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Marvels in Malachi
Malachi! the last book in the Old Testament, with lustrous references to the coming Messiah, both to save and to judge, and interrogatory dialogue exposing hypocrisy in a way suggestive, like foothills, of the X-ray words of Christ to the Pharisees, it is easily categorised - amiss!
In fact it has depths of beauty.
One verse of these has had translation almost sufficient to transform the hair into erect, bristle like structures!
It is to be found in Ch. 2:15.
To translate, in general, you need the words, any idioms, the sense, the flow, the direction, the message, the logic, the felicity, the beauty or thrust of aim. With the Bible, you need ideally, a love of the Lord in order to understand the more intimately the character of His utterance. Love tends to understand!
us look at Ch. 2 as an approach to verse 15.
THE FLOW OF CHAPTER TWO
After the excoriation of Ch. 1, we find in Ch. 2 various applications of a message. The PRIESTS first, these are found most lax, slack and disinclined even to give the GLORY to the name of the Lord which is its due. Spiritually nonchalant ? too fat ? too professional ? they "do not take it to heart". The results of this are to be bitter; but the beginning of it all is mused upon. In verse 5, we find that God said up a covenant, a solemn agreement at His divine initiative, and calling the priesthood, He looked upon its operation. "My covenant was with him, one of life and peace..."
In fact, "the law of truth was in his mouth, and injustice was not found on his lips. He walked with Me in peace and equity, and turned many away from iniquity" (2:6).
We turn to the requisite: "the lips of the priest SHOULD keep knowledge, and people SHOULD seek the law from his mouth" (v. 7).
There is a stabilising, clarifying, inculcating, distilling function from the priest. He does not invent, but represents what is to be given, for what it is.
Quite the contrary was the practice. It tended to be very much like that of the Sadducees, rebuked by the Lord in His own day on this earth (Luke 11:52), and small wonder (11:54). Vehement and unruly, they hated the Lord they seemed to represent! You have DEPARTED from the way; you have caused many to STUMBLE at the law, and "therefore I have made you contemptible". Such was the charge in Malachi. That is perhaps one reason why the prolonged TV show, Dad's Army made the Church of England clergyman a butt for unveiled satire.
Malachi then moves to the national level. Even Judah, the southern section of the divided nation, where the temple indeed was, itself "has dealt treacherously". This nation has PROFANED, secularised religion (rather, perhaps like that Anglican Primate who made it unnecessary, really, to have Christ as the only way to God, indeed, felt this not now permissible!). This too is quite like the case in New Zealand, where the author participated in the confrontation with rank unbelief, duly sanctified by the apostasising church. There, a Principal had felt that the physical and the supernatural were not quite amenable as too distinct, to the modern mind; hence, the bodily resurrection was deemed best ousted.
Bare-faced as all this seems, then in that place, where intolerance of truth bloomed like desert cactus, we heard in debate ludicrous irrelevancies, such as this, that it would be too bad to be still legless or lame in heaven! What in the world has a NON-bodily resurrection scenario, to do with a bodily resurrection transformation. However, when the tides of unbelief roar, it is hard to be heard, but not to be assailed for the merest fidelity to faith, logic and truth, and this above all, to Christ.
With such nearer to contemporary cases in view, it is not hard to imagine the divine displeasure with the extraneous, the imperious and the unfaithful, strutting in clothes of authority. Small wonder too that we hear the metaphor, that many were married to the daughter of a foreign god. It appeared as heartless disloyalty, pretence and pretension all in one blighted broth. That then was the situation in the Israel of Malachi's day, in no mean measure.
To them, it was too much to see the sacred place in the heart of God, of the sublime, divine covenant, and all its specifications and revelation. It was one, nevertheless, whose unbounded cost was such that its requirement was covered only when it was all consummated in Christ. Assuredly, this covenant, this sacred preliminary to the finale in Christ, was a "holy institution which He loves".
This reminds us of the fearful penalties, due and spiritual, which relate in the Bible to tampering, toying and trifling with the objective truth of the word of God, while still maintaining some sort of semblance of relationship to Him. Whether it is radical liberal neologians, in their intoxication, or inter-religious congratulations, as with PM Blair and President Bush of late, whether it is WCC amalgams of religions, or social, psychological or other 'interpretations' of religion, which subordinate it to culture and culture to man, so making God not there, and man divine: it all tends in but one direction, and to be one thing. (See Lord of Life Chs. 8, 9, and Chs. 8 , 13 of Red Alert ...)
