[June 22]—God’s Love

Malachi 1:1-5

            If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you know I place a great importance over the final words that someone speaks. I attach a lot of significance to the last recorded words of Jacob/Israel, David, Jesus, and Paul. When you know that the door is rapidly closing on your opportunity to speak with someone, you don’t indulge in much idle chit-chat.
            It’s the same principle here. This is the final recorded words of the God of Israel for over 400 years. Now, is it possible that the Lord spoke directly to someone, and it’s not recorded? Sure, it’s possible. But to our knowledge, these are the last words he spoke to the nation until the arrival of John the Baptist just before the arrival of the Messiah. So this is incredibly important.
            Here’s a little background. Malachi’s name means “my messenger.” He probably presented his message and preached during the 4th century B. C., during the time of Nehemiah but about a hundred years after Haggai and Zechariah.
This was a time of discouragement. The prophets had promised that the Messiah would come and set everything right. For example, Zechariah’s last chapter had predicted that Israel’s enemies would lick the dust, and everyone in the world would worship the Lord with Jerusalem as its capital. They'd rebuilt the temple like God wanted. There was a nation-wide revival under Ezra and Nehemiah. Now a hundred years after those days, there were no signs of any change. They were still under the heel of a foreign power, living and dying at the whim of a foreign king. Where was the Lord now?
Another enemy that Malachi faced was related to discouragement: complacency. If the Lord’s not going to keep his promises, why should I put so much effort in obeying and pleasing him? Times are tough. Maybe I can get away with half-hearted worship, and let my lifestyle slip into the way I like to do things. What difference does it really make?
Onto this scene steps Malachi, God’s messenger. In this short book he lists some cynical questions and objections which the people were murmuring, either publicly or privately. And then he gives the Lord’s response to it. I promise that these questions and the Lord’s answers have a special relevance for us as believers today.
The first question/objection/accusation which Malachi addresses is concerning God’s love for Israel. From a human perspective, it sure looked like the Lord had abandoned them. So where was his love? How had he shown them he loved them?
The answer: He had “loved” Israel and “hated” Esau. There is a reason why I used those words in quotation marks, since they can easily be misunderstood, and beg for a little explanation.
Let’s take the easier term first, and then we’ll tackle the somewhat more difficult one tomorrow. Anyone who’s read the Old Testament can see how the Lord loved Israel. He chose Abram/Abraham, and then his progeny. He redeemed them out of Egypt, cared for them in the desert, forgave them their flagrant disobedience time after time after time, etc. Like us, he owed them nothing but judgment and had showed them incredible love and compassion.
Like I said, we’re going to tackle the issue of the Lord “hating” Esau tomorrow, since I can’t do it any kind of justice in a paragraph. In the meantime, how about you and I take stock in our level of gratitude? Yes, I have lots of problems in life, but—once again—he owes me nothing but judgment, and he’s shown me nothing but love, mercy, kindness, compassion, grace, and blessings. If I’m asking questions like “How has God loved me?” then something’s desperately wrong. Whatever it is, we need to deal with it.

Lord Jesus, I don’t feel that right now, but I admit I’ve questioned that sometimes. When it happens, please draw me quickly back into your Presence, where all questions fade into insignificance. 

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