By James H. Brookes
The Minor Prophets
This prophet, whose name means "Deliverance or Salvation," is the first of those known as the twelve Minor Prophets, whose books were written at various periods extending over four hundred years. He lived during the long and vigorous reign of Jeroboam the second, king of Israel, and was contemporary with Isaiah. But unlike the latter prophet, who was burdened chiefly about Judah and Jerusalem, Hosea was principally occupied in uttering the lamentation of Jehovah over the ten separated tribes of Israel, who had persistently broken His covenant, and hardened their hearts against the moving entreaties of His love. But amid all the touching expressions of wounded and disappointed affection, there is distinct promise of both spiritual and national recovery, of both conversion and restoration.
In the first section the prophet is directed to take "a wife of whoredoms," obviously a symbolic action, designed to be a living parable of the unfaithfulness of Israel to God. Of the three children proceeding from this marriage, one was named Jezreel, "God will scatter or sow;" one was called Lo-ruhamah, "Not having obtained mercy;" and the third Lo-ammi, "Not my people." But God announces His purpose to hedge up the way of His unfaithful wife with thorns, and by and by to allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak to her heart, until she shall cry Ishi, "my husband," and be betrothed unto Him forever, the queen regent of earth, during the millennial age. Meanwhile "the children of Israel shall abide many days without a king, and without a prince, and without a sacrifice, and without an image, and without an ephod, and without teraphim," i.-iii.
In the second section the wickedness of the people, the priests, and the princes, is sharply reproved, and it closes with the warning, "I will go and return to my place, till they acknowledge their offence, and seek my face." The central thought of the section is, "My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge," iv.-v. In the third section we have an impassioned appeal and earnest expostulation, showing that the lack of knowledge is followed by intense worldliness, "Ephraim, he hath mixed himself among the people; Ephraim is a cake not turned," vi., vii. In the fourth section there is stern threatening, for the worldliness is succeeded by utter corruption; '* They have deeply corrupted themselves, as in the days of Gibeah: therefore he will remember their iniquity, he will visit their sins," viii., ix. In the fifth section Israel is described as an empty vine, and then as a child most tenderly loved; but "my people are bent to backsliding from me: though they called them to the Most High, none at all would exalt him," X., xi. In the sixth section Judah comes in for a share in God's reproof, but the Holy Ghost speedily turns again to Ephraim, representing the ten tribes, as pre-eminently wicked, and following the backsliding with open idolatry, to be terribly punished: "And now they sin more and more, and have made them molten images of their silver, and idols according to their own understanding," xii., xiii. In the seventh section they are exhorted to return unto the Lord, because they had fallen by their iniquity, and are told precisely how to return, and what words to use, with the assurance that they will be received and healed and abundantly blessed, xiv.
There is no mention of the time in which this prophet lived, although it has been supposed, from certain internal evidences, that he was the earliest of all the prophets, major or minor. His name means "Jehovah is God," and brief as is his prophecy, it sweeps over the entire history of the people who forgot that Jehovah is God, from the time it was uttered to the second advent of Christ. In the Hebrew Bible it is divided into four chapters, but if it is proper to make any break at all, it should occur at the eighteenth verse of the second chapter.
First, the Holy Ghost uses the devastations brought about by locusts as a type of the terrible judgments to be inflicted by the invasion of hostile armies, and therefore calls upon the priests and the elders, the bridegroom and the bride, the children and all the people, to humble themselves in deep penitence before the Lord God of hosts, i., ii. 1-17. This is followed by the assurance that He will be merciful, removing the armies of the invaders, restoring the temporal blessings which they had lost, and planting them in their own land, where, it is said, "Ye shall eat in plenty, and be satisfied, and praise the name of the Lord your God, that hath dealt wondrously with you: and my people shall never be ashamed. And ye shall know that I am in the midst of Israel, and that I am the Lord your God, and none else: and my people shall never be ashamed."
