Ver. 2.—The Sun of Righteousness. The sun which is righteousness, in whose wings, that is, rays, are healing and salvation. This Divine righteousness shall beam upon them that fear the Name of God, flooding them with joy and light, healing all wounds, removing all miseries, making them incalculably blessed. The Fathers generally apply the title of “Sun of Righteousness” to Christ, who is the Source of all justification and enlightenment and happiness, and who is called (Jer. 23:6), “The Lord our Righteousness.” Grow up; rather, gambol; σκιρτήσετε (Septuagint); salietis (Vulgate). “Ye shall leap!” comp. Jer. 50:11). The word is used of a horse galloping (Hab. 1:8). The happiness of the righteous is illustrated by a homely image drawn from pastoral pursuits. They had been, as it were, hidden in the time of affliction and temptation; they shall go forth boldly now, free and exulting, like calves driven from the stall to pasture (comp. Ps. 114:4, 6; Cant. 2:8, 17).
2. The Prophet now turns his discourse to the godly; and hence it appears more clearly that he has been hitherto threatening those gross hypocrites who arrogated sanctity to themselves alone, while yet they were continuing to provoke God’s wrath; for he evidently addresses some different from those previously spoken of, when he says, Arise to you, &c.; he separates those who feared God, or the true servants of God, from that multitude with whom he has been hitherto contending. Arise, then, to you who fear my name, &c.
There is to be noticed here a contrast; for the body of the people were infected as it were with a general contagion, but God had preserved a few uncontaminated. As then he had been hitherto contending with the greatest part of the people, so he now gathers as it were apart the chosen few, and promises to them Christ as the author of salvation. For the godly, we know, trembled at threatenings, and would have almost fainted, had not God mitigated them. Whenever he denounced vengeance on sinners, the greater part either mocked, or became angry, at least were not duly impressed. Thus it happens that while God is thundering, the ungodly go on securely in their sinful courses; but the godly tremble at a word, and would be altogether cast down, were not God to apply a remedy.
Hence our Prophet softens the severity of the threatening which we have observed; as though he had said, that he had not announced the coming of Christ as terrible for the purpose of filling pious souls with fear, (for it was not spoken to them,) but only of terrifying the ungodly. The sum of the whole is briefly this—“Hearken ye,” he says, “who fear God; for I have a different word for you, and that is, that the Sun of righteousness shall arise, which will bring healing in its wings. Let those despisers of God then perish, who, though they carry on war with him, yet seek to have him as it were bound to them; but raise ye up your heads, and patiently look for that day, and with the hope of it calmly bear your troubles.” We now understand the import of this verse.
There is indeed no doubt but that Malachi calls Christ the Sun of righteousness; and a most suitable term it is, when we consider how the condition of the fathers differed from ours. God has always given light to his Church, but Christ brought the full light, according to what Isaiah teaches us, “On thee shall Jehovah arise, and the glory of God shall be seen in thee.” (Is. 60:12.) This can be applied to none but to Christ. Again he says, “Behold darkness shall cover the earth,” &c.; “shine on thee shall Jehovah;” and farther, “There shall be now no sun by day nor moon by night; but God alone shall give thee light.” (Is. 60:19.) All these words show that Sun is a name appropriate to Christ; for God the Father has given a much clearer light in the person of Christ than formerly by the law, and by all the appendages of the law. And for this reason also is Christ called the light of the world; not that the fathers wandered as the blind in darkness, but that they were content with the dawn only, or with the moon and stars. We indeed know how obscure was the doctrine of the law, so that it may truly be said to be shadowy. When therefore the heavens became at length opened and clear by means of the gospel, it was through the rising of the Sun, which brought the full day; and hence it is the peculiar office of Christ to illuminate. And on this account it is said in the first chapter of John, that he was from the beginning the true light, which illuminates every man that cometh into the world, and yet that it was a light shining in darkness; for some sparks of reason continue in men, however blinded they are become through the fall of Adam and the corruption of nature. But Christ is peculiarly called light with regard to the faithful, whom he delivers from the blindness in which all are involved by nature, and whom he undertakes to guide by his Spirit.
The meaning then of the word sun, when metaphorically applied to Christ, is this,—that he is called a sun, because without him we cannot but wander and go astray, but that by his guidance we shall keep in the right way; and hence he says, “He who follows me walks not in darkness.” (John 8:12.)
But we must observe that this is not to be confined to the person of Christ, but extended to the gospel. Hence Paul says, “Awake thou who sleepest, and rise from darkness, and Christ shall illuminate thee.” (Eph. 5:14.) Christ then daily illuminates us by his doctrine and his Spirit; and though we see him not with our eyes, yet we find by experience that he is a sun.
He is called the sun of righteousness, either because of his perfect rectitude, in whom there is nothing defective, or because the righteousness of God is conspicuous in him: and yet, that we may know the light, derived from him, which proceeds from him to us and irradiates us, we are not to regard the transient concerns of this life, but what belongs to the spiritual life. The first thing is, that Christ performs towards us the office of a sun, not to guide our feet and hands as to what is earthly, but that he brings light to us, to show the way to heaven, and that by its means we may come to the enjoyment of a blessed and eternal life. We must secondly observe, that this spiritual light cannot be separated from righteousness; for how does Christ become our sun? It is by regenerating us by his Spirit into righteousness, by delivering us from the pollutions of the world, by renewing us after the image of God. We now then see the import of the word righteousness.
He adds, And healing in its wings. He gives the name of wings to the rays of the sun; and this comparison has much beauty, for it is taken from nature, and most fitly applied to Christ. There is nothing, we know, more cheering and healing than the rays of the sun; for ill-savour would soon overwhelm us, even within a day, were not the sun to purge the earth from its dregs; and without the sun there would be no respiration. We also feel a sort of relief at the rising of the sun; for the night is a kind of burden. When the sun sets, we feel as it were a heaviness in all our members; and the sick are exhilarated in the morning and experience a change from the influence of the sun; for it brings to us healing in its wing. But the Prophet has expressed what is still more,—that a clear sun in a serene sky brings healing; for there is an implied opposition between a cloudy or stormy time and a clear and bright season. During time of serenity we are far more cheerful, whether we be in health or in sickness; and there is no one who does not derive some cheerfulness from the serenity of the heavens: but when it is cloudy, even the most healthy feels some inconvenience.
According to this view Malachi now says, that there would be healing in the wings of Christ, inasmuch as many evils were to be borne by the true servants of God; for if we consider the history of those times, it will appear that the condition of that people was most grievous. He now promises a change to them; for the restoration of the Church would bring them joy. See then in what way he meant there would be healing in the wings of Christ; for the darkness would be dissipated, and the heavens would be free from clouds, so as to exhilarate the minds of the godly.
By calling the godly those who fear God, he adopts the common language of Scripture; for we have said that the chief part of righteousness and holiness consists in the true worship of God: but something new is here expressed; for this fear is what peculiarly belongs to true religion, so that men submit to God, though he is invisible, though he does not address them face to face, though he does not openly show his hand armed with scourges. When therefore men of their own accord reverence the glory of God, and acknowledge that the world is governed by him, and that they are under his authority, this is a real evidence of true religion: and this is what the Prophet means by name. Hence they who fear the name of God, desire not to draw him down from heaven, nor seek manifest signs of his presence, but suffer their faith to be thus tried, so that they adore and worship God, though they see him not face to face, but only through a mirror and that darkly, and also through the displays of his power, justice, and other attributes, which are evident before our eyes.
2. The metaphor now changes. The Lord addresses personally you who fear my name (cf. 3:16), that is, those who have repented and long to see his cause triumph and right prevail. For them the sun which caused the heath fire (verse 1) will be the sun of righteousness, bringing health and healing to those who love righteousness (Isa. 57:18, 19). Like calves released from their stall into the sunlight they will leap about with sheer relief and exuberance that right has triumphed.
Only here in the Bible does the term ‘sun of righteousness’ occur, and the imagery of wings representing the sun’s rays recalls the winged sun disc which appears on many Near Eastern monuments. It is a particularly apt figure to claim for the Lord of hosts as he reveals himself as judge in all his power.
