One early morning this past April, I came across the book of Malachi. I don’t really remember how I stumbled into it, but ever since, I haven’t been able to get it off my heart and mind. Have you read it? Did you know it was there? I don’t think I knew it existed. Almost every week since April, the Lord has told me to go read it, and I haven’t been able to let it go. Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve been reading every commentary and study bible I can get my hands on. The four short chapters have convicted, challenged and encouraged me. I think we can glean some lessons from the Jewish people Malachi is speaking to because we’re pretty similar, and as one commentary said, the same sins are still in the church today. (Wiersbe, 1524) Over my next few blogs, I will share what the Lord has placed on my heart through this passionate prophet…
Malachi is speaking to God’s people who have returned to Judea from Babylonian captivity. After returning, life wasn’t easy. Prophets had promised prosperity, domination over other nations, fruitful land, an increase in population, and a King that would save them. But, it’s been about 100 years and none has come to fruition. God’s people, discouraged and doubtful, ask God, “How have you loved us?”
“I have loved you,” says the Lord. But you ask, “How have you loved us?” “Was not Esau Jacob’s brother?” declares the Lord. “Yet I have loved Jacob, but Esau I have hated.” (Malachi 1:2,3)
I have been wrestling with God’s comment, “I have loved Jacob… but hated Esau” because the idea of God hating someone didn’t seem to resonate with me. (Hate in this context actually means loved less if you’re interested.) If God tells His people He loves them and the example is through loving Jacob more than Esau, how does this show an aspect of His great love?
Understanding God’s love through the example of choosing people is best understood by going back to Genesis. There we see God promise Abram that his descendants would be a great nation and as numerous as the stars in the sky. (Genesis 15) The phrase “I have loved Jacob, but hated Esau,” reveals to us that God is choosing Jacob (the Israelites) because He promised Abram He would. God chose a people group to model for us what it looks like to be in a covenant relationship with a holy God. The Israelites weren’t stronger or more special; they didn’t do anything to deserve it. (Deuteronomy 7:6-8) Throughout the Old Testament, we see God’s grace and love as He continuously chooses to liberate, rescue, lead, and guide the Israelites (His chosen people) even in their waywardness, rebellion, and apathy towards God. I find it pretty miraculous that God doesn’t just let them go, and I’m thankful He doesn’t.
Once Jesus comes, the relationship that God has with the Israelites is made available to everyone. God is calling the whole world into covenant relationship with Him. Because of Jesus, our identity has been changed from “not my people” to “my people.” (Romans 9:25) God’s constant pursuit, compassion, and redemption of the Israelites show He is doing the same with everyone in our world today.
I’m so thankful God is still choosing us today because just like the Israelites Malachi is speaking to, I quickly forget and want to do life my own way. One commentator said, “Perhaps love is listed first (in Malachi) because lack of love for God is the source of all other sins.” (Wiersbe, 1524) The Israelites have failed to live into the fullness of life God has offered, and as a result, they have to ask, “How have you loved us?”
Have you been there? Have you experienced seasons of wondering where God is or how He loves you? I know I have.
YOU… are treasured, valuable, adored, known, and unfathomably loved by the God of the universe. We don’t have to earn it or work for it. Even if you have never acknowledged Him a day in your life or are seeking to know Him everyday, He loves us ALL the same! Nothing we do, have done or will do can change His great love for us. We are the people he formed, created and breathed life into. However, when we love the things of the world more than God, we become forgetful that we have Father who calls us His beloved.
Knowing God has chosen us as His people, let’s examine our hearts so that we are living lives that honor our Father. Where do we need to bend a knee, humble our heart, ask for forgiveness, or resubmit an area of our life? Let’s not get distracted and place our God to the side acknowledging Him only when we need something or we find the time to fit Him in. Our God speaks to each of us individually, “I have loved you.” (Malachi 1:2)