That ? It is this: they are a mockery of the God whose revelation has been given as authoritative, actual and final.
This is italicised, since there is some variation in this translation also. However, what is given is literal, and obviously you could INTERPRET it to mean teacher and student, or guard and challenged and so on. These would be sub-categories. However, as we shall see later, one rule in translation must surely be this: translate what is THERE! Interpret ? yes, afterwards.
in this case, ALL are involved in this stricture, whether in authority,
or under it, whether engaged in teaching, or learning from those who propound,
whether those who query, or respond and so on. It is reminiscent of Isaiah's
great word in Ch. 24:
"The earth mourns and fades away..."
Such attitudes of slack spirit, then, exemplify TREACHERY (Malachi 2:16-17). Small wonder there is the scene of judgment, of being cut off, for those who make a practice of such things.
Man against man, fails in HIS part in the covenant; and man versus GOD so universally fails to fulfil what is divinely in force. The folly is seen, then, in the national pastime of "marrying the daughter of a foreign god" (2:11). This then leads us to the concept of execution, removal of this presumptuous humbug, which formally comes to the LORD, and yet oils with words, caresses with comfort, gives succour and comfort to the ENEMY, to the NOT-GOD (Deuteronomy 32:21), which we have seen before, is that searing insult to God from a failing people.
They turn from Him who is, to what is not, and worship the shade, the nothing, like misled physicist or vacant pantheist. It is an abomination, the LORD declares. What would one expect if a husband or wife began adoring and making love to a maiden or young man not in existence, while continuing to perform the farce of being married to a real wife or husband. Increase this infinitely, by the factor that that is HUMAN, and this is DIVINE, and you begin to realise the abomination in all the intensity which God gives it, repeatedly in His word, as here.
We are then pursuing the flow and thrust of this passage, on the way to 2:15.
Now it turns to strictly inter-personal human relationships. However these are here viewed from the divine perspective, which oversees, superintends and understands. HOW can God accept offerings from those who bring grief to the tender wife of their youth, the loved maiden, sweet and tender who gave herself in marriage, bore children and has worked hard, now thrown away in the pursuit of some sexual fancy or fantasy, as if she were a mere dream, and lust were lord!
The thing is appalling.
We are now in a position to feel the waters of the exact passage in mind.
Let us then see the fast
and vigorous incandescent lightning thrust of verses 13-15, by paraphrase,
itself lodged securely in the terrain preceding, and to follow.
This is the second thing you do, because the very temple, the environs\ment of the altar is covered with a dew not so sweet. The tears of those once so loved, so tenderly, now with callous disregard, subordinated to a current flame of sexual lust, or romantic recrudescence, these mock the reality of your worship. How can you so treat your wife!
You would even interrogate the LORD further on such a topic ? Why ? you ask! It is because the LORD is not dead or deaf party, but is intensely aware of you, and He witnesses precisely what are your deeds. HE KNOWS! There is a case in existence, pressed at law or not, before the LORD. It is one between you and the damsel you married, now much older. You have deceived her, become playful with another, or others, and so are a treacherous being.
Political treachery is poisonous ? can lead to war ? What then of this! The wife is your friend, your personal companion, your fellow, and yet you do THIS to her ... But did not God make ONE when it came to marriage! DId He perchance make three or four for choice, for use at different age categories as the brutal male got older, and felt playful ? Was THIS what He did ? Or did He not make one!
There was a remnant of the spirit, and God did not stop at the male, but made the female, also a person, also endowed with spirit, and JUST ONE did He make.
Can you not see the ONE for ONE relationship from the first, and take account of history at all!
Why, then, do you imagine, He made just one ? It was of course so that in the holy intimacy of one father and one mother, one pair, one procreative partnership, one fellowship of souls of the one procreative part and of the other, that he should in a delicious unity and simplicity provide an inter-personal linkage about the child. So might they have reared a godly offspring, not some social construct, some alliance product, some spawn in some nursery in some situation with some parties or other in some way or other having connivance with the thrust of lust, and no concern at all for the physical, psychological, moral, historical and spiritual realities. Gone are these in such token affinities, and gone for parent and child the nurture of the truth.
