Lord's Day Evening Meditations December 14, 2003

Malachi 1: 1-2

"I Have Loved You, Saith the Lord."

Having followed the story of the Jewish remnant through the books of Ezra and Nehemiah, I believe the Lord would have us continue the story. The continuation is found in the book of Malachi. This is the last book of the Old Testament, and it is also the last prophetic utterance until John the Baptist. The last date given in Nehemiah is 443 B.C. The book of Malachi is dated at approximately 420 B.C., that is, about 20 - 25 years later. This shows us that there is not a great lapse of time between the end of Nehemiah and Malachi.

We have been seeing a remnant of the Jews who were, basically speaking, trying to do the Lord's will, having returned to His land, to His center, and to His Word. We also saw many of their problems and failures and how they had many "ups and downs" in their experience. Their last "up" was in Nehemiah 13 where Nehemiah, faithfully, but by force, restored the outward order of the service of God. Now, in Malachi, not many years later, they have gone bad again and turned away from the Lord and His Word. That was the reason why God sent them the prophet Malachi. A prophet addresses the Word of God to the conscience of the people, and that is what Malachi did, trying to stir them up and wake them up from their departure from the Lord. But when they were shown what was wrong, their spiritual condition was such that they would reply, "What is wrong with that?" They were blind to their own condition.

The Lord's first words to them, before anything else, were, "I have loved you, saith the Lord." Let us look at those words, for they apply to us as well, and they suggest many, many thoughts, whether it be the love of God for the world (John 3:16), the love of Christ for His assembly (Eph. 5:25), or the love of the Lord Jesus for each one of us individually (Gal. 2:20). The subject of the love of God is a very difficult one to speak on, because His love is infinite, and how can our finite minds explain or understand something that is infinite? However, though we hardly touch the surface of this wonderful subject, yet being occupied with it may help us to learn something very necessary and very precious - to know a little more of the heart of our God.

Let's consider a little the love of God for His people Israel. We might think sometimes that they were not a very loveable people. In that respect, see what Paul wrote about himself, and ourselves, before we were saved: "For we ourselves also were sometimes (once) foolish, disobedient hateful, and hating one another." Titus 3:3. Natural love requires an object to draw it out; the love of God goes out without being drawn. Therefore it can, and does, go out to objects that are not loveable.

Follow Israel for their 40 years in the wilderness and you see them always complaining, never happy, and never satisfied. Yet, God brought them through and gave them the land of Canaan, "the glory of all lands." And what did they do there? The story of the judges and of the kings tells how they defiled it from one end to the other with their sin and idolatry until finally Israel was taken to Assyria, and years later Judah was taken to Babylon. But God still loved them and He would send them His Son, and so He opened the way for a remnant to return to their land. What a trial that remnant was to Ezra and to Nehemiah! Yet, His love for His people was as strong as ever. We'll read some of the expressions of that love.

"Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with loving kindness have I drawn thee." Jer. 31:3. "Thus saith the Lord, I remember thee, the kindness of thy youth, the love of thine espousals, etc." Read Jer. 2:1 - 5. When Israel had come out of Egypt and had crossed the Red Sea, oh, how they rejoiced when they sang that wonderful song in Exodus 15! But what went wrong that they turned away? Had God done something wrong? He felt keenly the fact that they had turned away from Him. Read Ps. 81:8 - 16. See how God says, "O My people!" If they had only listened to Him, how He would have blessed them!

Well, the God of Israel came down to them in the person of Jesus Christ, and we find that same love unchanged. As the Lord came down the Mount of Olives and beheld Jerusalem below Him, He "wept over it." Luke 19:41. He knew that He would be rejected there, and that, as a result, in a few years time, His beloved people would suffer a terrible massacre at the hand of the Romans (vs. 43 - 44). In Matt. 23, after faithfully exposing the hypocrisy of the scribes and Pharisees, and the judgment that would overtake them, He exclaimed, "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!" Matt. 23:37. In spite of all that they had done, He loved them still.

That same love continued its expressions in the heart of the Apostle Paul, who was himself a Jew. Read Romans 9:1 - 4 where he says, "For I could wish (better translated, I have wished) that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, etc." Then in chapter 10:1, "Brethren, my heart's desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved." That is God's love for that people, told out in His Word and also in one of His servants. Well, they rejected the testimony of the prophets, they rejected the testimony of the Son, and finally they rejected the testimony of the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven. As a people they were set aside while God accomplished a glorious purpose of grace - the calling out of a people for heaven. Today, Loammi, not My people, is written on the Jewish nation. However, individually, any who will repent and believe in Christ, can become part of the heavenly people that God is calling out as a bride for His Son.

So, does God have a people today? Yes, not a people for the earth as Israel was, and will yet be, but a people for heaven. And isn't it wonderful grace that has made us part of that heavenly people! Turn again to Titus 3 and read how, in spite of what we were, "the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared," and "He saved us!" And what about His love for His people today, is it any less than before? No, it is revealed in the person of His Son and now shines more brightly than ever.

Why was it that God's people of old were continually turning away from Him? They lost the sense of His love, and so, the very first thing that God says to them through Malachi is, "I have loved you." The loss of the sense of His love is probably at the bottom of all backsliding. Revelation chapters 2 and 3 give a history of Christendom from the time of the apostles down to the end of that time period. The departure led to some very serious evil. How did it all begin? "I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love." Rev. 2:4. This very statement by the Lord proves His love to them, because if He didn't love them, He wouldn't care about losing their love to Him. The end result was a total indifference to the Lord and His claims so that the Lord has to say to Laodicea, "Because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue (vomit) thee out of my mouth." Rev. 3:16. They had lost all sense of the Lord's love, and didn't even know it, just like those in the time of Malachi.

Does this make you say in your heart, "I don't want that to happen to me"? I hope it does. Well, then, how can we prevent it? Don't look in your heart for love for the Lord. You won't find any there. Look to Him and to His love. "We love Him, because He first loved us." In the song of Sol. there is a progressive realization of the Lord's love until you come to chapter 7:10 - "I am my Beloved's, and His desire is toward me." "My Beloved" is the Lord Jesus and the speaker is yourself. Take that verse as a pillow for your head tonight. S.L.