It is needless to say that thic prophecy awaits its fulfillment, but it is important to notice that God declares, "It shall come to pass afterward I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh." When the Apostle quotes this language on the day of Pentecost, he does not say the scene then witnessed was a fulfillment of the prophecy, but, "This is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel;" and we know that the signs accompanying the prediction were not witnessed, ''blood, and fire, and vapour of smoke; the sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before that great and notable day of the Lord come." These signs did not follow the gift of the Spirit in Peter's day, because Israel was not then repentant and obedient, but as God's word is true, they will surely be seen in a day yet future.
Hence the last chapter tells of the gathering of all nations about Jerusalem, where the judgment takes place which is described in Matt. xxv. 31-46. "The Lord also shall roar out of Zion, and utter his voice from Jerusalem; and the heavens and the earth shall shake: but the Lord will be the hope of his people, and the strength of the children of Israel." Their enemies will be overthrown, but amid the tokens of supernatural fertility, "Judah shall dwell forever, and Jerusalem from generation to generation."
This prophet, whose name means "Bearer of burden," was contemporary with Isaiah and Hosea. But, unlike the latter, his burden was borne on account of both Judah and Israel, and also surrounding Gentile nations. All that is known of his life we gather from his own words to Amaziah, a worldly priest who urged him not to deliver his unpopular messages at Bethel, the king's chapel, and the king's court: "I was no prophet, neither was I a prophet's son: but I was an herdman, and a gatherer of sycamore fruit: and the Lord took me as I followed the flock, and the Lord said unto me, Go, prophecy unto my people Israel," (vii. 14, 15).
The Holy Ghost through this humble man first announces a series of judgments upon seven nations, the Syrians, Philistines, the kingdom of Tyre, the Edomites, Ammonites, Moabites, and then God's own people, i., ii. This is followed by three searching addresses, each beginning with the summons, "Hear this word." The first reminds his countrymen of their peculiar privileges, as constituting the only people of all the families of the earth God had known; but this brought with it peculiar responsibilities: "Therefore I will punish you for all your iniquities," iii. The second address mentions their iniquities, especial! v the mockery of their formal services at Bethel and Gilgal, as having brought upon them the rod of punishment, iv. The third address, after an earnest exhortation to turn unto the Lord, predicts the overthrow of the kingdom and their captivity, v., vi.
This is succeeded by a series of five visions, the grasshoppers, the devouring fire, and the Lord standing upon a wall with a plumb-line in His hand, like the law of God, showing how for they were from rectitude. The judgments thus typified were executed in the invasions of Pul, Tiglathpileser, and Shalmaneser, the last of whom carried away the ten tribes, and they have not returned to this day. Then came the basket of summer fruits, showing that Israel was ripe for the threatened infliction, and ready to fall; and finally the Lord was seen standing upon the altar, to give the stroke of destruction with His own hand, and to scatter it to the winds, vii.-ix. 1-10.
Yet in the end grace triumphs, as set forth by all the prophets, audit will be gloriously displayed, when Christ comes a second time. "Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that the plowman shall overtake the reaper, and the treader of grapes him that soweth seed; and the mountains shall drop sweet wine, and all the hills shall melt. And I will bring again the captivity of my people Israel, and they shall build the waste cities, and inhabit them and they shall plant vineyards, and drink the wine thereof; they shall also make gardens, and eat the fruit of them. And I will plant them upon their land, and they shall no more be pulled up out of their land which I have given them, saith the Lord thy God," ix. 11-15. The Apostle James quotes a part of this passage, and reveals the divine purpose in language it seems difficult to misunderstand. God is now visiting the Gentiles "to take out of them a people for his name." After this is accomplished, not the conversion of all the Gentiles, but only the gathering out of an elect number, Christ will return, and "build again the tabernacle of David, which is fallen down," restoring Israel to their land, "that the residue of men might seek after the Lord, and all the Gentiles," (Acts XV. 14-17).
We know not the time of this prophet, whose name means "Servant of the Lord," but it is probable that he was among the earliest called to the prophetic office. His book is the briefest message that was delivered, and yet it is exceedingly important, as it predicts the doom of the Edomites. These were the descendants "of Esau, who is Edom," (Gen. xxxvi. 1), the twin brother of Jacob, and the type of the unchangeable hostility of the flesh to that which is born of the Spirit. Although their name and identity are lost at present among some of the existing nations, God will search them out in the last days; and it is apparent that a more terrible destruction awaits them them, than that which has overtaken them in the past.
