Malachi - The Voice at the End Time

by T. Austin-Sparks

Chapter 1 - The Lord Coming for a Prepared People

Reading: Malachi 3.

We notice that Malachi is the final voice of the Old Testament and that there are very striking similarities between the close of the Old Testament dispensation and the close of this dispensation; and one of the outstanding things is that for the close of a dispensation God has a special voice. He secures for Himself a voice by which to make vocal His special message for an end time. That voice represents an instrument peculiarly constituted. We saw that with Malachi there was not only the closing of the dispensation, but there was the bringing in of the Lord. The Lord was coming. Read chapter 3 and you have the messenger sent before His face and then the Lord Himself coming, the Messenger of the Covenant coming suddenly to His temple. It was an end time with the Lord's coming in view.

And we further see that Malachi was peculiarly linked with John the Baptist, and John the Baptist with Malachi, as we saw the complement of each other, two halves of one whole. Chapter 3 speaking of John the Baptist in connection with other prophecies and Malachi thus linked with John the Baptist is the voice for the bringing in of the Lord. The end of one order and the bringing in of a new order, the end of one age and the bringing in of another age and that age ushered in by the coming of the Lord. These things are very patent, they lie on the face of these prophecies and of the life of John the Baptist who declared "I am a voice".

Malachi, we noticed, means "the messenger of Jehovah" and John the Baptist was "My messenger". Malachi is an unknown man. We do not know who he was or when he prophesied. John the Baptist set aside all public recognition - "I am not a great man, I am a voice. That is all, a voice". And so an end time instrument of God for the bringing in of the Lord Jesus is something which is nothing in itself, but which brings the Lord Jesus into view and is only occupied with Him and preparing the way for Him, and repudiates all prestige, popularity, and personality of its own and keeps the Lord Jesus in view for the attention and consideration of all. So Malachi and John were one as an end time voice for bringing in the Lord.

We swiftly glance on towards another representation of an end time and we touched Paul. The nature of the apostle's life is also a representation of an end time and an end time method of God. We believe that the general characteristic and feature of this dispensation is the securing of the church, the body of Christ, out from the nations. Paul himself had that revelation in a peculiar way and was the embodiment of that truth. He became the personal embodiment, the very personification of the truth of the body of Christ and with the close of his life you have in representation what you will find at the close of the church age, this present age; and you will notice that the features are similar to those features of those other closing ages, the features of John and the features of Malachi. Things were reduced to a very small compass, that is, things which truly represented the Lord's mind.

In Malachi the great mass of those who claimed to be the Lord's and laid claim to covenant rights, were in their hearts distant from the Lord whilst maintaining the outward ordinances. And in the midst, hidden, you have Malachi 3:16: "They that feared the Lord spoke often one to another; and the Lord hearkened and heard..." "they shall be My peculiar treasure in that day that I do make". There you have things reduced among the Lord's people in that which represents His own mind. When you come to John you have something very similar. At the opening of John's life things which truly represented the Lord were very small. A remnant of a remnant.

In Malachi you are dealing with the whole remnant that came back and yet that whole remnant is out of touch with the Lord, and a remnant of the remnant only is in touch with the Lord. There is that remnant of the remnant at the beginning of John's life. There was one Simeon... coming in by the Spirit into the temple etc.. And there was one Anna, and she spoke to all those that looked for redemption in Jerusalem - a remnant of a remnant looking. I have missed the most important thing, "She spoke of Him to all those". It was Him she was speaking of; and Simeon was speaking of Him, bringing in the Lord. A remnant of the remnant out to bring in the Lord. "She coming in at that very hour"; this was not some chance thing that she came in by the Spirit just at that very hour, there was something in the background causing this thing. A remnant of a remnant looking for, waiting for the Lord.

When you come to Paul you find things are reduced very much at the end of his life. It is striking and perplexing unless you get the key. This man with such a wide range of ministry, to whom the whole world was open, by the working of things in a very strange and perplexing way must be reduced, cut off from his public ministry, the many lands all closed to him personally until he found himself in the prison at Rome and that is all. No platform, no church, no wide ministry, nothing out in the open, but the last thing it says about him, "...he received all that went in unto him... teaching concerning the Lord Jesus". Simeon and Anna spoke of Him. Paul now not coming out to the multitudes, but shut away and the Lord leading hungry ones to him and he received and taught them things concerning the Lord Jesus. These are features of an end time.

