Handfuls on Purpose
by James Smith, 1943
A MESSAGE TO MESSENGERS. Malachi 2:1-9
"And now, O you priests, this commandment is for you" (v. 1). A priest was one who ministered before God on behalf of the people. He is also called "The messenger of the Lord" (v. 7). We who are priests unto God and ambassadors for Christ, let us note—
I. The Messenger's Privilege, as the messenger of God.
1. He was to lay to heart what he hears, and to give glory to His Name (v. 2). Our first business as ministers of His Word is to take the truth revealed to our own hearts, with the object of giving glory to His Name. We are to speak what we do know in our own experience for the honor of His Holy Name.
2. He was a representative of Divine truth. "They shall seek the law at his mouth" (v. 7). If we are to be worthy of the trust of anxious inquirers, we ourselves must be taught of God, and wear the real garments of the priesthood—humility and godly fear.
II. The Secret of His Power. A powerless ministry is a misrepresentation of this holy order.
1. He is assured of his message. "You shall know that I have sent this word unto you" (v. 4). He can say: "We speak that we do know, and testify that we have seen." There was no uncertain sound in his testimony. The waverer receives nothing of the Lord (Jas. 1:6, 7).
2. He is enjoying the gift of life and peace. "Life and peace, I gave them to him" (v. 5). It is a joyful possession. Life in Christ and peace by the Blood of His Cross. The joy of the Lord is your strength.
3. He has "the law of truth in his mouth" (v. 6). When the love of God is in his heart, and the law of grace in his mouth, he is Divinely equipped as a herald of the Gospel of God. Life, peace, truth, are a holy trinity in Christian experience.
4. He has the Presence of God. "He walks with Me in peace and equity" (v. 6). Herein lies the secret of all spiritual power. "Lo, I am with you." "Without Me you can do nothing." For fruitfulness, the presence of God in the life is as needful as the presence of the sunshine on the fields.
5. He had good success. "He did turn many away from iniquity" (v. 6). By their fruits you shall know them. He is wise that wins souls. This is not the wisdom the world gives, but that which comes by the presence of the Holy Spirit of God.
II. The Cause of His Failure. There was failure, even after such high, holy, and happy experiences. God has made no provision for our failure; but, alas, it comes, and always through man's own folly and waywardness. "How are the mighty fallen?"
1. He departed from the truth. "You have departed out of the way", (v. 8). To depart out of His way and will is to go outside the sphere of His purpose and blessing. It is easy to depart from His way when our thoughts begin to wander after selfish interests.
2. He Corrupted the Covenant (v. 8). Made the Word of none effect by false interpretation. We corrupt the Gospel when we make it conditional upon human merit, or that the grace of God makes any allowance for continuing in sin (Romans 6:1).
III. The Sad Result of His Failure. Such is the fall of a backslider who has been used of God.
1. His Blessings were Blighted. "I will curse your blessings" (v. 2). The gifts and graces divinely bestowed became blighted with God's disapproval, even the seed (Word) which he sows becomes as a rotten thing (v. 3). His life becomes barren and unfruitful, like the branch separated from the vine.
2. He Causes others to Stumble, "You have caused many to stumble at the law" (v. 8). How many there are who stumble at the Gospel because of failure in professing Christians, especially if they are preachers. Iniquity in the Christian life is always a stumbling-block (Ezekiel 7:10). The only remedy for the stumbling-block is to take it out of the way.
3. He is Despised by the People. "Therefore have I also made you contemptible and base before the people" (v. 9). He preached to others, now he is a castaway. Let us give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should slip away from them (Hebrews 2:1, margin).
FULLNESS OF BLESSING. Malachi 3:7-17
Malachi was the last of the prophets. The times in which he lived, about 400 years before Christ, were typical of any modern community (see vv. 13, 14).
I. The Condition of Blessing. There was—
1. The Divine Challenge. "Prove Me now herewith, if I will not open the windows of Heaven and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it" (v. 10). What a promise this is, and what a challenge to our faith. "Prove me." "Put Me to the test, and see if I will not do this for you." Don't let the greatness of the blessing make your faith to stagger. Remember that He who has promised is the Almighty and Unchangeable Lord (v. 6). What He has promised He is well able to perform.
