"For 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." (Malachi 1:11)
THE prophet Malachi was the last inspired messenger who predicted the advent of Christ; he was the great messenger of the New Testament. This prophet was a transition link between the Old and New Testaments, rather than the last of the Old Testament prophets. The prophet Malachi prepares us for what takes place in the New Testament. God was about to turn from His ancient people. He complained of their profaneness, and that instead of offering pure sacrifices, they offered the blind and the lame. (verse 8) He blames the priests; it was for them to exclude every sacrifice that had the least blemish about it. But these imperfect sacrifices were not excluded by the priests, and the people brought the blind, the sick and the lame, as offerings.
If we take this text in connection with the chapter (and we must do so), we shall expect God to turn from the Jews to the Gentiles; we shall expect the apostles to speak to the Gentiles; and we shall expect the Jews to reject Christ. If we turn to the Acts of the Apostles we are not disappointed. We have there the purity, the universality of the Offering. The Jews did not care for it, nor did the Pharisees. Paul tells the Jews (Acts 13:46) "It was necessary that the Word of God should first have been spoken to you, but seeing ye put it from you, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, lo, we turn to the Gentiles." When the Gentiles heard that these things would be spoken to them on the following Sabbath they were glad. It is well for us when we have a spiritual appetite and desire to hear things again on the following Sabbath. It is well to have an appetite which brings us to the house of God.
"My name shall be great among the Gentiles." What is it makes the Name of Christ great to a sinner? The minister is not preaching rightly unless he seeks for life in his hearers. How is it the Name of Christ is great to us? If His Name is great to us tonight, it is evident that something has been done in us by God. The Holy Ghost has stripped us of our fancied meetness for heaven. "When Thou with rebukes dost correct man for iniquity, Thou makest his beauty to consume away like a moth." (Ps. 39:11) If God has laid us low in the dust, and made us to cry, "Unclean, unclean!" it has led us to seek cleansing and beauty, and God has promised to give "beauty for ashes, and the oil of joy for mourning." (Isa. 61:3) If we have ashes, we have not created them; fire was necessary to do that,--the power of the Holy Ghost. We may have tried many things and failed. When we are brought from sheer necessity to fall of Christ, God will in no wise cast us out. When we feel He is our Advocate, then His Name becomes great to us. God first wounds and then heals; He kills and then makes alive; and in the working out of all His Name becomes great. We do not call a physician great if he does not cure anybody. You do not seek for such a physician as that. If you want healing of spirit, you want as a physician the great Head of the Church. You see, friends, it is being brought into the experience of these things; it is being fixed on the Rock that enables us to say the Name of Christ is great as a foundation. It is the only way in which we shall be brought rightly to say it. In His day the blind received their sight, cripples were cured, and devils were turned out of those possessed of them.
"How sweet the Name of Jesus sounds
In a believer's ear!
It soothes his sorrows, heals his wounds,
And drives away his fear.
"Dear Name! the rock on which I build,
My shield and hiding-place,
My never-failing treasury, filled
With boundless stores of grace."
That is the Name I verily believe that is meant in the text. "For from the rising of the sun to the going down of the same My Name shall be great among the Gentiles." The Psalmist said, "From the rising of the sun unto the going down of the same the Lord's Name is to be praised." (Ps. 113:3) His Name will be praised by those who are delivered from going down into the pit. Have you never rejoiced at the Name of Jesus? Before the birth of Christ the angel who foretold it said His Name should be Jesus, "for He shall save His people from their sins." (Matt. 1:21) It was not said that Christ would bring His people into a salvable state, but "He shall save His people from their sins."
Have you never rejoiced at the name of Substitute, One that died in your stead? The knowledge of this gives peace. Christ has a multitude of names; they are all precious to the believer. Perhaps you feel you "sigh, but dare not speak." Then how good it is for you to find an Advocate. Great is His Name in this capacity. He said on the cross, "Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do." This was effectual prayer, fervent prayer, the prayer of the God-Man. His Name suits us, His Name is sweet to us. While the Pharisees called Him a wine-bibber and gluttonous, the poor sinner feels that His Name is great.
"And in every place incense shall be offered unto My Name, and a pure offering." It is the purity of the offering that constitutes its value. We find that God is very pure and very holy; He condemned the Jews for their offerings because they offered in sacrifice beasts that had blemishes. People say nowadays that we are too strict; but the Lord is a very strict God, and that is the God with whom we have to do. We see in Leviticus that before the sacrifices were offered they had to be carefully scrutinized by the priest and the inward parts laid open. What we offer God must be a pure offering; where are we to find it? When God lays bare your heart you cannot find purity there. You may take the most holy men on earth, those who have the most orthodox creed and live the most holy lives, and you will find some impurity in them. God will not have an offering with the least blemish; that is why we are taught to look upon the purity of the Lamb of God. We must be taught by God's Spirit to bring this pure offering; God will accept nothing else. Sometimes when I read the New Testament I think that all hell and all earth tried to find some spot in this pure Offering, but they all failed. When Christ was brought before the tribunal Pilate was forced to say, "I find no fault in this Man." You never even give a cup of cold water, you never offer a prayer, but what they need purifying. Everything we do, everything we say, needs purifying.
"In every place incense shall be offered unto My Name, and a pure offering." There is not much self-righteousness here (though I know it still clings to us). We must bring our all and lay it on the altar of Christ, and God will accept us through Him. The Papists and Ritualists say we must offer incense now, but no material incense is required today. The incense and offerings of Old Testament times were typical. If the offerings--the sacrifices--were typical, the incense is; if we have one, it is evident we ought to have the other. Both are entirely unnecessary. The man who stands before the altar now offers incense robs Christ of the glory of His priesthood. This incense in the text means prayers and praises. We read in Revelation 5, that in the right hand of Him that sat on the throne was a book that was sealed, and John wept because no one could open it. And one of the elders said to him: "Weep not: behold, the Lion of the tribe of Juda hath prevailed to open the book...And, lo, in the midst of the throne...stood a Lamb,...and He came and took the book out of the right hand of Him that sat upon the throne. And when He had taken the book, the four beasts and four and twenty elders fell down before the Lamb, having every one of them harps, and golden vials full of odours (or incense), which are the prayers of saints." And in Revelation 13, we read that an angel "came and stood at the altar, having a golden censer; and there was given unto him much incense, that he should offer it with the prayers of all saints upon the golden altar which was before the throne."
Have you ever noticed what David says in Psalm 141:2? "Let my prayer be set forth before Thee as incense, and the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice." There is much incense needed to be offered with all prayers. No doubt you feel that your prayers are not so pure as those of your brethren. But the best prayers need much incense. If you come to examine them, when you have extracted all the pride, all the heart-wandering from your prayers--but you may say, "I can't extract them;" no, you can't, but they must be extracted-what have you left? There was fire in the censer; what was that for? When all this impurity has been extracted, you just have left a pure desire, what the Holy Spirit draws out of you and constrains you to say. How necessary it is to have this incense. When our prayers are combined with the incense of Christ's intercession, then God will hear us. May He add His blessing, and He shall have the praise. Amen.