"The Greatness of God’s Love"
Has life ever caused you to question if God loves you? The message we hear from God is, "I have loved you." But the question people ask is, "How have you loved us?"
The Greatness of God’s Love
A. Some people say that it is more difficult for us today than it was in “Bible” days when God did great miracles. But the challenge to that thought is there were periods of time when God did no miracle.
B. As we come to the book of Malachi we find that God has been unseen even though we have heard from Him through prophets. Think about what it was like for people in days of Malachi. Babylon had come in and about 586 destroyed the Temple of Solomon. Even with the first return and then Ezra coming to rebuild the temple, the temple was nothing like Solomon’s and there is no indication of the “glory of the Lord” filling it. It was like God was no longer overtly active, but used prophets to guide the people and not even very many prophets.
C. There were many spiritual ups and down of the Jews in this post-exilic age. For short periods they were motivated, but nothing seemed to last more than a few years or at best a decade.
D. So I come to this study, to some degree sympathetic to the Jews. Yet, the more I read it, the more I also see how Christians have fallen into the same traps, asked the same questions, and have been guilty of the same sins.
I. The Love of God
A. So our message from Malachi opens with God speaking, “I have loved you, says the Lord.” The force of the Hebrew language has God saying, “I have loved you and I still love you.” It is a love that doesn’t end.
B. John says, “We love BECAUSE He first loved us.” Paul would state, “While we were still in our sin, Christ died for us.” Jesus told his disciples, “Greater love has no one than this, to lay down his life for his friends.” And he old Nicodemus, “God so loved the world, that He gave his only son.” Yes, God says, “I have loved you and I still love you.”
C. Sometimes those are the exact words we need to hear. You are loved. When a person sees their own sin or is faced with the consequences and it drives him to accept that his actions hurt himself and others, that person often feels despair. Which is both normal and to some degree good. They are, like that prodigal son in the pig pen of life, “coming to their senses.” What I take from that story is that the boy never doubted the love of the father. He doubted himself and his own worthiness – but he didn’t doubt the father. (Lk 15)
D. Paul would write to the church in Corinth about a brother who has faced church punishment because of his sin and now says to the church, “for and comfort him, or he may be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow.” (2 Cor. 2:7)
E. My point is God loves you, has loved you and still loves you and will always love you. Faith and hope may end, but love never ends. The trouble is not with God. The trouble is with us.
II. Feeling Loved
A. When we feel the pain of our sin, we think God stops loving us and we get angry. Angry at the wrong person. Some people get angry with God because they think they deserve more or better, that their repentance should give them something better in life than what they have and when they don’t get it, they say to God, “but how have you loved us?” That is exactly what happened in days of Malachi.
B. How many parents have hurt when their child lashes out at them in anger and says, “You don’t love me!” Parents hurt deeply because they know the truth. They know they love that child, but maybe due to some wrong they have done, the child doesn’t feel love, but instead only sees the pain of the discipline.
C. Feeling loved is not the same as being loved. That was the response from Israel, “How have you loved us?” I understand not feeling loved, but that can be a very self-centered viewpoint. It is a type of love about “what do I get from you” not a type of love based upon mutual respect and devotion. But it begs the question, how does God love us?
III. God’s Love Expressed
A. Look at how God answers the question. (vs 2b-5). Words like “loved and hated” cause us difficulties, but what we miss is that God said nothing about their eternal spiritual destination, he did speak about His plan to bless the whole world and in doing so God chose one over the other. But here what I want us to take from this opening.
B. God’s love is “sovereign.” God is not required to love me. It is His sovereign choice based upon his very character. God is love and God chooses to love me. That is part of what He is saying to Israel. It is a love of choice and God chose to love us when he could have allowed us to die in our sin.
C. God’s love is “unconditional.” And along with this thought of sovereign love is that makes it unconditional love. Philip Yancey’s perspective in his book, “What’s So Amazing About Grace,” when he argues that, “There is nothing we can do to make God love us more and there is nothing we can do to make Him love us less.” You see, God’s love is not based upon you, but upon Him. He loves you. You can grieve God and you can run from God, but God loves you unconditionally.
D. And God loves you “personally.” Max Lucado said, “If God had a refrigerator, you picture would be on it.” God chose Jacob over Esau and the result was that God chose Israel over Edom. God’s love is sovereign, unconditional and personal. As a matter of historical fact, the Edomites never did return to their old land. They remained in what had earlier been the southern part of Judah, and which became known as Idumaea. In the second century B.C., they were conquered by the Jewish leader John Hyrcanus and forcibly incorporated into the Jewish nation.
A. The first response by God ends with the words, “Great is the Lord beyond the boarders of Israel.” They saw God’s greatness and so have it – it was the cross of Christ.