You Are Loved (Malachi 1:2-5)

Once upon a time there were two twin brothers, Jacob and Esau. Technically Esau was older, but just by a few minutes. From the very beginning, in fact, while they were still in their mother’s womb, the two boys did not get along. While Esau was born first, from inside the womb, Jacob grabbed Esau’s heel as Esau was exiting the womb. As the boy’s grew, Esau became close to his father, Isaac, while Jacob became close to his mother, Rebecca. Esau was athletic and outgoing. Jacob preferred to be alone and enjoyed cooking. It was a sibling rivalry at its best, or worst.

One evening, after a long day of hunting, Esau came home famished, while Jacob was cooking some stew, Esau asked for a bowl. Jacob said he would give him a bowl in exchange for his “birthright.” The “birthright” was a special privilege enjoyed by the firstborn son. Among other things, this “birthright” gave the eldest son a double-portion of the father’s wealth once the father died. The firstborn’s “birthright” was both a societal and an economic advantage. For some unknown reason, Esau “despised his birthright,” and gave it away for a bowl of soup.

Jacob and Esau’s conflict and sibling rivalry persisted.

When their father, Isaac, was blind, ill, old, and near death, Jacob, with the help of his mother, Rebecca, tricked Isaac into thinking Jacob was Esau. Thinking he was blessing Esau, Isaac actually blessed Jacob. Isaac gave Jacob the blessing reserved for the eldest son. When Esau came for his blessing, Isaac was devastated! He knew he had been tricked and deceived. Esau begged his father for a blessing. Isaac could not give him the blessing of the eldest child. He had no choice but to give Esau a lesser blessing. Esau hated his brother Jacob and Jacob returned the favor.

Jacob and Esau’s conflict and sibling rivalry persisted throughout their lifetime and beyond their lifetime.

Both sons became the fathers of great nations. Jacob’s descendants became the nation of Israel. Esau’s descendants became the nation of Edom. These two nations were enemies all through the Old Testament. The Edomites settled in the land south of the Dead Sea and were ruled by kings long before Israel had kings. Edom became a pagan nation, worshiping fertility gods. They also became a prominent nation. One of the ancient trade routes, known as the King’s Highway, ran through Edom. While escaping from Egypt, the Israelites asked permission to use this highway, but the king of Edom said no (Numbers 20:17).

Because they were close relatives, the Israelites were forbidden to hate the Edomites (Deuteronomy 23:7). However, the Edomites regularly attacked Israel, and many wars were fought as a result. King Saul fought against the Edomites, and King David subjugated them, establishing military garrisons in Edom. With control over Edomite territory, Israel had access to the port of Ezion-Geber on the Red Sea, from which King Solomon sent out many expeditions. After the reign of Solomon, the Edomites revolted and had some freedom until they were subdued by the Assyrians under Tiglath-pileser.

During the Maccabean wars, the Edomites were subjugated by the Jews and forced to convert to Judaism. Through it all, the Edomites maintained much of their old hatred for the Jews. When Greek became the common language, the Edomites were called Idumaeans. With the rise of the Roman Empire, an Idumaean whose father had converted to Judaism was named king of Judea. That Idumaean is known in history as King Herod the Great, the tyrant who ordered a massacre in Bethlehem in an attempt to kill the Christ child, an Israelite (Matthew 2:16-18). (A lot of the above information was taken from https://www.gotquestions.org/Edomites.html.) To say there was no love lost between Israel and Edom, descendants of Jacob and Esau, is the understatement of the entire biblical narrative.

Malachi’s First Sermon

The above brief survey of Jacob and Esau is important background for today’s text from Malachi’s first prophecy. Malachi’s prophecies are not so much predictions as they are a series of sermons. In total there are seven sermons (or prophetic statements) in Malachi. Most of the sermons are based around give and take, questions and answers, Malachi asks, and imagines the people asking, after making a statement.

The following statement begins Malachi’s first sermon: “I have loved you,” says the LORD” (Malachi 1:2a). An expanded reading of this verse, based on the verb tense is, “I have always loved you and will always love you…” In this opening statement, God chooses to begin with His actions instead of the people’s actions. God’s love for His people has no beginning and no end. His love is from everlasting to everlasting.