BE ASHAMED! You have broken covenant with God ? You have broken it likewise with your wives, you men of Israel, in adultery. AS the explicit comparison is made of 'marriage' in taking on board another god (Malachi 2:11), so here there is the literal fact - for you are also adulterous in lust, as well as in spiritual adventurism. What horror it all is!
(Now we proceed to the context after 2:15, in 2:16ff..)
Divorce, that tipsy topsy-turvey dizzy thing of lust and sorrow, of grief and rupture, the LORD hates it! It is not the way of peace and delight, the fitting outcome to two godly lives such as should be lived at all! It has a sense of brutality, like ripping out an organ.
Therefore be aware, and do not be treacherous, to God or to your spouse.
Indeed, you are becoming lawyers, wearisome in language (and here the parallel with Luke 11 and the strictures on the Sadducees is intense), and you will even ask more after all this, HOW are we becoming wearisome ? That is your unabashed question, is it ?
It is then well to listen now: You are actually concocting blasphemies in your tired, virtue robbed spirits, attributing in your materialistic and pompous pretensions, happiness to the ungodly, even daring to suggest that they are the real favourites of God, since you estimate their lives in their own terms. What an unspiritual assemblage you become, like mathematicians who find it too much to add 1 and 1; for spiritual things become as foreigners to you, while in spiritual and social ways, you act the thug, the deprived, the unaware (Malachi 2;17).
Of interest is just one point in this strongly connected, forcibly presented, divine exhortation and rebuke, each part of which is set with the next as jewels in a star of beauty, an engagement ring of distinction. When it says, "Did He not make one, having a remnant of the spirit ?", is the reference to a residue of the SPIRIT OF GOD, as it were, seen as dynamically proceeding to make one more soul and spirit assemblage, in the person of Eve; or does it mean, that He already had one more human spirit to dower, in readiness and prepared, so that it needed simply to be despatched to Eve, so that there be ONE, to match the ONE man, so that the ONE on ONE combination might produce the godly seed ?
It is true that it does not vitally affect the argument; but then in this very book we are seeing the importance, and it is essential, to GIVE GLORY to God, and hence never to intrude into what is not revealed in unwarranted assumptions... When it comes to actual translation, one would not DARE to present the former option. One does not wish to presume as if one knew whether the Lord was as it were, storing up this creative surge ready for exemplification and consummation in the making of a spirit for Eve. Further, such a thought does not quite so well fit the movement and thrust of the passage*1.
Thus, the concept of the spirit of Eve ready for despatch, already as it were, batched and prepared with that of Adam, a human totality in the divine mind and power, already of ONE, and as ONE, with the first instalment for the man, given, the other to be given to the female, this stresses most greatly the unitary emphasis of the passage, and the sense of the utter depravity of the rupture of this created unity, which was one from the start.
The passage, we might add, has NOTHING to do with what someone's intelligence might see, since it is a MORAL issue; and such an insertion into the thrust of the passage would not merely be forced, with no background, but grotesque, with a departure from the contextual phase of consideration. Further, it would even interrupt the indictment, built from the first, and proceeding to the last. Again, to take another case, while Calvin is on the right track, it is not so much what God in His divine power COULD have done, which is the emphasis, as what God in His intimate wisdom DID do; not a question of the delimitation of His power, as the exhibition of His meaning in design, not a cessation of possible multiplication so much as a robustly simple, designer beauty which in its elegant sufficiency, moral integrity, balanced mutuality was WHAT HE DID!
fact, the overview, the perspective is covenantal to the core. The covenant
was BROKEN in Israel and in husband-wife relationship, metaphorically and
literally, both. The covenant at the START (2:11) was something God loved.
Right at the first in the covenant, the priest was of the nature described.
From this, we moved to the nation, thence to husband-wife relationship,
and in all this, COVENANT is the construction. So we go in covenant relevant
to the institution not of Israel alone, as relevant for the priest, or
for the nation, but also to that pertinent to marriage, and all this, it
is a continuity and emphasis not hard to find.
Similarly it is to the MESSENGER OF THE COVENANT that we now turn in 3:1.
This sequence of thought is important for understanding what now follows, indeed.
