Calvin's Commentary on Malachi (... continued from file 10) Lecture One Hundred and Seventy-ninth. Malachi 3:9 Ye [are] cursed with a curse: for ye have robbed me, [even] this whole nation. Malachi pursues the same subject; for he answers the Jews in the name of God - that they unjustly complained of his rigour as being immoderate, since they themselves were the cause of all their evils. He says that they were cursed, but he adds that this happened to them deservedly, as though he had said - "Be that granted what you say, (for lamentations were continually made,) why is it that God afflicts us without end or limits?" God seems to grant what they were wont reproachfully to declare; but he says in answer to this - "But ye have defrauded Me; what wonder then that my curse consumes you? As then I have been robbed by you, as far as ye could, I will render to you your just recompense; for it is not right that I should be bountiful and kind to you, while ye thus defraud me, and take from me what is my own." The meaning then is this - that it was indeed true that the Jews lamented that they were under a curse, but that the cause ought to have been searched out. They indeed wished their rapines and sacrileges to be forgiven, by which they defrauded God; but God declares that he punished them justly in consuming them with poverty and want, since they so sparingly rendered to him what they owed. He mentions the whole nation, and thus aggravates the wickedness of the Jews; for not a few were guilty of the sacrilege mentioned, but all, from the least to the greatest, they all plundered the tenths and the oblations. It hence follows that God's vengeance did not exceed due limits, since there was as it were a common conspiracy; there were not ten or a hundred implicated in this sin, but, as he says, the whole people. It follows - Malachi 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]. He at length declares that they profited nothing by contending with God, but that a better way was open to them, that is, to return into favour with him. After having then repelled their unjust accusations, he again points out the remedy which he had already referred to - that if they dealt faithfully with God, he would be bountiful to them, and that his blessing would be promptly extended to them. This is the sum of the passage. They had been sufficiently proved guilty of rapacity in withholding the tenths and the oblations; as then the sacrilege was well known, the Prophet now passes judgement, as they say, according to what is usually done when the criminal is condemned, and the cause is decided, so that he who has been defrauded recovers his right. So also now God deals with the Jews. Bring, he says, to the repository (for this is the same as the house of the treasury, or of provisions) all the tenths, or the whole tenths. We hence learn that they had not withholden the whole of the tenths from the priests, but that they fraudulently brought the half, or retained as much as they could; for it was not without reason that he said, Bring all, or the whole. They then so paid the tenths as to supply the priests with a part only, and thus they trifled with God, according to what hypocrites do, who ever claim to themselves high honour, and try to perform their duty in such a way as not to discover their own perfidy, and yet they are not ashamed of the liberty they take to illude God; and of this we have here a remarkable example. We then see that it is no new or unusual thing for men to pretend to do the duties they owe to God, and at the same time to take away from him what is his own, and to transfer it to themselves, and that manifestly, so that their impiety is evident, though it be covered by the veil of dissimulation. He then adds, Let there be meat in my house. We have elsewhere explained this form of speaking, and in the last lecture the Prophet spoke also of the meat of God, not that God needs meat and drink, but that whatever he has given us ought to be deemed his. We have already stated, that it has been recorded for our sake, that the Jews offered bread, and victims, and things of this kind, and that they feasted at Jerusalem in the presence of God: for what is more desirable than that God should dwell in the midst of us? and this is often repeated in the law. But this could not have been set forth to us in a way so familiar, as when God is represented as in a manner sitting at table with us, as though he were our guest, eating of the same bread and of the other provisions: and hence it is said in the law, "Thou shalt feast and rejoice before thy God." (Deut. 2: 18.) Now as God needs not meat and drink, as it has been said, and as men in their grossness are ever prone to superstitions, he substituted the priests and the poor in his own place, to prevent the Jews from entertaining earthly notions respecting him. And this kind of modification or correction deserves to be noticed: for the Lord on the one hand intended to draw men in a kind manner to himself; but, on the other hand, he proposed to raise their minds upward to heaven, lest they should ascribe to him