No Doubting Gods Love
Good Morning! Please grab your Bibles with me and turn to the Minor Prophet, Malachi. He is the last book in the Old Testament. If you do not have or own a Bible, please help yourself to one from the back table there as our gift to you.
So, does it feel weird not to be turning to Romans? So as some of you may already know, my philosophy in preaching is to preach Line by Line, Verse by Verse through books of the Bible, what’s called Expository Preaching. My ideal is to alternate between New Testament books and Old testament books. We just finished Romans, which is in the New Testament and so now, we are going to go through Malachi, a book in the Old Testament. This will be a shorter(ish) series, at least that’s my plan, and no, I don’t yet know where we will go after Malachi.
This week, we will look at the first verses in Malachi, but even before that we will introduce ourselves to this book of the Bible, grouped with the so called minor prophets. So, some background first.
The name, Malachi means ‘Gods Messenger.” Now, because of this, there is some debate as to whether Malachi is a title or a name in this instance. For me, I will always lean towards the historical answer, or in this case, I will always believe it is a name as opposed to a title unless and until there is compelling evidence to the contrary.
Regardless, Malachi is a messenger of God. He wrote down the oracles, the words that God gave to him. Historically, timeline-wise, he is a contemporary of Ezra and Nehemiah. Its likely though not guaranteed, coming along towards the end of their ministries of rebuilding the temple and the wall and reestablishing Gods Word and a remembering of Gods covenant among the Jews coming back from Exile.
And we are going to see that Gods covenant is one of the major themes throughout Malachi. Gods covenant, his Word is unchanging, it is unbreakable. It is the same, just as God him self is, yesterday, today and tomorrow. And Gods covenant does not go away. God is faithful even when we are not. And not only that, but God is faithful, especially when we are not. He is Holy, Holy, Holy and all that that entails. Gods faithfulness and our lack of faithfulness will be on full display in this book.
Again, this is the last book in the Old Testament. After God finishes speaking to Malachi, it ushers in the 400 years of silence. God stops speaking to and through the prophets. John the Baptist and at almost the exact same time, Jesus of Nazareth broke the silence and ushered in the New Testament time. Hebrews 1:1 & 2 speaks to this, saying,
Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world.
We don’t have prophets anymore. John the Baptist was the last of what are considered the Old Testament prophets. And from then on, God spoke to us through his Son, The Word made Flesh, The Word of God, Jesus Christ. And his Words are what we have written in our hands, in the Bible you are holding. Every word in the Bible is the Words of Christ.
The Book of Malachi has a unique style to it. It is written in a “disputational” style. Not to be mistaken with dispensational, which is a theology system specifically regarding the end times. But this back and forth disputation style is like a dialogue between God and the people of Israel.
There are 6 of those in this book and the plan is that we are going to follow them in our series, so 6 sermons through Malachi. This first one, we will be looking at Malachi, chapter 1, verses 1-5. So I will read our text for this morning, and I will be reading out of the English Standard Version. Please follow along in your preferred translation while I read. Again, Malachi, chapter 1, verses 1-5.
Malachi, The prophet of God writes:
The oracle of the word of the Lord to Israel by Malachi.[a]
2 “I have loved you,” says the Lord. But you say, “How have you loved us?” “Is not Esau Jacob’s brother?” declares the Lord. “Yet I have loved Jacob 3 but Esau I have hated. I have laid waste his hill country and left his heritage to jackals of the desert.” 4 If Edom says, “We are shattered but we will rebuild the ruins,” the Lord of hosts says, “They may build, but I will tear down, and they will be called ‘the wicked country,’ and ‘the people with whom the Lord is angry forever.’” 5 Your own eyes shall see this, and you shall say, “Great is the Lord beyond the border of Israel!”
God starts off with a simple, concise, clear statement. “I have loved you.” The people of Israel, however, didnt feel this was true. When you read all that they had been through over the previous 500 years or so, they felt like there was no way that God could love them. Their country was split in two. Each one, at seperate times was conquered and taken into captivity. Even before that, they were constantly being invaded, oppressed and attacked by their neighbor countries. Even more immediate to when this was written, Ezra came back, brought many Israelites with him and they started rebuilding Jerusalem. There were some complications there, to put it mildly if you read through the book of Ezra. Nehemiah came back and rebuilt the wall around Jerusalem but also had some problems. And if that timing is correct, that this was written and prophecied towards the end of Ezra’s and Nehemiah’s ministries, than the Israelites would not yet have been fully restored to their home back in Israel. It would have still been on ongoing process.
The Israelites didnt see the blessings, the Israelites didnt see the proof of Gods love. They only saw the negative. They only saw what they felt. And so this book starts off with the clear truth that we need to hear. God has loved you.
The Word of God is clear. It is what it is and it says what it says. There is no ambiguity and there is no grey area here. God gives a factual, true statement. The truth of Gods word is not dependant on how we feel. We may not always feel that God loves us, just like the Israelites didnt feel like God loved them. But that doesnt make it any less true.
