God Loves You
by Travis Bookout
It might sound relatively simple. You might (hopefully) hear it often in churches. It might (hopefully not) even begin to sound cliché. But when you sit down and reflect upon it, it is life changing. God loves you. The God. The majestic God, creator and sustainer of all, looks down and actually cares about us. Weak, fragile, sinful, us.
This thought needs to be at the forefront of our minds. Daily, we need to reflect upon it and glory in it. It is a dangerous thing to forget. The book of Malachi is about people who forgot this divine truth.
These people had experienced a rather turbulent recent history. Their fathers had been in exile, their city and temple destroyed, and God allowed it all to happen. In fact, God takes full responsibility for it happening (Jeremiah 25:11). As punishment, God destroyed their land and homes through Nebuchadnezzar, and they were captives in Babylon for 70 years.
But when Malachi writes, captivity has ended and they are home again. Their temple has been rebuilt and sacrifice has been reinstituted; however, things are not all well. God is not pleased with them. Again.
Malachi sounds a lot like a QnA session. God makes an accusation against the people, they challenge the accusation with a question, and God answers their question by spelling out all their sins. For example, God says, “O priests who despise My name. But you say, ‘How have we despised You name?’” (Malachi 1:6), and, “You are presenting defiled food upon my altar. But you say, ‘How have we defiled You?’” (Malachi 1:7), and, “You have wearied the Lord with your words. Yet you say, ‘How have we wearied Him?’” (Malachi 2:17), and again, “You are robbing Me! But you say, ‘How have we robbed You?” (Malachi 3:8). This cycle is repeated throughout the book.
Reading this it becomes painfully clear that their hearts aren’t in it. Like a bad case of senioritis, they are just turning it in hoping for a passing grade. They sacrifice to Him, perhaps to avoid another punishment, but they’re not about to give the best they can. They give sick, blind, dying, stolen sacrifices (Malachi 1:7-14). The priests corrupted the covenant and lead people astray (Malachi 2:8). They abused their fellow people; even their own wives whom they should love and honor and cherish, trading them for foreign women (Malachi 2:10-16). They love their money more than God, robbing Him by withholding tithes (Malachi 3:8-12).
They don’t trust God. They don’t even consider Him good anymore. They say things like, “‘Everyone who does evil is good in the sight of the Lord, and He delights in them,’ or ‘Where is the God of justice?’” (Malachi 2:17). They obviously aren’t going to give God their all, because they see no point in serving Him. They say, “It is vain to serve God.” (Malachi 3:14-15).
Obviously this is a problem. They don’t serve God fully because they don’t trust that God is good. They don’t trust that He is good, because they forgot that God loved them. In fact, the very first cycle in the book of Malachi, where the people challenge God with a question, isn’t in response to an accusation. It’s actually in response to God’s love. “‘I have loved you,’ says the Lord. But you say, ‘How have you loved us?’” (Malachi 1:2). In the same way that they repeatedly deny their sin, they also deny God’s love for them.
This is the real problem. Their pitiful sacrifices, unloving marriages, stingy giving, and lack of trust are merely symptoms. The major crisis is that they forgot that God loves them.
It’s hard to trust and serve God when you forget He loves you. It is hard to rejoice in the goodness of God when you forget He loves you. If you view God as a righteous guillotine, our necks protected from His wrathful blade only by the rope of our good deeds, then obedience becomes self preservation rather than a response of love.
But when we remember that God is a personal, loving Father, who truly cares and longs for us, then we can respond in sincerity. When we remember the love demonstrated on the cross (Romans 5:8) then we can serve with thanksgiving. When we remember that “God is love” (1 John 4:8), then we can love, “because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19).
Rejoice and serve faithfully, because God loves you.