When I’m No Longer Moved by God’s Love
Introduction: In his book, God Loves You: He Always Has and He Always Will, Dr. David Jeremiah opened with two stories. One was about Free Will Baptist missionary Trula Cronk. In her autobiography, Trula wrote of her sadness upon realizing how few people in India thought of God as One who could love them. She recalled a little girl who visited her house one evening and who stayed just a little too long. Darkness fell, and she was afraid to walk home. Trula explained that she should not be afraid, saying, “Dolan, God loves you and He will take care of you as you walk to your house.” The little girl replied very solemnly, “No, memsahib, God does not love little girls.” Trula was never able to forget that simple statement, and it made her want to tell all little girls everywhere that God does indeed love them.
That’s the core of our Christian message. God loves little girls and boys and all the rest of us. The first verse many of us memorized was John 3:16—for God so loved the world. The first song we learned was “Jesus Loves Me.” People everywhere need to know of the depth and width of Christ’s love. And when we realize how much God loves us, it changes our lives. That leads to the second story Dr. Jeremiah used at the beginning of his book. It was about a poor drunkard who stumbled into a church in which evangelist D. L. Moody was scheduled to preach. The man pushed the door open, scanned the empty room, and saw no one inside. His eyes were drawn to a banner over the pulpit that said: “God is Love.” Something about that angered the drunkard. He slammed the door and stormed off, muttering, “God is no love. If God was love, He would love me, and He doesn’t love a miserable man like me. It isn’t true.” But he couldn’t get those words out of his mind: God is love, God is love, God is love. He turned and retraced his steps and entered the building again. By now it was filling with people coming for the evangelistic service. Moody began to preach, and the man wept during the entire service. Afterward he remained in his seat after others left and Moody sat down beside him and asked, “What are you crying about my friend? What was it in the sermon that touched your heart?”
“Oh, Mr. Moody,” said the man. “I didn’t hear a word that you spoke tonight. It’s those words up there over your pulpit, ‘God is Love,’ that broke my heart.” Moody explained to the man the depths of God’s love and the man listened and that evening opened his heart to the love of God found in Christ Jesus. Well, that’s the theme that opens the book of Malachi; and with it tonight I want to begin a six-week study of the six sections of Malachi.
Scripture: Malachi 1:1-5
Background: I’m a stickler for studying the background and context of Scripture, but it is absolutely essential for understanding the book of Malachi. Here’s a summary of how the history of the times unfolded. In the Old Testament, God chose Abraham and gave him a set of promises, that through him and his descendants all the world would be blessed. Abraham had two sons, Isaac and Esau. Isaac was the one through whom the Messiah would come. Isaac’s son was Jacob, and Jacob had many sons, who became the twelve tribes of Israel. The nation of Israel thus descended from Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Jacob’s sons. Joshua led these Israelites into the Promised Land, and eventually David became the king of this nation, and then David’s son, Solomon, came to the throne. But after the death of Solomon, the nation spilt apart like North and South Korea or like the United States in the days of the Civil War. The Northern nation, which retained the name of Israel, went pagan very quickly and was eventually defeated by Assyria and assimilated into the Assyrian Empire. The southern kingdom went by the name of Judah and reminds us very much of the United States. There were periodic revivals but a slow declension that spiraled quickly at the end. Here is the timeline the followed:
- 587 BC – Babylon destroyed Jerusalem
- 538 – The Remnant returned to rebuild Temple, led by Zerubbabel
- 536 – Temple work stopped
- 520 – Temple work resumed
- 515 – Temple finished
- 486 – Esther
- 458 – Ezra led more exiles back
- 444- Nehemiah rebuilt the walls
And then… nothing happened. The Jews were back in the Promised Land, but under the control of Persia. Years came and passed. There was little prophetic activity, and no Messiah. A sense of lethargy overtook the people. They grew tired of waiting for anything to happen. They started going through the motions. They didn’t realize it, but they still had four more centuries before the Messiah. The people became stuck in monotony. They became disillusioned. They were no longer moved by God’s love. And Malachi showed up to try to nudge them out of their lethargy and disillusionment. That’s the background for the book of Malachi. When this final Old Testament prophet showed up, he addressed the issue of disillusionment in spiritual and emotional life. If you feel like your fire has died down and you are losing the fervor of faith, the book of Malachi is for you. Sometimes we do question God’s love. We say to ourselves, “If God really loved me would I be stuck in this place in life?” That was the condition of the people of Malachi’s day. Malachi addressed those questions a unique form. It’s as close as anything we see in the Bible to a counseling session. This book was given to us in the form of a conversation between God and His indifferent people. Malachi used questions and answers as a literary device to make his points. It is unique in Scripture. There are six sections—six questions and answers. The first is found in Malachi 1:1-5.