2. The shift from third person (3:16) to second person in the address to those who ‘fear’ (nab, njb) or ‘honour’ (cev) God’s name personalizes the prophet’s final declaration.21 The reference to those who fear YHWH also has liturgical implications, and designates a group of people who have remained faithful to YHWH and stand in readiness to serve as his agents in restoring covenant faith, righteous behaviour and true worship in Judah. Those who fear YHWH’s name are those who have repented and long to see his cause triumph and right prevail.23 The word name is a key theme in the prophet’s second disputation (1:6–2:9), and Malachi uses the term to represent the essence of God’s being, especially his sovereignty, love and faithfulness to Israel as revealed in his covenant name, YHWH.
The expression sun of righteousness is unique to Malachi in the OT. The phrase may be a solar epithet for YHWH, given the association of God with the sun and light,24 or it could be merely a figurative description of the Day of the Lord, the dawning of a new day that ushers in an era of righteousness and brings about a reversal of circumstances for the people of God (cf. NJPS, ‘sun of victory’). The winged sun-disk of Ancient Near Eastern iconography is one possible source for Malachi’s solar epithet. This icon depicting falcon or eagle wings against a full sun represented the guardianship and blessing of the deity for the rulers or people, overshadowed by the protecting wings of the god.26
Early Christian interpreters understood the word-picture as a messianic title fulfilled in Jesus the Messiah. The evv understand the phrase as a solar epithet for YHWH (or a Christological title) and render it ‘the sun of righteousness’ (even though the phrase is indefinite; cf. kjv, ‘the Sun of Righteousness’). The new day coming portrayed in the rising of the sun is characterized by healing. ‘Rather than the fire of judgment, the balm of healing arrives by means of the “wings” of the sun of God.’
The pastoral imagery of well-fed calves romping playfully in the pasture conveys a sense of joy and freedom for the righteous in the Day of the Lord—another picture of the reversal of fortunes awaiting those who fear YHWH (‘And you will go free, leaping with joy like calves let out to pasture’, nlt).
Ver. 2. Shall the Sun of Righteousness arise.—Sun-rising:—
There is only one sun in our system: and there is one Mediator between God and man. The vastness of the sun is surprising, but Jesus is the Lord of all. His greatness is unsearchable. The beauty and glory of the sun are such that we cannot wonder at its being made the subject of adoration. But He is fairer than the children of men. And all the angels of God worship Him. Consider the inestimable usefulness of this luminary. How he enlightens, warms, fructifies, adorns, blesses. What changes does he produce in garden, wood, and meadow! The sun that ripened Isaac’s corn ripens ours, and though he has shone for so many ages, he is undiminished, and as all-sufficient as ever. What an image of Him who is the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever! He that seeth the Sun of Righteousness, and believeth on Jesus, hath everlasting life. The rising of the sun is the finest spectacle in the creation. But when and how does the Sun of Righteousness arise? His coming was announced immediately after the Fall. His approach obscurely appeared in the types and services of the ceremonial law. In the clearer discoveries of the prophets, the morning was beginning to spread upon the mountains. At length He actually arose—God sent forth His Son. He rises in the dispensation of the Gospel—in spiritual illumination—in renewed manifestations—in ordinances. But how will He arise in the irradiations of heaven!—in the morning of immortality; making a day to be sullied with no cloud, and followed with no evening shade! Then their sun shall no more go down. (William Jay.)
The Sun of Righteousness:—
As for the godly, He promises to send Christ unto them, bringing illumination, righteousness, healing, protection, and increase of grace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.
- An infallible character of the truly godly is their reverence and holy fear (presumption being very contrary unto piety), and that not only of God’s justice and terrible judgments, which the wicked may tremble at, but also of His name and whatsoever He reveals Himself by; His word being enough to make them tremble, and His goodness to make them fear.
- Christ is the substance of the encouragement of the godly, as being unto His Church and children in a super-excellent manner, what the sun is to this inferior world, in enlightening all their darkness, illuminating all the inferior lights that shine in any measure, making all hid things patent, rejoicing, warning, cherishing, and ripening all fruits. “Unto you that fear My name, shall the sun arise.”
- Not only is every man by nature and without Christ, in a dark, disconsolate condition till He come to them, but His manifestation of Himself under the law was far inferior to that under the Gospel, which is far more clear, glorious, and comfortable, than the legal shadows were: for where Christ comes, “the sun ariseth” after a dark night; and this especially relates to His incarnation, which is sunlight in comparison of the Old Testament, which had but, as it were, moonlight.
- That which makes Christ especially comfortable to the godly is, that He brings glorious righteousness to them, whereby they who durst not appear before God, become glorious and beautiful in the eyes of the Lord. He is the “Sun of Righteousness”—glorious righteousness—to them.
- As these who get good of Christ will have many sores, and be made to feel the deadly wounds and diseases which every one by nature hath; so Christ is the only Physician to cure such sores, and deliver His people from all sickness of sin and misery. “He arises with healing.” (George Hutcheson.)
The Sun of Righteousness:—
From the most glorious creature, “the sun,” He expresses the most glorious Creator, “Christ Jesus,” taking occasion to help our understandings in grace by natural things, and teaching us thereby to make a double use of the creatures, corporal and spiritual. Christ is compared to the sun—
- Because, as all light was gathered into the body of the sun, and from it derived to us, so it pleased God that in Him should the fulness of all excellency dwell.
- As there is but one sun, so there is but one Sun of Righteousness.
- As the sun is above the firmament, so Christ is exalted up on high, to convey His graces and virtues to all His creatures here below.
- As the sun works largely in all things here below, so doth Christ.
- As the sun is the fountain of light, and the eye of the world, so Christ is the fountain of all spiritual light.
- As the sun directeth us whither to go and which way, so doth Christ teach us to go to heaven, and by what means; what duties to perform, what things to avoid, and what things to bear.
- As the sun is pleasant, and darkness is terrible, so Christ is comfortable; for He makes all at peace where He comes; and He sends the Spirit the Comforter.
- By the beams of the sun is conveyed influence to make things grow, and to distinguish between times and seasons. Thus Christ, by His power, makes all things cheerful, for He quickens the dead and dark soul.
- The sun works these effects not by coming down to us, but by influence.
- As the sun doth work freely, drawing up vapours to dissolve them into rain upon the earth, so doth Christ. He freely draws up our hearts to heaven.
- As the sun shines upon all, but doth not heat all, so Christ is offered to all.
- As the sun quickens and puts life into dead creatures, so shall Christ, by His power, quicken our dead bodies, and raise them up again. How shall we know whether Christ be to us a sun or not? If we find that we feel the heat and comfort of a Christian, it is a sign that Christ hath effectually shined on us. If Christ have shined upon any effectually, they will walk comely, as children of the light. Uses of this doctrine—
(1) We should pity their estate that are still in darkness.
(2) We should repair to Him, and conceive of Him as one having excellences suitable to our wants. The text describes this Sun as “with healing in His wings,” or beams. In these beams there is a healing nature. Naturally, we are all sick and wounded. We should take notice of our diseases in time, and go to the healing God. Christ hath a medicine of His own, able to cure any disease, though never so desperate, any person, though never so sick. Then why are we not healed? What means this that we are subject to these infirmities of ours? Some of Christ’s works are all at once perfected, and some by degrees, by little and little. The text also promises, “Ye shall go forth, and grow up as calves of the stall.” “You shall leap forth.” Both expressions signify a cheerful moving. We need to grow up. What are means thereunto?
- Purge and cleanse the soul of weakening matter. Practise the duty of repentance daily.
- Come at good food. Digest comfortable truths.
- Use exercise of holy duties. Take heed not to lightly esteem God’s ordinance; but in reverence use all means for the strengthening of our faith, by the Word, sacraments, and prayer. How shall we know whether we are grown? If we relish the food of our souls, the Word of God; are able to bear great burdens of the infirmities of our brethren; able, like Samson, to break the green cords of pleasure and profits. Our growth in grace is seen in our performance of duties: if they be strongly, readily, and cheerfully performed. Text says, “Ye shall tread down the wicked.” While the Jews obeyed God, they were a terror to the whole earth. The Church treadeth, &c., in regard of true judgment and discerning of the estates of the wicked. The Church tramples on all things that rule wicked men. The promise of the text is finally accomplished at the day of judgment. (R. Sibbes.)
