Malachi, Respecting Our Heavenly Father
“A son honoureth his father, and a servant his master: if then I be a father, where is mine honour? and if I be a master, where is my fear? saith the LORD of hosts” (Malachi 1:6).
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As Christians, we are not under the Mosaic Law, but under grace. However, there are important lessons contained in the 10 Commandments. There are special lessons in commandments four and five. Eight of the ten contain the phrase: “Thou shalt not.” By contrast, both the Fourth and the Fifth Commandments contain positive statements. We will consider the Fifth Commandment.
Exodus 20:12 says, “Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee.” The Apostle Paul comments on this commandment in Ephesians 6:2, saying “Honour thy father and mother; which is the first commandment with promise.” In fact, this commandment is the only one of the 10 commandments that contains a specific promise.
This suggests a special lesson for Spiritual Israel. God is our Father. “Our Father which art in heaven” (Matthew 6:9). The Sarah Covenant is our mother. “It is written, that Abraham had two sons, the one by a bondmaid, the other by a freewoman. But he who was of the bondwoman was born after the flesh; but he of the freewoman was by promise. Which things are an allegory: for these are the two covenants; the one from the mount Sinai, which gendereth to bondage, which is Agar. For this Agar is Mount Sinai in Arabia, and answereth to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children. But Jerusalem which is above is free, which is our mother” (Galatians 4:22-26). The Law Covenant, by contrast, is the “mother” of the Jews.
A deeper understanding of the fifth Commandment is found in Malachi. This “Minor Prophet” has major importance for three different classes: Natural Israel, Nominal Spiritual Israel, and the Great Company. This book is a prophecy. It relates to both the First and the Second Advents of Messiah. It shows the circumstances existing in both cases.
Malachi is the final inspired message to Natural Israel. It contains a judgment against them. It gives a call for reformation and a promise of deliverance. This promise is tightly held by many Jews to this day. An empty chair, or more commonly, an extra cup of wine, is present at the Passover table, reserved for Elijah (compare Malachi 4:5).
Verses 1-4. The opening verses show a separate judgment, against Edom. Edom here, as elsewhere, represents Christendom. It portrays their attempt to establish the Kingdom of God. But God does not recognize the false kingdom, and is now in the process of throwing it down. This judgment will be everlasting.
This reminds us of Revelation 14:11, which speaks of the symbolic smoke of her burning ascending continually.
Verse 5 shows what will take place after that judgment: “Jehovah will be magnified from the border of Israel.” The true Kingdom will be established through Israel. Many other scriptures show that Kingdom to be everlasting.
The bulk of the prophecy that follows considers a problem, and the solution, both related to the Fifth Commandment. “A son honoureth his father, and a servant his master: if then I be a father, where is mine honour? and if I be a master, where is my respect? saith the LORD of hosts unto you, O priests, that despise my name. And ye say, Wherein have we despised thy name?” (Malachi 1:6). Who are these priests who despise God’s name?
There are three classes who fail to “honour their Father.” (1) The literal priests of Natural Israel who went astray. (2) The false priests of Babylon the Great (the Nominal Church). (3) The Great Company, described in Ezekiel 44:10-14 as the Levites who went astray.1
For all three classes there is a judgment message and a prophecy in the Book of Malachi. We first ask, what is the failure of these three classes? The failure in all three cases is a lack of honor and respect for their Father, God — and a lack of honor and respect for their mother, the covenant. All three classes fail to recognize their sin. They ask in verse 6, “Wherein have we despised Thy name?,” and in verse 7, “Wherein have we polluted Thee?”
(1) Some editors do not see the Great Company as one of the classes described here in Malachi. They prefer to limit this application to the first two classes mentioned.
The charges against them are given in the following verses.
Verse 7. “Ye offer polluted [desecrated] bread upon mine altar.” This is true for all three classes, in various ways. Literal sacrifices were often not the best they had to offer, indicating a careless attitude. Additionally, there is the symbolic “polluted bread” of impure doctrines and behavior.
They offered the blind, the torn, the lame and the sick, gifts that they would not give to earthly rulers even (verses 8,13). They offered less than they agreed to under their covenant (verse 14).
Another charge against them, profaning the name of the Lord, is stated in verse 12.
Thus the un-repented sins of these three classes include: formalistic religion, sacrifices that are not from the heart, and distorting the truth.
By contrast, the results of the True Kingdom are given in verse 11: “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.”
We have answered the question: “What is the failure of these three classes?” Why is this important to us? It is important because we must strive to properly honor our Father and our mother, otherwise we will be guilty of the same sins.
Malachi chapter two contains strong condemnation of the unfaithful Priests and Levites.2 It also presents a contrast between the faithful and unfaithful classes.