Gods word, both written and spoken, means exactly what it says. And we have it here written down. We have the written Word of God. Israel didnt have it written down, all ready for them. They hear from God through the prophets. Now the words of those prophets are written down and they are just as clear as they were then. (Clearer if you understand the context of the New Testament being the fulfillment of the Testament and, as we have learned in our Bibliology class, The New is in the Old Concealed, the Old is in the New Revealed. This means simply that if there are things we dont understand in the Old testament, then the New Testament will speak to it and explain it.)
Gods Word, as revealed then and as written down is true, it is complete, it is comprehensive and it is sufficient. Because of all that, it is also Final.
So, at this point in History, Israel does not feel the Love from God. Their response to Gods Word was to question it based on their feelings and disbelief. They dont believe what God is saying. “I have loved you,” says the Lord. But you say, “How have you loved us?”
Have you noticed that we all go through different and difficult times, times when we feel removed from God. We all have times where we are not seeing him work, not seeing the evidence of God around us. During times like those, we are spiritualy weaker. We get extra aggitated. We take offenses easier. We give offenses easier. We are more prone to giving in to sin and temptation. When we either feel temptations more and more or when we give in and sin, it exacerbates the problem and we feel Gods presence and love less and less.
But we have a factual anchor to keep us safe in the storms of life when our feelings are blowing us all over the place. Gods Word says that if you are in Christ, you are loved. Period. Those who are in a covenant relationship with God, those whom he has foreknown & predestined, those whom he has called by his grace, to believe, through faith, in his Son, Jesus Christ, and repent of their sins, to those God says, I love you.
Now, the Israelites during the time of Malachi did not know who Jesus was. He had not come down from Heaven, born a baby, truly God and Truly man. But, they knew that God had promised a savior and a messiah. They knew he was coming and they knew that Gods promises would be fulfilled. We read through Hebrews 11 and we see that in the Old Testament, those who, as Hebrews 11:2, puts it, “received their comendation,” received it through faith. Faith in the One True God and faith in the coming savior and Messiah. They had faith in Christ, even though they had not yet seen him. They too, were under a Convenant of Grace. And the vehicle God has designated to pour out his grace is through that faith, the same faith that was counted to Abraham as rightoeusness is the same faith that saves us today. Faith in Christ alone.
But because not everyone has that saving faith in Jesus Christ, Gods love, his saving love is not received by everybody. We need to remember that Gods language, his definitions differ from what our society and our feelings want words to mean. God loved the world, loved the world so much that he sent his one and only son to die for the sins of the world. God is a God of Love. God is Love. God is perfect and complete. But that doesnt mean that Love is the only thing that God is and it doesnt mean that love is God.
Within our Good and Perfect and Holy and Complete God, also exists hatred. God hates sin. He says here, Jacob I loved, but Esau I have hated. Thats hard for us to understand and believe and accept. But its there in the Bible, in his Words, in Black and White. And so he have to do something with this. We have to try to understand what God means by this.
There will be two parts of this that we will look at. First is the definition and the use of the word hate, and second, what is God saying here in Malachi? So I looked up in Bible dictionaries and all that what the root word, what the word “hate” meant in the original languages and definitions and its not good news.
The word simply means hate in the dictionary, but it can also be translated as enemies, or foes, so there is an advesarial role that plays into this. There is a tendency to simplify and say that when God hates, it is simply that he loves less. There are times in the Bible where the word hate is used this way. Specifically with Jacob hating Leah but loving Rachel. But that is not the entirety of the definition of this word, hate. We see for example in the the New Testament, one of the words translated “hate,” means to “hate, detest or persue with hatred.”
Gods hatred is not tame. It is a perfect and complete hatred as well. It does us no good to water down his hatred. But we do need to balance it and contrast it with his perfect and complete love. For us, when we say we hate someone or something, it either means that we dont particularly care for it, or more likely, its filled with mean spiritedness and we wish bad, we wish ill will for those whom our hate is directed at.
But on Gods end, its not mean spirited, his hate and the consequences there of are a part of his perfect love and justice. They are a part of his perfect grace and mercy. Due to our natural, sinful nature, our sinful rebellion against God, we are justly in his wrath. That is what we deserve, what we are due. Because God is God, he can do this but at that point we are on the receiving end of both Gods love and his hatred. We do know that Paul wrote in Romans 5:8: God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
For those he hates, for those outside of Christ, God withholds his grace and his mercy. For those outside of Christ are on the receiving end of Gods wrath and judgement. Esau and his descendants, mentioned here in Malachi, they are no more because Gods mercy and saving grace where withheld from them. Because they chose to not live and obey through faith.
And we need to remember that it wasnt that God took away his love, his grace, his mercy, but instead that he pours those things out on whom he choses. When his specific, intentional, saving grace and love are poured out on a sinner, we are unable to resist the call and draw of God and his love, grace and mercy. And it is only through that love of God poured out on us, allowing is to have faith in Christ, that lets us respond in faith and repentence. Without that saving fatih, Gods saving grace, we will go the way of Esau. Hebrews 11:6 says that without faith it is impossible to please God. Those whom God hates wll not prosper, not in eternity. Those whom God loves, the specific, saving love, will be with him and will have Gods perfect wrath and judgment pass over them.