- Who is this Sun of Righteousness?
- Jesus Christ, who is spoken of as “a light to lighten the Gentiles.”
- Light, a frequent Scripture symbol. The sun possesses some excellent properties above other luminaries.
- The sun possesses the property of communicating light to all the other heavenly bodies. All men are indebted to the “light of the world” for everything that is good. Good men are called lights of the world. The Sun of Righteousness is the great source of light and heat to the soul.
- Similar effects are produced on the moral world on the rising of the Sun of Righteousness, as are produced on the face of the earth by the rising of the natural sun. Darkness is dispersed, and mists and vapour give way before his powerful rays. When Christ, the true light, shines, moral darkness is dissipated, and in proportion as the true light is received, superstition, error, and ignorance die away.
- When may this “Sun of Righteousness” be said to “arise”?
- When the prophet says “shall arise,” we are not to infer that He had never arisen before, but that a more abundant outbeaming of His light should be reflected upon the faithful.
- “In the fulness of time, God sent forth His Son.”
- He arose from the dead.
- He may be said to arise when He visits any place by His Gospel.
- When He visits the souls of the children of men by His Spirit.
III. The manner in which He is said to arise. “With healing in His wings.”
- Only upon those who fear the Lord: by penitents, and by His own children.
- Penitents fear God, and seek His face. They shall be made whole, and saved from the guilt and power of sin.
- The Lord’s children serve Him with reverence and godly fear, and they too shall be saved from the pollution and indwelling of sin. (B. Bailey.)
The Sun of Righteousness:—
Nature is replete with types, shadows, or symbols of spiritual things. Our Lord is Himself called the Sun of Righteousness, because, in many respects, He bears the same relation to the moral universe which the sun sustains to the solar system. In this image, or symbol, there is a depth of meaning which does not at once strike the mind; and which, from age to age, continually deepens and expands, as science reveals more and more the intrinsic grandeur and glory of the sun. Plato says, “Light is the shadow of God.” Scripture says, “God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all.” An apostle says, “God is love.” But yet is the brightness of this light and love so veiled and obscured to mortal vision that blessing, not blasting, everywhere follows in the track of their influence. The more we study the symbolism of Scripture the more are we lost in admiration of its richness, its fulness, its grandeur, and its beauty.
- The sun is the central body of our system, by whose attractive influence all the planetary worlds are held in their orbits, and so kept from wandering into the outer darkness of infinite space. By Christ, the Sun of Righteousness, all worlds are kept in society with God, the great central light of the universe. For the Hebrew mind, this little earth of ours was the universe, around which the sun, moon, and stars revolved as the appendages and ornaments of its beauty.
- The sun is the life of the natural world. Blot out the great luminary and all the beautiful forms of nature, both in the vegetable and animal kingdoms, would sink into one mass of universal decay and death. The Sun of Righteousness is the life of the spiritual world. “He lighteth every man that cometh into the world.”
- The sun is the only self-luminous body in our system; from which all others derive their light of life. So it is a symbol of Him who is “the light of the world,” the moral world. It is given to Christ, and to Christ alone, to have “light in Himself.”
- The natural sun is, like the Sun of Righteousness, limited in the beneficent effects of its influence. It is often made an objection to the religion of Jesus, that it does not save all men. The same objection might be urged against the natural sun. Behold the arid wastes and barren rocks, on which its light-giving rays fall in vain. So the Sun of Righteousness shines in vain upon all whose sins have rendered their hearts more than stony hard. But for all this He is the life-giving power of the moral world.
- The Sun of Righteousness is, like the natural sun, the source, or rather the occasion, of many incidental evils. The natural sun, for example, in acting on the corruptions of the earth, often breeds those noxious vapours, or effluvia, which spread pestilence in the air we breathe. But is this the fault of the sun, or of the corruptions on which it acts? It is only in relation to Christ that men blame the physician for the disease He came to cure, and for the evil and malignant passions He came to eradicate or subdue.
- For many weary, countless ages men sought an answer to this question: What is the foundation of the earth? After all their searching, it was discovered that the earth rested on nothing: it was suspended from the sun. Men have been seeking the foundation of society, but the everlasting, foolish search is all in vain, for the foundation of the moral world is nowhere. It is suspended from above. The Sun of Righteousness is its only point of support and rest. All the planetary worlds are like a magnificent chandelier, suspended from the sun; so are all social states, nay, all moral worlds, upheld and sustained by the Sun of Righteousness.
- The sun is, by virtue of its transforming power, a magnificent type or symbol of Christ. The Divine power of Christ, working silently and unseen through all the ages, is fitly symbolised only by those stupendous agencies which, with such inconceivable grandeur, are ever at work on the magnificent theatre of the material universe.
(1) It is “no task for suns to shine.” And yet, by the pervasive force of the sun’s rays, all the mighty changes of the earth are wrought, and all the wondrous harmonies produced.
(2) The sun’s rays are indeed His ministering angels, sent forth to minister to all things on earth.
(3) Nor is the solid globe itself exempt from the transforming power of the sun’s rays. All the stupendous coal strata of the globe are but so many entombed vegetable kingdoms of the past, all of which were reared and ruled by the mighty sun. It is not without significance that the great Reformer, or rather the great Transformer, of the moral world is called the Sun of Righteousness.
- The power of the sun, by which all natural things are progressively developed, symbolises the corresponding power or influence of Christ in the development and progress of the moral world. The progress of Christianity is the progress of man. All real progress has been confined to Christian nations.
- The Sun of Righteousness, like the natural sun, works silently, but efficiently, in the depths of His dominion, and acts on the secret springs or principles of its inner life. And a glance at the past is sufficient to inspire us with hope for the future. The kingdom of Christ, though once the least of all seeds, is now the greatest of all trees. Having its roots in faith, its vital principle is love, its blossoms are immortal hopes, and its fruit eternal life. (R. Bledsoe.)
The rising of the Sun of Righteousness:—
- The persons to whom the promise is made. Those that fear the name of the Lord. By the “name” of God is meant the “character” of God. We have, in ourselves, no knowledge of the nature and character of God, and therefore cannot fear His name until He send forth the Spirit of truth into our hearts, to lead us into all truth. All the notions which we form of Him, before the Spirit of truth is in us, are as contrary to His true character as darkness is to light. While we are in this state of blindness we can have no real fear of God according to His Word. The true fear springs up with faith, and arises chiefly from the soul believing some part of God’s Word, which the Holy Spirit carries home to the sinner’s conscience to awaken him. This fear will be marked by a growing desire to know the true character of God. And this is not a feeling which passes away. The text does not speak of those that have feared the name of God, but of those that do fear it, i.e., continue to do so. It is not a passing fright, but a holy abiding fear. The marks of it are an abiding sense of sin, a desire to be taught of God, by searching the Word of God in order to know His name, or true character, and by praying for the teaching of the Spirit of truth.
- The promise itself. The “Sun of Righteousness” shall arise upon them “with healing in His wings.” Jesus Christ is to the soul what the natural sun is to the earth. The sun gives light and warmth to the earth, by which its various fruits are brought forth and ripened. Jesus is especially the Sun of Righteousness, as being the fountain of all righteousness; of that perfect righteousness by which believers are testified in the sight of God. Jesus fulfilled all righteousness in His own person when manifest in the flesh, and was perfectly obedient to the will of God, even unto death. This perfect righteousness of Christ is imputed, or reckoned to believers, through faith, as if they had entirely fulfilled it themselves; and thus they are justified or made righteous in the sight of God. Jesus is also the fountain of the righteousness of sanctification. The mode in which the Sun of Righteousness arises upon the soul of His people is, by pouring into them more and more of the light of the Holy Spirit strengthening their faith, and enabling them to see that Christ, with all His blessings, and all His promises, is theirs. He thus also rises with healing in His wings, to heal the broken hearts of His people.
