MSG: Questioning God’s Love

This message was presented on May 26, 2013 as a part of the series teaching through Malachi.

Questioning God’s Love
Malachi 1:1-5 

On the lighter side of the military, I remember some road marches as a private and the misery of each step after the twenty mile marker.  Many years ago, before the draft was over, the third Brigade, 11th Division was doing a two day road march in Germany.  The weather was cold and rainy.  The roads had become muddy. The privates in the Brigade were obeying orders. 

The Brigade Commander, who was a 25 year veteran, a colonel, ordered his unit on this training mission, hoping for good weather, but facing what came.  The Colonel marched with his battalions over that two day march. 

On a moonless night, Private Snuffy Smith was miserable.  Not knowing the person who was walking next to him was the Brigade commander with rain gear that covered his identity and his insignia, Private Snuffy leaned over to the 25 year veteran colonel, and said, “Can you believe some idiots make a career out of this?”

Have you ever been miserable, in the pit, and said, “Why God?  Why does this have to happen right now?  Tomorrow would be better.”  OR, “Lord, if you love me, you’ll get me out of this jam.  I’m going to church.  I read my Bible.  I pray to You. Why am I not being blessed?  Lord, don’t you love me?”   

Hezekiah was miserable.  He was a king in Israel around B.C. 701.  Isaiah records,
  • In those days Hezekiah was sick and near death. And Isaiah the prophet, the son of Amoz, went to him and said to him, “Thus says the LORD:`Set your house in order, for you shall die and not live.'”
  •  2Then Hezekiah turned his face toward the wall, and prayed to the LORD,
  •  3 and said, “Remember now, O LORD, I pray, how I have walked before You in truth and with a loyal heart, and have done what is good in Your sight.” And Hezekiah wept bitterly. (Is. 38:1-3)

 Job was miserable.  He lost his business, his ten children and his health when his body was covered with boils.  Then his friends discouraged him implying Job was suffering because of his sins. 

Joseph was sold into slavery by his brothers, cast into prison, forgotten by the cupbearer and left in prison. Do you think over the thirteen years he was separated from his family that he would have wondered, “God did you forget me?”  Did God love Hezekiah? Did God love Job?  Did God love Joseph?  Does God love You? 

In Malachi’s time, B.C. 425, Israel was more focused on their circumstances and concerned about the world, than pursuing God with their whole heart. Israel lacked trust in God. They grew independent from God. They were not satisfied with their condition. They did not honor God, nor were they thankful for all of His provisions.  Israel forgot about God’s blessing and love for them. They became indifferent to God’s love, His law, His message and the coming Day of the Lord. What happens when we question God’s love?  
 

1)      God declares His burden of love 1:1-2a

Malachi is a series of declarations from the Lord. Israel had fallen away from God, but they did not realize they had fallen.  God called Israel back in his mercy.  Malachi records for us, “The burden of the word of the LORD to Israel by Malachi.” (Mal 1:1)  The word for burden is masaa which means a load or weight.  God’s love is weighed down as a heavy burden, because God’s people are living like they didin’t know His love.  It’s very similar to what Isaiah prophesied,
  • 2 Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth! For the LORD has spoken: “I have nourished and brought up children, and they have rebelled against Me;
  •  3 The ox knows its owner and the donkey its master’s crib; But Israel does not know, My people do not consider.” (Is. 1:2-3)

It’s interesting that Isaiah prophesied 300 years before Malachi around B.C. 725.  Malachi prophesied around B.C. 425. Both prophesies are very similar. 

            Then God makes His first declaration.  He said, “I have loved you.” (Mal. 1:2a)  How had God loved Israel?  God gave the Abrahamic Covenant and every Israelite was the recipient of that unconditional covenant.  God promised Israel, through Abraham, a land, a seed and a blessing. (Gen. 12:1-3)  That promise was a wall of Protection and Blessing.  God also delivered Israel from Egypt. (Ex. 14:30-31) God could have left them in Egypt in slavery. God provided for them in the wilderness from Egypt. (Deut. 8:4-20) Everything they needed to accomplish God’s work was available to them.  They did not lack anything.  God chose them (Deut. 10:15) from all the nations.  And, God promised blessing if they walked in His commands. (Deut. 28:1-8)  But, you say those were 1000 years before. And you are right.  It’s easy to forget what was said and not think someone is still loving in their actions.  Israel forgot what God said and grew indifferent to His love.
 

2)      We can grow indifferent to His love 1:2b

Israel had forgotten where she lived, God’s land.  They knew they were God’s people, but they forgot where they lived — in God’s perfect righteous plan.  To them living was just getting through each day.  Their sufferings and afflictions were assumed a part of the trials as they waited for the Messiah to come and rule. 