anything unworthy of himself, as is wont to be done, and is very common. But, at the same time, he again accuses them of sacrilege, for he complains that he was deprived of meat; Let there then be meat in my house; and prove me by this, saith Jehovah, if I wily not open, &c. He confirms what he said before, and yet proceeds with his promise, for by subjecting himself to a proof, he boldly repels their calumny in saying that they were without cause consumed with want, and that God had changed his nature, because he had not given a large supply of provisions. God then briefly shows, that wrong had been done to him, for he admits of a proof or a trial, as though he had said, "If you choose to contest the point, I will soon settle it, for if you bring to me the tenths and them entire, there will immediately come to you a great abundance of all provisions: it will hence be evident, that I am not the cause of barrenness, but that it is your wickedness, because ye have sacrilegiously defrauded me." Then he adds, If I will not open to you the windows of heaven. It is the first thing as to fertility that the heavens should water the earth, according to what Scripture declares: and hence God threatens in the law that the heaven would be iron and the earth brass, (Deut. 28: 23,) for there is a mutual connection between the heaven and the earth, and he says elsewhere by a Prophet, "The heaven will hear the earth, and the earth will hear the corn and wine, and the corn and wine will hear men." (Hos 2: 99.) For when famine urges us, we cry for bread and wine, as our life seems in a manner to be dependent on these supplies. When there is no wine nor corn, we meet with a denial; but the wine and the corn cry to the earth, and why? because according to the order fixed by God, they seek as it were to break forth; for when the bowels of the earth are closed, neither the corn nor the vine can come forth, and then they in vain call on the earth. The sense is the case with the earth; for when it is dry and as it were famished, it calls on the heavens, but if rain be denied, the heavens seem to reject its prayer. Then God in this place shows that the earth could not produce a single ear of corn, except the heavens supplied moisture or rain. God indeed could from the beginning have watered the earth without rain, as Moses relates he did at first, for a vapour then supplied the want of rain. Though then rain descends naturally, we are yet reminded here that God sends it. This is the first thing. But as rain itself would not suffice, he adds, I will unsheath, &c.; for "raq" means properly to unsheath; but as this metaphor seems unnatural, some have more correctly rendered it, "I will draw out" Unnatural also is this version, "I will empty out a blessing," and it perverts the meaning. Let us then follow what I have stated as the first - that a blessing is drawn out from God when the earth discharges its office, and becomes fertile or fruitful. We hence see that God is not only in one way bountiful to us, but he also intends by various processes to render us sensible of his kindness: he rains from heaven to soften the earth, that it may in its bosom nourish the corn, and then send it forth from its bowels, as though it extended its breast to us; and further, God adds his blessing, so as to render the rain useful. He subjoins the words "'ad-beliy-day", which some render, "that there may not be a sufficiency," that is, that granaries and cellars might not be capable of containing such abundance. They then elicit this meaning - that so great would be the fruitfulness of the earth, and so large would be its produce, that their repositories would not be sufficiently capacious. But others give this version, "Beyond the measure of sufficiency." The word "day" means properly sufficiency, or what is needful, as by inverting the letters it "yad". With regard to the general meaning there is but little difference. Suitable also is this version, "Beyond sufficiency;" that is, I will not regard what is needful for you, as though it were measured, but the abundance shall be overflowing. It follows - Malachi 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. God now again confirms the truth, that he would not in one way only be bountiful to them. He might indeed distribute to us daily our food, as we know that he thus fed his people in the wilderness; but his will is that the seed should rot in the earth, that it should then germinate, and in course of time grow, until it shoots into ears of corn; but it is still in no small danger, nay the corn is subject to many evils before it be gathered into the garner; for the locusts, the worms, the mildew, and other things may destroy it. God therefore, in order to set forth his kindness to men, enumerates here the ways and the means by which food is preserved; for it would not be enough that the seed should germinate, and that there should appear evidences of a great produce, the ears being fine and abundant, but it is necessary that the ears of corn themselves, before they become ripe, should be preserved from above; for on the one hand the