III. The happy effect of the fulfilment of the promises. “They shall grow up, as calves in the stall.” The believer is enabled to go forth with peace and joy on his way to Zion. The blessed effect will be manifested both by the peace shed into the believer’s soul, and by his growth in holiness. The rising of the Sun of Righteousness will also greatly promote the believer’s growth in grace. The growth in size of calves, when fed in the stall, is very great; so shall the growth of believers be great. Apply subject to ourselves. Are there not too many amongst you who are entirely strangers to the fear of the name or character of God? Perhaps you have hitherto been brought only to fear God, and you walk in darkness. You should apply to yourselves this text: let the Sun of Righteousness rise on your souls with healing in His wings. If He rises on your soul you will have peace with God. (H. Gipps, LL.D.)
The Sun of Righteousness:—
This passage seems to refer principally to the second coming of our Lord; the text itself may be safely understood of His first coming in the flesh. It points out, primarily at least, the judgments to be brought upon the unbelieving and impenitent Jews.
- The coming of Christ, as the Sun of Righteousness rising upon the world. The most glorious object in creation is the fittest to represent the King of Glory. The sun is the great source of heat and life and light; of everything that is beautiful and beneficial. The Sun of Righteousness here is the Lord and Saviour Christ; the Lord and giver of life to His servants: a never-failing source of spiritual health and comfort to His servants. Whatever the sun is in the material world, that, and much more, in a spiritual sense, is the Lord to His Church. “Sun of Righteousness” may mean that He is perfectly just and righteous in Himself, and therefore discovers and rebukes sin, brings to light the hidden things of darkness and vice, and affords in Himself a perfect example of light and virtue, by which others may see and avoid their errors and failings. Or it may mean that, by His own righteousness, “He justifies many.” This Sun arose when our Lord came into the world. He again rose in His resurrection. He will again rise when He comes in glory. And He may be said to rise upon each of us when by faith we receive Him into our souls.
- The salvation which the Sun of Righteousness brings with Him. “With healing in His wings.” The Son of God came to earth as a Saviour. This character He maintained through the course of His ministry upon earth, during which He went about doing good. How did this Sun of Righteousness bring healing in His wings (or, as we should rather say, in His beams and rays) at His rising?
- The most natural interpretation is, of the cures which He wrought upon the bodies of men.
- The great act of salvation was bearing our sins in His own body on the tree. “By His stripes we are healed.” This healing procured the pardon of our sins, and the grace of the Spirit of God, to enable us to fulfil the conditions required of us. Only by joining these two together can the salvation be regarded as complete. Notice how great is His mercy in administering comfort to the penitent.
III. The qualifications required of those to whom the Son of God will prove a Saviour. “You that fear My name.” Religious fear of God is necessary to qualify a man to receive the healing grace of Christ. To the soul which has no fear Christ brings no healing. This is the state of the true Christian; in which his terrors are never so great as to extinguish his hopes, and his hopes never prevail so much as to make him confident and secure. (T. Bowdler, A.M.)
Sun of Righteousness:—
- Illustrate the comparison of our Lord Jesus Christ to a sun.
- His unapproachable pre-eminence.
- His benign influence.
- His relation to the whole world.
- Describe His restorative or remedial efficacy. In the world; in a country; in an individual.
III. Consider the persons to whom His efficacy is confined. Who are they? And why are they the sole recipients of the promised blessing? Consider Christ—as the centre of the spiritual world; as the source of light; as the source of heat; as the object of attraction. (G. Brooks.)
Parallel between Christ and the sun:—
A parallel is drawn between Jesus Christ and the natural sun.
- Before the rising of the natural sun there is darkness; until Jesus Christ arise or is apprehended there is darkness—moral and spiritual darkness. Look to the world before the coming of Christ: the heathen; the multitudes around us; any one of the unconverted; the place of outer darkness.
- Jesus Christ, as the natural sun does, arose gradually.
(1) He arose in the Scriptures, through the prophecies and promises, the types and sacrifices, until, in the development of God’s providence, He appeared above the horizon.
(2) He arose, in His own personal history, in the completion of His work, in His resurrection, in His ascension, in the gift of the Holy Spirit.
(3) He rises in the souls of His people, on earth, in heaven, for ever.
- Jesus Christ, like the natural sun, reveals or is the source of light.
(1) He reveals God, perfections, purposes, past, future, creation, providence.
(2) He reveals man, law, way of salvation, Gospel.
(3) All time; eternity; the invisible worlds, and the paths to them.
- Jesus Christ, like the natural sun, is the centre of a system. Of the material universe; and the moral and spiritual universe. Centre and sum of revealed truth of the Church.
- Jesus Christ, like the natural sun, has His image reflected, both in the material and in the moral universe.
- Is the source of enjoyment. He has all blessing; and admits to His own joy.
- Is often concealed by clouds.
(1) By a cloud of guilt on the conscience.
(2) By a eloud of corruptions.
(3) By a cloud of misrepresentations.
- He dispenses His influence freely. “Without money and without price.”
- He hastens the process of decay and corruption. “A stone of stumbling and a rock of offence.” (James Stewart.)
The Messiah as the Sun of Righteousness:—
That the promised Messiah should be termed the Sun of Righteousness may appear characteristic and appropriate. But what are we to understand by a sun with wings? What by those wings being endowed with the powers of healing? What mean we when we term the Messiah Sun of Righteousness, but that we, being by nature the heirs of God’s curse, are through Christ reconciled to Him whom we had offended? What mean we by the wings of the sun? In Egypt a sun with wings was sculptured upon the gateways and monuments. Some regard the sign with a reference to the rays or beams of the luminous body itself. Others interpret it as representing that overhanging canopy of the heavens which bends, like a protecting arch above this lower globe of ours, brooding over it, so to speak, and sheltering it. Others explain the wings as betokening the swiftness with which the light of the sun traverses illimitable space. Others appropriate the term to the cooling breezes which in the East accompany the early sunrise. Those who have experienced the glare and weariness of an Eastern day may be better qualified than most of us to appreciate those first hours of cool and refreshing daylight which are appropriated to healthful exercise and the enjoyment of nature’s loveliness. The period at which we celebrate the rising of the predicted Sun cannot convey real and fitting gladness to the hearts of those who do not entertain this chastened and holy fear of God’s name. The verse preceding the text is full of woe and alarm for them that despise His loving-kindness and disobey His laws. Apt as is the image of the sun’s rising and progress through the heavens, to represent the rising of the Sun of Righteousness and His increasing influences as He goes on His way rejoicing, it is when He has reached His height that the metaphor fails us altogether. Slowly and surely the material orb sinks at last in the darkness. Herein we are taught the infinite inferiority of the sign to that which is signified thereby. (T. Ainger, M.A.)
The Sun of Righteousness:—
Why was it that God permitted His ancient people to be overwhelmed with such unheard of calamities? We have reason to believe it was simply because they rejected Christ, and the offers of mercy and salvation through Him. If God, however, take vengeance on the wicked, He will be favourable to the righteous, and spare them in the great day, as a father spareth his own son that serveth him.
- The Sun of Righteousness. There is but one Sun from whom proceeds righteousness, and that must be the Son of God. As Christ is the source of all spiritual life and light, so by His sufferings and death He hath procured or merited righteousness. He is therefore the believer’s justifying righteousness.
- His rising on God’s people. Christ’s face shines on His people and disperses their sorrows, but His face is dark towards sinners, for He is angry with the wicked every day. In the spiritual world, when Christ took on Him our flesh and was born in Bethlehem, then the light was come, and the glory of the Lord was risen upon us! This Sun still shines; He is still shining, in His Gospel and in the power of His Word.
III. The effect of His rising. “With healing in His wings.” Understanding this literally, we may see how Christ, as man, has arisen with healing in His wings. How many; yea, what multitudes did His hands heal of various maladies. This Sun is still shining. All our spiritual light is from Him. All our spiritual healing comes from the merit of His works. (R. Horsfall.)
- I. The sun. Of all the things the eye can see the most Christlike is the sun, for he is quite alone in our world. Nor rival, nor helper, nor partner has he. We have many stars, but only one sun. All light is in and from the sun. Yet even this glorious image of the light of the world fails in some ways; for the sun has its dark spots, but in Christ, our sun, is no darkness at all. The sun is the centre of all the worlds. Every star is held in its place by the attractive power of the sun. The sun is the grand river in this world. Our thoughts wax warm as we sum up all the benefits with which he fills our earth. You cannot overstate them. Science is every year finding fresh wonders in sunlight. All kinds of force come from the sun. As the sun gives according to a never-changing law, so Christ blesses only in a righteous way.