The prophet announces that the hand of the Lord will drag them from their munitions of rocks, though they exalt themselves as eagles, and set their nest among the stars, for their treatment of Jerusalem in the day of its calamity and sorrow. This shows that whosoever touches His people touches the apple of His eye, and will be remembered in the day of the Lord that is near upon all the heathen, (vs. 15). "But upon mount Zion shall be deliverance, and there shall be holiness; and the house of Jacob shall possess their possessions. . . . And saviours shall come up on mount Zion to judge the mount of Esau 5 and the kingdom shall be the Lord's.''
Thus the book, however short, reaches on like all prophecy to the second advent of the Lord Jesus, and like all prophecy promises both spiritual and national recovery and restoration to the now scattered children of Jacob. It is a book that should be studied in connection with the following scriptures: Num. xx. 14-22; xxiv. 17-19; Ps. Ix. 8-12; cxxxvii. 7; Isa. xi. 11-14; Isa. xxxiv; Jer. xlix. 7-22; Ezek. xxxv.
Jonah, whose name means "dove," was one of the earliest prophets, for we find that a prediction he uttered was fulfilled in the days of Jeroboam II, about eight hundred years B. C, (2 Kings xiv. 25). It is blessed to know that the affecting and significant story of his ministry, which shallow and impudent infidelity has always ridiculed, has received the full endorsement of the Lord Jesus Christ, and is thus linked forever with His veracity, (Matt. xii. 39-41). Any one taught of the Spirit can readily see that the object of the devil in calling forth a sneer of incredulity at the resurrection of Jonah, is to lead men to reject the resurrection of Jesus, for it is no more difficult to believe the one than the other. Science has shown that "a great fish," the true shark, exists in the Mediterranean; and upon human testimony the statement will be accepted that in some of these fish, fully a dozen undigested tunny-fish, weighing 400 pounds, have been found; that in one of them an entire horse was found, having an estimated weight of 1500 pounds; that from another a sailor, who had been swallowed, was rescued alive, (Keil and Delitzsch, vol. i. p. 398). Yet when God speaks. He only is to be treated as a liar. But such is man.
The desperate wickedness of the human heart is again illustrated by the conduct of Jonah himself, who flew in the face of God's command when it crossed his wishes, who would rather resign his prophetic office than mortify the flesh, who proudly refused to submit his reason and will to the divine pleasure. He knew something of the Lord's loving heart, and he was afraid that if he preached to Nineveh, the people might repent, and then be spared to lay waste his beloved land of Israel, (2 Kings xvii. 1-23). As a loyal Jew, therefore, he was determined not to proceed upon a mission of warning and perhaps of mercy to the hated enemies of his country; and when the Lord told him to go to Nineveh, he fled in the opposite direction, taking a ship that was sailing to Spain. But the Lord sent out a great wind into the sea, and the unfaithful servant was startled from the guilty insensibility of spiritual slumber by the piercing call of the terrified ship master, "What meanest thou,' O sleeper? Arise, call upon thy God." Overwhelmed with a sense of his sin, he took the place of death and judgment, and at his own request was cast into the tempestuous sea, (chap. i.).
"Then Jonah prayed unto the Lord his God out of the fish's belly." How helpless he was, and how humiliating to find a prophet of Israel borne to the bottoms of the mountains, the weeds wrapped about his head, and the bars of the earth caging him! But his prayers, and quotation from the Psalms, and vows, did him no good, until he cried from the heart, '' Salvation is of the Lord." The moment he got to that in his experience, '' the Lord spake unto the fish, and it vomited out Jonah upon the dry land," (chap. ii.).
Obedient at last, the prophet who had thoroughly learned the lesson of submission went to Nineveh, and delivered the message he was sent to communicate to the mighty capital of Assyria. "So the people of Nineveh believed God." They believed God, and then they repented, and proclaimed a fast, and covered themselves with sackcloth, both man and beast, and cried mightily unto God. It was enough. "Is he the God of the Jews only, is he not also of the Gentiles? Yes, of the Gentiles also," (Rom. iii. 29). God turned from His fierce anger, and Nineveh was spared, though He knew the same city would be the rod in His hand to afflict Israel, (chap. iii.).
