If you are a parent, you know that you don’t simply want a child to follow the rules in order to get what they want. You want a close, loving relationship with your child, a relationship where love is the motivation for obedience.
We know this to be true in our relationships with each other, but we miss this in our relationship with God our Father. If we are honest, many of us obey God out of fear or tradition. God loves us more than we could ever understand, and He wants us to respond out of a relationship with Him rather than duty.
The Hebrew name for Malachi means “My Messenger”. This book may be short, but it carries some powerful truths. Even though this prophetic book was written more than four hundred years before Christ, we will find that it is extremely relevant to our culture and in particular, to the Western church.
During the time of Malachi, the people of Israel had returned from exile and had rebuilt the city and the temple as we read in Ezra and Nehemiah. It was a season of blessing and peace for Israel, but not all was going well. The people were being led by corrupt priests, and the people had turned away from the law of Moses. They had lost sight of the destiny that God had for them and they abandoned hope for personal growth and change.
The book is a call by God for the people to set aside traditionalism and return to relationship. Isn’t that the call of God on the church today? Traditions and religious activity will never be able to replace a personal relationship in Jesus Christ.
Malachi speaks of the coming Messiah as this is the last time God speaks through His Prophets before a period of 400 years where God is silent until John the Baptist arrives.
The book begins with Malachi stating that this is an oracle of the word of the Lord. Malachi was stating he was carrying a heavy burden that the Lord had called him to deliver. It was not an easy message, it was a message of judgment against the people of Israel (see Hebrews 12:5-6 & 11).
Verse 2 begins with, ““I have loved you,” says the Lord”. The Hebrew word for love is in the perfect continuous tense, it shows a completed action, but with ongoing ramifications. God is referring to His covenant love for the people of Israel. Before the prophecy begins, God is reminding them of His commitment and relationship.
They never earned God’s love, they never deserved God’s love, God loved them because of His covenant with Abraham. Throughout history, there were many times when God saved His people even when they didn’t want saving. The classic example is when God called Moses to lead them out of slavery, but when times got hard, the children of Israel wanted to go back to Egypt. God loved His people even before they knew Him, even when they rejected Him.
We are no different than the children of Israel (see Romans 5:8). When Jesus went to the cross, he knew your name and it was because of his love for you that he suffered and died.
Yet the people of Malachi’s day replied with a childlike whine: “How have You loved us?” They behaved like spoilt children who complain when they are denied some new toy. With all the evidence of history and with all their present prosperity, Judah could still claim to be uncertain of God’s love!
God could have taken them on a history tour of 2000 years of His faithfulness to them, but God’s answer is to point to the fact that He chose their ancestor Jacob over his twin Esau (who was the ancestor of the people who even then surrounded Judah).
The phrase, “Esau I have hated” (v. 3), bothers us. It seems best to understand this expression not as a statement of feeling or attitude, but as a legal term based on the covenant that God had made with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. A better way to understand the terms love and hate would be “chosen” or not chosen” (See Romans 8:10-13).
God never seems to give grace based on merit, although obedience is crucial. If our own righteousness was a condition for God’s grace, no one would ever be saved. God chose the nation of Israel to display His glory and to bless all the nations of the world through the Messiah, the Lion of the tribe of Judah.
God’s rejection of Edom, the descendants of Esau, was in response to their wickedness, pride and arrogance. God chooses Jacob and rejects Esau.
So, we have two opposing peoples, God chooses one and rejects the other. The Bible is full of texts that indicate God chooses us without our knowledge or even input (see Ephesians 1:4-5).
I wrestle with this in my mind but what we often lose in the wrestling over doctrine is that God chooses because of love. And the greatest declaration of God’s love for us is the cross of Jesus Christ. Jesus is the pinnacle of history and the pinnacle of God’s display of His love for us.
If we were to really think about it, is it not better to be called chosen by a personal God than for us to choose a distant God.
The doctrine of election is a mystery, God does choose His children, but it seems to me from personal experience that the more we share the Good news of Jesus Christ, the more people are chosen! This is the mystery (see 1 John 4:9)
Do you know God’s love for you? Are you living out your Christian walk based on a love relationship with the Creator?
Or, are you like the children of Israel, living a life of routine and tradition, but you don’t really know how much God loves you? Following a set of rules does not produce a life transforming relationship with God. He desires a relationship with you.