With so much of covenant now exposed, each one in its site and program, each with its breach and failure, we come to the Messenger of the Covenant. He is to come SUDDENLY to HIS temple. This is exactly the language of Christ in its emphasis on import, which He used when taking whips, He drove out those who abused 'MY FATHER'S' house (Luke 2:16), by arrant commercialism.
Again, in the episode in Matthew 21, we find Him not only coming as the One "having salvation" (and that indeed in Himself, Isaiah 53:6-10), and lowly, as in Zechariah 9. We find Him relaying in this purging of the Temple, the spiritual exposure from Isaiah 56 and Jeremiah 7, "My house shall be called a house of prayer, but you have made it a den of thieves." The total appropriation of the rights and authority of a SON are demonstrated quite unequivocally, and the indignation concerns the HOUSE which is HIS Father's as distinct from anyone else's relationship. Lowly as He is, His authority concerning the Temple is entire, undimmed, utter and original.
In this way, Christ in the actual historical events figures PRECISELY as the Messenger of the Covenant of Malachi 3, as indeed the "one in whom you delight" (cf. Isaiah 11:10, Haggai 2:14), Himself the rest and sufficiency for man (Isaiah 26:1-4, 32:1-4, 11:10, 28:16, Matthew 11:28-20), the Saviour in whom one should trust (as in Psalm 2, John 6:47, Luke 14:27ff.): though NONE should trust in man (Jeremiah 17), but in God only. Yes, it is so though GOD ONLY saves the soul of man (Isaiah 43:10). This Messenger of the Covenant makes His presentation is as deity, both in prophetic forecast and in historical fulfilment.
Most naturally, therefore, the question arises: WHO CAN ENDURE IT! when He comes (Malachi 3:2).
Purifying priests, purging souls, He will enable a pure offering since He Himself purges what He accepts (Zech. 3:9), and bears the travail of sin (Isaiah 53) as only God can! (cf. Psalm 49:7,15). There is no limit as is always true of God, and just as ONLY GOD can know the heart of man (Jeremiah 17), so HE, the Messenger of the Covenant, wholly knows it as He purges it. So is the covenant stretched before our watchful eyes, from the initiation in Eden, with marriage the topic, to the Mosaic law, to the consummation in Christ. The very purging which so frightens the heart of sinful man, is on the other side, the very preliminary to the cover, which removes the fear and presents the joy. The whole is available, extended before our sight in Malchi.
Here in Malachi is a thrust and completeness, a vigour and a victory, a coverage that is aeronautical spiritually, looking down on man with a comprehensive perspective that has both a simplicity and a grandeur of majesty. Nor is this all. He will act "like launderer's soap", not only purging the dross, but cleaning the basis, and we are reminded of Matthew 17 and the transfiguration, where "His clothes became as white as light" and (Mark 9), "like snow, such as no launderer on earth can whiten them", and "His face shone like the sun" (Matthew 17).
Being infinitely holy, the One whose goings forth have been from eternity (Micah 5), encapsulated in flesh, indeed incarnated from infancy, He brings back the pleasantness of holiness, its natural beauty, showing man as He should be. It is no strange excursion which brings forth fruit in new planted trees of righteousness, to the Lord in His redeemed people (Isaiah 61:3); rather it is restoration to what life is about: fellowship with God and understanding in heart of what one's place is, one spiritual race, with one scope in serving and one sparkling delight in the Maker (cf. Ephesians 4:24, Colossians 3:10).
In Malachi 3:6ff., we find that it is the very unchangeability of the Lord which is the deliverance of His people. If He were to break contract, to go off on binges or flirtations, did not know all and hence could decide in the new light of discovery on this and that, what would become of those who had relied on Him! But with God, it is not so. HIS is not a creation's status, for He confers it, but He is the Creator Himself from everlasting to everlasting and knowing the end from the beginning (Psalm 90, Isaiah 46:10, Acts 15:18). He IS alpha and omega (Isaiah 44:6, Revelation 2:8 with 1:18-19, 22:13), being there and not developing at all; and indeed it is since this is so that He has already chosen His own people, and did so before He took occasion to found the earth so that it existed at all (Ephesians 1:4, Romans 8:29ff.).
"RETURN TO ME!" He cries (3:7), "and I WILL RETURN TO YOU!"