Verses 8 and 10 accuse them of corrupting and profaning the terms of their Covenant by offering unacceptable sacrifices. Thus they did not honor their mother, and they stumbled others as well.
(2) The terms “Levite” and “Levites” do not appear in Malachi, but God’s covenant with “Levi” is mentioned in Malachi 2:4,8, and the term “sons of Levi” appears in Malachi 3:3, where they are purged as gold and silver, often taken to refer to the two spiritual classes, the Church and the Great Company.
Verses 11-16 use a different symbolic picture of unfaithfulness to a covenant, and unfaithfulness to God. The sin is: “marrying the daughter of a strange god.” This dishonors both God and the covenant. In addition to a general and practical principle, this expression is full of symbolic meaning. The Jewish nation as unfaithful to their covenant. The Nominal Church committed fornication with the Kings of the Earth. The Great Company is not sufficiently faithful to be part of the Bride of Christ.
Verse 15 shows the true seed of promise, Christ and his Bride class, when it says that God would “seek a godly seed.”
Up to this point we have seen many details concerning the problem. Chapter three begins to show us the solution to that problem. It also focuses on the faithful priests and Levites. This is another parallel to Ezekiel 44 (verses 15-31).
The first three verses show a preparation and cleansing work to be accomplished by the Lord’s special messenger.
The preparatory work of John the Baptist as “my messenger” was a continuation of the picture. In the fullest sense, this prophecy applies to the Second Advent. Jesus made a veiled reference to this when he said: “Elias truly shall first come, and restore all things” (Matthew 17:11). Jesus is the true “Messenger of the Covenant.”
We all have failings, and we all need cleansing. Two classes of the antitypical sons of Levi are shown here. The Little Flock are pure at heart, they are purified as gold, and will be priests. The Great Company are also pure at heart, but are purified as silver, and will serve in the Temple, but not as priests.
These two classes differ in their degree of faithfulness to the Fifth Commandment. The Little Flock is more faithful (more than conquerors) regarding honor to their Father, God; and to their mother, the covenant.
The question is asked: “Who shall stand?” (Malachi 3:2). Both the gold class and the silver class will stand. The dross will be removed from both classes. In the case of the Great Company, they build with wood, hay, and stubble, and suffer loss (regarding the reward) but their lives are spared (1 Corinthians 3:10-15). Both classes remain standing on the rock (Christ Jesus).
In the following verses a contrast is made between (1) the unrighteous offerings of the past, and (2) the righteous offerings of the future. The first (typical) sacrifices were less than they vowed to give. The second (antitypical) sacrifices, by the faithful ones, will not only result in righteousness (verse 3) but will bring about atonement between God and man. “Then shall the offering of Judah and Jerusalem be pleasant unto Jehovah” (Malachi 3:4).
The process of at-one-ment will begin with “Jacob” (verses 4-12) starting with their returned favor and gradual restoration. The blessing of the world of mankind (verse 12) will be made possible only after the purifying of the antitypical “sons of Levi” mentioned in previous verses has been complete.
Verses 16 and 17 show the attitude of the true Church in the time of harvest. They have respect for the Fifth Commandment; loving respect for their Father, God; respect for their mother, the covenant; they speak often to one another, assemble together (Hebrews 10:24,25); and love one another (1 John 4:21).
God is writing a “book of remembrance,” He is “making up His jewels,” and He is “sparing them … as sons.”
Chapter four describes the future as a “day that shall burn as an oven.” Some aspects have already begun to be fulfilled.
Verse 1 describes the Time of Trouble. The trouble on Israel (69-73 AD) foreshadowed this trouble. The French Revolution was another figure of this great trouble. The purpose of the trouble is two-fold: (1) A judgment work, destructive of error and false systems. (2) A cleansing work, constructive, refining.
This is shown by a strong contrast between two different symbols in the larger context. (1) The “stubble” will be burned up, so that not even the roots will remain. Such a burning of the fields is still practiced in various countries. In this cleansing process, the roots, and even the seeds of undesirable growth, are destroyed. This symbolizes the absolute destruction of the harmful elements, so that they can never “grow up” again. (2) Drawing a parallel to 1 Corinthians 3:11-15 and Malachi 3:3,17, we see the constructive cleansing and refining work done on the gold, silver, and precious gems; the making up of God’s jewels; purifying the sons of Levi.
The fulfillment of this prophecy occurs in a special way at the end of the age when the Sun of Righteousness begins to rise. The Second Presence of our Lord begins with a special harvest work designed to separate and eventually destroy the unclean elements, but the same fire is used to cleanse the Lord’s people.
The reconstructive work of the Kingdom will largely follow the destruction of the systems of this “Present Evil World.” The process of restitution is here symbolized by the expression “healing in his beams” (verse 2). Gradually the whole world will learn to obey the Fifth Commandment. They will honor their Father, God, and their mother, the New Covenant. Gradually they will grow up as “calves of the stall” and by the close of the Millennium all will be able
to “offer bullocks” on the Lord’s altar (Psalm 51:19).