Verse 1: The name Malachi means, “My Messenger.” Some scholars don’t think the prophet’s actual name was Malachi, that the verse should read – “The word of the Lord to Israel through My messenger.” But others believe that his actual name was Malachi, and that was appropriate because of its meaning. Now, let me show you something interesting. Malachi 3 begins with these words: “I will send my messenger (in the Hebrew, Malachi), who will prepare the way before Me. Then suddenly the Lord you are seeking will come to His temple.” This is a prophecy about the coming of John the Baptist preceding Christ. John the Baptist is called “My messenger,” and this verse is quoted about him in the New Testament. So we can say that the Old Testament ends with someone named “My Messenger” and the New Testament begins with someone called “My Messenger.” The Old Testament ended and the New Testament began with a Malachi—My Messenger. This is what I was talking about this morning—the symmetry of the Bible. The Bible is like a gigantic interlocking puzzle with some many little fascinating points of connection.
Verse 2:“I have loved you,” says the Lord. The Lord said, in effect, “Why are you so lethargic? Why are you so disillusioned? Why are you so weary? I have loved you and I love you now.” Sometimes I think it’s good just to let the words float off the page into our imagination and let them take audible form. Think of the Lord Jesus saying to you aloud and personally and quietly, “I have loved you. I love you; I always have and I always will.” That’s a very tender personal message. But it’s a driving theme in the Bible.
- Deuteronomy 7:7-9
- Jeremiah 31:3
- John 3:16
- Romans 5:8
- Romans 8:37-39
- Ephesians 2:2-4
- Ephesians 3:14-19
- 1 John 3:1
But the Israelites in Malachi’s day were so dull and deadened and weary that they weren’t moved by the love of God. Look at the next phrase in Malachi 1:2: But you ask, “How have you loved us?”
Here is the Lord’s answer: “Was not Esau Jacob’s brother?” declares the Lord. “Yet I have loved Jacob, but Esau I have hated, and I have turned his hill country into a wasteland and left his inheritance to the desert jackals.”
When the Bible talks about God hating someone, it’s not talking in soap opera language. It’s talking about a judicial response to evil. In this particular case, let me paraphrase what Malachi is saying: “If you don’t believe that I love you, just look across the Jordan River. Just look at the territory that used to be inhabited by the descendants of Esau. The Babylonians came and the Persians came and their land was devastated like yours; their people were exported and exiled like yours. But they haven’t had a remnant to return. They haven’t had a temple to rebuild. They haven’t had a land to repopulate. They haven’t had a Messiah to anticipate. It may seem like things have been hard; but God loves you and make a set of promises to you. And while all the nations around you have been swept away and even the descendants of Esau have been lost to history. But you are, still surviving, still living in your land, still worshipping in your temple, still awaiting your Messiah, and still with Me in your midst. How can you question My love?”
Verses 4-5: Edom (the descendants of Esau) 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. You will see it with your own eyes and say, “Great is the Lord—even beyond the borders of Israel!”
The idea is that things may not be going well right now, there may be a lot of disappointments, we may be tempted to become disillusioned, but we are indestructible and the future is inevitable – and that is true for no one else. It isn’t true for Edom or Esau; it’s not true for your favorite movie star or for the most powerful and privileged politicians or people in the world. God loves His children whom He has redeemed with an everlasting love, and we are the most privileged people on earth.
Conclusion: After Malachi finished his six little sermons found in this book, the Old Testament closed. Times rose and fell; generations were born and died; Alexander the Great swept over the world, and then, eventually, the Romans. And four hundred years later, in the fullness of time God sent His Son.
The love of God is greater far
Thank tongue or pen can ever tell;
It goes beyond the highest star,
And reaches to the lowest hell….
Could we with ink the ocean fill,
And were the skies of parchment made,
Were every stalk on earth a quail,
And every man a scribe by trade,
To write the love of God above,
Would drain the ocean dry.
Nor could the scroll contain the whole,
Though stretched fro sky to sky.