2. The Conditions Specified. "Bring you all the tithes into the storehouse" (v. 10). The tithe was the tenth of the increase, given for the priests who served in the house of the Lord. It was reckoned as belonging to God. They were to "render to God the things that are God's." But we as Christians are not promised fullness of blessing if we give Him a tenth of our increase, although even this will bring blessing into the soul. We are called upon to give to God that which belongs to Him. "You are not your own, for you are bought with a price" (1 Corinthians 6:20). God is not satisfied when we give Him only part of what is His own (Acts 5:2). If we are to have the "open windows of Heaven" and the "poured out blessing," we must present ourselves unto God. This is our reasonable service (Romans 12:1). "Yield yourselves unto God as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments unto God" (Romans 6:13). We can only prove Him when we have fulfilled His conditions.
II. The Evidences of Being Blessed.
1. "They Feared the Lord and Thought upon His Name" (v. 16). Reverential fear is a blessed state of mind, for it leads to a deeper thinking into the preciousness of His Holy Name, that Name which is above every name. O fear the Lord, you saints of His.
2. "They Spoke often One to Another." We are not told what they said, but if they were thinking of the wondrous Name of the Lord, they were surely speaking of Him. Herein lies the secret and joy of Christian fellowship. They had a common cause.
3. They Had the Presence of the Lord. "The Lord hearkened and heard" (v. 16). His promise was fulfilled: "Where two or three are gathered together in My Name, there am I in the midst of them" (Matthew 18:20). To the mere onlooker nothing happened. But the Lord was "listening in." We have open ears when we hear others speaking of us, and mentioning our name. So the Lord hearkens when we talk of Him. But the Lord is no idle listener. A "book of remembrance" was written, a memorandum was kept. For this thing so precious to Him shall never be forgotten. This thing may be written in that other book mentioned in Revelation 20:12. All spiritual values are associated with His Name.
4. They had the Lord's Comforting Assurance. "They shall be Mine when I make up My special treasure" (v. 17). "They thought of Me when in the midst of a perverse people, who said, It is vain to serve the Lord" (v. 14). "I will think of them in that day when I gather out all that is worth saving from a wrecked and sinking world." What an encouragement we have here for the prayer and fellowship meeting, for quiet seasons of meditation. The Lord knows the thoughts and intents of the heart. His special treasure is the Church, redeemed by His own Blood. "They shall be Mine."
TWO GREAT DAYS. Malachi 4:1-3
In these verses we think we see a brief prophetic account of two aspects of the Lord's Second Appearing. Both aspects are seen in 2 Thessalonians 1:7-10.
I. The Awful Day of Testing. "Behold the day comes that shall burn as a furnace" (v. 1, R.V.). This will be the day of the searching power of His consuming presence, when He shall "discern between him that serves God and him that serves Him not" (chapter 3:18). A day that when "all the proud and all that do wickedly shall be stubble." Stubble in a furnace will stand a poor chance of escape. In this day it will not be man's work only that shall be tried by fire (1 Corinthians 3:13), but the man himself. "All the proud." "Who shall stand when He appears, for He is like a refiner's fire" (chapter 3:2). It is Himself that is the "furnace," in the blazing holiness of His righteousness. "The Lord Jesus shall be revealed from Heaven in flaming fire, taking vengeance on them that know not God, and obey not the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ: who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord" (2 Thessalonians 1:8, 9). How should this awfully solemn fact effect us in our service for Him and them? Surely if we realized it, all coldness and indifference would be melted by pity.
II. The Joyful Day of Deliverance. (The Lord's relationship to His own people.) "But unto you that fear My Name, shall the sun of righteousness arise" (v. 2). The sun also is a "furnace," but oh, how different its influence. "But unto you" He shall arise "with healing in His wings." The sun is a brilliant symbol of Christ in its mystery, majesty, and glorious might; a fit emblem of the inexhaustible resources of the Son of God, who is the "Sun of Righteousness." Then truly "The Son shall rule the day, when, like the sun—
1. Christ will be the Center of a Great System. The sun is the center of the solar system, bound together by the law of gravitation. When Christ, as the "Sun of Righteousness," shall arise upon the earth, "with the brightness of His Coming" (2 Thessalonians 2:8), He shall be the center of the greatest and most glorious system this world has ever known, bound together by the law of love. He who is the Center of all creation will subdue all things to Himself (1 Philippians 3:21; 1 Corinthians 15:28). Like the sun—
2. Christ will be the Light of the World. Jesus said: "I am the Light of the World," but now men "love the darkness rather than the light, because their deeds are evil;" but then, when He rules in righteousness, as King, all nations shall come to His light (Isaiah 9:2; 60:19). All the blessings the sun brings us are emblems of the gifts which Christ will bring to the world in His Day: light and life, health and healing, warmth and fruitfulness, beauty and gladness. What a world, perpetually basking in the sunshine of Divine favor. The world for Christ.