- The sun-rising. Sunrise is probably the grandest sight in the world. In the East it is so magnificent as almost for the moment to make one a Parsee, a worshipper of the rising sun. Malachi was in the twilight, and you are in the daylight. To him the sun was beneath the horizon, sure harbinger of the wished-for day. You live in the Gospel-day.
III. The blessings Christ brings to men. As the sun destroys only darkness and its hateful brood, so Christ destroys only our miseries, and brings us all blessings.
- Healing. The Easterns often carved a winged sun above the gateways of their temples. Malachi has a poet’s quick eye for the glories of nature, and perhaps this also was in his mind,—the sun rises like a bird, with equal wings wide enough to cover the world. Malachi’s meaning is, that as sunlight brings health to a diseased, dying world, so Christ brings health to our diseased, dying souls; and this healing comes to us with all the ease, swiftness, gentleness, and freshness of morning sunshine. This healing brings health, which shows itself in joyous activity. To healing and health Christ adds victory. (James Wells, M.A.)
The blessings of the Sun of Righteousness:—
- The promise which is made.
- The metaphor under which the coming of Christ is spoken of. The rising of the Sun of Righteousness. Malachi assimilates Christ’s coming to that of the sun rising upon the earth. Is He not well entitled to this appellation?
- The manner in which Jesus is to come to His saints. “With healing in His wings.” It is a bold poetical figure used by the prophet for the beams or rays of the sun; and such bold painted figures are by no means uncommon with Eastern writers.
- The persons to whom this promise is made. “To them who fear the name of the Lord.” This expression is used in Scripture for religion in general. Without a certain mixture of fear, taking the term in its most literal signification, no worship can be acceptable to Jehovah. Without a certain mixture of fear, no worship can produce any deep or lasting impressions on the worshipper himself—no sanctifying effects on his heart and conscience. The term may, however, be limited and applied to some particular classes of saints.
- To them who are spiritual mourners.
- To them persecuted for the sake of religion.
- To them who sit in heathen darkness.
- To the elect on the day of judgment. To the righteous on that day Christ shall “arise with healing in His wings.” To them shall He come with joy and songs of triumph. (James Watson.)
Christ Jesus the Sun of Righteousness:—
The great light which the Almighty Maker of the world set up in heaven to rule the day is the most glorious object in the whole visible creation of God. The worship of the sun, as it was the first, so it was assuredly the least degrading of all the idolatries by which men and nations have since been enslaved. Does the sun exhibit the glory of God? What, then, shall we say of Christ Jesus, in whom “dwelt all the fulness of the Godhead bodily”? Seen as an absolute God, and by the flashes of the law from Sinai, our God is a consuming fire; but we have the light of the knowledge of His saving glory in the face of Jesus Christ. “In Him is light, and the light is the spiritual and everlasting life of men.” By rising in the ancient promise He dispelled the midnight ignorance and utter hopelessness of guilty creatures; by rising in His own person, and glorious acts of grace, He chased away the dim shadows of the ceremonial law; by rising in Gospel ordinances He abolished the night of error and delusion; and by rising in His spiritual influences upon the believer’s soul He says, “Let there be light, and there is light.” The sun rises gradually over the earth; and so hath the Sun of Righteousness displayed His saving light. His first ray was cast upon this fallen earth when the promise of redemption was given to guilty man in paradise. The law and the prophets reflected it with increasing brightness until His advent. But it is only when that advent is spiritually and graciously made to a soul once darkened and dead in trespasses and sins that the true and efficacious light of salvation reaches him and renews him. Upon whom, then, will this bright and radiant Sun arise? Upon those who “fear the name” of God. This fear of God is produced by that work of regeneration which the Holy Spirit effects. The fear of the Lord is a gracious and heavenly state; not meritorious of any good at the hand of God, but a disposition which best subserves His great design of raising up and glorifying the riches of His undeserved love. He who thus evangelically fears the Lord is led to serious and solemn self-examination. If you fear God there is a deep, earnest, ardent, unceasing breathing of the soul for Christ, a constant application to His blood as its true Bethesda, its everlastingly appointed house of mercy, where the soul may be made whole. Note the blessing which shall attend those who fear the Lord. Sin is the cause of all spiritual darkness, because sin is the soul’s separation from God. Christ comes with spiritual health, and with the abundance of spiritual peace: peace from the guilt of sin rising up to condemn, peace from the accusations of conscience, peace from the curse of the law, peace with the blessed Trinity, and peace with all who are one with Him. The material sin is the source of earth’s fertility. And how free, how common, how accessible is the sun of the natural world, for all who live beneath it! (R. P. Buddicom, M.A.)
Christ as a sun:—
- Of the metaphorical representation of Christ. Metaphors are useful. They arrest the attention: the imagination is engaged in discovering their beauty and admiring their aptitude, while they rivet themselves in the memory by the force with which they bring home to us the subject they are intended to illustrate. To illustrate Christ as the “Sun of Righteousness,” consider the miserably benighted state in which the human race were in the days anterior to the Gospel dispensation. Jesus Christ, that “Sun of Righteousness,” pure and spotless, is the author of all righteousness, whether imputed for justification or imparted in sanctification. When Christ rises in the soul He enlightens, quickens, and comforts.
- What is meant by “healing in His wings”? The beams of this heavenly luminary may indeed be perceived by us, but do they pervade our hearts and lives? To fear the name is to reverence Him as God and man; to participate by faith in His incarnate sufferings; to accompany Him to the scene of His cruel death. It has its foundation in a deep sense of the enormity of sins, and a humbling conviction of our depravity. (Samuel Crowther.)
The Sun of Righteousness arising with healing in His wings:—
- The characters spoken of. The “name of the Lord” signifies the perfections of the glorious God of heaven—the greatness and goodness of the Lord—God Himself. It is the peculiar character of the people of God that they “fear His name.” It is a fear of offending God, the tenderness of the child that fears to offend its parent. This fear is an abiding principle, and it is a practical principle; it operates upon the life.
- The blessed privilege of those that fear the name of God. The Sun of Righteousness is Immanuel, God with us. And He arose at His birth, because more conspicuous in His ministry; was eclipsed at His death, shone forth brighter after His resurrection and ascension, and attained His meridian splendour when the Jewish dispensation closed and the Christian dispensation was fully established. But the promise of our text is daily receiving its fulfilment in the hearts of God’s believing people. The promise of the text, however, still awaits the consummation of its fulfilment. (Benjamin Maturin, B.A.)
The Sun of Righteousness:—
- The persons. Those that “fear the name of the Lord.” Fear is the passion of our nature opposed to hope, and by it the author of our being guards us against danger. The “fear of the Lord” is the sublimest principle which can influence a soul. It casts out all other fear. Filial and godly fear is always accompanied with love.
- The blessings. The Messiah should be, to the spiritual world, what the sun is to the natural world. In this view we may regard Him as the source of light, fertility, comfort, and health. (Peter Grant.)
Christ, the Sun of Righteousness:—
Were I to adhere to the textual view of these words I should be shut up to consider what Christ’s coming was to those who already had some true light, to those who already feared God and thought upon His name, and thus I should have mainly to set forth the superiority of Christianity to Judaism. But I shall make no apology for giving to this title “Sun of Righteousness” a wider application, and for considering not so much Christ’s rising then and there upon Jewish cloudiness and dimness, as rather His arising from first to last upon the total darkness of our fallen world.
- The nature of Christ’s light, or enlightening power.
- This light is saving light. In many parts of the Old Testament “righteousness” is used in nearly the same sense with “salvation.” The salvation of God, resting on the perfect righteousness of God’s own Son as the sinner’s substitute, applied to believers in Him for justification, and in its gracious operation, terminated and completed by their willing return to personal righteousness and holiness of life,—this is what is here meant under the name of “righteousness” (Jer. 23:6). We speak in our own language of the “sun of freedom” rising upon a country, or of the “sunshine of peace” revisiting it. But the light which here bursts upon a lost and guilty world is the saving light of righteousness. It announces to the condemned the hope of pardon, and shows the way; and it discloses with equal clearness the means of deliverance from the power and bondage of corruption. In Christ the whole salvation is contained, even as the sun reveals himself. In Him the guilty are righteous in law; in Him, and as subdued by His birth, they are righteous in fact.