Surprisingly, the people either did not know God loved them or they doubted God’s love for them. Here is the question Malachi imagines the people asking, “But you ask, ‘How have you loved us?’” (Malachi 1:2b). In this brief statement and following question, you have some of the greatest words in Scripture followed by some of the saddest.

I can imagine God saying to His people, “How can you doubt that I love you after all I have done for you?” The people needed to be reminded of Psalm 136. A Psalm that summarizes their entire history with the repeated phrase, “His love endures forever.” This is a Psalm most of the people would have memorized:

“Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good.

His love endures forever.

Give thanks to the God of gods.

His love endures forever.

Give thanks to the Lord of lords:

His love endures forever.

to him who alone does great wonders,

His love endures forever.

who by his understanding made the heavens,

His love endures forever.

who spread out the earth upon the waters,

His love endures forever.

who made the great lights—

His love endures forever.

the sun to govern the day,

His love endures forever.

the moon and stars to govern the night;

His love endures forever.

to him who struck down the firstborn of Egypt

His love endures forever.

and brought Israel out from among them

His love endures forever.

with a mighty hand and outstretched arm;

His love endures forever.

to him who divided the Red Sea[a] asunder

His love endures forever.

and brought Israel through the midst of it,

His love endures forever.

but swept Pharaoh and his army into the Red Sea;

His love endures forever.

to him who led his people through the wilderness;

His love endures forever.

to him who struck down great kings,

His love endures forever.

and killed mighty kings—

His love endures forever.

Sihon king of the Amorites

His love endures forever.

and Og king of Bashan—

His love endures forever.

and gave their land as an inheritance,

His love endures forever.

an inheritance to his servant Israel.

His love endures forever.

He remembered us in our low estate

His love endures forever.

and freed us from our enemies.

His love endures forever.

He gives food to every creature.

His love endures forever.

Give thanks to the God of heaven.

His love endures forever.”

How could anyone read this Psalm and then doubt God’s love for them?

Yet, that is exactly what we do. We doubt God’s love, even though He has done everything divinely possible to show us His love. What causes us to doubt God’s love? There are numerous things, too many to count, but let’s focus on two reasons:

  1. Unconfessed sin.

Sin is the disease of the soul. God’s grace is the cure. God’s love is the antidote that is administered only through confession. The prophet Isaiah proclaims, “It is your sins that have cut you off from God. Because of your sins, he has turned away and will not listen anymore” (Isaiah 59:2, New Living Translation). John the Elder wrote, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). Why does God forgive us? Because He loves us.

Have you ever had a falling out with a friend or someone you loved? Of course, you have. We all have. Harsh words were exchanged. Hurtful things were said, and done, to each other. A misunderstanding was blown out of proportion, and now there is tension between the two of you.

What happens if you don’t talk about it, or ignore it, or hope it will go away? Usually the tension increases and the rift in the relationship widens. It is only after you talk about it, and confess it, and forgive it, that the relationship can be mended.

Likewise, our relationship with God. He has never wronged us, nor hurt us, nor let us down. But we have wronged and hurt and let Him down. He has never sinned against us, but we have sinned against Him. The tension in our relationship with God is our fault. Confess it to Him, and He will forgive you because He loves you.

2. Difficult times.

When we are going through hard times, when trials came our way, it is tempting to ask, “Where are you God?” It is tempting to think God is mad at you and no longer loves you. But nothing could be further from the truth! The Bible says that nothing, absolutely nothing, “will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:39).

Sometimes the hardest things we go through are the times God shows His love to us the most. It’s not that difficult times are good, but that they could be good for us. The Bible says, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28). James, the brother of Jesus, wrote, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything” (James 1:3-5).

Love and Hate in God’s Sovereignty

Through His prophet Malachi, God answers the people’s question of doubt by referring them back to those twin boys, Jacob and Esau. Malachi writes, “‘Was not Esau Jacob’s brother?’ the LORD says. ‘Yet I have loved Jacob, but Esau I have hated, and I have turned his mountains into a wasteland and left his inheritance to the desert jackals’” (Malachi 1:2c-3).