It is deeply humbling and searching to our souls to find that the man of God was exceedingly displeased and grieved by the divine forbearance and patience. He had cried, "Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown;" and the city still remained. Regard for his own reputation made him angry, and he would rather witness the destruction of all the Assyrians than to see himself dishonored. The flesh in a prophet is no better than the flesh in a heathen, and in a Christian it will lift up its horrid and disgusting head, unless constantly kept down by the Spirit. But God taught His poor, foolish servant a wonderful truth by the gourd; and the book closes abruptly, leaving Jonah disgraced, as it were, forced to commit his reputation to the keeping of Jehovah. It is comforting to notice that everything in this remarkable scripture is of God. It was He who sent out the wind, who prepared the fish, who prepared the gourd, who prepared the worm. It is precious too to observe that He counted the little children in Nineveh, more than 120,000, and also much cattle, (chap. v.).
Micah, meaning "Who is like the Lord?" was contemporary in part at least with Isaiah, as we learn from the first verse of his prophecy, which consists of seven chapters. First, the rapidly approaching doom of Samaria, the capital of the ten tribes, by the Assyrians, is announced, (i.). Second, the cause of the overthrow is to be traced to the covetousness and worldliness of God's once highly favored people, (ii.). Third, the princes and the popular preachers come in for a share in the rebuke, and for their sakes Jerusalem also is to become heaps, and beautiful Zion plowed as a field, (iii.). Fourth, mercy rejoiceth against judgment, and when the Son of God appears, Jerusalem shall shine in glory, and Zion be the meeting place for the happy millennial nations, (iv.). Fifth, the place of His birth is pointed out, and He is to be the peace of His people, delivering from the Assyrian of the last days, and making the remnant of Jacob as a young lion among the Gentiles, (v.). Sixth, the tender pleading and solemn upbraiding of Jehovah follow, warning the children of Israel that they must suffer for their iniquities, (vi.). Seventh, in the midst of His rebuke and indignation, the hope of the Lord's coming glitters like a star in a dark sky, and the prophecy closes with a burst of joy in the anticipation of the bright day, when God will cast all their sins into the depths of the sea, (vii.).
The name of this prophet means "Comfort, or consolation," and he reminds us of Noah, also meaning "Rest or comfort." He is the seventh chronologically of the Minor Prophets, the date of his ministry falling under the reign of Hezekiah, about 150 years after Jonah. "The burden of Nineveh" was laid upon his heart, and he foretells in graphic style the utter desolation of that proud oppressor of God's people. The preaching of Jonah had led to repentance and to temporary reformation; but "because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil," (Ecc. viii. 11).
The very manner of its destruction is minutely described, for it is said, "with an overrunning flood he will make an utter end of the place thereof, and darkness shall pursue his enemies,'' (i. 8); "the gates of the rivers shall be opened, and the palace shall be dissolved," or, as it is in the margin, "molten." It was besieged by the Medes and Babylonians, and Diodorus Siculus says, "There was an old prophecy, that Nineveh should not be taken till the river became an enemy to the city. And in the third year of the siege, the river being swollen with continual rains, overflowed every part of the city, and broke down the wall for twenty furlongs; then the king, thinking that the oracle was fulfilled, and the river become an enemy to the city, built a large funeral pile in the palace, and, collecting together all his wealth and his concubines and eunuchs, burnt himself and the palace with them all; and the enemy entered at the breach that the waters had made, and took the city." The recent discoveries of Layard and Rawlinson, bringing to light a buried city of whose very existence ancient historians seemed to be almost ignorant, show how accurate were Jonah and Nahum in their reference to its extent and magnificence, although of course the word of God does not need to be confirmed by human testimony.