- This light is original light. The light of the sun is unborrowed. It is a mystery which our science has not yet solved, how this fountain is fed. But relatively to all sources of light that we know, it is higher and self-sustained. This images the nature of Christ’s light, in contrast with all the knowledge of Divine things which comes to us from other quarters.
- This light is pre-eminent light. The most glorious object in nature is the sun. The ancient world had its lights, we grant—its poets, philosophers, moralists, law-givers. But what were they in regard to righteousness or salvation? How much did they diffuse of the light of life? Christ was even pre-eminent above Jewish prophets, who had known and revealed God to men. They were but secondary lights. Their use was to point to Him. It is needless to assert Christ’s pre-eminence over His own apostles and ministers and people.
- This light is a universal light. What a universal blessing is sunshine! What an emblem of the Higher Light which is not less universal, though, for reasons which we cannot fathom, it is still beneath the horizon in many a wide region of the earth. Where it has shone, can the natural sun be more unrestricted and free?
- The nature of Christ’s healing influence. By wings the prophet means the rays or influence of the sun. In addition to the influence of light we are now to take into account that of heat, of which, too, the sun is the centre.
- Christ’s healing power in relation to sin. What is wanted to moralise the whole community? Only one thing, the love of Christ in every man’s heart.
- Christ’s healing extends to sorrow. This follows from the healing of sin. Every sin has its own sorrow, its remorse, its injuries to mind and heart, and often also to body and estate.
- The influence of Christ’s sunshine upon death. The natural sun lights all generations to their grave. How is Christ risen from the dead, risen with healing in His wings for all that sleep in Him! Oh, the glory of that victory over death, the last enemy, which the light of Christ’s immortal countenance shall achieve! (John Cairns, D.D.)
Christ the Sun of Righteousness:—
We with the early Fathers take our Lord to be “the Sun of Righteousness.” The mass of the sun being so vastly greater than that of all the planets and satellites taken together, constitutes it a suitable centre of light, heat, and gravitation; and therefore a striking emblem of Christ. Of the many points of resemblance we will examine two. The darkness which precedes the dawn, and the gradual growth of the light. These are seen—
- In the growth of Christianity. At the dawn of Christianity there was a darkness like that of Egypt, “that might be felt.” Darkness is the symbol of ignorance and sin. The intellectual greatness of the Augustan age is seen in its poets, philosophers, &c.; but the flowers grew on a marshy and rotten soil. Classical writers confirm St. Paul’s testimony in Romans chap. 1 to the awful moral degradation of the time. The “dayspring from on high” appears, and gradually asserts its power over the darkness. Christian teachers penetrated where the Roman legions never trod. Persecution did not arrest the wave. When the northern barbarians overwhelmed the Roman Empire, they had to yield to a power greater than their own—that of the Cross. The glory of the meridian sun must fill the earth.
- In the growth of the Christian. Before conversion our hearts were “dark, void, and formless,” like the original world. The spirit of man is illumined by the “Sun of Righteousness,” and chaos becomes cosmos. This growth is gradual. Three stages of Christian growth. God calls, touches, blesses; which corresponds in some sort to assent, affiance, and assurance. Growth in religion is mainly characterised by thought of ourselves at its beginning, by consideration for others as we advance in holiness, and by a desire for the glory of God when more matured. Is Christ growing in us? We must be advancing or receding. If Christ be growing in us, certain effects will follow. His light will cleanse and purify; and shining from us, it will give us influence on others. (J. S. Pilkington, M.A.)
The rising of the Sun of Righteousness:—
All nature is laid under contribution to furnish emblems of Christ in His Person and offices. Text refers to the second advent. But the glory of the second will be the consummation of the grace of the first advent. It was the rising of the Sun of Righteousness when Christ appeared as the Light of the World revealing pardon, peace, liberty, and joy. It will be the rising in full meridian splendour, when He shall appear the second time, to complete the salvation of His saints and to be glorified in them.
- What the sun is to the natural world, that Christ is in the spiritual, the source and centre of its light and life.
- Christ is the Sun of Righteousness. He is Righteousness embodied, exhibited as a living reality. He fulfilled all righteousness. He makes His people righteous. As their justification, and as their sanctification and illumination. By His Spirit He imparts His own nature to them, creates them anew in righteousness and true holiness.
- Christ rises “with healing in His wings.” The figure admits of a natural and beautiful interpretation. On certain coasts there sets in with the rising sun a balmy breeze which, because of its soothing and salubrious character, the residents call “the healer.” Regarding this with poetic fancy as winged zephyrs of the rising sun, the prophet speaks of the coming Messiah as a sun rising with healing in His wings.
- “Grow up as calves” is better rendered, “bound as calves loosed from the stall.” Liberty and enlargement of heart, exultation and lightness of spirit, shall be to them on whom the Sun of Righteousness arises. The expression “go forth” denotes release. We know the exuberance of a young animal set free to range in the open pasturage. To them who “fear His name” the rising is with “healing in His wings.” But the sun in the heavens can smite, and scorch and slay. Oh, that terrible sunstroke, so fatal in the East! Christ’s coming may be to some a revelation of flaming fire taking vengeance. (A. R. Symonds.)
The Sun of Righteousness:—
- The blessings Christ imparts, like those of the sun, are of the utmost value. A sunless landscape is less dismal than a Christless soul; whilst a Christly soul has on it “a light that never shone on sea or land.” The blessings of the natural sun and of the Christ are, in many respects, similar.
- They are enlightening. Sunrise means daylight.
- They are restorative. “Healing,”—for does not the sun’s influence on drooping flower and faded face of human weakness but hint Christ’s influence on men’s hearts and lives?
- The blessings Christ imparts, like those of the sun, come to men in a remarkable manner. The sunrise and these “wings” combine to suggest—
(4) Swiftness. So Christ blesses.
III. The blessings Christ imparts, like those of the sun, bring benefits that, in a large degree, are universal. The sun shines on the evil and on the good. What spot of earth does it not, directly or indirectly, reach and bless? So many of Christ’s blessings bless all. Is there not through Him—
(1) Prolonged probation for the whole human race?
(2) “Means of grace” for multitudes still sinners?
(3) Holy influences of thought and character that restrain and that tend to elevate?
- The blessings Christ imparts, like those of the sun, demand special conditions for their full appropriation. The best cultivated soil will best utilise the heat and light of the sun. So the soul that in steadfast faith and love turns to the Christ, and with intense desires drinks in all His truth and grace, will be the soul on which will be most evident the healing influences of the great Sun of Righteousness. (Homilist.)
A message for the faithful:—
Changed, indeed, are our days from those in which the words of the text were written. Since that time the Sun of Righteousness has arisen: Elias the prophet has come already, and they have done to him all that they listed. The law of Moses, commanded in Horeb for all Israel, has been exchanged for the voice of One who speaks to us from heaven. And yet God’s last words, as here recorded, are still substantially the same with those which He speaks to us to-day after the lapse of more than two-and-twenty centuries.
- What is the great basis, here set before us, of all revelation? Behold, the day cometh. Everything is tending to one point; every act, every word of ours, is running on before us to that great end, the day of final reckoning. How difficult it is to believe this; how much more difficult still to act upon it! How often does sin triumph! The day cometh; a day revealed by fire; a fire not purifying but consuming to all the proud, yea, and all who do wickedly. And need we remind you who these are? They are all who say in their hearts,—not with their lips indeed, but in their hearts,—There is no God: all who live, that is, as if there was none; live without intercourse with Him; live without regard to His will and His approval. Take with you unto your new life this one great principle, there is a day of judgment coming.
- Then what force and interest will this first truth give to that which follows. He who is expecting the coming judgment can alone rejoice to hear of One who will enable him to meet it. “Unto you that fear My name shall the Sun of Righteousness arise with healing in His wings.” The prophet is speaking of a time when those who have served God in their generation shall find to their eternal comfort that they have not served Him in vain. This is the great blessedness of God’s service, that all its difficulties and troubles come first: they lie on the surface; they beset its first entrance; diminishing commonly, or made by use lighter to bear, as life advances; and all ceasing absolutely when this life ends. A true Christian is on the winning side in the great battle. With what patience, then, should he who is called to suffer sometimes for his Christian faithfulness regard those who thus deal with him.
