*[P]* Can we turn to the book of Malachi.
Last time I gave a bit of an introduction and overview to this, the last book in the Old Testament.
It is יהוה’s final word to His people before a 400 year silence.
*[P]* Read: [*Malachi 1:1-5*/ //An oracle.
The word of /יהוה/ to Israel through Malachi.
/(that is verse that we looked at last time – יהוה’s messenger had a heavy message for Israel from יהוה.
What was this message that weighed so heavily upon the prophet?
What did יהוה want to lay upon His people?
This is what יהוה Himself says): *[P]* /“*I have loved you,”* says /יהוה/, but you say, “How have You loved us?” “Is Esau not Jacob’s brother?” declares /יהוה/.//
“I have loved Jacob,/ *[P]* /but Esau I have hated.
I have made his mountain ranges a desolation, and given his inheritance to the jackals of the desert.”/*[P]*/
If Edom says, “We are shattered, but we will return and rebuild the ruins,” /יהוה/ of armies says this//: /: “/They may build, but I will tear down; and they will be called a territory of wickedness, and the people with whom /יהוה/ is angry forever.”/
*[P]* /Your eyes will see this, and you will say, “/יהוה/ is great// beyond the borders of Israel.”/]
I said last time that with His people, Israel, יהוה was confronted with inveterate rebellion *[P]* [*Romans 10:21*/ //But of Israel He says, “All day long I have held out My hands to a disobedient and contrary people.”/]
It was like having a mouthy teenager – forever answering back.
What is יהוה’s message to them?
It is wonderful!
*“/I have loved you/!” [P] *– a* *love that was there in the past and endured right up to the present.
Do you know?
– to be loved, is a wonderful, life transforming, thing!
To be loved by God Himself is absolutely amazing!
A wondrous honour and privilege!
What a wonderful thing for יהוה Himself to declare His love for you!
We used to sing when we were kids: “/I am so glad that my Father in heaven, tells of His love in the book He has given.
Wonderful things in the Bible I see, but this is the dearest that Jesus loves me!
I am so glad that Jesus loves me, Jesus loves me!/” What could be more wonderful to hear from the mouth of יהוה to you personally!
But how does Israel respond?
“Oh yeah?” “Like, how?”!
They dared to question יהוה’s love!
He said that He loved them and they called Him a liar!
“/How have You loved us/?” – it is a remark bordering on the blasphemous!
יהוה has consistently loved His people, Israel, but they refuse to respond.
In response to His declaration of love, they cynically, with the voice of hardened unbelieving sceptics, say, "How?"!
What a way to answer GOD!!
They say to Him: "Prove it!"
"Show us!" – the implication is: "we see no evidence of Your love"!
He had only delivered them from Egypt with a mighty hand, split the sea in two, given them a land, protected and delivered them.
One time He slaughtered 185,000 soldiers surrounding their capital.
He had brought them back to the land from exile.
Yet they questioned יהוה’s love!
But we see the same attitude is today: "How can God be a God of love if ….? Why do disasters happen, innocent die etc ....?" "If God is a God of love, how come I’m in the situation I am then?"
I knew someone who almost lost her faith because “God allowed my mother die”.
God’s love is as constant as the sunrise - He provides our every breath, yet still we question His love!
How hard-hearted we are!
How many miracles יהוה had done for His people.
Time and again He had delivered them.
יהוה longed for Israel to respond to His love, but they would not!
With such an ungrateful, callous response, there was every reason to give up on them on the spot or to become incensed.
But meekly, patiently, יהוה actually answers their insulting response - after all no-one has received love of the kind that they had, for no-one loves like יהוה does.
With great long-suffering יהוה tells them how He has loved them.
Now we live in a society where discrimination is seen as the ultimate sin.
You must not discriminate on the basis of sex, race or religion.
But the truth of the matter is that love is discriminatory!
*[P]* That is how you know that you are loved!
– you are treated special, differently to everyone else.
[*Deuteronomy 10:15*/ //“Yet on your fathers did /יהוה/ set His affection to love them//, and He chose their descendants after them, even you above all peoples, as it is this day./
] Israel was special [*Psalm 147:19-20*/ //He declares His word to Jacob, his statutes and rules to Israel.
He has not dealt thus with any other nation; they do not know His rules./]
Praise/ יהוה/ !/יהוה /proves how He has loved them by showing how they have been treated in a special way - given favoured treatment above others.
The one you love, you treat preferentially to everyone else: [*Psalm 44:2-3*/ //you with Your own hand drove out the nations, but them You planted; You afflicted the peoples, but them You set free; for not by their own sword did they win the land, nor did their own arm save them, but Your right hand and your arm, and the light of Your face,/ (why were they so favoured?)
/for You delighted in them./]
Sovereignly, graciously He treated them differently to the nation that came from their ancestor’s twin brother.
Jacob and Esau were twins - but before they were even born or had done anything to influence יהוה, He decided to set His love upon Jacob.
Now Esau was a decent bloke who tried to please His parents, but Jacob was a crafty deceiver.
Yet God loved Jacob and blessed him.
He chose his descendants to be His own special people, His treasured possession, to bless them, watch over them, deliver them, discipline them, train them, give them a land, reveal Himself to them.
No other nation had the relationship with God that Israel did.
Yet they could say "/How have You loved us/?"! Jacob was treated well, favoured, loved; yet Esau was hated.
*[P]* “/Jacob I loved but Esau I hated/!”
Did יהוה really say that?
Did He mean what He said?
Do you know, we don’t always say what we mean?
We can misuse words.
One that irks me is the word “good”.
God is good, what He created is good.
But I can read a book and say “that was a good book”; or “that was a good movie”; annihilate another team in rugby and declare that it was a “good game”!
We have robbed “good” of its meaning.
We use words with a range of meaning – for instance: the word “love” *[P]* I love ice-cream; *[P]* but I also love Rhoda – it’s not the same thing is it?
I don’t have a lifelong commitment to ice-cream, I wouldn’t lay down my life for ice-cream.
Rhoda loves me, but she also loves chocolate *[P]* – now if she loves me like chocolate, I won’t last very long!
There is a range of meaning to the word “love” and also to the word “hate” – love can simply mean like or prefer; hate can simply mean dislike – like: “I hate spinach”.
Here is word of יהוה: “/I have loved you/!” Did He mean what He said?
Most people would say that He did.
But when He says “/Esau I have hated/”, suddenly people are very keen to point out that “hate” has a range of meaning – all He meant was “I preferred Israel”.
Did יהוה mean what He said?
Was it a slip of the tongue, a slip of the pen?
Well, He repeats that exact same statement again in Romans 9.
He meant it enough to repeat it and base a whole doctrine upon it.
But surely “God is love, He doesn’t hate people, it doesn’t mean that!”
We are very quick to put our own concept of how God should be upon יהוה.
But just look at the text!: “/I have made his mountain ranges a desolation, and given his inheritance to the jackals of the desert./”;
/“They may build, but I will tear down./”;/
“the people with whom /יהוה/ is angry forever.”/
Those who say “it doesn’t mean “hate”” just haven’t read the rest of the verse from which Paul quotes!
The one יהוה loved, He did good to; and the one He hated, he did bad things to.
Just as love is an active word, so too is hatred.
Just as love is demonstrated; so too is hatred.
Jacob and Esau were the twin sons of Isaac and Rebecca.