What the Lord is going to do is to find hungry ones, and hungry ones will seek out the truth. And the nature of the instrument at the end time is not some great public organisation, movement and demonstration, but some secret thing to which the Lord leads the hungry; detached from the official organisation, in the wilderness, outside the camp, a going out.

As far as I can see this is the principle at work in Malachi, John the Baptist, and Paul: the Lord seeking to get something which is wholly for Himself, to which and in which He alone is Lord, He the sole occupation, engrossment, absorbs all the attention. They feared the Lord, thought upon His Name: the Lord in view. And that thing will be something apart, not a popular movement, something outside the camp with His reproach upon it like Paul in prison. Who will go to that? Reproach, shame, a man in prison who is there lying under judgement, a man concerning whom there are all kinds of rumours - this is the instrument. And who is hungry enough to risk all the laws of reputation, who is humble enough to accept God along that line? Finding out where there is true hunger for the Lord. The Lord does not protect His special instrument from the slanders and the reproaches of men, but He uses those very slanders as tests as to the hunger of others, as to where they are, whether they are prepared to bear the reproach in order to find Him. Do you recognise that? So Paul, representing in his own life and person the end time of the church, finds that, so far as the great public sweep is concerned, that is at an end and now he is shut up in a prison and his ministry is to those who come to him, and by his pen out to the Lord's people. This is a feature of God's method at the end.

It is important for us to recognise that, because there is such a longing for a great public demonstration, movement of religion, something that is going to have recognition and a great sweep of success, and the Lord seems to be making that more and more impossible. He is reducing, and curtailing, and shutting up, and putting the thing out, and even bringing His best into a place of reproach and rejection. He is then sifting out the others by an instrument of that kind and adding on the ground, not of personal interest and enjoyment, but of a desperate need of the Lord Himself. People cannot have essentially the Lord unless the Lord is everything somewhere.

That is put rather badly I know, but if people really want the Lord, if it is the Lord they want and not service, work, popularity, not a sphere to display their own gifts, but a desperate need of the Lord, and they find the place where the Lord is everything, they will say "I am satisfied because it is all the Lord". That is an end time; the Lord Himself. Oh, though these words are so simple, it is the grandest thing, the solution to all our problems and difficulties when we are really taken up with the Lord. It is the solution to our problem of joylessness. A very great deal of our joylessness comes about because we are taken up with the work of the Lord, have got into a system of things, and we lose our joy because it is 'work'. If it were the Lord, it would not be like that. The question of joy is settled and the problem is solved when the Lord is in it.

These things are similar in principle in these end time representations and when you come to the book of the Revelation you see the thing borne out so clearly. You have many Christian people in view in the book of Revelation in the first chapters. We cannot think for one moment that those messages of the churches were sent to unconverted people. They were sent to Christian people, but you find that while those Christian people may be a remnant, there is a remnant of a remnant to which the Lord is especially addressing His exhortations and His warnings, His admonitions. His eye is upon that remnant of the remnant and I am quite sure that represents the end. Whatever is going to happen to the others, that is not for the moment the point of our consideration, but one thing is perfectly clear: that the Lord at His coming is coming for a people prepared for Him, and that must search. It must search, it will raise problems and it will discriminate.

I have heard many discussions on the letter to the Thessalonians which had the Lord's coming in view and things seem to be very general in their presentation there. It looks as though everybody is going to be caught up willy-nilly. Now let us recognise that to have a Thessalonian letter you must have Thessalonian conditions. You have a people wonderfully advanced in spiritual life. Read the letter again. "God is not unmindful to forget your work of faith and labour of love, assurance of hope - turned from idols to serve the living and true God and to wait for His Son - great conflict of affliction - your love for all the saints which is reported in every place - your faith is spoken of" etc.. Tell me that that is the average Christian life - not a bit of it. The message of the Lord's coming is to a people like that. The Lord is looking for a people prepared, and if that is true, there is a special meaning in the coming of the Lord. It is not just a general thing, and it does not matter; you are saved and you can live as you like.

