Title: The Love of God
Text: Malachi 1:1-5
Introduction: Deuteronomy 7; Luke 14; You guys know I’m training to climb some mountains. I do that in so many different ways. I like to jog in the woods, hike, climb, ride my bike. One time, I went running in a state park and I came across a Dutch Oven Society. They were located off the trail in a camping area. I didn’t even know something like that existed! This is a group of people who have a passion for Dutch Oven Cooking. The gather on certain weekends in certain parks across America. Usually, they have a potluck dinner at some point.
As I came upon the group, I met a man named, C*, who was wonderfully kind to me. You guys know me, I’m a talker. I went around visiting with the different cooks. My interest was piqued. I wanted to learn how the different cooks cooked the different types of food. There were so many different styles. It was truly fascinating. Throughout my visiting the different campsites, some in the DOS asked me to hang around and eat with them. In a short while, all of these members were going to bring their different foods and create a potluck fellowship dinner. I know what that is! I heartily agreed.
However, as folks were bringing their food together on the picnic tables that had been lined up together, I met a man named L*, a long-time member of the Dutch Oven Society. L* was visibly angry with me. I didn’t know why then, but now I think I do. Runners, hikers, bikers are there every weekend; they pop in and eat without bringing any food; L* had grown calloused toward those of us who were dressed like me – the mesh shirts and shorts, running or biking garb. He made me feel very uncomfortable and very unwelcomed. I quietly slid toward the back of the line and made my way out of there. I missed out on the fellowship and food.
I’ve thought of that experience over the years and found it to be similar to the church. How do we communicate the love of God to others who visit this place?
We’re in Malachi. I’d like to preach the introduction to Malachi, because Malachi’s first message to Israel is how much God loves them.
Verse 1 gives us a great introduction, filling in any questions we might have about who? and what?
Haggai and Zachariah called the people to finish the Temple. Malachi builds upon their call, by calling the people to faithfulness. rd v 1; An Oracle – lift, carry – as in burden (KJV); This is something that is heavy on Malachi’s heart; Jeremiah 20.9; And what is that? Yahweh’s Word; you see all the caps? This is what a preacher or a prophet does: he shares God’s Word.
Now, the writer gets more specific: this is God’s Word to Israel; This is important for us; remember: the context of a passage informs its application – it states how this applies to the people of that era, that time. And yet, God’s Word is timeless and powerful, having pertinence and relevance for us today.
One last note about the opening verse. Malachi is the Hebrew word for angel or messenger; this is probably his real name. We don’t know that for sure. It might be that it was a title, like: the oracle of the word of the Lord by a messenger/through an angel. Turn to Mal 3.1; See, that’s how it is translated here.
So, let’s begin by looking at what the Lord says through Malachi to Israel; and then, let’s draw some application for us.
What we notice 1st is how God confesses his great love for Israel.
I. The Confession of God’s Love (2)
exp.: rd 2a; I have loved you; says Yahweh; Verhoef stated in his commentary that this verb “Love” shows continuous action; God has always loved his people and always will love his people; rd 2:b; but you say; you can underline those words; if you do a study of Malachi, you’ll see these words repeated in 1:6,7,13; 2:14; 3:7, 8, 13; It’s the style by which Malachi delivers his prophecy; And they respond (rd v 2b); How have you loved us?
This might seem rather bold; but it is so like us, too? Isn’t it? For them, this makes so much sense, seeing they’ve been in exile and have returned, but things are like they used to be. They don’t have a king, they’re not independent. Their sovereign is a Persian King. It’s not the same – and so they complain.
They think God’s love is tied up in who and what they used to be! They equate God’s love with good things such as blessings. They’re stuck in the past and can’t get over the fact that it ain’t like it used to be. And maybe they’re thinking: if God loves us so much, why isn’t it like it used to be?
Do you ever get that way? Isn’t that why we like to sing the old songs – and not really learn anything new? Do you miss the good old days, but in reality, you’re missing the current days when God is doing something new and special in your life because you can’t help but looking back all the time?
Have you ever questioned God’s Love because of it? Especially, when things aren’t going well? When I was a youth pastor, I came across a book for my teens entitled, If God Loves me, then why can’t I get my locker open? Man, you can just feel the immaturity in that title, can’t you?
Honestly, I see the same immaturity in long-time, older church members who can’t get past the good old days.
Along with maturity comes a deeper understanding of God’s love. Write that down as the 1st application for the day: Along with maturity comes a deeper understanding of God’s love. Malachi himself provides an eloquent commentary on God’s love in 3:6; rd 3:6; how has God show us that he loves us? Because he hasn’t killed us as our sins deserve!
rd 2c; the etymology of this word ‘loved’ in the Hebrew, has been attached to the word which means “to be on fire” but in the sense “to love”; It is used to describe love in every type of relationship; the burning passion of a love for one’s child; for one’s husband or wife;
the love ‘ahāb’ of God appears 32 X’s in the OT; rd p. 196, Verhoef; God’s love is sovereign and unconditional;
Deu. 7:6-13; God has treasured them; loved them; been faithful to them; and redeemed them; In a sense, election and redemption are synonymous with God’s love. Hosea is probably the most popular of the minor prophets on God’s love, Malachi is close behind. Hosea preaches about a loving God toward an unfaithful, adulterous people. Malachi stresses God unconditional, everlasting love toward a disobedient, belligerent people. He confesses his love for his people…but you say…rd v 2b; God’s answer, Lam 3:23 – Because of the steadfast love of the Lord, we are not cut off…Those he doesn’t love, he doesn’t care for, he doesn’t chastise, nor does he discipline;
t.s.: which brings us to the 2nd section on God’s Love…
II. The Expression of God’s Love (3-4)
exp.: rd 2c-3; Jacob I have loved; Esau I have hated; I have laid waste. I think sometimes, people are quick to explain away what God has declared. I want to be careful of that. There is a literary device called Semitic Comparison.
ill.: Semitic Comparison. This is where a harshness is used to express how great the opposite is; The best example I know of is found in Lk 14:26 (compare Matt10.37). I’d encourage you to read Genesis 29:30-33 as another example.