- This for every one of us is the great lesson, that we look well to our hearts and lives, to the work which God has set us to do, and to the spirit in which we may do it.
- There remains yet one portion of these last words of God by His prophets, which is scarcely less applicable to days when He has already spoken to us by His Son. “Behold, I will send Elijah,” &c. The prophetical part of these words has already been fulfilled. The mission of the Baptist accomplished them. But the practical lesson which they contain is of unchangeable moment. You all know how large a part of your duty is connected, by God’s wise appointment, with your parents. God accepts through them an obedience which cannot yet be paid consciously to Himself. God makes it one portion of your duty to Him to honour and obey them. Their approval He would have you to regard as your highest earthly reward; their comfort and happiness as your highest earthly object. (Dean Vaughan.)
Christ’s first coming:—
There is a touch of sadness about the Book of Malachi. His are parting words, and they show how God’s people had degenerated, had lost their fervour, and become content with a mere outward service. Malachi revealed the spiritual state of the people to themselves, denounced their sins, and warned them of judgment to come. But he does not leave them without hope. It is the manner of Hebrew prophecy to blend together different events which have relation to one another, and here we have words which belong to both comings of Christ.
- Christ’s first coming. Described under the image of the rising of the sun. This implies that the world was in a state of darkness before the Incarnation. The title which the prophet gives to Christ, “the Sun of Righteousness,” marks one great purpose of His advent-illumination. “Healing in His wings,” applies to the work of Christ, in body and soul. As the rays of the sun look like wings when they stretch out across the heavens, so this healing work of Christ extends, by means of His mystic body, the Church, far and wide over the nations.
- Who profit by it?
- Light is diffusive.
- But we may close our eyes against it, or hide from it.
- Christ is the sun to those who fear His name.
- Christ’s light was convictive, as well as attractive.
- Even our Lord’s first coming was, in some sense, an act of judgment. Lessons—
- Realise the need of spiritual illumination.
- Question ourselves how far the light and healing effects of Christ’s coming have reached us, and how far our daily life is influenced by His presence.
- To be clear about the fact whether He is a “swift witness” against us, or the “Sun of Righteousness,” depends upon ourselves and our use of the grace which is given to us. (The Thinker.)
What Christ is made to believers:—
Jesus Christ is made unto us of God, a soul-heating, soul-warming sun.
- What need have we of these warming influences from Christ, the Sun of Righteousness? It is upon the account of the coldness we are subject to in spiritual things. Some are key-cold, stone cold; dead in trespasses and sins. Even such as are spiritually alive, are subject to their cold fits. The causes of this spiritual coldness are—
- Some inward distemper prevailing in the soul.
- From the season; night-time, and winter-time, are cooling times. When God withdraws, it is both night and winter to the soul.
- From cooling circumstances, such as want of ordinances, engagement with carnal relations. The effects of spiritual coldness are—
(1) Inward uneasiness.
(2) Unfitness for action.
(3) Unaptness to receive impressions, by the Word or by the rod.
- How is heat and warmth communicated by Christ to those that fear His name? In general, it is by His wings. In particular, He is a warming sun to us—
- By the immediate motions and comforts of His Holy Spirit.
- By His Word and ordinances, though not without the Spirit.
- By good society. And Jesus Christ is made a heavenly sun, with “healing” in His wings. Ours is a sick and wounded condition. Sick of the disease of natural corruption; sick of the wounds of actual sin. This is—
(1) The alone healing.
(2) It is all-healing.
(3) It is healing at hand. And Jesus Christ is made a growth-furthering sun to us. “Grow up as calves.” Can a tree or plant grow without warmth? And, finally, the Lord Jesus is a fruit-furthering sun. (Philip Henry.)
The inner world of the good:—
The “name of the Lord” means Himself, and to fear Him with a loving, filial reverence, is genuine godliness. We have here, in fact, a picture of their inner world.
- It is a world of solar brightness. The “Sun of Righteousness” rises on the horizon of their souls. There are souls that are lighted by sparks of their own kindling, and by the gaseous blaze springing from the bogs of inner depravity. All such lights, whether in the forms of philosophic theories or religious creeds, are dim, partial, transitory. The soul of a good man is lighted by the sun. The sun—
(1) Throws his beams over the whole heavens.
(2) Reveals all objects in their true aspects and proportions.
(3) Quickens all into life and beauty.
(4) Is centre, holding the whole system in order. Christ is the light of the good.
- It is a world of Divine rectitude. “Sun of Righteousness.” “The kingdom of God is within.” Eternal right is enthroned. God’s will is the supreme law. The meat and drink of the godly soul are to do the will of their Father, who is in heaven. Such a soul is right—
(1) In relation to itself. All its powers, passions, and impulses are rightly adjusted. Right—
(2) In relation to the universe. It renders to others what it would that others should render unto it. Right—
(3) In relation to God. The Best Being it loves the most, the Greatest Being it reverences the most, the Kindest Being it thanks the most.
III. It is a world of remedial influence. “With healing in His wings.” The sun’s beams are in Scripture called His wings. “The wings of the morning” (Psa. 139). The soul through sin is diseased. Its eyes are dim, its ears are heavy, its limbs are feeble, its very blood is poisoned. The godly man is under remedial influences. The beams of the “Sun of Righteousness” work off the disease, repair the constitution, and enable it to run without being weary, and to walk without being faint. There is a proverb among the Jews that as “the sun arises, the infirmities decrease.” The flowers which drooped and languished all night, revive in the morning. The late Mr. Robinson, of Cambridge, called upon a friend just as he had received a letter from his son, who was surgeon on a vessel then lying off Smyrna. The son mentioned to his father, that every morning about sunrise a fresh gale of air blew from the sea across the land, and from its wholesomeness and utility in clearing the infected air, this wind was called the Doctor. Christ is the Physician of souls.
- It is a world of buoyant energy. “Ye shall go forth and grow up as calves of the stall.” See the calf, which from its birth has been shut up in the stall, let forth for the first time into the green fields in May, how full of buoyant energy, it leaps and frolics and frisks. This is the figure employed here to represent the gladsomeness with which the godly soul disports its faculties under the genial beams of the “Sun of Righteousness.” Conclusion—What a transcendent good is religion! How blessed the soul that has come under its bright, benign, and heavenly influence. (Homilist.)
Progress in the religious life:—
They were before in darkness and disease; both of which confine. But the Sun of Righteousness arises, and with healing in His wings; and thus, the true light now shining, and health being restored, they become free and active—they go forth and grow up as calves of the stall. For even now they have not attained, they are not already perfect. Nor are they to remain what they are, but to increase with all the increase of God. We are not to deny what God has done for our souls. But though we must not despise the day of small things, we are not to be satisfied with it. A day of greater things is attainable: and if we do not aspire after it, we have reason to suspect even the reality of our religion. Spiritual principles may be weak, but if they are Divine, they will evince it by a tendency to growth. The sacred writers express this progression by every kind of growth. By human growth; vegetable growth; and here we have animal growth. No creatures, perhaps, increase so rapidly and observably as calves, especially when they are well attended and fed, and for the very purpose of growth. We have been reminded, sometimes, of the truth of this image, by the spiritual reality. We have seen those who, in a little time, have surprised all around them, by their progress in the Divine life. But many of us have reason to exclaim, “My leanness, my leanness!” How little progress have we made in religious knowledge, experience, practice, and usefulness, though we have possessed every advantage, and long enjoyed the means of grace. At present the comparison reproves us. But let it also excite and encourage. It not only reminds us of our duty, but of our privilege. This growth is not only commanded, but promised. It is therefore attainable—and we know the way to our resources. Jesus came, not only that we might have life, but have it more abundantly. (William Jay.)
“The Sun has risen”:—
The natives of the now thoroughly Christianised Samoa Islands have commemorated the coming of the Gospel among them, and the remembrance of their friend, John Williams, who laid down his life on their behalf, by erecting a church on the spot where the missionary first landed. The motto chosen for inscription on the walls is simple and expressive, “The Sun has risen.” (Missionary News.)