Why did Israel not remember how much the Lord loved them?  Israel had not regained their military strength as when David was king.  They had not regained economic strength as when Solomon was king. When you are less than you once were, you easily get discouraged. It’s the challenge of growing older. You lose strength and your ability to earn a decent wage, so you think about the good ol’ days and forget how fantastic God’s love has been through the years.

Sometimes, our senses draw us into the world.  John writes,

  • 15 Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.
  •  16For all that is in the world– the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life– is not of the Father but is of the world.
  •  17 And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever. (1 John 2:15-17)

We are often more keen about our senses and those senses become our reality.  We forget that God is more real than our senses and we must trust His Word all the more (2 Pet. 1:16-19).  Our senses draw us to enjoy the world, but also to depend on the world, because it is what we can see, touch, hear, taste and smell.  The more dependent we are on the world, the more we grow unattached to the Lord.  The more unattached to the Lord, the more we will tend to question His love.

            Now the question is, did they really say, “In what way have you loved us?”(Mal. 1:2b)   Did they say that? We have studied how we can communicate by nonverbal communication.  Our tone of voice and nonverbal expressions are actually more powerful than the content of our words.  John writes that love must be more than mere words, “My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth. (1 John 3:18)  Love is shown by actions, not just words.

            At this point, God does not need to explain Himself.  He declared His love.  That should be sufficient.  He should not have to explain Himself, but He does. 

3)      God doesn’t need to explain, but does 1:2c-5

Israel had returned to the land, the temple was rebuilt, worship restored and the wall reconstructed, but Israel did not think God loved them.  Who did they think was behind those actions?  Did they think it was coincidence that Cyrus the Persian let them return to Israel? Did they think that Israel knew what to do in order to rebuild the temple?  Did they think the reconstruction of the wall was based on their ability?

God described a major adversary had been removed. All through Israel’s history, Edom had been antagonistic. The Edomites were descendants of Esau. (Gen. 25:30; 36:8) Edom had kings long before Israel had a king, because they were far more worldly. (Gen. 36:3) The Edomites were amazed and dismayed at God’s deliverance of Israel at the Exodus.  They did not want Israel out of slavery. (Ex. 15:15)  When Israel desired to enter the Promised Land, Edom refused to let Israel pass through their land. The fighting continued as King Saul inflicted punishment on Edom. (1 Sam. 14:47) David put garrisons of soldiers in Edom to prevent an uprising, because they couldn’t be trusted.  When Joab, David’s Chief of Staff of the Army, slew all the males of Edom, Hadad, a prince in Edom, escaped to Egypt.  While there he grew in favor with the Pharaoh and married the Pharaoh’s sister-in-law.  And when David died, Hadad returned and became an adversary of Solomon all the days of his life. When there was no king in Edom, Israel enjoyed relative peace. (1 Kg. 22:47)  Ezra notes in 2 Chronicles 21:8, 10, “In Jehoram’s day Edom  revolted against the rule of Judah, and set up a king over themselves….So Edom  revolted against Judah to this day.”   

Ezekiel records God’s wrathful attitude toward Edom,
  • 12 `Thus says the Lord GOD: “Because of what Edom did against the house of Judah by taking vengeance, and has greatly offended by avenging itself on them,”
  •  13`therefore thus says the Lord GOD: “I will also stretch out My hand against Edom, cut off man and beast from it, and make it desolate from Teman; Dedan shall fall by the sword.
  • 14 “I will lay My vengeance on Edom by the hand of My people Israel, that they may do in Edom according to My anger and according to My fury; and they shall know My vengeance,” says the Lord GOD. (Ezek. 25:12-14)

God would make sure Edom was punished.  In fact, the prophecy of Obadiah is completely against Edom.

And when Edom threatened to rebuild, the Lord described Himself as “Lord of hosts,” which means Lord of the “armies.”  And Edom would not rise up, literally, “until forever,” or for eternity.  Malachi writes,
  • 4 Even though Edom has said, “We have been impoverished, But we will return and build the desolate places,” Thus says the LORD of hosts: “They may build, but I will throw down; They shall be called the Territory of Wickedness, And the people against whom the LORD will have indignation forever. (Mal. 1:4)
Finally, God calls attention to their sense of sight when He says, “Your eyes shall see, And you shall say, `The LORD is magnified beyond the border of Israel.’ (Mal. 1:5) Your eyes – the eyes of Israel – will see God’s continual promise fulfilled and you will say “The Lord is great,” beyond the border. 

Israel was acting like she had an uninvolved parent.  America is filled with parents who are not involved with their children.  What are characteristics of uninvolved parents and what are the effects of uninvolved parents?