But if the latter prophet was burdened with the doom of the mighty city, the type of this world, and of the enemies of God's elect, and especially of the Assyrian of the last days, he can not close without a word of consolation to the redeemed of the Lord: "Though I have afflicted thee, I will afflict thee no more. . . . Behold, upon the mountains the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace! O Judah, keep thy solemn feasts, perform thy vows: for the wicked shall no more pass through thee; he is utterly cut off." Thus Nahum, like all the prophets reaches on to the end of the present dispensation,
His parentage, birth place, and date of his ministry, are unrecorded, but from certain internal evidences it is probable that he lived in the days of Josiah, the last king of Judah who observed the passover, and strove to purify the enemies of the temple. As Nahum had to bear the burden of Nineveh, so Habakkuk was called to bear the burden of God's people in connection with the Chaldeans who were to be used for the punishment of Judea, and then be overthrown for their own iniquities. His name means '' Embracing," or, according to Dr. Young, "Love's embrace," and it is sweet io notice that amid the gathering judgments that were about to burst upon his country, he was safe in the embrace of infinite Love.
His prophecy consists of three chapters. The first, announcing the coming of the Chaldeans, contains earnest expostulations and entreaties, that God would spare his people and visit their enemies. The second shows the prophet on his watch tower, patiently waiting to hear what the Lord would say unto him. He is informed that the vision is for an appointed time, "but at the end it shall speak, and not lie: though it tarry, wait for it, because it will surely come, it will not tarry." Thus it looks to the close of the present dispensation, and while the world is ripening for judgment, the saint must live by faith. Then follow four woes upon Babylon as the symbol of the world's evil, but in the midst of it all, the promise breaks in like sunshine through the storm, "The earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea."
Hence in the third chapter we have a prayer and" song in the sublimest strains, covering the whole history of God's dealings with Israel, and closing with the exulting confidence of faith: ^'Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines; the labour of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls: yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation."
The meaning of his name is "Hid of the Lord," or, as Young gives it, "Jah is darkness." He delivered his prophecy in the days of Josiah, and it shows that the "revival " brought about by that pious king was of brief duration. The iniquity of the inhabitants of Judah and Jerusalem weighed very heavily upon his heart, as it did upon the heart of his contemporary Jeremiah, and it was waxing worse and worse. At last the people reached the place of practical atheism to which the world of culture and science has come in these days, when they said, " The Lord will not do good, neither will he do evil." After this nothing remains but "the great day of the Lord; . . . a day of wrath, a day of trouble and distress, a day of wasteness and desolation, a day of darkness and gloominess, a day of clouds and thick darkness."
But if His professed people are to be righteously chastened, the nations of the world will be terribly punished, as set forth in the second chapter. "The Lord will be terrible unto them: for he will famish all the gods of the earth; and men shall worship him, every one from his place, even all the isles of the heathen." As in Habakkuk, so here it is written, " Therefore wait ye upon me, saith the Lord, until the day that I rise up to the prey; for my determination is to gather the nations, that I may assemble the kingdoms, to pour upon them mine indignation, even all my fierce anger: for all the earth shall be devoured with the fire of my jealousy."
But while judgments sweep the defiled scene according to the testimony of all the scriptures, a remnant will be spared, described as "an afflicted and poor people, and they shall trust in the name of the Lord." These will form the nucleus of a saved and restored people at the coming of Christ, and hence the prophecy ends with beautiful strains of promise. "Sing, O daughter of Zion; shout, O Israel; be glad and rejoice with all the heart, O daughter of Jerusalem. . . . The Lord thy God in the midst of thee is mighty; he will save, he will rejoice over thee with joy; he will rest in his love; he will joy over thee with singing. . . . Behold, at that time I will undo all that afflict thee; and I will save her that halteth, and gather her that was driven out; and I will get them praise and fame in every land where they have been put to shame. At that time I will bring you again, even in the time that I gather you: for I will make you a name and a praise among all people of the earth; when I turn back your captivity before your eyes, saith the Lord."
