"I have always loved you." -- Malachi
I know it has been a while since I have posted. I have been working on a new writing assignment that has consumed much of my time. However, I wanted to share a few things that I have been pondering for the past few weeks. I want us to look at one statement, “I have always loved you.”
In order for you to better understand this passage in Malachi let me explain the people’s mindset. Malachi inherited a restless generation. Isaiah as well as other prophets, Haggai and Zechariah, had prophesied about the coming of the messiah. Many years had passed with no Messiah. The Israelites were also experiencing a corrupt government along with economic difficulty. The people become exasperated with what they considered a lack of God’s provision, and slid back into their old sin pattern. Ironically, listen to the first words God speaks to this rebellious group of people, “I have always loved you”. He doesn’t start out with a list of all they have done wrong, or a lecture on their behavior, but simply a message of love. Let this one sentence sink deep into your mind and heart. God is saying No matter what your attitude, actions, or words have been “I have always loved you”. This is just another picture of sacrificial love. He is stating to the people regardless of their behavior he has never stopped loving them. When I sit back and think of all the things God has been to me in my life: Savior, redeemer, healer, comforter, fortress, just to name a few; I am ashamed of what little I have been to him. In the areas that he has asked for faithfulness such as loving my neighbor, being his hands and feet, having no idols, I have failed miserably. God was sending a word through Malachi not to condemn the people, but because he loved his people. He grieved the fact their sin had broken their fellowship with him. He mourned the fact he could no longer have close intimacy with his children. We could think of it as a relationship between a rebellious child and their parent. If your child was wayward all you would long to do is wrap your arms around that child, pull them in close, and say, ”no matter what you have done I love you, please come home.”
As God is pouring out his love for them, as a parent to a rebellious child, the people jab back with a forceful punch, “Really? How have you loved us?” Can you imagine this response? God had in their lifetime delivered them from exile; allowed them to be able to rebuild the temple, provided priest, and sacrifices. Not to mention the fact they had all studied how he had delivered and protected their ancestors from many enemies. Yet they look up to the heavens and renounce that God had loved them. They are so self-focused or as Martin Luther described his generation “curved in on themselves” that they no longer could see God. They were basing God’s love on how they were feeling, things they were or were not getting, health, wealth, but neglecting the biggest issue, which was their relationship with God. They failed to ask the question, “How are we with God?”
Go back to the picture of the parent and imagine the rebellious child saying, “You have never loved me! What have you ever done for me?” If you are a parent, you know what sacrifices are made, what ends of the earth you would go to for your child. This statement would both grieve your heart, and ignite you all at the same time. You would be speechless to their hurtful and very untruthful remarks.
I think this one statement leads us to take inventory. What would our response be to God at this moment in our life? Do we truly believe God loves us no matter the circumstances? Sometimes Satan tries to create havoc in our mind and cause us to doubt the love of God. If he can get us to doubt even for a moment God does not love us; he has a foothold into our life. I believe God has compassion for us when in difficult times we ask questions out of sheer pain and grief, but he does not want us to linger there. For me the theme in Malachi is a picture of unconditional love. Psalm 86:5 expresses it by saying, “O Lord, you are so good, so ready to forgive, so full of unfailing love for all who ask for your help.6 Listen closely to my prayer, O Lord; hear my urgent cry….”
The message for today-- God has always loved you no matter what you have done, and he will continue to love you forever!