The context of Malachi, in the verses that follow, show a clear disdain toward the Edomites. Does that mean God hates them? Or simply that he rejected them? The focus isn’t on the word hate, obviously. The emphasis is on the rejection part. And his rejection of Esau and his descendants is clear in the following passage: rd v 3-4; God rejects Esau, he won’t bless, but will tear down, and even if the Edomites do their best to rebuild, they won’t be able to;
ill.: Listen to the NICOT (Pieter Verhoef) In the light of Scriptural evidence we are warned against reverting to human psychology in interpreting God’s love and hate. Both his love and hate are far more profound than the corresponding human sentiments. Both concern God’s sovereign and radical decree.
Let me ask you: Can you and I love with the same love that God does? We may try, but we are not able to come near it with our human frailties and failures. We try but our selfish passions creep in. The master is on a whole different level than we are….
app.: and we see in verse 5 that God says: And for you, oh Israel, you are loved, you will be blessed, you will not be cut off…. And you will see this…
t.s.: Which is the 3rd section on God’s Love
III. The Reception of God’s Love. (5)
exp.: rd v 5;
- You will see – God is faithful to fulfill his promises; He hates wickedness, sin, rebellion, idolatry, selfishness…Proverbs 6:16ff; 16There are six things that the Lord hates, seven that are an abomination to him: 17haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, 18a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that make haste to run to evil, 19a false witness who breathes out lies, and one who sows discord among brothers.
**You will see – and they did see: Verhoef: This prophecy concerning the permanent ruin of Edom and the Edomites has been fulfilled in the subsequent history. The Nabateans drove them from their territory, and the Maccabees added to their distress. In 185 B.C. Judas Maccabeus crushed their resistance. And according to Josephus, 50 years later, John Hyrcanus caused them to be circumcised. Their end came during the time of Simon of Gerasa. You will see and
- You will say – Great is the Lord “above Israel” or “beyond Israel”;
t.s.: That was for them. But what about us?
What say you about God today? I say he loves you….Hear the word of the Lord: But God demonstrates his own love toward us in this, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. And, For God so loved the world, that he gave his only son, that whosoever believes in him shall not perish, but will have everlasting life. And this one, the wages of sin is death (that’s the hate part), but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Conclusion: John Payne recently shared with me some similarities between the law and the gospel. He said at law, there are three elements to complete a valid gift: (1) intent to make a gift; (2) delivery of the gift, and (3) acceptance of the gift. These match our three points:
- The Confession of God’s Love – His intentions toward us are clearly stated. For God so loved the world
- The Expression of God’s Love – Delivery of the gift; that he gave his one and only Son
- The Reception of God’s Love – Acceptance of the gift; that whosoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
I have a $5 bill. If I say this is yours, I’m giving it to you – but you walk out and never take that gift from my hand, whose is it? The gift must be accepted by the recipient.
- Along with maturity comes a deeper understanding of God’s Love.
- Simple knowledge does not save. Acceptance and Reception mean everything.
There is one last observation, one last insight I want you to get before we close, and it is this: God’s love is communicated through you. Individually and corporately.
Conclusion: Do you remember my opening story about the Dutch Oven Society? Before I met L*, I couldn’t wait to tell Lisa about this neat group of people who cook w/ dutch ovens. I felt welcomed and invited. I was interested in what made these people get together. Truth is, I think people who can cook using a Dutch Oven are pretty impressive. It’s an art and a science. And I thought that maybe it would be a place I could fit in. But after meeting L*, I never went back. It only makes sense that he was the last person I visited with – because I left.
About 9-10 years later, I met a woman who, along with her husband were avid members of the Dutch Oven Society. I was serving as a chaplain to a bank there in Tyler and had known this lady for some time. Her husband is also a minister, so we had a connection from the first day I met her. I have no idea how we got onto the subject, but it soon became obvious that she and her husband were passionate members of the Dutch Oven Society.
I told her I had been there once. Once. But I have never returned. She was so disappointed. She tried to convince me that it really is a wonderful place. She told me how much fun they all have. Most all of the people were wonderful people. I asked her about L*, and she frowned and said that he was still there.
This got me to thinking: How do people miss out on God’s Love? Is it enough to tell them about it? Or, do they need to see it? How much damage can one person do to an organization when they don’t live out that organization’s ideals?
Let’s bring this home: When do we hurt our cause?
- When we think this is all about us. I’m talking about ‘church’ – this building, this worship service, these pews, these programs; These things are nothing more than idols if they come before God. When we begin to become resentful toward outsiders because we don’t like the way they act or the things they do.
- When we don’t realize that the love of God comes through us to others. It’s time we take this message back to the streets, back to our neighborhoods and neighbors and yes, to our enemies (or those or don’t really like us.)
I’m not going to become the next Dutch Oven Champion. Me missing out on learning to cook with a Dutch oven is no big deal. But someone missing out on the Love of God because of me, just breaks my heart.