You know that a relationship is in trouble when one party demands proofs of love. You can almost guess there’s a brewing problem. One person is sorely disappointed and that person is reconsidering if the relationship is worth fighting for.
This was exactly Judah’s predicament in the time of Malachi. The entire nation got tired of waiting and God seemed to be too busy not answering their expectations for a messianic king. Their lives were in shambles while God remained silent.
So when God said “I have always loved you” in Malachi 1:1-5, Judah’s dramatic response was understandable. They demanded proofs of love. But instead of straightforward answers, God pointed them to a history everyone knew about. “I chose Jacob, not Esau. Edom is crumbling down, and he will stay down because I will not allow his rising again.” Many people would read Malachi 1:1-5 and walk away scratching their heads. What exactly did God say?
Proofs of God’s Love
The short answer is that God actually articulated proofs of his love by drawing their attention to history. This is both curious and instructive. While many of us would normally look for God’s love in our feelings, God says his love is graphically seen in history. The fact that Israel didn’t have a rebuttal meant that they understood alright. Here are five proofs of God’s love that Israel missed.
Jacob and Esau were twins. While they were still unformed fetuses in their mother’s womb, God chose Jacob over his brother. He could have chosen Esau but he didn’t. That’s divine election. God made the choice by his sovereign will, not because of any merit on Jacob’s side.
This, I believe, is the grandest proof of God’s love. Whereas Malachi doesn’t say much, Deuteronomy 7:6-8 expounds the idea better. God chose Israel because he loves them. And he loves them because he chose them. Now that’s circular reasoning but frankly, this is the best explanation for love I’ve seen so far. God’s love for his people is built on the solid rock of his character, not on the flimsy ground of human merits.
I don’t know if you notice this but after more than 2,500 years, it is a wonder that Israel is still on the map. While the powerful Assyrian, Babylonian, Persian, Macedonian, Seleucid, and Roman empires all crumbled, Israel endured. When Judah asked for proof of God’s love, God basically said, “I rid you of your bitter enemy, the Edomites. I also crushed the empires that threatened your existence.” Meaning, God does the fighting for his people. Doesn’t that count for love?
You see, it is so easy to get caught up with our current emotional dramas and not realize that while everyone else has fallen by the wayside, God has graciously preserved us through the years. We are still here; we’re still standing. That’s miraculous enough, given our propensity for bad decisions. I shared this to our discipleship group last Sunday and all ten of us sat there stunned at the idea that we have all come a long way. Think back of your elementary days, the kids you grew up with, the small beginnings you had. Isn’t it true that the Lord brought you farther than you could have imagined ten years ago?
The truth is that even if the Lord loved Israel, he actually subjected them to his loving discipline by sending them to exile for 70 years. For someone who is in pain, the idea of discipline seems to only add insult to injury. It does not, but it sure feels that way. Hebrews 12:6 says “the Lord disciplines those whom he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.” Think of it this way: No father would ever discipline kids from other families; he would only discipline his own kids. So in some unfathomable way, discipline actually proves your relationship with God the Father.
This is the main point of the history lesson God gave to the Israelites who questioned his love. It was like God was saying, “You need proof that I love you? The proof is in the comparison between you and Edom. You sinned, I exiled you and laid waste of your homeland. Edom sinned, I shattered him and laid waste of his homeland. This is the difference though: I am restoring you back while Edom will never be able to build again.”
In other words, while Edom’s name will fade into obscurity and his legacy will be of shame and anger, Israel is given another chance. This is love.
We actually know this by experience. Everyone who has ever fallen in love knows that it is so easy to prove your love when everything is new and exciting. But the bigger proof of love is demonstrated when you commit mistakes and you are given a second chance, a third chance, or many more chances than you deserve.
The greatest proof of the love of God actually came four hundred years after Malachi wrote his book. Jesus, the eternal Son of God, came down from heaven to rescue sinners from the power of sin and death. He is the Messianic King Israel was waiting for. Paul said it well in Romans 5:8, “God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
But this proof had to wait for 400 years. In the mean time, God was calling Israel to covenant faithfulness even when the waiting was killing them.