:8-12 and that they had spoken impudent and blasphemous words against the Lord; which, though excepted to, is proved by producing their own words, Mal 3:13-15 and by the contrary behaviour of those that feared the Lord, who were taken notice of by him, and were dear unto him, Mal 3:16,17 wherefore it is suggested, that the time would come when there would be a manifest difference made between the one and the other, Mal 3:18.