Sooner or later most Christians tell the story of how they were once running on empty or were half hearted, comprised, and disgruntled. One day you wake up and you realise you have lost your zeal. The answer is not another pep talk or guilt trip, the answer to this problem is found in a teaching that the majority of Christians don’t believe.
We commence our celebration series on the Book of Malachi – Calling us back home, this is God’s last word to God’s people before Jesus. This is God’s last word for over 400 plus years.
And what is that word – I love you!
Here was a nation that lost her confidence in God’s love and then, lost her way. The people of God have become half hearted, disgruntled, and compromised – motivation was at an all time low.
- People offered lousy sacrifices.
- The priests were doing a lousy job.
- Their financial giving was pathetic.
- They were divorcing their wives.
- They were marrying women who worshiped foreign gods.
- Most of all they were complaining at God.
As with any good husband God hears and speaks to his covenant bride. Let’s look at Malachi 1:1
A prophecy: The word of the Lord to Israel through Malachi.(NIV)
This prophecy is literaly a burden, a word that is heavy and a word that must be spoken. Malachi means “my messenger” and he is God’s messenger, bringing God’s word to God’s chosen nation – who forgot they were chosen.
There are 6 prophecies and for the next 6 Sundays we will look at each prophecy. God’s first word to his unfaithful wife is “I love you.” Verses 2-3
I have loved you,” says the Lord. “But you ask, ‘How have you loved us?’ “Was not Esau Jacob’s brother?” declares the Lord. “Yet I have loved Jacob, but Esau I have hated (NIV)
The pattern in the book is God’s statement – Israel’s question – God’s answer
Statement: ‘I have loved you,’ says the Lord.
Question: ‘How have you loved us?’
Answer: ‘Was not Esau Jacobs brother?’ the Lord says ‘Yet I have loved Jacob but Esau I have hated’
God is not like an insecure person who says to their lover ‘Do you love me?’ You’re never sure if they are saying yes because you asked them or they mean it. This prophecy starts with God telling his people. ‘I have loved you.’ What is God is doing? He had diagnosed Israel’s slackness as a failure to grasp God’s love.
Behind spiritual half heartedness, there is a story we tell ourselves, God does not love me! I don’t matter! he doesn’t care! We read God’s love from our feelngs in the moment. What we must do is read God’s love from what he has said or done.
They had forgot:
- God led them into Egypt with only 70 and then God led them out of Egypt as a great nation
- God led them into the promised land as foreigners and they remained as possessors of the land
- They were led out of the promised land due to discipline
- They were allowed back in 70s years later
But now that they are back in the promised land, their better days were in the past. They now have no king and their land was smaller and the temple was smaller still. Like going from a Ferrari to a Ford. But the one place Malachi goes to show God’s love is in the womb of a woman with twins. He goes to Abraham’s grandsons, Jacob and Esau, where God chose one and not the other. From Jacob comes the chosen nation of Israel which is blessed and is a blessing to others. From Esau comes the nation of Edom which ends in destruction.
The difference between the two was the choice of God way back in the womb. Both born on the same day and the same hour and from the same womb. It was God’s choice that would determine each of their destinies. So much for Astrology and the planets for determining our destiny. God’s people had either forgotten they were chosen or had taken it for granted.
You see it beautifully said in Deuteronomy 10.14-15
To the LORD your God belong the heavens, even the highest heavens, the earth and everything in it. Yet the LORD set his affection on your forefathers and loved them, and he chose you, their descendants, above all the nations, as it is today. (NIV)
God could have picked any nation for his bride but he picked her, Israel.
A minister I know of grew up in a large family and in the depression the parents could not feed them so they had to adopt out two of them, this minister was one of the two and he remembers going to the orphanage. He remembers a couple looking at him and his brother and that couple chose him and they took him home.
“Jacob I loved but Esau I hated.” Its not that God had not loved Edomites, every day the sun shines on their back God loved them. But compared to God’s elective love it was as if it was hate. Its not that Jacob was better, both bothers and nations were as bad as each other. Jacob was a liar and Esau sold his birthright for a bowl of Lentils
God is equally clear, He did not choose Israel because they were bigger or better than other nations. She was not better and by the time of the exile she was worse than the other nations. This is election by grace. God takes Israel to himself and hands Edom over to her hard heart.
