Part 1: God Calls Us. A series over Malachi 1:1-5.
“For I the LORD do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, are not consumed.” Malachi 3:6
This verse came to mind in the recent past, at a very specific moment where fear and doubt had found their footholds to creep in with. Thoughts of, “Where in the world do I go from here? How will life look now? What will we do with ourselves? Everything’s changing.”
It was hope. Relief. Caused me to sigh with gratitude. A reminder that I shall not be consumed.
But, what did this mean? I mean, really mean? That God does not change? So after that small reminder, I went home, opened up the book of Malachi, and read.
And I read some more.
And what I discovered, what I am discovering, is that GOD is great. And that in His great and unchanging love, we are not consumed.
And so today, here I am, still discovering it. I wondered, might you walk with me through it? Might us ladies go forth in a few small steps together? Might we just take a risk and plunge right into that small but slightly intimidating book of Malachi (I’m just not one to take the easy road sometimes…)? I desperately need to daily, moment by moment, remember the greatness of my God; might you be that way, too?
If you choose to come, bear with me, I say a lot. Be patient with me, I am learning. Show me grace, I am growing in grace myself. But, I think…I just really, really, truly believe…that if we go together, we might just see wondrous light from the Word of God; unchanging, brilliant light, together. God promises that, you know. And He says that He does. not. change.
Let’s look at Israel for a moment during the time of Malachi. Israel’s morale was low; God’s people had not been seeing the bold promises of blessing told them after the greatly anticipated construction and dedication of the temple. They were waiting in expectation; expecting peace, safety, prosperity, and blessing from God (see Haggai 2:6-9, 19; Zech 8:9-11). Instead, God’s people were suffering from drought, famine, financial poverty, and slavery. While they weren’t prospering under great blessings at all, the “wicked people” around them were. There was tension between God and His people. But while they were thinking that God wasn’t living up to their expectations, they weren’t living up to God’s expectations, either, and their zeal for the Lord had been left by the roadside. They were dwelling in sin that was causing half-hearted commitments to God’s glory, the whole small book of Malachi records.
Look at the beginning of this “conversation” between the Lord through His prophet Malachi and Israel (vs 1:2a):
“I have loved you,” says the Lord.
But you (Israel) say, “How have you loved us?”
“I have loved you,” He says to them, referring to His past actions towards them. God then verbalizes out loud what the people believe in their hearts – not a belief in His love…but a belief in no love. “How have you loved us?” they are wondering. They can’t keep their circumstances out of their minds; “this isn’t love!” they think. “We are poor! Disheartened! We feel forgotten.” Their hearts have deceived them into believing a lie – that God does not love them, that His promises have changed. For, they are saying, “in effect, ‘we have seen no evidence of Your love!’” And, this doubt of God’s love, their focus on self, if we read further on in Malachi, led to sinful thought and sinful action towards God and others both.
Do they not know? Do they not remember, from the days of old? They apparently have forgotten their first love. Again. As we see Israel do so many times over the course of their history (sigh).
But is this true? That they have seen no evidence of His love for them?
No, because in the midst of this sin of unbelief and pride – God, the One who loved them – is now calling them. He starts with their doubts and gives them a statement of His love. It would have been enough, truth be told, to simply hear from the Almighty, Sovereign and Holy God enthroned in Heaven above, the words “I have loved you,” spoken to these people made of dust, these people of doubt and distress and sin. He goes on, though, we shall see later on, and gives His people a reminder of how He has loved them. Yet here, even in this simple call, a call in the midst of their sin, He is demonstrating His great love for them. It has been said that actions speak louder than words; but sometimes words are so good to hear, aren’t they?
Have we, too, forgotten His love?
“I have loved you,” God says to us.
“But, how have you loved us?” we may be tempted to ask, perhaps with a puzzled expression on our hearts.
We easily remember the facts of God’s love for us. We know that “because God so loved the world He sent His one and only Son (Jn 3:16).” But are we remembering the greatness of our God in it? For, as Israel so easily forgot the greatness of God from His deeds of love for them, so we, too, so easily forget. We become doubtful, fearful, distrusting of His goodness, and yes, even prideful towards Him, during times of adversity, when we are watching others’ successes and wondering about our own.
Doubt then has the foothold it’s been looking for to creep in. And as we doubt, we Christians work at saving face, don’t we? But half-hearted commitments to His great glory make us wholeheartedly committed to ourselves, to our needs, our desires, our…sin. Just. Like. Israel.
But remember, while we, too, were still sinners…Christ called us. It is His glory that is magnified as He graciously demonstrates love to us, calling us up and out of our sin, and unashamedly pouring words of love out upon us. As our faith wavers, our gloriously great and loving God addresses our doubts with great patience – head on, without cutting corners, just as He did with Israel. And in His great love He lavishes abundant grace on us – people of dust – reminding us that His glorious eye is indeed upon us, His beloved daughters, and giving us the hope of glory.
What magnitude of grace! That, while our eyes cannot stray from ourselves and our circumstances for barely a minute, we should be called daughters of the King of Glory! And that is what we are, as we cry ‘Abba Father,’ in our times of doubt. His lavish love spoken to us sinners causes us to drop down on our knees, fall back on our heels, raise our heads toward heaven, and smile up in speechless wonderment, as we sit amazed at how the Great God of all eternity would be pleased to bestow such blessing upon those of dust and dirt – me, and you.
Might we live up to being daughters of the King of Glory by remembering His love? By grasping tightly those deep-rooted doubts of His love and pulling them up from the darkness, dirt, worms, and all, with the strength the cross of Christ provides us with? By clinging to His Kingly white robes as we see the world seem to flourish around us? Might we be ones who accept with the greatest humility the fact that He calls us in the midst of our sin…into His glorious light? Might we lift voices in praise up to Him, the glorious great gracious One?
O, that we might be! O, that we would! O Lord, we do trust You to do Your work in us.
Praise God, from Whom all blessings flow;
Praise Him, all creatures here below;
Praise Him above, ye heavenly host;
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.
 An Introduction to the Prophetic Literature of the Old Testament, Willem A. Gemeren, Zondervan, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1990
 Wycliffe Bible Commentary