We then move through laxity if not parsimoniousness at divine expense, towards His work (3:11). Thus the liberality and wonder of God is stressed in the entire gamut of works, in praise, in love, in reliability, in purity, in sincerity, in loyalty, in heartiness of worship and depth of praise. Then, with love of heart and liberality of action restored to the Lord and to His work, not only will the windows of heaven be opened so that they cannot contain the provision and blessing, but (3:11-12) 'I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes, so that he will not destroy the fruit of your ground', and 'all nations will call you blessed. For you will be a delightful land,' says the LORD of hosts." It is the same case: return to Me, and I will return to you!
However far is this from being the case with the Israel of the day, it was and is to come, this millenial perfection of testimony, when the sun shines in the revelatory sky! (cf. Matthew 13:40ff., Isaiah 65:20ff., Micah 4, Isaiah 2, Habakkuk 2:14). In fact, in 3:13-15, we have the interrogatory dialogue extended 'Your words have been harsh against Me,' says the LORD".
In what way is this so ? they ask.
What sort of exclamation does the LORD hear among them, in their talk ? Things like this:
is useless to serve God.
What profit is it that we have kept His ordinance ? ...
So now we call the proud blessed,
For those who do wickedness are raised up;
They even tempt God and go free."
This snide cynicism, a product perhaps of two major causes, materialistic evaluation which does not treasure spiritual things, and debasement in the land, which exploits religion and seeks for self, is recorded in heaven. What then ? If the place is degraded, is this cause to become so oneself! Is one a piece of wood to be carried by the tide!
who feared the LORD spoke to one another,
And the LORD listened and heard them;
So a book of remembrance was written before Him
For those who fear the LORD
And who meditate on His name" (Malachi 3:16).
As John 3:16 has the kernel of salvation, so Malachi 3:16 has a kernel of sanctification.
The people who, horrified at the debasement of truth and courage, devotion and reality in spiritual things, talked about it, gathered together and sought concert in holiness and sincerity before the Lord, were noted by God. Their yearnings and seekings were not lost. Indeed, this response of heart was dear to God, and listed in heaven were those who in the face of contrary currents, continued active and valiant for the truth (Malachi 3:16-17).
shall be Mine,' says the LORD of hosts, 'on the day that I make them My
And I will spare them as a man spares his own son who serves him' " (Malachi 3:17).
It is in such a light as this that knowledge of realities will flourish. When ? It will be when the tares, it will be when the weeds removed from the land, that the duplicities of those who merely abuse the name and ways of God for their own profit, will appear in all their desolate denudation (Malachi 3:18, Matthew 13:40ff.).
So have we travelled from Eden to judgment, from the start to the millenium. We move through the conversion of the Gentiles in significant slices (Malachi 1:11,14 cf. Romans 11:15-33).
Before we move to Malachi 4, however, let us reflect.
Those who SAW the evil corruption of heart and perception in their nation RESPONDED. Some had merely reacted, saying that they could not see the God of justice, and this, that the wicked are blessed; for such speakers are blinded to spiritual realities, destinies and character. Others however, alive, responded with heart and enthusiasm, to seek the Lord and for themselves to find the living waters and the purity of His solace, comfort and care, since He does exist, and manifests His way to those who know Him. They refused the drain. Unbelievers, however, get exactly the light which blindness might expect. As to the Lord, until you believe that He is and is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him, their shield and stay, you fumble and grope, like someone trying to find the keyhole in the dark, for an unknown door (Hebrews 11:6).
One thing was happening, one thing was being said, but some DID NOT FOLLOW THIS. Their minds had appetite, and in analytical precision, they looked past the rubbish bin to the feast, the drain to the spring (cf. Jeremiah 2:13, 18:14). Not to them was the profanity of spirit, of preferring pollution of heart. How vain is such a thing:
"Will a man leave the snow water of Lebanon,Without grace or light, those trusting in their own polluted waters, bathe in much and call it cool, civilised or culturally apt! It is not so, and the truth is not bound, though they tried hard enough to do it to Christ. As to Him, EVEN DEATH could not hold Him (Acts 2:23-24). Life is like that, not the squalid waters of spiritual drains, but the inspiring torrents of divine grace and power, which surge into one's life for the living.
Which comes from the rock of the field?
Will the cold flowing waters be forsaken for strange waters?
"Because My people have forgotten Me,
They have burned incense to worthless idols.