You know the privilege of the choice when you consider the alternative. What happens when God does not choose you? or when he leaves you to your sin? Verse 4,5
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’!”(NIV)
God’s judgment will never end because their rebellion will never end. Edom caused Israel so much grief, it’s a picture of hell. Hell goes on forever because those in hell keep on sinning. Israel is called upon to peer into Edoms story, this sister nation, she is called to meditate on what it is like to not be chosen by God.
Friends we rightly say, mediate long on the hope of Heaven and its blessings. Its also critical you mediate on the reality of Hell, peer into the horror of hell, utter darkness, weeping, gnashing of teeth, where worm does not die. Ponder the place where God’s enemies are shut out of the presence of the Lord.
Tell yourself, ‘Wow-that is what I deserve’
Tell yourself, ‘That is where I would be going were it not for God’s loving choice of me.’
Tell yourself, ‘God could have handed me over to a hard heart, He could have passed over us’, so count your blessings and give God your best.
We either forget or think little of the wonder of being hand picked.
It is the hard edge to the Sovereignty of God.
Remember, God was well within his rights to choose none. He could have said Jacob I hated and Esau I hated. But out of God’s sheer grace he set a nation aside.
This is a word to Israel and is it also a word to us! God had chosen us in Christ before the creation of the world to be his Sons and Daughters. All Christians believe that we choose God and all Christians believe that God chooses us, but this is saying we are only able to choose God because he chose us. The apostle Paul quotes from Malachi and makes this point in Romans 9:11-13
Yet, before the twins were born or had done anything good or bad — in order that God’s purpose in election might stand: not by works but by him who calls — she was told, “The older will serve the younger.” Just as it is written: “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.” (NIV)
When God chose Jacob and not Esau, the point of God chosing some is clear, a person is saved not by our works or effort but by mercy of him who calls. God has the right to have mercy on whom he wants and that includes members of my family.
I once handed out lottery tickets at church. I pulled 3 tickets out of the hat and gave the 3 people a bar of chocolate. I made 2 points, those who got the prizes didn’t deserve them anymore than any other and I have the right to give only 3 bars of chocolate.There was a guy at church who had been arguing for a year with me about predestination, and his name got pulled out.
Robbed of Elective love. Many churches rob people of this teaching because it is hard to hear. It is not hard to understand but it is hard to accept because it violates our sense of fair play. Many called but few chosen. We do question ‘is God unfair?’ and I understand that, but we must let God be God. See Romans 9:9
One of you will say to me: “Then why does God still blame us? For who is able to resist his will?” But who are you, a human being, to talk back to God? (NIV)
I remember a lady at an Explaining Christianity course, she came to week 1 and she pushed back hard. When I saw her the next week I said “I did not expect to see you.” She replied “I went home and I was arguing with God that he is not fair and the Bible opened to this verse ‘But who are you, a human being, to talk back to God?’ At that point I shut up. “You win God.”
Most Christians refuse to believe that they were chosen by God. They refuse to enjoy God’s love, they spend their days complaining and they deny God his glory. Once you realise that you can’t choose God unless he chose me, then I’m profoudnly humbled and even my faith is a God given gift and instead of bellyaching we should fall to our knees in worship. Let him who boasts boast in the Lord, Ephesians 1:3,5-6
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ…In love hepredestined us for adoption to sonshipthrough 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. (NIV)
Praise the God and Father who chooses to adopt you through Jesus. You were created from a billion possibilities. You were chosen from among billions of humans. God is saying to you this morning ‘I have loved you before the creation of the world.’
Do you want to experience more of God’s love?
When was the last time you praised God for choosing you?
Which member of the Triune God, Father, Son, or Holy Spirit is your ‘go to’ person?
Each day for a week spend time praying to the Father, and then to the Son, and then to the Spirit. In each case offer praise or make requests that are particularly related to that Person’s distinctive role in your life. As you pray distinguish the role of the 3 persons.
Pray to God the Father, in love, He chose and adopted us so that we are loved as much as His one and only Son.
Pray to God the Son, in love, He willingly carried the blame and pain of the judgment that our sins deserve. In love, He now lives to intercede for us at the right hand of Father.
Pray to God the Spirit, in love, He opened our eyes to see and receive the love of the Father and Son. In Love, He empowers us to grasp that love more and more.