MALACHI – LESSON TWO
GOD’S LOVE IS DEBATED
The Israelites in Malachi’s day had a problem, but they didn’t know what it was. They thought God has fallen out of love with them. They could easily discover the true problem if they went back and read their covenant or contract in the Torah. But it was easy to blame God and let themselves off the hook.
In their contract, God’s covenant blessing required Israel’s covenant faithfulness. As the people obeyed the Law of Moses, God promised to reward them with blessings in the Promised Land. On the other hand, if they disobeyed the Mosaic Law, they were promised a curse and even exile from the land if disobedience continued (Deuteronomy 28-30).
The covenant was startlingly clear, with the blessings and curses clearly spelled out. This covenant regulated Israel’s relationship with God throughout the Old Testament. God had not failed or wavered in His commitment and actions. He had kept the covenant perfectly.
The contract still stands in the post-exile period of their history. Malachi will help the people identify their problems. It is always critical to know the truth about our difficult situations. We can’t find the solution if we don’t know the problem.
DAY ONE: GOD’S LOVE WAS VERBALIZED.
READ: Malachi 1:1
A. MALACHI REVEALED HIS SOURCE.
Malachi began by revealing that his message comes from the Lord. What he will say has divine authority. This has relevance to all readers of Scripture today. Anytime we open our Bibles we must understand that all of Scripture is inspired by God and illuminated by the Holy Spirit. It has power to guide and instruct and reveal absolute truth. It has the ability to speak personally to our hearts to meet our needs for all of life.
B. MALACHI REVEALED HIS AUDIENCE.
Malachi’s message is for all of Israel. This involves all twelve tribes of the nation. Some have said that ten tribes were lost when the northern kingdom was taken into captivity in 722 B.C. However, only the leadership and military forces were taken. Many common people were left in the land. In 2 Chronicles 30:18 these people were invited by King Hezekiah to come to Jerusalem to keep the Passover. Many came from several identifiable tribes. In 2 Chronicles 11:16-17 many priests and Levites from all the tribes of Israel came to Jerusalem to serve the true Lord.
So, all twelve tribes became represented in the southern kingdom of Judah. All tribes are mentioned again in end-times prophecy. (Ezekiel and Revelation)
C. GOD DECLARED HIS LOVE.
To all of Israel God personally spoke. He openly declared, “I have loved you.” The word “love” is in the Hebrew perfect tense. God not only loved Israel in the beginning and in all of the past 1,000 years, He loves them now as well.
We all know the importance of love. Sociologists tell us that human beings cannot thrive without love. We all know that “God is love.” (1 John 4:8). His love is perfect, but how is love measured in the human experience? Is it measured by words or actions? Or is it necessary to have both words and actions? God provides the model as He demonstrates both.
It is important that love be expressed in words. This is hard for some people whose personalities have been trained to be highly reserved. Jokes have been made in our culture about husbands who are unable to say the words –“I love you.” They seem unable to express love freely in verbal expression. However, God’s love for Israel has always been expressed verbally throughout their Old Testament Scriptures. Understanding this basic principle of God’s steadfast love is a strong foundation for Israel’s story. We can say the same for all believers today who have been grafted into God’s chosen family. We need to know that God loves us with an everlasting love!
D. QUESTIONS FOR STUDY OR DISCUSSION
- What do the following Scriptures say about God’s love for Israel?
- Deuteronomy 7:7-8
- Deuteronomy 10;15
- Deuteronomy 23_5
- Deuteronomy 32:9-10
- Jeremiah 31:3
- Isaiah 49:14-16
- Hosea 11:1
- What were the people to in response to God’s love? (Deuteronomy 6:4-5)
3. What does God say today about His love for us today?
- John 3:16
- Romans 5:8
- Romans 8:39
4. How easy is it for you to express verbally your love to people and to God?
5. Who needs to hear your verbal expression of love today?
DAY TWO: GOD’S LOVE WAS CHALLENGED.
READ: Malachi 1:1-2
A. MALACHI EXPRESSED ISRAEL’S RESPONSE.
Israel is challenging God’s declaration of love. Feeling unloved in general seems to be a perennial problem for many people. This problem may stem from abuse or neglect from our family of origin or simply from families who have a difficult time expressing love either verbally or physically. Any kind of rejection can impact us with a feeling that we aren’t worthy of love.
Feeling unloved by God is also a problem for many. It may develop from feelings of guilt or feelings of inadequacy in our inconsistent Christian walk. It may come from times of hardship or times of suffering natural consequences of bad decisions. Whatever the cause, feeling unloved by God can lead to aberrant behavior in some cases or simply a loss of connection and alienation from our loving God in other cases.