And they have caused themselves to stumble in their ways,
From the ancient paths,
To walk in pathways and not on a highway,
To make their land desolate and a perpetual hissing;
Everyone who passes by it will be astonished
And shake his head. I will scatter them as with an east wind before the enemy;
I will show them the back and not the face
In the day of their calamity.”
Of course, there is penalty both ways. You fear God or you fear man. With God, the 'fear' is clean, for His life is lovely. Yet you may pay for the privilege in the jaundiced jealousies of man. Listen to the reaction from those in Jeremiah's day, to his fidelity and love of truth, of the word of the Lord:
Then they said, “Come and let us devise plans against Jeremiah; for the law shall not perish from the priest, nor counsel from the wise, nor the word from the prophet. Come and let us attack him with the tongue, and let us not give heed to any of his words.”The world is at war with God (John 14:30, James 4:4).
Yet the friends of God are at peace with Him.
Then, in Malachi's day, those who feared the Lord acted. They sought the company each of the other, they refused the evil, and applied themselves to the good. Their parallels do so today. .
Their minds were active, valiant, not obscured, with creative thought and percipient power. Their spirits surged into the land that is very far off (Isaiah 33:17), but into the life of the God who is very near at hand, to those whose faith has embraced Him. It is then, as with much else that involves personal knowledge and acquaintance, that the multitudes of His mercy and goodness, power and glory are realised.
Photos do not talk. They cannot open the prison door.
Here was that invisible component in man, his spirit, alight with grace, surging like the great waves of the ocean into the land, coming happily and brimming onto the beach, sparkling with joy. Here was its handmaiden, his mind, distinguishing, realising and combining, moving past the apparent to the actual, past the rind to the core, the superficial to the underlying, the corrupt to the cause, the aridity of abuse to the wonders of truth itself.
It is well. The time is coming when the things so obvious when you look where they are, are coming to find what has not looked, as well as what has done so, what has disgraced grace by sullen misuse and what has received it by the divine grant of mercy. So we move through 3:16-18, to Chapter 4.
precedes, judgment follows.
With this distinction between formalism and realism, spirituality with ungodly compromise and seediness made, we are moved to behold judgment itself. This time it is not a coming to purge and purify, as by the Messenger of the Covenant in Malachi 3, but to judge and consume. Now it is this which is in view.
"The day is coming, burning like an oven..." (4:1).
Left will be "neither root nor branch", and all the pretensions of flesh will be consumed.
this manifest day of glory, "to you the Sun
of Righteousness will arise with healing in His wings".
Those who had seemed submerged amidst the false glories of strutting flesh, assuming spiritual positions will then find wickedness openly trampled, unable to stand, for "the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD as the waters cover the sea" (Habakkuk 2:14).
There is such a day coming.
In a rather grim fashion, it is sometimes all but amusing to see the antics which so many achieve in efforts to streamline the ways of grace, or attenuate the expressions of glory. The 'millenium' or day of this relished rule on this earth is predicted so clearly in so many ways and places, showing what the LORD intends to do, as Psalm 72 expressly exhibits in detail, that it is almost a topic for grim mirth to consider the evasive efforts to 'do without' this boon.
It is RULE on this earth in such a way that not only are the righteous safe, but the wicked lack the deadly dynamisms which have, with the sizzling thrusts of the "prince of this world" (John 14:30), been so helpful to them. Exposed, they are exhibited in their place, and the ways of grace are majestic in their exhibition, the righteous shining forth like the sun at noon! Thus we find in Micah 4, Isaiah 2, Matthew 13, Isaiah 65, Psalm 72, Psalm 110, Psalm 2 and on and on.
It is, quite simply, to be so, since it is written in so many places, phases and facets, for so many reasons with so many grounds, that one would have to defile the word of God massively, like a breast cancer removal, to detach it, to avoid it. It is to be, and it will be glorious (see millenium, Index).
