Malachi 1:1-5 1 An oracle: The word of the LORD to Israel through Malachi. 2 “I have loved you,” says the LORD. “But you ask, ‘How have you loved us?’ “Was not Esau Jacob’s brother?” the LORD says. “Yet I have loved Jacob, 3 but Esau I have hated, and I have turned his mountains into a wasteland and left his inheritance to the desert jackals.” 4 Edom may say, “Though we have been crushed, we will rebuild the ruins.” But this is what the LORD Almighty says: “They may build, but I will demolish. They will be called the Wicked Land, a people always under the wrath of the LORD. 5 You will see it with your own eyes and say, ‘Great is the LORD–even beyond the borders of Israel!’
When Malachi comes on the scene as God’s prophet, the Jewish people have returned from captivity in Babylon, (as God had promised) and they returned with expectations that God would restore and renew His people. They had been living under foreign rule, and they expected that life would go from really tough to kind of an easy street sort of life. The temple was rebuilt but for many, it wasn’t like the previous temple. It wasn’t big enough or beautiful enough for those who had remembered the former temple in all of its glory, so Ezra chapter 3 tells us some people were weeping while others were rejoicing over the rebuilt temple. There was an anticipated blessing in Malachi’s day, but they were actually living in poverty and were experiencing pressure from foreign nations. This is how Malachi opens, with a people who were divided, disappointed, and depressed. They were like, “Lord, show us some love!”
Notice who it was that was giving this word to the Israelites. It wasn’t Malachi. He was just the messenger. This was a Word from God to His people. In fact, it was an “oracle.” When you trace that word, “oracle” back to the original language you find the word “burden.” God was burdened to give His people this Word. This was serious. Why was God burdened for His people? Because they had misconstrued His love. They had misunderstood it. They had manipulated the love of God in their minds to mean something it never could and never will mean.
Listen, one thing I know about God for sure is that He is burdened for you to know that He loves you. It is always on His mind. It’s the most basic, yet most important thing you could know and experience, and you need to do both. You can’t only know that God loves you, but you have to experience it as well because honestly, the love of God can’t be comprehended by our human minds. It is too big. It is too powerful. It is too other-dimensional. God’s love cannot fully be known to us, but it can be fully experienced by us. What I am trying to say is that it has to be more than a head knowledge kind-of-thing because of our obvious human brain limitations, and once it is experienced it will blow our minds even more. Does anyone know what I am talking about today? This morning, God wants you not only to know that He loves you, but He wants you to experience His love as well. That is a burden on God’s heart today just as it was in the days of Malachi.
This wasn’t going to be an easy message that Malachi would deliver in several parts. But here’s the truth: God loves us so much that He will give us the messages we need to hear even if they are hard for us, even if they hurt us because He loves us. He loves us so much He is willing to hurt us in order to help us and heal us. Has anyone in the house ever experienced the love of God in that realm? Tough, but purposeful, right? Not fun in the moment, but fruitful in the long-run.
The people in Malachi’s day were way off base with the love of God to the point where they were willing to accuse God of not loving them. He had to set them straight in order that they could see He really did love them. This Word from God had to be heard and received if they were going to make the necessary adjustments in their minds about the love of God and go on to experience it again as they once had. Listen, if any of us are going to be transformed or healed or set apart or empowered to do great things—it will be the result of our willingness to hear and receive God’s Word, and this Word about the love of God is absolutely foundational to anything God-thing we could experience.
Here is the trouble, we saturate ourselves with the voices around us in the world, on the news, in the hallways, in the break room, online, and we are allowing the culture around us to speak louder to us than the Word of God. Worse yet, we are allowing the culture around us to define the Word of God to us. It cannot be. We must allow God room to speak, and we must allow His Word to stand on its own without sifting it through the understanding or the input of today’s culture. It says what it means, and it means what it says. If you are ready to hear and experience God’s Word on this subject of God’s love, say, “Bring it, Sister.”
God’s Word is the evidence for God’s love.
In verse 2 God reveals the burden that is on His heart. He says to them, “I have loved you.” It was true then regarding the Israelite people, and it is true for us today. God always loves. It is His essence. I John 4:8 tells us, “God is love.” He can never be unloving. Oh, He is just and His justice might not feel like love in the moment. He is a disciplinarian which may not seem warm and fuzzy at the time, but Scripture helps us understand that God disciplines those He loves. (Hebrews 12:6) You cannot have love for someone, see them walking toward a cliff and just let them fall off, right? You will stop people when what they are doing is harmful to themselves and others if you truly love them. You teach your children because you love them and correction comes to us in a variety of ways, and SOMETIMES the most effective way to learn something is to have a little pat of pain attached to the lesson. If God says He loves us, He loves us. He doesn’t just love us when we decide it feels like love. He loves us even when He is disciplining us.
