The Jews had returned to Jerusalem from Babylon. They had listened to God’s prophets, Haggai and Zechariah. They rebuilt God’s temple. And then nothing happened. No Messiah. No great divine war against Israel’s enemies. No worldwide kingdom of God. None of the good things Haggai and Zechariah said would happen, happened.
So people, as people do, grew indifferent. They stopped listening to God’s prophets. They stopped caring about what happened in the temple. They offered faithless sacrifices. They married women from different religions who didn’t worship the true God. They were unfaithful to their wives. They withheld their tithes and offerings. Worse yet, God’s priests misled the people. They ignored that it was God who had called them to ministry. They served and worshiped themselves in the name of God.
But God had made promises to his people. He had promised to be their Father and Lord. He had promised always to be the one who loved and disciplined them. So this sort of behavior just wouldn’t do. That’s why he sent them a prophet named Malachi (which means “my messenger”) to point out the great disconnect between the people and their God. God cared for them, but they didn’t care about him.
Malachi came to teach them the way in which God sees things. But God also assured Malachi that the people would not understand. Malachi often said something to the effect of, “This is what you’ve done, yet you say, ‘How have we done this?’”
How? How have we done this? First, you doubt his love for you. Second, you don’t understand how God views your offerings. Third, you forget the way God values justice. Fourth, you neglect your tithes and offerings, neglecting God’s house and those who minister to you. Finally, you behave as if serving God is useless.
Fortunately, though, God did allow some people to hear and comprehend Malachi’s message. The Jews who still honored and respected God wrote their names in a book, and God promised to purify Israel for his “jewels,” as he called them. He promised to punish the wicked and spare the righteous. But before he would come to purify them, God would send another messenger to clear the way.
Out of love, God sent John the Baptizer to preach repentance. He also gave a deadly serious warning to his people about the consequences of their unrepentance. Repent so that you will be “worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man” (Luke 21:36).
Unless God sends preachers to intervene in our lives and affairs, we would end up, as Malachi said, cursed and facing utter destruction. We would grow indifferent to God and eventually be thrown into the lake of fire. And it all begins with us not embracing the love of God.
Do we believe that Christ is our Savior? Then we are counted amongst the elect.
Malachi’s message, and that of all God’s preachers, is clear. God pleads with his people to consider their ways, embrace his love, and receive his offer of everlasting life. He desires that we all come to repentance to be saved.
But how many of us, at one time or another, become indifferent about God’s love because our expectations remain unmet? How often have we become disappointed and, in our disappointment, broken away from God’s love for us? But don’t we do this whenever God doesn’t meet our expectations? Isn’t this our response when God doesn’t give us the answer we want when we want it? Don’t we stop caring about God’s love for us – demonstrated in Christ Jesus – because we do not see the good things he promises?
That’s why we so often live by fear instead of faith. We doubt God’s love and so reject the preacher he sends to us. Yet, we are gathered together in God’s house week after week because God cares for us.
The lesson of Malachi reveals God’s love for his people. When the people ask for proof of God’s love, he reminds them of their election.
In Romans 9, for example, the apostle Paul applies the election of the people of Israel to us too. He writes that we who are saved from the curse, destruction, and hellfire have been chosen from the foundation of the world. God chose us in Christ. That’s why we are gathered into his house week after week. That’s our assurance of God’s love for us. It’s the sure, certain sign that we belong to him now and always.
Do we believe that Christ is our Savior? Then we are counted amongst the elect. Whenever God sends us a preacher, like Malachi, we receive God’s promise that we are counted amongst his chosen people. We are loved by God in Christ from all eternity. What could be more secure than that? Nothing. Nothing could be more sure for us than the fact that God chose us in Christ as his own today and always.