This being the Old Covenant, the readers are then exhorted to remember the law of Moses, but this being the Covenant which GOD made new with Moses and the people (cf. Exodus 24, Joshua 23-24), and that being the one which predicts the Messiah (Deuteronomy 18, Daniel 9, Psalm 2, 110, 16, 40, 72), we are scarcely surprised to find reference to the next event on the stadium grounds. THEN, it was to be the coming of the one to prepare the ways of the Lord, for His advent on earth (namely John the Baptist cf. Matthew 11:14, with 11:4ff., Isaiah 40:3). He has now come, as has the suffering face of the Messiah. Spiritual discipline came with Him, and He accomplished the death to which His place led Him; to come is physical exposure of reality. He did not come to condemn the world (John 3:16-17), but that the world might be saved. Since it refuses, though many are emitted from its wars and ways, it will be condemned (II Peter 3), and its wicked works as it is written, burnt up with it. Judgment has expended its force on the face of Christ; but this is a cover only for those whose hearts receive this gift, grant and spiritual subsidy, which is no mere transfer, though it is not less (Romans 4:25, II Cor. 5:21, Galatians 3:10-13); for it is associated with a gift of unalienated and indeed inalienable life as real as the clearance of guilt (Romans 8:1-17,32ff.).
Lastly, in Ch. 4, we note that the failure of people to respond to this event, the coming of the one to prepare the path for the Lord, and with him, the Lord as in Ch. 3, the Messenger of the Covenant, so clearly expressed in Deuteronomy 18, as to come, there is to be a curse to strike the earth. As we have seen in some detail elsewhere, Revelation specifies this in Chs. 6,16 and others, and it is potent. Its course is described also by Christ in Matthew 24, Luke 21 for example. It is now a very stricken earth!
this regard, it is now our own contemporary situation, even among the Gentiles,
where the blessed release of those who separated form those things, coming
instead in truth to the Lord (Malachi 3:16), is still through a door which
remains open, and many enter there, while most, now as then, do not (John
10:9,27-28, Psalm 118:19-22). Many like mountain climbing, and while the
entry is free, the walk is at times demanding (Matthew 7:13). It is good
it is so, for quality's sake, for the testimony of truth, the beauty of
mercy, the excellence of life; so that then, work done, the saints, clad
in garments washed in the blood of the Lamb (Revelation 7:14,17) may rest
from their labours (Revelation 14:13).
This chapter is left till last, since our point of incursion relates to 2:15, and the events around were our immediate quest. Now however we turn to the first.
The love of the Lord, so often considered on this site, to the Jewish people is affirmed, and even here we hear the querulous response, "In what way have You loved us ?"
we find the verse cited by Paul in Romans 9. Jacob have I loved, Esau
have I hated.
Obviously, there is a reason, and this is cited often enough. The love of God itself is selective in result, but not in its out-thrust (I John 4:7-8, Colossians 1:19ff., I Timothy 2:1ff., John 3;16). It is not a matter of works, but it is a matter of divine foreknowledge, since this is affirmed in Romans 8:29ff.. These things are treated in detail*2 in Predestination and Freewill, and noted in SMR Ch. 5 near the outset. God who knows who are His own, and takes none forcibly, continually appealing, has exhorted, even to the highways and byways, so that those spiritually proud or pompous are excluded and indeed, they even participated as to type, in the crucifixion, not by joining Him, but by loving it! There is a distaste for grace which excludes it. While the choice is that of God, the criteria are not distant or unobvious. Preference for darkness in the end is the cited ground, God Himself being the Judge (John 3:17-19, 5:19-23).
Unlike the case with Esau, exclusive of spiritual things, is Jacob who, despite his gross weaknesses, was upon conversion, a man who sought the Lord. Thus the difference is stressed, but even with the contemporary Israel, there is a lapse which makes even greater the exclusion zone, and we have been following this in the coverage of Chs. 2-4 above. The descendants of Jacob too (Jacob's new name, Israel, prince with God, being filled with hope), they have largely failed, though some have escaped (Isaiah 66:18-19, Acts 2-5). More will come (Romans11:25ff.).
Thus, the lassitude and laxity of even Israel the chosen nation, this is uncovered, exposed, not shunned in distaste, but reasonably considered in Malachi 1:6-14.
God is not honoured in His name, in their offerings, blighted, He is slighted by weary 'well-doing' which is sad in significance, an exclusion zone for spiritual zeal, a performance site for hearts which do not dwell in the light, but seek subversive substitutes for divine honour in their slick ways.
Seeking gain that is plain, not spiritual which is deep, they seek favour from the Lord, the whole thing a sort of maximising of profit or pleasure, an account for exploitation. Would anyone even open the doors without a fee ? "I have no pleasure in you, says the LORD of hosts, nor will I accept an offering from your hands."