“I have loved you” in the Hebrew means, “I have loved you, I do love you, and I will love you.” It is an unconditional love. It is a love that is unending. God is in a covenant-love relationship with us. He will never not love us. One thing you need to settle this morning is what you believe about the love of God. Do you really believe God loves you? If you don’t, you are rejecting His Word which is the basis for everything we know about Him. If you cannot accept by faith that God loves you and choose to accept that His Word says what it means and means what it says, that it stands on its own merit without trying to be interpreted through our human view of love, it is going to be hard for you, if not impossible for you, to experience the deep love of God which can change everything for the better in your life.
If you are skeptical about God’s love, you aren’t unlike the Israelites of Malachi’s day. Here in Malachi, God’s people weren’t really believing it because their experience didn’t feel like their definition of love. It can be tempting to question God’s perfect love for us. Do you see that Israel asked God back, “Oh yeah, you love us? How? Cause we aren’t seeing it. We aren’t feeling the love, God.” There was an accusation of neglect. There was an accusation that they weren’t treated with love. Why did they question God’s love? It was because God wasn’t meeting their earthly expectations. I remember when I was in middle school, I read a book that was titled, “If God Loves Me, Why Can’t I Get My Locker Open?” We have often concluded that if God truly loved us, we wouldn’t experience any hardship or difficulty in life. Because we know He has the power to make life easy for us, we assume that Him loving us means He should, right? It is a false assumption.
Having life easy for us isn’t always best for us. Right? Do you know any spoiled brats this morning? Don’t point, please. It isn’t polite, and it makes the rest of the message awkward. Giving someone what they want all of the time isn’t loving because none of us can know what is best for us except God alone. In fact, giving people what they want all of the time can ruin them which would be a very unloving scenario. God’s perfect love stands outside of our desires and expectations, and we need to be thankful it does because if it didn’t, we would all be miserable this morning because much of the time, we want what isn’t good for us.
When Israel returned from Babylon and were rebuilding the temple, they wanted riches, prosperity and earthly glory. When that didn’t happen, they pouted and accused God of not loving them. Are we guilty of the same? Have we come to church and pouted rather than praised God for His amazing love? Have we held God hostage to our expectations? Have we equated God’s love with our demands being met?
“God, if you love me, my locker will always open. God, if you love me, I will have a car in the driveway when I am 16. God, if you love me, I will get in to the college of my choice. God, if you love me, I will have the relationship with the man or woman of my dreams. God, if you love me, I won’t have any health problems and my boyfriend or girlfriend will never break up with me. God, if you love me, I will make the team, get the job, and win the competition. God, if you love me, my flights will never be canceled, you will remove the calories and bad fats from my food, and my computer will never crash. God, if you love me, all of my dreams will come true. God, if you love me, unicorns and rainbows will follow me all the days of my life, and I will sort of float up to heaven in a blissful moment of fluffy ease and comfort when my self-centered, Diva life is over.” What?
Some of us here this morning have perhaps been doubting God’s love because He hasn’t answered our prayers the way we have wanted. God hasn’t met our demands. God not meeting our demands? That is a hostage situation isn’t it? That isn’t the stuff of a love story, the kind God wants to write on our lives. That isn’t a Heavenly Father to earthly child relationship, is it? That is us playing God. That is us calling the shots. That is us in the driver’s seat.
When we question God’s love, we have elevated ourselves above God to the point where we put Him in a position that He has to answer to us or we will cry, “foul.” We are not superior to God. He cannot be measured by the yardstick of our desires. The problem is that we measure God’s love for us by the conditional love we experience in the world. In our minds, God loves us only when He meets our expectations. That isn’t love. That is manipulation or coddling or getting our way, but it isn’t love. We want God to love us unconditionally, as He does, but we want to love Him conditionally. We want to love Him if He meets our ransom demands disguised as prayer. Amen or ouch?
We need to return to a biblical definition of God’s love.
Well, God actually took the time to answer the question. What a kind and loving God. Scripture teaches that God is patient, and it is a good thing, because they were testing God’s patience for sure.
Verses 2-4 are tough to weed through. They are the kind of verses that some unbelievers like to use to try to say God is speaking out of both sides of His mouth or that He isn’t perfect in His love or that He picks and chooses who He will love or that He can’t be trusted. That isn’t the case. If the world would quit trying to catch God on a technicality and trust His Word, they could experience it for themselves in a way that would never cause them to question God’s love again.