This prophet, whose name means "Festive," Or "Festival of the Lord," is the first of the three who were called to the prophetic office after the captivity. He is mentioned in Ezra v. 1; vi. 14; and his ministry had much to do with the rebuilding of the temple, and with the religious condition of the remnant of Judah, that had been permitted by their Gentile masters to return to their land. His style is homely, as the critics say, but for all this we read, "Then spake Haggai, the Lord's messenger, in the Lord's message unto the people." He is the first of the prophets who is called Jehovah's messenger, and God put high honor upon him, notwithstanding the plainness and simplicity of his language,
His prophecy consists of five parts: First, His message delivered to the people through Zerubbabel their civil ruler, and Joshua their high priest, arousing them to build the temple, which they had shamefully neglected, "while attending to their own affairs, i. 1-11. Second, the effect produced by his stirring summons, as seen in the fact that within three weeks, the rubbish was cleared away, the materials collected, and the workmen were on the walls, i. 12-15; Ezra v., vi. Third, they did not wait for the decree of the king; but their enthusiasm soon cooled, and hence Jehovah's messenger ad dresses them again with a word of cheer, that reaches on to the second coming of Christ. "I will shake all nations, and the desire of all nations shall come;" or as the Septuagint has it, " the choice things of all the nations shall come;" or as Hengstenburg says, "the beauty of all the heathen;" or as Ewald translates, "the loveliest of all people." However this may be, we know that the time stretches forward to the glorious advent of our Lord, for the Holy Ghost so declares in Heb. xii. 27. "The glory of this latter house," or rather, "the latter glory of this house shall be greater than the former, saith the Lord of hosts;" and it is interesting to notice that the identity of the house is preserved to the end, ii. 1-9. Fourth, another message is delivered, setting forth the moral condition of the Jews, answering to the sad state of things in these last days, ii. 10-19. Fifth, the closing message again announces the shaking of the heavens and the earth, and the overthrow of all kingdoms before the coming and crowning of Christ, of whom Zerubbabel is used as a type in his princely office. "Speak to Zerubbabel, governor of Judah, saying, I will shake the heavens and the earth j and I will overthrow the throne of the kingdoms, and I will destroy the strength of the kingdoms of the nations," ii. 20-23.
This prophet was contemporary with Haggai, both of them following Zephaniah by an interval of at least an hundred years. His name, meaning "Remembered of the Lord," or as Dr. Young says, "Jah is renowned," occurs in connection with that of Haggai in the book of Ezra. But while the former prophet was chiefly concerned with the temple and the religious state of God's ancient people, the latter takes a broader view, unfolding the future of Israel and of Gentile nations down to the coming and kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ, and reaching on into millennial days.
The first six chapters contain a series of visions, all seen in one night in the second year of Darius. (p The vision of four horses among the myrtle trees, God's providential agencies, and representatives of the Gentiles, that found the whole earth at rest under Gentile dominion. But this aroused the jealousy of Jehovah for His despised people, and led to the promise, "the Lord shall yet comfort Zion, and shall yet choose Jerusalem."
(2) The vision of the four horns and four carpenters, the horns the symbols of power, and the carpenter8 the symbols of still greater power that shall in due time fray the four great Gentile powers, to whom dominion passed after Israel was set aside.
(3) The vision of the measuring line, indicating the vastness and magnificence of Jerusalem; but it is expressly said it shall be "after the glory," or, in other words, after the personal return of the Lord Jesus to the earth. "And many nations shall be joined to the Lord in that day, and shall be my people."
(4) But the sin of Judah must be dealt with in grace before the glory, and hence we have the vision of Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the Lord in filthy garments. The vision furnishes one of the most beautiful pictures of God's way of justifying and saving the sinner, found in all the Bible.
(5) This is appropriately followed by the vision of the golden candlestick or lamp stand, setting forth the work of the Holy Spirit in behalf of the justified ones, and j) resenting Joshua and Zerubbabel as types of Christ in his priestly and kingly offices.
(6) But they must be dealt with in righteousness too, and this is exhibited in the vision of the flying roll and the woman in the epha, telling of wickedness preceding the day of the Lord's coming, and judgment on the track of wickedness. The whole scene answers to the woman hiding' leaven in the three measures of meal, leading on to the Babylon and antichrist of the last days.
(7) Then comes the vision of the four chariots, or the overthrow of the entire Gentile dominion, succeeded by the appearance of The Branch. "Even he shall build the temple of the Lord; and he shall bear the glory, and shall sit and rule upon his throne; and he shall be a priest upon his throne: and the counsel of peace shall be between them both," that is, between Jehovah and the reigning priest, i.-vi.