B. ISRAEL REQUESTS PROOF OF GOD’S LOVE.
In Malachi’s day the children of Israel were feeling unloved by God. The feeling seems to have come from their current hard lives and from disappointment in their expectations regarding the glorious kingdom they expected to come quickly when they returned from Babylon.
Today in hard times people often ask – “Where is God?” It is easy to feel abandoned when times are difficult. We know that God is in control of His creation. We know that God can prevent disasters or miraculously heal and bless His children, but often He chooses not to.
So, the question is asked by Malachi on behalf of the Israelites – “How have you loved us?” Where is the proof? The Jews expected that peace and prosperity would be returned to them after their 70 years of captivity. They expected that their independence would be restored and yet they were under the authority of a foreign power. Their income was heavily taxed and their freedom was often restricted by foreign control of their priests and leaders.
They had failed to remember what God had done for them and they had failed to count their blessings. God had shown His love in actions recently.
- They were restored to their homeland by decree of the Persian government.
- They had rebuilt their temple and reestablished worship under the guidance of Ezra.
- They had rebuilt their walls and capital city under the great leadership of Nehemiah.
- They had been given a great leader (Ezra) to bring spiritual revival.
Often when we are greatly blessed, we become more and more demanding. We begin to behave like “spoiled children.”
They had also failed to examine their own lives in light of their covenant with God. What role had their own disobedience played in their lack of blessing?
C. QUESTIONS FOR STUDY OR DISCUSSION
- What proof of God’s love for Israel is outlined by Paul? (Romans 3:1-2)
- How does the Psalmist confirm this love? (Psalm 147:12-20)
- What advantages belonged to the Jews according to Paul in Romans 9:1-4?
4. What proofs of God’s love do Christians have? (Ephesians 1:3-14)
5. How faithful are you to express thanksgiving for your blessings?
DAY THREE: GOD’S LOVE IS SHOWN IN ACTIONS.
READ: Malachi 1:2
MALACHI REVEALS GOD’S SOVEREIGN CHOICE.
It is easy to forget the good gifts we have received from God in the past. God understood this human tendency. He instituted feasts and festival as memorials to remind His people of great events in their history. In hard times they can look back and see God’s loving hand guiding, providing, and protecting them. He also carefully recorded their history in their Scriptures so they could remember all that He had done in their colorful past.
Now Malachi takes them back to their origin. Jacob and Esau were twin grandsons of Abraham. God chose Jacob to be in the covenant line. He became the father of the twelve tribes that inherited the Promised Land. His descendants became the Israelites who were given the Law of Moses and who were promised the Messiah.
Esau (as Abraham’s descendant) was given other blessings – He was given his own nation (Edomites) and his own land adjacent to Israel. He had the choice to be a supporter of Jacob as the Israelites carried out God’s redemption plan for the whole world.
B. MALACHI REVEALS GOD’S FAITHFULNESS
Jacob was not a perfect man. His sons were not model children. During long periods in their history their behavior was unacceptable. In the period of the judges they had a recurring cycle of disobedience. In their history under the kings they had a tendency toward idolatry over and over again. Now in their current lives they are disrespecting God and His law. Yet God is still honoring His covenant to love and keep them. His promises to them still stand.
C. QUESTIONS FOR STUDY OR DISCUSSION
- How does God confirm His commitment to the Jews in Deuteronomy 4:32-40; Isaiah 41:8-10?
- What promise was given to Abraham regarding Gentile behavior? (Genesis 12:3a)
- What promise was given to Abraham that justified His continued commitment to the rebellious Jews? (Genesis 12:3b)
- How was Israel expected to respond to God’s love? (Deuteronomy 6:4-9)
- How did Israel respond to God’s prophets? (Matthew 23:37)
- How did Israel respond to God over the years? (Deuteronomy 32:15-18)
7. What good gifts has God given to you in the past?
8. How often do you spend time in thanksgiving for past blessings?
DAY FOUR: GOD’S LOVE IS SHOWN IN GOD’S JUDGMENT OF ISRAEL’S ENEMIES.
READ: Malachi 1:3-4
A. ESAU RECONCILED WITH JACOB AND BECAME PROSPEROUS.
Esau’s story began in Genesis with his well-known bartering of his birthright. He resented Jacob and had thoughts of killing him, so Jacob fled for many years. Esau had a rocky beginning but eventually settled down in Seir and became quite prosperous. He reconciled with Jacob in Genesis 33 when Jacob returned from Paddanaram. Esau’s descendants are honored by being named in Genesis 36. God blessed him with many descendants and with prosperity.