When you trust someone and you love them, you take the time to understand what they are saying, even when it doesn’t seem right to you in the moment, right? There are some tough Bible passages that we have to address that way. We can’t just read something and assume that all of the sudden God isn’t loving because one spot in the Bible seems to suggest it.
Let’s re-read verses 2-4: 2 “I have loved you,” says the LORD. “But you ask, ‘How have you loved us?’ “Was not Esau Jacob’s brother?” the LORD says. “Yet I have loved Jacob, 3 but Esau I have hated, and I have turned his mountains into a wasteland and left his inheritance to the desert jackals.”
What God did was set up a comparison between Jacob with Esau to reveal how much He loved Jacob. Jacob was one of the patriarchs. God began this covenant or chosen relationship with Abraham, who fathered Isaac, who fathered Jacob and Esau. Jacob represented the nation of Israel and Esau represented Edom. You want to talk about love? Really? Let’s go there, God said. Who are the ones I have chosen? Who are the ones I have set apart from birth? Who are the ones I have covenanted myself with in relationship?
The idea of the word “hated” here is better translated as “rejected.” Jacob had been chosen by God while Esau had been rejected. Now, that may not sound much better, right? Being rejected isn’t fun either. Hold on. Stay with me. This passage isn’t meant to be a commentary about the rejection of Esau, but it is about the fact that God had chosen Jacob. The boys were actually twins, and it was prophesied by God to their mother by God that the older one would serve the younger one. God had made that decision because He can because He is God.
The culture said Esau should have been chosen to be the next patriarch through which God’s blessing to Abraham would flow. That’s the way it was. The first-born got the privilege. But God chose Jacob because he wanted the Israelites to see a picture of God’s grace which flows from His love, and He wants you and I to see it as well. Hold on. The punch line is coming. Every good Jew who knew their Torah Scriptures understood what Jacob had done to merit being chosen over Esau. It was nothing. There was nothing Jacob did that made him better than Esau. It was the sovereign grace and choice of God. Jacob was chosen even before he was born. Esau had technically been the older brother. The cultural norm dictated that he should have been the privileged one. He should have been the blessed one. But Jacob had been chosen by God in sovereign love to be the one through whom the covenant promises would continue.
This is why God used this illustration of Jacob and Esau. It is to illustrate the nature of God’s love. It is to explain that we have done nothing to earn God’s love. It is a gift. It is the grace of God. It is a “just-because” kind of love. Jacob represented all of Israel and ultimately, Jacob represents all those born again in the Lord Jesus Christ. Jacob was set apart. He was selected. He was delivered to greatness because of the love of God.
Maybe I can explain it this way. When my sweet husband got down on one knee and asked to marry me, I said “Yes.” He chose to covenant himself to me, and I chose to covenant myself back to him. When he chose me, he was basically rejecting all of the other girls who had been lined up hoping he would ask them, and trust me, the line was out the door. That’s right. Thom Pratt was “the man.” 🙂 Now, he didn’t hate all of the other girls that were hoping he would notice them. He simply rejected them when he chose to give himself exclusively to me. That is what God did with Jacob. He didn’t “hate” Esau. He simply chose Jacob by grace in love. It was Jacob’s name that was changed to Israel.
Do you see it? We have been chosen to be in a covenant-love relationship with God not because we were the first-born or because we are more special than someone else or not as the result of some kind of cultural norm or constraint, but we were chosen by God to be His just because that is what He wanted and wants. He wants to be in a love-relationship with us. And the choosing of the Israelites as His own through the lineage of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob established an illustration of what it means to be chosen and dearly loved by God.
So, when God was accused of not loving the Israelites He reminded them that He had chosen them in love to be His special people. To say that He didn’t love them was more than an insult. It was blasphemy. When they were weak, He would empower them. When they were destitute, He would provide for them. When they wandered, He would discipline them. When they were in Babylonian captivity, He made a way for them to return to their homeland. He dwelt with them. He loved them in a way no other nation could claim. It was special.
If God’s words don’t do it for you, take a look at His actions toward you!
God’s actions are proof of His love.
God so loved you and me, that He saw us in the pit of sin, He saw us in the misery of our shame and guilt, He saw us in our bondage to the things that could never satisfy, He saw us spinning our wheels looking for hope, peace, contentment, and love, and He knew that we could never manufacture those on our own. We could never move from a sinful state to a sinless state on our own, but because He is God, He knew He could execute a plan that would save us from sin, that would save us from ourselves, and that would save us from Satan who has tried to steal, kill, and destroy every person who enters this world.