The rest of the book is divided into six parts. (1) In the fourth year of Darius a message is delivered, searching the hearts and consciences of God's people with a lighted candle, but promising divine deliverance and complete restoration to the house of Judah and the house of Israel. "In those days it shall come to pass, that ten men shall take hold, out of all languages of the nations, even shall take hold of the skirt of him that is a Jew, saying, We will go with you; for we have heard that God is with you." If a Jew does not mean a Jew, what does it mean? vii., viii.
(2) The burden of the word of the Lord fell upon the prophet with regard to surrounding nations; and he describes the victorious progress of the great king of Macedon, sparing Jerusalem, because the Lord had encamped about His house. But the Jews were to be scattered for their sins, and then brought back. "I will sow them among the people; and they shall remember me in far countries: and they shall live with their children, and turn again. . . . And I will strengthen them in the Lord; and they shall walk up and down in his name, saith the Lord," ix. 10.
(3) Then we have an account of the good Shepherd and the idol shepherd, the Christ and the antichrist, leading us forward to the close of the present dispensation, xi.
(4) Judah and Jerusalem in the midst of conflict shall at last accept their rejected Messiah, only when they shall look upon Him, and there shall be a great national mourning in view of their blindness and unbelief for more than eighteen hundred years, every family mourning apart in bitterness of soul, xii.
(5) "In that day there shall be a fountain opened to the house of David, and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, for sin and for uncleanness." This is not a "fountain filled with blood," as we often sing, for the moment they see Jesus as Lord, as the man that is God's fellow, smitten for transgression, they have pardon. But it is the washing with water by the word, xiii.
(6) Last of all comes glorious deliverance, when all nations shall be gathered against Jerusalem to battle, and His feet shall stand in that day upon the mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem on the east, and the Lord our God shall come, and all the saints with Him. "And the Lord shall be king over all the earth," His '' Peace, be still," falling in sweetest accents upon the storms of a troubled world, xiv.
The last of the Old Testament prophets, whose name means " the messenger of the Lord," deals with the sad spiritual state of Israel, succeeding the days of Haggai and Zechariah, which corresponds precisely with the state of the professing body at the close of the present age. Man, wherever placed and however tried, is a wretched failure, and will be till Jesus comes. The mass of the people in the time of Malachi were "lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof." They kept up their religious ceremonies, but brought to God for sacrifice the torn, and the lame, and the sick, while they were over-reaching each other in money making, and procuring divorces to indulge their lusts.
Seven times they ask the insolent question, "Wherein hast thou loved us?" "Wherein have we despised thy name?" "Wherein have we polluted thee?" "Wherein have we wearied thee?" "Wherein shall we return?" "Wherein have we robbed thee?" "What have we spoken against thee!" Truly might God say, "I am the Lord, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed." But in the midst of the empty profession there was a little remnant, that feared the Lord, and spake often one to another; and the Lord hearkened, and heard with delight their prayers and conversation. Yea, their very thoughts of Him He put down in His book, as He puts the tears of the saints in His bottle, and their prayers in His vial. Twenty-five times in four short chapters do we find "Thus saith the Lord," as if the people then, like many professed Christians now, were losing all faith in verbal inspiration.
First, God reproaches them for their formal service, and their want of filial affection and loyalty and devotedness to Himself, i. Second, He upbraids them for the hypocrisy and time-serving spirit of their priests, for their sharp dealing with each other, and for the prevalence of divorces, ii. Third, He tells them that Christ will suddenly come, and then there will be an awful reckoning with adulterers, and false swearers, and those that defraud the hireling of his wages, and those that rob God of tithes and offerings, and those that said in their hearts, " It is vain to serve God,'' iii. Fourth, The day is coming when the proud and the wicked shall be as stubble, but to those that fear His name, the appearing of Christ will be as the Sun of righteousness. It is an appearing that will be ushered in by the ministry of Elijah " before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord;" and in view of the melancholy record from Genesis onward, the Old Testament most appropriately closes with the word curse.