"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life" – John 3:16
Reading from the NIV bible
1 A prophecy: the word of the Lord to Israel through Malachi.
2 ‘I have loved you,’ says the Lord. ‘But you ask, “How have you loved us?” ‘Was not Esau Jacob’s brother?’ declared the Lord, ‘Yet I have loved Jacob, 3 but Esau I have hated, and I have turned his hill country into a wasteland and left his inheritance to the desert jackals.’
4 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. 5 You will see it with your own eyes and say, “Great is the Lord – even beyond the borders of Israel!”
The book Malachi was written in the post exile period when a part of the Israelites returned to Jerusalem and the city was only part rebuilt and still under the Persian rule. This was a period of faith in crisis. The Second Temple had been completed but it was nothing compared to its Solomonic predecessor. There was a sense of disappointment. Temple worship was in a bad state with worshippers cheating God in their sacrifices and tithes.
1. The first verse identifies the nature and the tone of the speech, the preacher, and the audience.
In terms of the nature, this is the ‘word of the Lord’, the divine revelation and authoritative word of God.
The tone is rather doom and angry. In the CSV version of the bible, the word ‘oracle’ is used instead of ‘prophecy’. ‘Oracle’ is a technical term for a particular type of prophetic speech conveying a message of threat and doom.
The prophecy was delivered ‘through Malachi’, i.e. Malachi is the messenger who conveyed the word of the Lord.
The audience was ‘Israel’, the name applied to the Hebrew people, the descendents of Jacob, the God’s chosen people.
2. The second verse starts with a reassurance from God: ‘I have loved you.’
The rhetorical question by the audience ‘Have you loved us?’ shows the Israel’s doubt about God’s love.
God then provided the evidence of his love by referring to what he had done for them in the past. Jacob, who is the forefather of Israel, was loved and chosen as the heir of the covenant that God made with Abraham. Under this Abrahamic covenant, God’s people would receive unconditional blessings.
3. Esau was Jacob’s older brother, who lost his inheritance to Jacob and then hated Jacob. Esau became Jacob’s enemy and therefore his descendants the Edomites were the enemy of the Israelites. God rejected Esau. He turned his country to a wasteland and left his inheritance to the desert jackals.
4. The Israelites returned from exile in Babylonia to re-inhabit Judah, rebuild Jerusalem and the Lord’s temple. As mentioned in verse 4, God won’t let the Edomites experience such restoration.
5. The power of God goes beyond the borders of Israel because he defeated and he will defeat the enemies of his chosen people forever.
1. God has always loved us.
Similar to the Israelites, when things go wrong in life, I sometimes struggle and question ‘If God loves me, why does he let it happen to me?’. It is very reassured to remind myself that God has always loved me. It is probably easier for me than the Israelites to see God’s love because I was born after the Christ’s death and resurrection. He loves me so much that he let his Son die in my place. By faith in Jesus Christ, I have the privilege to be included in the God’s chosen people and have an eternal life.
2. God has the universal kingship over the whole earth.
There is no other God. I should worship none other than the God who created us. It is easier said than done though. There are so many things in this world which could distract us. When I started work, work occupied most of my time. I could get very worried and stressed about it. When I got married, my husband then became a big part of my life. Since I had a baby, I have been pretty busy with her. There is nothing wrong with caring about work, family and friends. But it is a question of whether I put my priority in the right place, whether I use my resources well to serve God, what motivation behind what I do. I’m struggling with this all the time, but I know God is helping and guiding me.
1. Sermon by Iaim Broomfield
2. ‘Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries: Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi’ by Andrew E. Hill
Link to the next post for Malachi