His plan? He would come to earth in the form of a human, teach us about God’s love, teach us how to love other people, and then would lay down His life on a cruel Roman cross to pay the price for our sin, satisfying the list of accusations God had against us, paying the price for us to become children of God who are transformed and empowered by the Holy Spirit, and paying the price for us to escape eternal punishment in Hell and to enjoy the splendor of Heaven forever with Him.
“If that isn’t love? The ocean is dry. There’s no stars in the sky, and the sparrow can’t fly. If that isn’t love, then heaven’s a myth. There’s no feeling like this. If that isn’t love!”
Love doesn’t mean the absence of pain, but it means the presence of perfect peace, perfect joy, and perfect hope that one day, everything unpleasant will be removed from the equation!
I know we have a lot of “reasons” to complain here on earth, but Brothers and Sisters not one of us will have a reason complain when we take our last breath here and our first breath in Heaven. Feast your eyes on Romans 8:16-18 16 The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. 17 Now if we are children, then we are heirs–heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory. 18 I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.
Do you see it? Our present sufferings aren’t worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. When we see Jesus face to face we won’t think about the drama we dealt with here on earth. We won’t be focused on the aches and pains that we might wake up with each day. We won’t be dwelling on the times we were done wrong, the promotions we were passed over for, and the people who disappointed us. Nope. The only thing we will be able to say is, “I love you, I love you, I love you, I love you, I love you, I love you. Jesus, Lover of my soul, thank you for being the Keeper of Your promises. Jesus, thank You for holding onto me in the darkest times of life. Jesus, thank You for putting up with the times my heart wandered from You, when I didn’t even act like we were a thing—when I took you off my FB status and hid you from people so they wouldn’t think I was one of Yours.
What we are upset about today won’t matter in eternity, and it won’t compare with the glory God will share with us because He loves us! And here’s the thing that is so beautiful about God’s love—He has saved us not for earthly glory, but for eternal glory! He has saved the best for last!
It’s time to get back to a biblical definition of God’s love, and here is what is at the core:
God’s love for us needs to be about what awaits us and it needs to be about what we have been rescued from. He has given His life for us, and He has made promises that He will keep. That is the kind of love no one else can claim!
That is the kind of love we must know AND experience now in order to know it fully and experience it fully in eternity.
Romans 5:8 tells us that while we were still sinners, when we had nothing we could bring to the table, when we were repulsive to God because God abhors sin, He took our place and paid the penalty for our sin. That is amazing love.
Romans 8 tells us that there is a prize that awaits that is beyond belief amazing when we will see Jesus face-to-face. It makes our questions about why, if God loves us, do we have to suffer, move to the background of our life’s landscape and become almost inconsequential.
There is so much I don’t know this morning, but this I do know: Jesus loves me, this I know. For the Bible tells me so. Little ones to Him belong. They are weak, but He is strong. Yes, Jesus loves me. Yes, Jesus loves me. Yes, Jesus loves me, the Bible tells me so.
He has proven it by His Word.
Jesus loves me! He who died. Heaven’s gate to open wide. He will wash away my sin,
Let His little child come in.
He has proven it by His actions.
Yes, Jesus loves me. Yes, Jesus loves me. Yes, Jesus loves me, the Bible tells me so.
God loves us with an everlasting love. Jeremiah 31:3
The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases. Lamentations 3:22
He is merciful and abounding in love. Psalm 86:15
He quiets us with His love. Zephaniah 3:17
He has enough love for the whole world. John 3:16
His love can be poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit. Romans 5:2-5
His love has been lavished on us so that we could become His children. I John 3:1
His perfect love can drive out all fear in our lives. I John 4:18-19
His love stretches to the heavens. Psalm 36:5-6
His banner over me is love. Song of Solomon 2:4
His love stands firm forever. Psalm 89:2
His love is better than life itself. Psalm 63:3
Nothing can separate me from the love of God in Christ Jesus. Romans 8:39
Do you know it? Have you experienced it? Are you searching for a love that bows down to you and your desires, or are you seeking a relationship with the only One who is worthy of your love because of what He has said and done for you?
Where do you find yourself? How is your heart with God? Your passion to know and spend time with Him? Are you disappointed with your earthly life or spiritual walk? Are you discouraged because you don’t see God moving the way you have prayed? Are you divided in your loyalty to God, giving your heart some to things of the world as well? In what way do you need to return to the love of the Lord?