The consistent advice of this book is summed up in Malachi 4:4: “Remember ye the law of Moses.” In other words, obey the Fifth Commandment. Honor God. Honor the vows of your covenant. If this is the attitude of the heart, then obedience to all the other commandments naturally follows.
The Close of Malachi
The Book of Malachi closes with a prophecy regarding the special mission of the Feet Members, the Elijah class. It is a mission which is completed on this side of the veil. (1) Reproving error and sin, beginning within ourselves. (2) Pointing to the Kingdom of Glory which is to follow the trouble.
The reforming work for mankind is future. The Elijah class, through their witness and example, must try to convert the world, though it is certain that they will fail. Thus the “curse” of the Time of Trouble proceeds. This has already
started, since 1914 in particular. Nevertheless, our mission is to continue to proclaim the Truth.
By honoring our Father and mother we will be blessed. Those who hear us will be blessed. Some will receive those blessings in the present life, but most will receive those blessings in the Resurrection.
There are three “mother” covenants shown in the Scriptures. Paul clearly describes two of the three in Galatians chapter four. The third is not so clearly shown. But in the book of Malachi, all three are suggested. (1) Natural Israel must honor their mother (Hagar), the Law Covenant, and later the New Covenant. (2) Spiritual Israel must honor their mother (Sarah), the Covenant by Sacrifice.
But Keturah is also shown in this prophecy, though in a hidden way. In Malachi 1:11 the phrase: “incense shall be offered” comes from the Hebrew word (Strong’s H6999) meaning “to make incense,” the verb form of that word. The noun form of this word is Strong’s H6989, “Keturah.” In the Kingdom, the “Keturah class” will begin to put into action the true meaning of their covenant name. They will offer up the incense of praise and thanksgiving to God.
(1) We have examined the problem: a failure to obey the Fifth Commandment. This is mentioned by Jesus in Matthew 15:4-9: “For God commanded, saying, Honour thy father and mother: and, He that curseth father or mother, let him die the death. But ye say, Whosoever shall say to his father or his mother, It is a gift, by whatsoever thou mightest be profited by me; and honour not his father or his mother, he shall be free. Thus have ye made the commandment of God of none effect by your tradition. Ye hypocrites, well did Esaias prophesy of you, saying, This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me. But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.”
Jesus added in John 8:47-49: “He that is of God heareth God’s words: ye therefore hear them not, because ye are not of God. Then answered the Jews, and said unto him, Say we not well that thou art a Samaritan, and hast a devil? Jesus answered, I have not a devil; but I honour my Father, and ye do dishonour me.”
One of the most serious charges that can be brought against false religion is that it dishonors God.
(2) We have also examined the solution: honoring our Father and our mother. We often use the word “reverence” or “honor” in place of the word “fear.” “The reverence [fear] of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction” (Proverbs 1:7). “The reverence [fear] of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom: and the knowledge of the holy is understanding” (Proverbs 9:10). “The reverence [fear] of the LORD is the instruction of wisdom; and before honour is humility” (Proverbs 15:33).
There is a proper and an improper fear. “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love” (1 John 4:18). Proper fear means loving respect and honor for God and for His character.
We close with a few practical examples to assist us in honoring our Father and our mother.
- By keeping His commandments in our hearts (especially by keeping our covenant). “He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him” (John 14:21).
- By being “about our Father’s business” (Luke 2:49).
- By defending God’s character.
- By being honest (not hypocrites) (R5724b).
- By keeping ourselves in the love of God (Jude 21) (R5724b).
- By being appreciative. “What shall I render unto the LORD for all his benefits toward me? I will take the cup of salvation, and call upon the name of the LORD. I will pay my vows unto the LORD now in the presence of all
his people. Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints. O LORD, truly I am thy servant; I am thy servant, and the son of thine is handmaid: thou hast loosed my bonds. I will offer to thee the sacrifice of thanksgiving, and will call upon the name of the LORD. I will pay my vows unto the LORD now in the presence of all his people” (Psalm 116:12-18) (R5724b).
- By doing all to the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31) (R5724b).
- By fellowshipping in the light of God. “This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth: But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin” (1 John 1:5-7).
- By not being yoked with unbelievers. “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?” (2 Corinthians 6:14) (R5427b).
- And finally, by loving what God loves. This last criterion is perhaps the most comprehensive, and requires much careful study for its implementation.
- Let us strive to copy God’s character. Let us strive to follow in the footsteps of our ideal and perfect example, our Lord Jesus. Let us love the things that God loves. By so doing we will be better enabled to fulfill the Fifth Commandment: “Honour thy Father and thy mother.”