This is a difficult verse. They idea of God hating someone is an uncomfortable thought. The best way to interpret this verse is by looking back to the story of Jacob and Esau; Israel and Edom, told at the beginning of this sermon. The outcome of Esau’s life, and the total destruction of Edom, prophesied in Malachi1:3, compared to the outcome of Jacob’s life, and the promise that the Messiah would come through Israel, could lead one to believe God loved Jacob but hated Esau. But that’s the wrong way to look at it.

Both Jacob and Esau made unwise decisions and sinned against God. Both deserved to be judged for their sins. Neither deserved anything from God. Yet God, in His sovereignty, chose to bless the world through Israel. The question is not, Why did God hate Esau. The question is, Why did God love Jacob? And that is Malachi’s point: God loved Israel, even though they had done nothing to deserve that love. Likewise, God loves you, not because you are lovable, but because of His sovereign choice to love you. This, then, is the way the verse should be read: In place of “love” and “hate,” put chosen and not chosen. “Yet I have chosen Jacob, but Esau I have not chosen.” And the basis of God’s choosing and not choosing was His sovereignty.

Now remember, God’s reason for choosing Israel was to bless the entire world by sending the Messiah through them. Jesus was a descendant of Jacob. Jesus was an Israelite. Thus, ultimately, God’s choosing was in Him choosing the Messiah. In other words, God’s chosen One was not really Jacob, nor Esau. God’s chosen One was (and is) Jesus. The entirety of Scripture teaches that God, in His sovereignty, has chosen to save all who place their faith in His chosen One, Jesus.

The Apostle Paul goes to great pains to explain this and then concludes: “That if you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. As the Scripture says, ‘Anyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame. For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, for, ‘Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved’” (Romans 10:9-13).

Malachi closes his first sermon by reaffirming God’s choice of Jacob over Esau by stating that Edom would be completely destroyed and, through it all God would be glorified. Malachi writes, “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. You will see it with your own eyes and say, ‘Great is the LORD—even beyond the borders of Israel!’” (Malachi 1:4-5).

CONCLUSION

If I’m honest, I will admit there have been times when I have wondered if God really did love me. At the very least I have wondered why things have worked out like they have, and why He allows bad things to happen to good people. If I am completely honest, there have been times when I have doubted if Misty loved me, or at least, why she loves me. I have doubted if certain other people love me, or if I even love myself. But there is one thing I have never doubted, and that is if Jeter loves me. Jeter is my grand-puppy. Jeter is Katherine and Nick’s huge German Shepherd. There is no doubt he loves me! In fact, Jeter loves me more then he loves anyone else. Jeter always goes absolutely crazy when he sees me. If I am having a bad day, and I know I am going to Jeter’s house later that evening, just knowing he is going to jump on me and cry and run around in circles and kiss me, makes my day better. He loves me unconditionally. I haven’t done anything to earn his love. Kat and Nick feed him and bath him and meet his needs. I don’t do anything. But he loves me more then he loves them.

God loves me far more than a German Shepherd ever could. God loves me far more than any animal, or any human could ever love me. And He loves you just the same. You have not done anything to earn God’s love, and neither have I. His love for you, and me, is unconditional, unfailing, and eternal. He loves us beyond our ability to understand His love for us. Right now, through His prophet, God is saying to us, “I have always loved you, and I will always love you.”

There are three take-always from Malachi’s first sermon. First, God loves you, and there is nothing you can do about. Nothing you do will make God quit loving you. You may not like it. You may not believe it. You may not feel like He loves you. You may doubt He loves you. But it doesn’t matter. He loves you. You didn’t earn His love, so there is nothing you can do about it.

Second, God’s love for you is seen in Jesus Christ. In His sovereignty, before the foundations of the world, God has chosen to save you (and anyone else) through faith in Jesus Christ. God doesn’t say, “Get your life together and then I will save you.” God says, “I love you so much, I sent Jesus to you. Confess, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and the Holy Spirit will empower you to get your life together.”

Third, the only appropriate response to God’s love is to place your faith in Jesus Christ. Why would you not do that? Why would you not want the love of God to come into your life and change you from the inside out?

Here is today’s big idea, write it down and contemplate on it all week long: You are loved! Believe it! Confess it! Receive it! Live it! And don’t ever doubt it!

 

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About Pastor Kevin

I am a husband, father, pastor, teacher, scuba diver, reader, bike rider...in that order.
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