Hopeful view of the future of the world:—
I do not know whether any of my hearers have ever gone up from Riffelburg to Gorner Grat, in the High Alps, to behold the sun rise. Every mountain catches the light according to the height which the upheaving forces that God set in motion have given it. First, the point of Monte Rosa is kissed by the morning beams, blushes for a moment, and forthwith stands clear in the light. Then the Bretthorn, and the dome of Mischabel, and the Matterhorn, and twenty other grand mountains, embracing the distant Jung Frau, receive each in its turn the gladdening rays, bask each for a brief space, and then remain bathed in sunlight. Meanwhile the valleys between lie down dark and dismal as death. But the light which has risen is the light of the morning; and these shadows are even now lessening, and we are sure they will soon altogether vanish. Such is the hopeful view I take of our world. “Darkness covered the earth, and gross darkness the people; but God’s light hath broken forth in the morning, and to them who sat in darkness a great light has arisen.” Already I see favoured spots illumined by it; Great Britain and her spreading colonies, and Prussia extending her influence, and the United States, with her broad territory and her rapidly increasing population, stand in the light; and I see, not twenty, but a hundred points of light, striking up in our scattered mission stations, in old continents and secluded isles and barren deserts, according as God’s grace and man’s heaven-kindled love have favoured them. And much as I was enraptured with that grand Alpine scene, and shouted irrepressibly as I surveyed it, I am still more elevated, and I feel as if I could cry aloud for joy, when I hear of light advancing from point to point, and penetrating deeper and deeper into the darkness which we are sure is at last to be dispelled, to allow our earth to stand clear in the light of the Sun of Righteousness. (J. M‘Cosh.)
Properties of light:—
Light is purifying; let sunshine into a dark cellar, and it soon becomes pure. Light is vivifying; expose a withered plant from a dark room to the sun, and it colours up. Light is power; all sources of fuel are directly from the sun, coming in rays of light. Light is joyous; nothing contributes so much to making a brilliant assembly as a flood of light upon it. Light is comforting; a dark day is always a gloomy day, but a burst of sunshine brings a cheer. Light is strengthening; a puny child may grow strong if he can play in the sunshine. So you should get into the light that streams from the Sun of Righteousness. His presence purifies the heart, energises the mind, brightens the life, cheers the spirits, and strengthens the whole man. (Sunday Companion.)
The Sun of Righteousness:—
- His oneness. In the universe there is infinite variety and abundant repetition. In our world many rivers roll their waters into many seas; many mountains attract the many clouds which are born out of many deeps. Above and around us are many worlds; many stars twinkle over many watchers. But there is for us only one Sun, unique in splendour and in power. There is but one Jesus, the only begotten Son of God. There is no other name given under heaven, or among men; only one all-meritorious Saviour.
- Centralness. Our solar system holds its place in the mechanism of the heavens by revolving in silent grandeur round the central sun. That sun is the pivot and point round which, in smooth, unbroken harmony, the mighty worlds are ever moving in their courses, linked and ordered by the law of gravitation; so is Jesus the true centre of the soul. Apart from Him, the soul, like an erratic meteor, a wandering star, flies ever away from the central point of bliss, to be finally lost and shattered in awful night. The true believer is bound to Jesus by the mightier law of love. Round Him, in the orbit of light and duty, he revolves for ever, subject to the law of righteousness, and brightened with the beatific beams of grace.
III. Light. The moon, bright though her beams are, and radiant her beauty, has no inherent illuminating power. The stars that make obeisance to their fiery lord borrow their glory from this central source, and shed a reflected lustre on the world below. The coal dug out of its subterranean bed, and all other sources of artificial light, have drawn their resources from this central reservoir. So with Jesus. “It pleased the Father, that in Him should all fulness dwell.” “I am the light of the world.” As the sun chases the gloom, scatters the clouds, conquers the night, and floods the worlds with day, so He banishes the night of nature, the darkness of ignorance, the clouds of doubt and fear, the gloomy shades of death.
- Life. The sun is the great quickener. Winter, made by its absence, is the time of death; bird and beast are sluggish, and comparatively inert; tree and plant and flower are paralysed by an icy grasp. With the returning sun comes the germinating seed, the bursting bud, the swiftly circulating sap, and a marvellous activity pervades creation. So Jesus raises dead souls to life, and quickens the soul of man into hale and thriving resurrection. “I am the Life,” He says.
- Beauty. The sun is the greatest artist. His magic pencil gives the sky its peerless blue, robes nature in emerald vestments, silvers every lake and stream, and paints in fairest hues the flowers that gem the earth. Spring-tide’s green, summer’s flush, autumn’s gold, and winter’s white, all are the offspring of his magic pencil, while the sun itself is more glorious than they all. So Jesus Christ is Himself the fairest among ten thousand, and altogether lovely.” He invests with moral excellence and spiritual beauty all that His love shines down upon. He invests the believing soul with the garment of praise and the beauty of holiness.
- Gladness. “The sun,” says the Psalmist, “rejoices as a strong man to run a race.” It is a type of perfect happiness. A happy face is said to be a “sunny” countenance; gladness is oft called “sunshine.” All nature breaks into song under the sun’s influence; the tiniest insect dances in his beams; the weary invalid welcomes the first rosy salutation of the morning. Jesus is the joy-giver.
VII. Perfectness. The sun is the great ripener. It brings all the processes of nature to perfection. It finds the leaf an imprisoned embryo in russet husk and shell, and continues to expand and beautify it until it flutters in perfect growth on plant or tree. It touches the green bud, and never rests until it shines upon the perfect flower. It nurses the fruit till it drops ripe and mellow into October’s lap. It undertakes charge of the green corn-blade, and never ceases until the golden harvest bends to the reaper’s scythe. So Jesus is the Great Perfecter; and in the believer’s nature the good seed of the kingdom is nursed and nurtured until, as Job has it, he becomes a “shock of corn ripe for the garner.” He that pardons and He that sanctifies is all of one.
VIII. Fulness. The sun’s resources never fail. What liberal largess he has conferred on the world! What harvests he has ripened! What mountain snows he has melted into crystal streams! What flowers he has painted! What spirits he has gladdened since first his mission was begun! and yet his eye is not dim nor his natural strength abated! So with Jesus. “It pleased the Father that in Him should all fulness dwell!”
- Universalness. “His going forth is from the end of the heaven, and his circuit unto the ends of the earth: and there is nothing hid from the heat thereof.” It bronzes the brow of the rude Fijian, reddens the skin of the Indian warrior, blackens the negro’s swarthy face, and wraps the world in its benevolent embrace. “I am the light of the world,” says Jesus. His saving beams have blest humanity in all its tribes, from shivering Esquimaux to sweltering Ethiopian. He tasted death for every man.
- Impartialness. The sun makes no selection. Where it can shine it will. It beautifies the garden, and smiles upon the desert. It glorifies the rose, and flings a halo round the thistle. It flashes on the crystal lakes, and shimmers on the stagnant pool. It gleams on the topmost oak leaf, and shines on the humblest violet. It burnishes silk and rags alike. “Whosoever” is the widespread word of Jesus too. “If any man thirst,” &c. Wealthy Nicodemus or Joseph, poor Bartimeus or the woman by the well. This Sun of Righteousness, does He shine on you? He is your one centre of life and light; the one source of gladness, beauty, and perfection. (J. Jackson Wray.)
 Spence-Jones, H. D. M. (Ed.). (1909). Malachi (pp. 60–61). London; New York: Funk & Wagnalls Company.
 Calvin, J., & Owen, J. (2010). Commentaries on the Twelve Minor Prophets (Vol. 5, pp. 616–621). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.
 Baldwin, J. G. (1972). Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi: An Introduction and Commentary (Vol. 28, pp. 273–274). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
 Hill, A. E. (2012). Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi: An Introduction and Commentary. (D. G. Firth, Ed.) (Vol. 28, pp. 358–359). Nottingham, England: Inter-Varsity Press.
 Exell, J. S. (n.d.). The Biblical Illustrator: The Minor Prophets (Vol. 12, pp. 127–141). New York; Chicago; Toronto; London; Edinburgh: Fleming H. Revell Company.