A few crumbs …“In what way have you loved us?” (Malachi 1:2) Malachi, the final book in the Old Testament, is the Lord’s last prophetic message to Israel for nearly 400 years. The silence of those many years was finally broken by a baby’s cry in a cow shed in Bethlehem. Malachi addresses Israel’s forgotten love for God. He is sent as a prophet to address their spiritual stupor and to exhort them to renew their hope and faith in God. Malachi does this through responding powerfully to five questions they ask about God. These questions are laden with disbelief, disrespect and lack of gratitude. The questions have an eternal ring to them; people of every tribe and tongue and tradition continue to ask them. The first question is “In what way have you loved us?” Those whose encounter with God has drifted from intimacy to indifference typically ask this question. When life is difficult, the question is raised: how can a loving God allow so much pain and hardship? If God so loves me why does He allow me to suffer like this? And so the river of doubt and despair carries its self-concerned questioner further and further away from the source of life. Ultimately this question, ‘How do you love me?’ reveals an immaturity of understanding about love, since it is looking at relationships to satisfy one’s own needs, rather than being committed to another. One of true love’s characteristics is that it does its acts of kindness and goodness without fanfare or seeking recognition. Loving parents make sacrifices, and embrace inconveniences and difficulties on behalf of children. Young children especially are immature and insensitive to what is being done on their behalf. Since “love does not parade itself, is not puffed up” (1 Corinth 13: 4) we frequently miss the tender moments of care and affection as just things friends and family do. We are ignorant or indifferent to the grace and affection that motivates the care. Likewise our Lord demonstrates His great love and kindness in ways that we do not even notice. Worse still, we frequently take the kindnesses of God as just the ordinary events of life. Because we cannot see or audibly hear Him, we frequently attribute to ‘circumstance’ and ‘coincidence’ the divine orchestration of events the Lord executes on behalf of those who follow Him. The question “In what way have you loved us?” is far more an exposure of the questioner’s heart than it is of the one being questioned. The words are full of self-centeredness and self-indulgence. In what way have you loved us? As though we qualified and deserved to be loved in the first place! We who have violated everything for which we were created (Romans 6:23), who resemble the base things of the earth rather than the exalted beauty of heaven, demonstrate a presumption towards the Mighty God, which we would never ever make of a state official or leading citizen. Who of us would presume to approach Mr. Warren Buffet or Mr. George Soros and presumptuously argue that because of their great wealth they owed us a debt of generosity and kindness? We would scoff at such a suggestion. However the mistake is frequently and recklessly made of the Lord who is Righteous. Even Calvary was so humbly endured that the whole of Jerusalem mistook the death of Christ for simply that of another common criminal like those who flanked Him. It is amazing how a resurrection can change things! If ever you are tempted to ask, “In what way have You loved us?” perhaps pause and list all those you know who would do for you what Jesus has done. That should answer your question clearly. Steve
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