chafers, the locusts, the worms, and other grubs, may suddenly creep in and devour the corn while in the field, and on the other hand, storms, and hail, and mildew, and oilier pestilential things, as I have said, may prove ruinous to the corn. Hence God shows here, that he takes constant care of us, and every day and every night performs the office of a good and careful head of a family, who always watches for its benefit. In the word devourer, I include all the evils to which we see that corn is subject; he therefore says, he shall not destroy the fruit of the earth; nor bereaved shall be the vine for you in the fields. The verb "shachal" properly means to bereave or to deprive; but as this version, "bereaved shall not be vine," would be harsh, some have rendered the words thus, "Miscarry shall not vine," which I do not disapprove: Miscarry then shall not the vine for you in the fields, saith Jehovah of hosts. It follows - Malachi 3:12 And all nations shall call you blessed: for ye shall be a delightsome land, saith the LORD of hosts. This verse is taken from the law, in which among other things God promises so happy a state to his chosen people, that the nations themselves would acknowledge in them the blessing of God. There is yet a contrast to be understood, - that having fallen into such misery, they were become as it were detestable to all nations, according to what the law also declares concerning them, "If thou shalt keep my precepts, all nations shall call thee blessed; but if thou wilt despise me, thou shalt be a sport to all nations, all shall shake the head and move the lips; yea, they shall be astonished at the sight of thy misery, and whosoever shall hear his ears will tingle." (Deut. 28: 1,15.) As then the Jews were consumed as it were in their miseries, the Prophet says, "If you turn to God, that happiness which he has promised you shall not be withheld; he has it as it were ready in his hand, like a treasure that is hidden, according to what is said in Ps. 31: 19, 'How great is the abundance of thy goodness! but it is laid up for them who fear thee.'" God then means, that he will not prostitute his blessing to dogs and swine, but that it is always in reserve for his children, who are teachable and obedient. The nations then shall call you blessed, for ye shall be a land of desire. This promise also is taken from the law, in which God says, that he had not in vain separated that land from the rest, because it was to be an example or a representation of his kindness through the whole world. We indeed know that God has ever been bountiful even to all nations, so as to satisfy them abundantly with provisions; but the land of Israel is called the land of desire, or a desirable land, because it was the special scene of God's bounty, not only as to meat and drink, but also as to other more excellent blessings. He now adds - Malachi 3:13-15 13 Your words have been stout against me, saith the LORD. Yet ye say, What have we spoken [so much] against thee? 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? 15 And now we call the proud happy; yea, they that work wickedness are set up; yea, [they that] tempt God are even delivered. Here again God expostulates with the Jews on account of their impious and wicked blasphemy in saying, that he disappointed his servants, and that he made no difference between good and evil, because he was kind to the unfaithful and the faithful indiscriminately, and also that he overlooked the obedience rendered to him. He says now that their words grew strong; by which he denotes their insolence, as though he had said, Vous avez gagn le plus haut; for "chazaq" is to be strong. He means that such was the waywardness of the Jews that it could not by any means be checked; they were like men whom we see, who when once seized by rage and madness, become so vociferous that they will not listen to any admonitions or sane counsels. At first they murmur and are only heard to whisper; but when they have attained full liberty, they then send forth, as I have said, their furious clamours against heaven. This is the sin which the Prophet now condemns by saying, that the Jews grew strong in crying against God. They again answer and say, In what have we spoken against thee? It appears from these so many repetitions that the hypocrisy, which was united with great effrontery, could not be easily corrected in a people so refractory: it ought indeed to have come to their minds that they had wickedly accused God. But they acknowledge here no fault, "What meanest thou?" as though they wished to arraign the Prophet for having falsely charged them, inasmuch as they were conscious of no wrong. He then gives the reason why he said, that their words grew strong against God, that is, that they daringly and furiously spoke evil of God; and the reason was, because they said, that God was worshipped in vain. They thought that they worshipped God perfectly; and this was their false principle; for hypocrites ever lay claim to complete holiness, and cannot bear to confess their own evils; even when their conscience goads them, they deceive