Chapter 1: 1-5
“The burden of the word of the Lord to Israel by Malachi. 2 ‘I have loved you,’ says the Lord. ‘Yet you say, ‘In what way have You loved us?’ Was not Esau Jacob’s brother?’ Says the Lord. ‘Yet Jacob I have loved; 3 But Esau I have hated, And laid waste his mountains and his heritage for the jackals of the wilderness.’ 4 Even though Edom has said, ‘We have been impoverished, but we will return and build the desolate places,’ Thus says the Lord of hosts: ‘They may build, but I will throw down; They shall be called the Territory of Wickedness, And the people against whom the Lord will have indignation forever. 5 Your eyes shall see, and you shall say, ‘The Lord is magnified beyond the border of Israel.‘”
The book of Malachi takes place about 100 years after some of the captives have left Babylon to return to Israel to rebuild. After conquering the Babylonians, King Cyrus decided in 538 BC to allow the Jewish people to return home to Jerusalem. We find accounts of this in Ezra 1:1-3 and 2 Chronicles 36:21-23. They specifically went back to build the Temple. The Temple begins to be built in Ezra 3: 2-11, but it was halted because of disputes with the surrounding peoples. The construction was stopped and did not resume until 520 BC under King Darius of Persia. It was eventually completed in 516 BC. Later in the first chapter, Malachi will talk about the bad sacrifices that the people are bringing to the Temple. This would put Malachi prophesying in the 400 BC timeline.
The name Malachi simply means Messenger. While this may have been the prophet’s real name, it is more likely a title. It is not uncommon for people to change names over the course of their life depending on what they did. In the New Testament, we have Peter who is called Cephas at times, and then also Simon. Jesus has many names. He is called Messiah; he is also called Immanuel, Jesus, The Christ. We are not accustomed to this, but it is a part of the Bible.
The book of Malachi can be divided into six sections where God and the people have conversations. God makes a statement, and the people question the validity of His statement, and then God proves His point. There are also some great promises in the book that we can look forward to and a reminder to us that the Old Testament is a series of books compiled by God to give us hope and comfort in troubled times. We can see that God is faithful to His word and promises, and we can rest in the fact that He is the same God today as He was then.
- Am I Loved? Verses 1-2
One of the most asked questions in the Christian life and in life in general is “Am I loved?” God shouts out resoundingly, “Yes, you are!” God makes a statement in verse 2 that He has loved Israel. There are similar statements made to you and me in the New Testament like Romans 5:8,
“But God proves His own love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us!”
The most famous verse in the world begins that God so loved the world, John 3:16,
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
Yet, there are many people who constantly ask if God truly loves them. They doubt His love and constantly question His motives. Are you one of those people? I can be at times.
Please note that these were the Jews who had seen the hand of God preserve them for 70 years in the captivity of Babylon. They had heard of the exploit of Daniel and how God had promoted the slaves in the kingdom to be the leaders in the nation of their captives. They had seen the hand of God bless them and preserve them for decades. Yet, they constantly questioned God’s love.
We constantly question God’s love; I know I do. What an insult to all the Lord has done for us.
- I Love you, let me show you, verses 3-4
Most of us in the modern world acquaint love with emotions, these fuzzy feelings that they sing about in Disney movies. But in the words of DC Talk (an old Christian band), love is a verb. Love requires actions, not just feelings, and God is a God of action. Notice the verses above. In Romans 5:8, God ‘showed’ His love, and in John 3:16, God so loved that ‘he gave.’ God goes about showing the Israelites that He loved them by explaining how he chose Jacob rather than Esau.
You may recall the story from Genesis 25:24-34. Rebecca, who is married to Isaac, the promised son of Abraham, gave birth to twin boys Esau and Jacob. God selected Jacob rather than Esau to bring the nation of Israel and the Messiah through. Jacob, though a trickster at the very beginning, ended up being a Prince with God. He fathers 13 children: 12 boys and a girl. God uses these men to build the nation of Israel.
God preserves them through many challenges, from the internal fighting between the boys that led to Joseph being sold as a slave, to the protection and deliverance that came through Moses, to the many wars that God won in the book of Joshua, to the many enemies He preserved them from in the Judges; and on we can go. He watched over them through captivities and eventually brought them back. By all rights, without God’s constant care and love, the nation of Israel would not have existed. The people could not see that they existed because God loved them.
We are often in the same boat. We live, I live in a privileged time. God blessed me to be born into a godly family. My father and mother loved the Lord and took me to church; they exposed me to the Gospel. I saw them live out their faith. I was blessed to have a lovely pastor who taught the truth, and as I got older and went to seminary, the Lord surrounded me with great Bible teachers. I have a loving family and an awesome wife. I can go on, but what I can say is that God loves me, and He has clearly shown it. What about you? Why not stop right now and take an account of how much God loves you. Take the time to thank Him.
- I love you; I Will destroy your enemies, verses 4-5
The ultimate show of love that the Lord will give to us is that He will destroy our enemies. In the time that we are considering here in Malachi, there were people who hated the Jews and many who tried to stop them from rebuilding the Temple. Later, in the book of Nehemiah, the surrounding peoples would try to stop them from building the wall.
God used the Edomites as an example. Even though the brothers had sorted out their differences, Esau and Jacob finally made up, so to speak, in Genesis 32-33. Esau’s children and descendants were the sworn enemies of Israel, and God constantly protected the people from them. I am sure that God has protected us from many enemies, and ultimately, God has completely destroyed our greatest enemies; both death and the grave were conquered at the cross and the resurrection. Paul tells us this in 1 Corinthians 15: 54-58; we see these words of victory:
“So, when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye steadfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.”
God loves us so much that He killed our greatest enemies. Now the grave brings victory, and death solves all of our problems. God is still showing his love for us. Are you showing your love for Him? Are you showing your love for others?
The whole premise of the conversation that we are exploring is that God clearly loves His people, but they really do not love Him, and they go so far as to question God’s love rather than confess their lack of love for Him. People have not changed; we are still questioning God’s love? People still wonder why a loving God made Hell rather than realizing that the loving God provided a way out of Hell and that the way out was at great expense to Him and offered freely to us. This is God’s love, agape love, the love that sacrifices, often, what is most precious even for those who don’t appreciate it and certainly don’t deserve it and expect nothing.
Yes, in answer to our question at the top, God does love you, and He has clearly demonstrated it. Now we need to need to love Him and others the same way. Jesus told us in John 13:34-35 that this is the mark of a true believer and child of God:
“I give you a new command: Love one another. Just as I have loved you, you must also love one another. By this all people will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”
God bless you,
Dr. Sean Gooding
Pastor of Mississauga Missionary Baptist Church
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