And so we come to the end of Israel’s history in the Old Testament. After this book, we still have to go through the books of poetry to wrap up the Old Testament (Job, Psalms, Proverbs, and the Song of Solomon). But hopefully by the end of this year or by early next year, we’ll actually get to hit the New Testament.
As I’ve mentioned before, it’s not entirely certain when Malachi was written, but it was definitely written after the temple was rebuilt in the days of Ezra. Most likely it was written in his time or in the time of Nehemiah. The issues in Malachi are seen both in Ezra and Nehemiah, but especially in Nehemiah.
And God starts out with a striking statement.
I have loved you (2).
So many of us seek love in our lives. Sadly, some people go their entire lives never finding it. But if they had only looked in the right place, they would have found not only love, but unfailing love in the love of God.
I have loved you.
No matter what struggles you may go through, no matter what sins you have committed, no matter how you may have failed, God’s love never changes. He has loved you. He does love you. And he always will love you.
But the Israelites couldn’t see this. Instead, they answered cynically,
How have you loved us? (2)
Why did they ask this? Despite the fact that God had returned them to their land, things were still not great. They were still under Persian rule, and were hardly prosperous. Their crops were poor, and they were just struggling to survive.
How often do we question God’s love in our lives?
“If you love me, why am I struggling so much? If you love me, why is my life so bad?”
Yet God points out something to the Israelites and to us as proof of his love. He said to them,
“Was not Esau Jacob’s brother?” declares the Lord. “Yet I have loved Jacob, but Esau I have hated, and I have turned his hill country into a wasteland and left his inheritance to the desert jackals.” (2-3)
What does God mean by “I have hated Esau.” Did he really hate him? No. In actuality, he blessed Esau. (Genesis 33:9).
But when it came to choosing whose line it was going to be through whom Jesus would come, God had to choose either Jacob or Esau, and he chose Jacob while rejecting Esau.
Why? Because Jacob was better than Esau? Hardly. Throughout Jacob’s early life, we see that was a con man who first tried to live doing things his way (Genesis 25, 27). When he then got in trouble because of it, he had to flee, and at that point God revealed himself to Jacob. But instead of fully submitting himself to God, Jacob tried to make bargains with him instead (Genesis 28:20-22).
That pattern didn’t change for a long time. Yet God still chose him and continued to love and work with him.
He did the same with Israel. Though they were unfaithful to God, doing things their own way, yet he never took his love from them. Yes, he punished Israel for what they did, but he didn’t give them all that they deserved for their sin which was destruction. Meanwhile he gave Esau’s descendants exactly what they deserved for their sin, a desolated land.
So what was God saying?
“Do you want proof that I love you? I gave Esau’s descendants what they deserved. But you, I didn’t give you what you deserved. I gave you what you didn’t deserve. In short, I gave you my grace.”
And he says the same to us when we doubt his love. We don’t deserve God’s love. We don’t deserve God’s forgiveness. And yet despite our unworthiness, he chose to send Jesus to die for our sins. Now he looks at you and says, “I have chosen you. I have saved you. And I will never, ever give up on you.”
That’s grace. That’s God’s love for you.
Paul put it this way,
For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will — to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us. (Ephesians 1:4-8)