What then ? Esau was in darkness that thrived, Jacob, Israel of the day, is in spiritual tatters, now exposed by the light! Meanwhile, milling thousands of the people of the Lord take counsel together, and seek the Lord, and their testimony also is written in His book.
This was to come (Isaiah 65:13-15) - and it has come - indeed continues to come:
"O what a weariness!" they exclaim amongst themselves as they slide with spiritual slovenliness into their spiritual tasks.
"SHOULD I ACCEPT THIS FROM YOUR HAND!" - asks the One whose worhsip they so lightly purported to perform.
We have already seen the end result. THOSE WHO FEARED THE LORD spoke and acted, differentiated themselves and collected for spiritual reality and service; God knew it, acted and eternalises what is externalised. As Jesus declared:
So is the filter active in Jewish and Gentile circles. Faith is where it is, found in the hearts the Lord has taken for His own.
Thus we have seen the movement from creation realities to marital ethics, from spiritual formalism back to spiritual zeal with what is real, the power of the Lord in performance in the coming of Christ, and the irrepressible thrust for just judgment, whether on Christ or on those who reject Him.
There is no laxity in the kingdom of heaven, but great love. There is no hypocrisy, but much purging. There is laundering in the kingdom, and there is no queue. Hearts are never slow to be placed, and minds cleared by the work of the Lord. For He has come, has done and the way lies open. Its traversal may be refused, but with it, the laundering of the soul, the acceptance of the Lord and the immunity from judgment is lost.
Judgment ? This is so distasteful to the Lord on the people whom He has made, the world which He has loved, that He preferred to become incarnate and die, to executing it. Yet what would you ? If your preference is darkness, there is only one fate for that when faced with the light.
light shines and cannot be extinguished, whether or not in the consignments
of sin, it be comprehended. The Gospel is simple. The way is clear.
*1 The NKJV adds ‘them’, inserted, without warrant, and to the destruction of the sense and flow of thought: "Did He not make them one ?" The ‘them’ is NOT in the text.
The KJV has not added in this needless and in fact misleading way (a principle well applicable is this: Do not ADD without necessity for the sense, and even then only as idiomatically required). Nevertheless, it sets it out like this: "And did not he make one? Yet had he the residue of the spirit" (bold added). Again the ‘yet’ removes or blurs that causative element which is precisely the thrust of the argument. It reads: "and did He not make one ? and a vestige of spirit for him." In passing, one notes that there is no ‘the’ before spirit, so that the use of this definite article here is simply an assumption. It cannot affect the translation. It is not a datum in the original.
Again, the movement from additive to contrary with two cases of the same conjunction here would be, to say the least, a strain on the sequence (i.e. ‘and’ and ‘yet’ as in bold type above). In the Hebrew, while the conjunction used MAY have varied meanings in context, its primary use is ‘and’, and when you want to vary the translation, there are normally limits if you want clarity. Here the limits are strong. The text is terse, dramatic, and not available for filigree work.
If then you take it simply, Did he not make one, and did he not have a residue of spirit ? you are taking no liberties, and assuming clarity. Since this ALSO brings out a deep thrust of unified argument, it is doubly assured.
It is always dangerous to insist on this or that translation vehicle, like the KJV or NKJV. This is wholly unscriptural, there being no assurance whatever concerning any such particular effort. All things must be tested, and idolatry or at best emulousness can arise when one attributes to some one translation, the values which are brought in various inspirations of understanding and talents, through many. To be sure, many translations there are which do violate various clear principles, take liberties and so forth, as noted in detailed work in The Kingdom of Heaven Ch. 7.
Nevertheless, to assume all
things, cannot be and is not the same as "test all things". Testings do
not generalise: they are particular and take every aspect as it comes.
While our testings indicate excellent work in both the NKJV and the KJV,
in various key studies and regards, they also indicate that neither is
perfect. We cannot be arm chair nonchalants, but must study to show ourselves
workmen who need not be ashamed (II Timothy 2:15). God has not authorised
the use of some king’s authorising, nor has He proposed a principle to
limit oneself to one. The true limit is what is written, not what is translated,
and wise is he who makes no other.
also Tender Times for Timely Truths
Ch. 11, The Kingdom of Heaven ...
Ch. 4, Stepping out for Christ Ch.
3, Lord of Life Ch.
6, SMR Appendix B.