But I also want to look at the context of what God is telling Israel here in these first few verses of the book of Malachi. God says, I have loved you. They dont see it and say how have you loved us? Essentially, God is saying, in a more perfect and loving way than I am know, “If you dont think I love you, see what happens to those whom I hate.” Him bringing up Esau and the fact that his descendants are no more is him saying, I dont hate you, I love you and this is part of the proof of the difference.
And again, we have this factual, tangible proof, then, through the words of the prophet who spoke the words of God, and now, through the words of God written down in the Bible, that God does indeed love us. Regardless of our feelings. Regardless of what we are able to see. Regardless of our current or past circumstances. God loves us.
Becasue of Gods love and because of Gods judgment, our previously closed eyes to the wonders and works of God, are now open. If we see the works of God in our lives and around us in the world, we will shout out and exclaim how great God is. “Great is the LORD beyond the border of Israel!”
God, the one True God, the God of the Bible, The Father, the Son, The Holy Spirit, God is not just the God if Israel, as many in the Old Testament world thought of him, but is the God of Heaven and Earth, the God of all creation, The God of each and every one of us. He is the God of not just a small group of people but of who so ever shall believe.
This is where we see that Christianity, the worlds one true religion, is both the most inclusive and the most exclusive religion in the world. Christianity is exclusive in this sense. Only those who walk through the narrow door that is Jesus Christ are saved and welcomed in to the family of God, to be called his children. There is no other way, there is no other path, there is no other door to walk through that leads to the one true God. Jesus says in John14:6, “I am the Way, the Truth, the Life. No one comes to the Father exceot through me.”
But as exclusive as Christianity is, it is also the most inclusive religion. It is inclusive in that though the path is narrow and there is only one door, the invitation to walk that path, the walk through that door, the invitation to believe and repent is giving to every single person in the world. We just finished going through Pauls letter to the Romans, and what was one of his main points? Your background does not matter. Your ethnicity does not matter. Your ppast sins dont matter. Your previous religious or spiritual beliefs dont matter. Your parents and grandparents dont matter. Your church attendence and your morality dont matter. Your politics dont matter. Everyone is invited to come to saving faith in Jesus Christ.
God is sovereign over those who believe and those who dont. God is sovereign over heaven and hell. God is sovereign over those who he loves and those whom he hates. His grace, his love and his mercy are all poured out, ultimately, to bring glory to himself. His wrath and his judgment, his hatred, are ultimately poured out to bring glory to himself.
See, thats another part of Gods love and hatred that we havent yet mentioned. God is holy. The scriptures say he is Holy, Holy, Holy. He hates what goes against his nature. He hates what and who sins against him. He hates what takes away from his rightful glory. He hates what is not Holy, Holy, Holy.
If it were not for the sacrifice, the shed blood of Jesus Christ, he would hate us. And yet, there is what is called a Great Exchange. When Christ gave his life and took on the punishment for our sins, he only was able to do so because of his perfect righteousness. With no sin of his own, he took Gods wrath and punishment for our sins on himself. In exchange, those who repnet of their sins and turn in faith to Jesus Christ, we receive his perfect righteousness. We receive the forgiveness of sins, so that when we all stand before God at the end, and we will all stand before before God in judgement at the end, when we do, He will either see and judge uw for our sin or he will see and judge us for being wrapped up in Christs righteousness. Both outcomes speak to his glory.
That doesnt make earthly sense, does it? That doesnt make worldy sense, that punishing people, that judgment and wrath, that Hell can speak to the glory of God. But what is hell? A common response, that sounds real good, is that Hell is simply seperation from God. And that would be an extreme punishment, thats for sure. And there may be aspects of that, in regards to God withholding his love, grace and mercy.
But heres what society and much of the Christian church forget. Hell is not where Satan rules supreme. God doesnt send us to a spot where Satan rules over us. God rules over Hell just as much as he rules over Heaven. God is the God of Heaven and Hell. And he is a holy God. Sin goes against his holiness and therefore it is to the glory of gods holiness to punish sin.
And of course, Gods saving grace and mercy, through faith in Christ, show the glory of God, who changes hearts of stone to hearts of flesh. Who brings us from death to life. That is all done to and shows the might and supremem Glory of God.
Now, again, we dont always feel or see this. But we can stand on the Solid Rock of Christ and his word. We can stand on the promises of God our Savior. RC Sproul says I don’t always feel His presence. But God’s promises do not depend upon my feelings; they rest upon His integrity.
If we are living for the Glory of God. If his love and mercy have been poured out on us, making us children of God. Then the simple and clear fact is that, whether we feel it or not, whether we think it or not and whether we believe it or not, the simple and clear fact is “I have loved you,” says the Lord.