You can start with the Gospels and go through the Epistles and you will find that whenever you are dealing with the Lord's coming, you are dealing with a preparation for the Lord's coming. If it is in the Gospel illustration, you have a waiting, standing on guard. There is an occupying till He comes, there is a devotion. The Lord is coming, therefore it behoves us to be this and that and the other thing. It is a prepared people for whom the Lord is coming and He will secure for Himself that voice of preparation. "Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make His paths straight" (Matt. 3:3). A voice of preparation for His coming; that is what I feel is the burden of the Lord today. A voice of preparation to bring in Himself and the preparation is according to the laws of this instrument which we have seen. The voice of preparation is generally outside the camp, in the wilderness, and if anybody goes out and does not really mean business, they will not stand. It is a testing thing.

John was not accounted for. He was born of the Holy Spirit and one of those who was especially raised up for a purpose, whose natural life was impossible and had to be the result of a miracle. There had to be a work of God. This was true of Samuel and of Isaac. These represent something in the purpose of God. And John, being born of the Holy Spirit, represents an instrument which is not a project of man's activity and organisation, but something born of the Holy Spirit. God has raised it up and given it a message; it is raised up for His purpose. These are the governing laws of an instrument for a special purpose, seen there in the illustrations, and are true in the reality of this end time.

We have much more to say about the Lord's coming in this connection, perhaps later, but in this chapter, one feels this particular stress again. You may fail to recognise it, this thing that God is after; something peculiar at the end as His treasure. While there is that which He may commend even in a Thessalonian condition, at the end He may speak in a commendatory way of various things - "I know thy works and patience" and so on. But above that hangs a greater desire of God for something, and after that "something" the Lord is reaching out, and He would raise up an instrument that would be a voice to get something that answers to the desire of His heart.

This quest of the Lord will explain His dealings with some. John will go into prison and lose his head and the explanation is his peculiar vocation. Paul will go into prison and be shut up and lose his great public ministry as an individual simply because of the purpose with which he is called. He is called in a peculiar way to secure for God His dispensation purpose, the church, and it is very striking that when you come to the product of that restricted public ministry, you are making the application of truth to the church very intense. Those letters from the prison bring things to a very high object of perfection. It is an intensification process at the end time; it represents the Lord Jesus in His sovereignty and all things in subjection to Him. That is what is in view. So the principles of this peculiar treasure, this end time instrument, are illustrated in Old Testament characters as well as New Testament characters.

In Psalm 105 there is the reference to Joseph whom they threw into prison. He was bound in chains of iron until "his word" came, the word of the Lord tried him. Now, Joseph represents the movement of God and he is that instrument especially ordained, raised up and preserved of God in order to preserve life on the earth, a Seed of God. That Holy Seed was near to perishing, being wiped out by the famine, but in those sovereign acts of God was hidden so deep, so past finding out; those strange providences which shook the faith of Joseph, that reproach, false charge, the restricting of him because of a lie, all this shutting up and the Lord seeming to have left him. And on the time goes, but the Lord has dealt with him in that way because he is a chosen vessel to preserve a living remnant on the earth.

The Lord wants to preserve a line, the Seed of Himself, and He must have an instrument raised up, but His dealings with that instrument are very strange. John the Baptist, the man who proclaimed the Messiah, had his faith tested. We do not know what Paul's tests of faith were in that prison. Doubtless he had his dark days - "only Luke is with me", and so on. Faith tested, but what a purpose served. What we owe to that! Has not the Lord through that very ministry and through that very servant done more to secure His church in the succeeding generations than by any other means? When the church is completed and in the glory, the instrumentality of the Lord above all others, will be Paul and his letters. But those very things by which the church has been mostly secured, those letters born out of the imprisonment, suffering, and the reducing of that man, is the way of the Lord. Strange ways, but mighty. His ways are past finding out. And Benjamin who was the instrument linking the distant brethren afar off with the one exalted, he fulfilled his ministry by way of the cup. To use the words of another Benjamite, Paul himself of the tribe of Benjamin, "That I may know Him... and the fellowship of His sufferings." That is taking the cup, Benjamin's cup, but it is to bring nigh those who are afar off. It is a ministry, a wonderful ministry.