themselves with vain flatteries, and always endeavour to draw over them some veil that their disgrace may not appear before men. Hence hypocrites seek to deceive themselves, God, angels, and men; and when they are inflated with the confidence that they worship God purely, rightly, and without any defect, and that they are without any blame, they will betray the virulence which lies within, whenever God does not help them as they wish, whenever he submits not to their will: for when they are prosperous, God is hauntingly blessed by them; but as soon as he withdraws his hand and begins to prove their patience, they will then show, as I have said, what sort of worshippers of God they are. But in the service of God the chief thing is this - that men deny themselves and give themselves up to be ruled by God, and never raise a clamour when he humbles them. We hence see how it was that the Jews found fault with God; for they were persuaded that they fully performed their duty, which was yet most false; and then, they were not willing to submit to God, and to undertake his yoke, because they did not consider in how many ways they had provoked God's wrath, and what just and multiplied reasons he has for chastising his people, even when they do nothing wrong. As then they did not seriously consider any of these things, they thought that he was unjust to them, In vain then do we serve God. These thoughts, as we have said, sometimes come across the minds of the faithful; but they, as it becomes them, resist such thoughts: the Jews, on the contrary, as though they were victorious, vomited forth these blasphemies against God. In vain we serve God; what benefit? they said: for we have kept has charge, we have walked obscurely, or humbly, before Jehovah of hosts; and yet we are constrained to call the proud, or the impious, happy. Here they bring a twofold accusation against God, that they received no reward for their piety when they faithfully discharged their duty towards God, - and also that it was better with the ungodly and the despisers of God than with them. We hence see how reproachfully they exaggerated what they deemed the injustice of God, at least how they themselves imagined that he disappointed the just of their deserved reward, and that he favoured the ungodly and the wicked as though he was pleased with them, as though he intended the more to exasperate the sorrow of his own servants, who, though they faithfully worshipped, yet saw that they did so in vain, as God concealed himself and did not regard their services. That the good also are tempted, as we have said, by thoughts of this kind, is no wonder, when the state of things in the world is in greater confusion. Even Solomon says, "All things happen alike to the just and to the unjust, to him who offers sacrifices, and to him who does not sacrifice," (Eccles. 9: 2,) hence the earth is full of impiety and contempt. There is then an occasion for indignation and envy offered to us; but as God designedly tries our faith by such confusions, we must remember that we must exercise patience. It is not at the same time enough for us to submit to God's judgement, except we also consider that we are justly distressed; and that though we may be attentive to what is just and upright, many vices still cleave to us, and that we are sprinkled with many spots, which provoke God's wrath against us. Let us then learn to form a right judgement as to what our life is, and then let us bear in mind how many are the reasons why God should sometimes deal roughly with us. Thus all our envying will cease, and our minds will be prepared calmly to obey. In short, these considerations will check whatever perverseness there may be in us, so that neither our wicked thoughts nor our words will be so strong as to rise in rebellion against God. Prayer. Grant, Almighty God, that since we continue to afford many and various reasons to induce thee to withdraw thy blessing, and to show thyself displeased with us, - O grant, that we may patiently bear thy scourges, by which thou chastises us, and also profit under them, and so contend with all our depraved affections and the corruptions of the flesh, that we may become partakers of thy paternal kindness, which thou offerest to us, and also so taste of thy goodness, which in innumerable ways is manifested towards us, that it may keep us in the pursuit of true religion; finally, may our tongues be consecrated to magnify thy judgement and to celebrate thy justice, that whatever happens to us, we may always serve thee through our whole life as our Father, and declare also thy goodness towards us, and confess that we are justly punished whenever thou visitest us with severity, until we shall at length reach that blessed rest, which is to be the end of all our evils, and an entrance, not only into life, but also into that full glory and happiness, which has been procured for us by the blood of thine only-begotten Son. - Amen. Calvin's Commentary on Malachi (continued in file 12...) ---------------------------------------------------- file: /pub/resources/text/ipb-e/epl-09: cvmal-11.txt .