2 ”I have loved you deeply,” says the LORD. But you retort, “Really? How have you loved us? “And the LORD replies, “I showed my love for you by loving your ancestor Jacob. Yet Esau was Jacob’s brother, 3 and I hated Esau and devastated his hill country. I turned Esau’s inheritance into a desert for jackals.” 4 And Esau’s descendants in Edom may say, “We have been shattered, but we will rebuild the ruins. “But this is what the LORD Almighty says: “They may try to rebuild, but I will demolish them again! Their country will be known as ‘The Land of Wickedness,’ and their people will be called ‘The People with Whom the LORD Is Forever Angry.’ 5 When you see the destruction for yourselves, you will say, ‘Truly, the LORD’s great power reaches far beyond our borders!’”
How many times have you heard a child say to a parent, “If you really love me, you’ll buy me this”? It might not actually be spoken but the message comes through loud and clear in actions. The Israelites were questioning God’s love for them because things weren’t going as they had hoped. The people of Malachi’s day were doing better than they had in a few generations but they still had their questions about God’s love.
In 586 BC Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonians carried the Israelites away from the land and completely destroyed Jerusalem. In 539 BC the people were allowed to return to the city under Zerubbabel. With encouragement from the prophets Haggai and Zechariah they rebuild the temple. However, the rebuilt temple is nothing like the splendor of the old one. Those who were old enough to remember the original temple weep at the sight of the rebuilt one.
Another generation goes by until Nehemiah is heartbroken for the fate of his people in Jerusalem who are living without a wall surrounding their city. With the power of God behind him, Nehemiah and the people rebuild the city wall in 52 days.
This is the stage of Malachi’s prophecies. Things are better than they had been in almost two centuries but it is still far from the glory days of Israel. It was beginning to look like God had failed to fulfill His promises.
The Israelites were in a bad position because they were surrounded by enemies. Their prayers for the Messiah to come seemed to go unanswered. And they questioned God’s love for them. They paid no attention to scripture that told them they were being punished for their sins. Moses told the people exactly what would happen if they disobeyed God but the people didn’t realize that part of their own misery was punishment.
God tells the Israelites about His love for Jacob (whose name was then changed to Israel) and how he hated Esau. This is held as a contrast. We may be uncomfortable with the concept of God hating anyone in today’s politically correct world. However, this is the wording. God’s hatred of Esau is not the same as how we often think of hatred but it is one that will hold sin accountable to judgment as Esau undoubtedly will be held accountable for his sins.
This is an illustration of how God chose to bless the line of Jacob and yet Esau’s line saw disaster. Israel could look at their history and see how many times God had proven his love and blessed them. They could also look at the disaster that fell on the Edomites, the atheistic descendants of Esau.
When we begin to question God’s love for us we need to look at our history and remember all of the things that God has done for us. Like the Israelites, we all have numerous instances in which we can recall that God was specifically at work in our lives.