And Samuel who brings in the great King; not born after the will of the flesh, but again the result of a mighty prayer ministry on the part of his mother, and a Divine act, so that his very being was a miracle. He also represents an instrument of God for bringing God's ends about; something not of man, but all of God, and born out of a strong and bitter cry because of the conditions prevailing. You can see all that. The Word of God is full of it. How is it applied? In this way. While there must be an appreciation of everything that is of the Lord, we must not fail to recognise that the Lord has something far more than a generalisation, than Christian activities in view, something far deeper which relates to His coming and He is seeking to get something. Whatever all the rest may gain or lose, it is not for us to sit in judgement upon anybody and certainly not for us to think that we might be superior to all the rest. While there is to be a due appreciation of all that is of God and for God in every place everywhere, the Lord wants us to have our hearts set upon this supreme thing. His heart is set upon having a peculiar treasure for some peculiar purpose now, and perhaps for some peculiar glory afterwards. A purpose now, and that purpose is the bringing of the Lord Jesus into His place, bringing Him in, preparing the way of the Lord. Now, that is an instrument in very general terms. As the Lord may give us enablement in the next chapters, we may see this in applying to the nations and in a more direct way to the Lord's coming, but in this chapter I have been very conscious of being held to a limited range.

The Lord's coming represents the preparation of a special people for Himself, a high degree of preparation within a certain compass of His people - it does, you cannot get away from it. For that, He must have a voice by which the preparation is made, with a message, and that instrument has to be prepared to pay a special price, to know something of the dungeon, the prison and the chains, and the patience of Jesus Christ, of the curtailment, and all the lies and slander. If we could see more deeply we should see that the very things that to us are the things against the fulfilment of the ministry are being used of God to make that ministry all the more sure in this way, and that it will test the downright reality and sincerity of other people. People never mind crowding to a popular thing, but if you want that which really does mean business, the test of it is very often unpopularity, something lying under reproach of men. We are not applying this to this company and say this is it; we are speaking in a broad way looking over the whole of the world. One cannot speak a great deal of what is in one's heart, it would seem to be making comparisons, if you had any taste and knowledge of the reality of things and then got out into the Christian world today, your heart would ache and you would be constantly saying, even where there is a constant buzz and hum of activity, "This is not it, this does not satisfy the Lord. This is work."

A brother came back to me from a great convention in the States and I asked him what kind of a time they had. He did not seem very satisfied and was telling me something of what had been said, and I happened to remark "Well brother, it is only the Lord that can satisfy." He replied, "Oh, that is it; the fact of the matter is we run to feed on prophecy and we have lost the Lord." He could have put it in another way, a simpler presentation of the same truth. We have said this before very often: we can be so occupied with the Second Coming that we may lose altogether the One who is coming. It is not the Second Coming, it is the One who is coming, and there are multitudes of good, earnest, evangelical people so taken up with the signs of the times, but the One who is coming is not all their thought, and today it is like that. It is things, the work, enthusiasms, enterprises, organisations, programmes, all these, so much occupying time and resources and the Lord takes a second place. It is a disappointing situation, but as one looks out and is in touch with this situation, one just feels this burden, that the Lord must get something more than this, He must have something more than this among His people. And one looks back into the Word and sees that is just what the Lord is after.

In Malachi... the conditions, not general, but specific: "Then they that feared the Lord" etc.. In Isaiah general religious conditions are rejected and the Lord is seeking a people for Himself. In Paul's day the great sweep is left and he is now in a place just put aside from all that. And the Lord's method is not now a man going to all the nations with a public ministry (don't misunderstand that, I will put that right in a later chapter if the Lord wills), but the Lord setting up a testimony here and by reason of the conditions of that testimony, reproach, slander, rumours, lies, all the rest of it, testing men out as to their genuine hunger for Himself. Where He finds those who stand the test, they come along and Paul is occupied with teaching them things concerning the Lord Jesus.

Do you get the vision of the Lord's method or instrument? Ask Him to show it to you in your heart and He will put down in the nations something like that, which will have to suffer, which will be under a ban, will know much of the prison conditions and the chains and tests of faith, but the Lord will find out who really does mean business. It is not the great sweep, but shall we say the selection of those whom He foreknew.

May the Lord write His word on our hearts for His Name's sake.

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