B. ESAU’S DESCENDANTS BECAME ENEMIES OF ISRAEL.
As descendants of Abraham and Isaac, God had blessed both Jacob and Esau. They became heads of large nations. Sadly their descendants became enemies. This was first evidenced when Israel came out of Egypt and Edom refused to allow Moses and the Israelites to pass through their land on the way to Canaan. (Numbers 20:21)
Later when Israel was settled in their land, Edom fought against Israel (2 Samuel 8:14). Still later they refused to assist Judah when foreign armies carried off their treasures and even rejoiced in Israel’s captivity. They looted Jerusalem after its destruction and assisted in turning people over to the captors.
The Edomites felt secure and impregnable in their rugged terrain and secluded fortress city. They had developed a bitter opposition to the Lord and His chosen people. As a result they fought against the plan and purposes of God.
God prophesied in Amos 1:11-12 that Edom would be destroyed forever. The fulfillment of this prophecy began between 550 and 400 B.C. when the Nabataeans conquered Edom and drove a remnant into the Negev to a place called Idumaea. Eventually the surviving Edomites were involved in bloody Roman battles. The few survivors were absorbed among desert tribes and the Edomites were no more.
C. MALACHI CONTRASTED THE TWO NATIONS.
Israel’s fate stands in direct contrast to Edom’s. Both rebelled against God and became idol worshippers. Israel was exiled and disciplined and was then brought back to their land. Edom was permanently driven out and will never return. They are called “the people against whom the Lord hath indignation forever. (Jeremiah 49:13-23)
The Jews must see the current evidence of God’s love for their nation. God’s love for His children has an ongoing expression.
D. QUESTIONS FOR STUDY OR DISCUSSION
- Obadiah is a short book (one chapter) all about Edom’s judgment. Read this chapter and explain how God fulfilled His promise made to Abraham in Genesis 12:3.
- How has God shown His love for Israel in the 20th century?
3. What has God promised to believers today? (1 Peter 1:3-5)
4. Name one blessing or expression of love from God you have enjoyed recently.
DAY FIVE: GOD’S LOVE WILL BE SHOWN UNIVERSALLY.
READ: Malachi 1:5
A. MALACHI POINTS TO THE FUTURE.
Sometimes we choose to wallow in the unfortunate circumstances of the moment and refuse to see the bigger picture of our lives. We forget past blessings and the great promises for the future. As we live in the hard times of the moment, the joy of our lives is faded away.
Israel’s focus on their present hardships had put blinders on their eyes. They could not see their privileged role in God’s great redemption plan for the world. They could not remember the great miracles they had experienced in the past. They could not see the recent blessings they had experienced since returning from Babylon. They could only see the daily hardships they encountered each morning.
Malachi had shown them how God’s love is being played out in their survival as a nation. Now he makes a grand statement about the future.
B. ONE DAY GOD’S PROMISES WILL BE FULFILLED.
There will come a day when the blinders will come off. The Jews will be forced to acknowledge the greatness of God. In about 400 years Jesus Christ will arrive. He is the means by which all of the families of the earth will be blessed as promised to Abraham. (Genesis 12:3) At that time God’s name w3ill be great over all the earth. His name will transcend all national boundaries. It will go beyond Israel to all nations. Paul explains this fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham in Galatians 3:8, 16.
And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel to Abraham beforehand, saying, “In you all the nations shall be blessed.” Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He does not say, “and to seeds,” as of many, but as of one, “and to your seed,” who is Christ.
One day Malachi’s nation will see God’s love displayed to the whole world. They will be forced to acknowledge that God is great.
C. QUESTIONS FOR STUDY OR DISCUSSION
- Describe promises for the future in the following passages.
- Ezekiel 36:24-28
- Ezekiel 36:29-30
- Isaiah 2:2-5
- Isaiah 65:25
- Amos 9:13-15
- Zechariah 14:9
2. What does Peter say about God’s promises to us? (2 Peter 1:3-4)
3. Which promise from Scripture will you claim today?
God’s love for His people has been shown mightily in words and actions throughout their history. But the best is yet to come. Throughout the Old Testament God has revealed lofty promises for the coming kingdom. God’s love will be expressed in indescribable beauty and peace.
PRINCIPLE FOR THE WEEK
When we immerse ourselves in the Word, God’s love will never be in doubt.
To know God is to love Him.
Learn several verses that promise God’s love to His own to encourage you in dark times.
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