Malachi 1:2–3 (HCSB)
2 “I have loved you,” says the Lord. But you ask: “How have You loved us?” “Wasn’t Esau Jacob’s brother?” This is the Lord’s declaration. “Even so, I loved Jacob, 3 but I hated Esau. I turned his mountains into a wasteland, and gave his inheritance to the desert jackals.”
As we start Malachi, the last book of the Old Testament, we quickly are introduced to what this book is: a prophetic book. Malachi 1:1 says, “An oracle: The word of the Lord to Israel through Malachi.” So the book is prophecy, given by God, through Malachi, for Israel, and in reality for the benefit of all His people. It is also nice for us to be reminded that scripture, and obviously the book of Malachi, is the word of God. We can easily be tempted into attributing too much to the author of a book, giving the writer credit for what is God’s. Instead, we should bear in mind that as we read scripture, and as we work through Malachi, that this is not the word and thoughts of man, specifically of a man named Malachi, a man saddled with his own unique set of temptations, sin, and struggles, but instead it is the word of the perfect God of all creation!
Malachi 1:2 has this interesting juxtaposition. On the one hand we see God stating He has loved the Israelites. On the other hand Israel is challenging whether God has loved them. My first thought when reading this was to think, “How could Israel ask that question?!?” The time of Malachi would have been after both “exoduses”, the original from Egypt and the second from Babylon. The walls of Jerusalem would have been rebuilt. Israel should have remembered all the amazing miracles God had performed on their behalf to free them from slavery. Yet they ask God, “how is it you figure you love us?” But isn’t this true of us all? I know I “forget” what God has done for me. Especially when I’m in the middle of a “I really need this prayer answered” period, which can range from fully and totally selfish to pretty important for not just me, but many others. Turns out I am not that different than the Israelites plenty of the time.
God replies to Israel with two examples to prove that He has in fact loved them. First He reminds them of Jacob, and how He loved Jacob, the Israelite’s ancestor. And in contrast, Esau, Jacob’s twin brother, was hated by God, thus proving God’s love for Israel as He had loved Israel’s ancestor. God basically says He was working on behalf of Israel before Israel even was!
The second example serves two purposes. The example is the fact that Edom, the descendants of Esau, is hated by God. This discounts the possibility of the notion that God just loves everyone, therefore Israel isn’t anything special. Certainly God loves everyone, and we should note that the hatred of Edom is not capricious, but it is due to Edom rebellious position towards God, but God does not place every nation into the special status of Israel, and does deal with sin justly. And secondly it bolsters the fact that God truly does love Israel and keep her set apart. Look, we shouldn’t see God’s hatred of sin, and His stance against nations that stand opposed to Him, as something that is un-Godlike. Instead, we should see it as God’s desire for us to be free from the bondage of sin, and free in Him.
Lord, thank You for freeing us! Although sin still eats at us, and we might forget all that You have done on our behalf at times, I pray You will continually correct out course, call us back, and fill our sights. Help us to recognize and see Your work around us in the world, and have it strengthen our faith. Amen.