Characteristics of the Uninvolved Parenting Style:

·         Are emotionally distant from their children
·         Offer little or no supervision
·         Show little warmth, love and affection towards their children
·         Have few or no expectations or demands for behavior
·         Don’t attend school events or parent-teacher conferences
·         May intentionally avoid their children
·         Are often too overwhelmed by their own problems to deal with their children

The Effects of Uninvolved Parenting:

·         Must learn to provide for themselves
·         Fear becoming dependent on other people
·         Are often emotionally withdrawn
·         Tend to exhibit more delinquency during adolescence
·         Feel fear, anxiety or stress due to the lack of family support
·         Have an increased risk of substance abuse

These descriptions seem to describe parenthood in America as a whole.  Today, children struggle to identify with something and make it on their own, because parents are too busy with their jobs or struggling with their lives.  Let’s take a few moments and seek a little better understanding.

Understanding Uninvolved Parenting:

Researchers associate parenting styles with a range of child outcomes in areas such as social skills and academic performance. The children of uninvolved parents generally perform poorly and tend to lack in thinking, attachment, but also emotional and social skills.

Due to the lack of emotional responsiveness and love from parents, children raised by uninvolved parents may have difficulty forming attachments later in life and is why children with uninvolved parents are more likely to misbehave.

Uninvolved parents were often themselves raised by uninvolved and dismissive parents. As adults, they may repeat the same patterns of their parents. Some may simply be so caught up in their busy lives that they find it easier to take a hands-off approach to dealing with their children.

In some cases, parents may be so wrapped up in their own problems (i.e., being overworked, coping with depression, struggling with substance abuse) that they fail to see how uninvolved they are or are simply unable to provide the emotional support their children need.1  Is God uninvolved in your life?

            Before we go any further, let’s look at that expression in verses two and three, “Yet Jacob I have loved; 3 But Esau I have hated, And laid waste his mountains and his heritage For the jackals of the wilderness.” (Mal. 1:2c-3a) People are often too simplistic in their interpretation and do not look at the context for meaning.  The word hate can certainly mean “wrathful hatred,” but it also denote a comparison as in the following passages:
  • 24 He who spares his rod hates his son, but he who loves him disciplines him promptly. (Pro. 13:24)
Most people think they are loving their son when they withhold the rod, but compared to true godly discipline, they are revealing hatred.
  • 24 “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon. (Matt. 6:24)
Most people trying to serve two masters would never say they hate one, but in a relative comparison, Jesus says you cannot love them equally.  Jesus also uses the word hate in a discipleship passage,
  • 26 “If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple. (Luke 14:26)
Jesus would not ask someone to “hate” his parents, because he also directs that we honor parents for all of our lives. (Eph. 6:2) Hence the word hate here also means that God chose Jacob and loved him in a far greater way than Esau.  God did not choose to bless Esau as He did Jacob.  Compared to Esau, Israel was greatly loved by God. 

In fact, God’s love is strongly stated in Scripture. 

·         God’s love for you is perfect and eternal For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16)

·         Nothing can frustrate God’s love or plan in your lifeNo temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.” (1 Cor. 10:13)

·         God will allow you to wander, become indifferent and forget  (1 John 2:15-17)  You will have tests (like Edom) to determine your response to the Lord.  Will you respond and focus on His love, or focus on the adversary, antagonism or problem? It may be a person, a job change, a personal handicap or disease.

·         You choose what you will pursue – God’s love or the world. For Your lovingkindness is before my eyes, And I have walked in Your truth.” (Ps. 26:3) David was facing the vindictiveness of his enemies, yet he chose to focus on God’s love. Let me illustrate.  A child who does not sense parental love will grow up, but will not develop physically, mentally, socially, or emotionally the way he should.  The child will often retreat into his own imaginary world of fantasy, just to create something he can control, until he grows up and moves out.  We have a country filled with people who were not loved as children. Often people will say about children:

o   Children are resilient through divorce
o   Children will overcome without mom and dad
o   Children need to face the world at a young age
o   Let the TV babysit the children

These are true on the surface, but the hindrance results from a lack of what they could achieve. But you take a child who is loved, nurtured, trained, and given godly discipline, that child will become an effective builder in God’s kingdom.  Israel was living in fear, and denied that God even loved them.  She looked to the world, rather than the Lord.

·         Your response determines your understanding of His love

  • 31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?
  •  32 He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?
  •  33 Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies.
  •  34 Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us.
  •  35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?
  •  36 As it is written: “For Your sake we are killed all day long; We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter1.”
  •  37 Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.
  •  38 For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come,
  •  39 nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Rom. 8:31-39)

No weakness, desire of the world, or influence of the angelic realm can hold back any believer who claims Christ’s victory for their own life. You are a new creature (2 Cor. 5:17), positionally dead to the flesh (Rom. 6:12-13), but the flesh fights on (Rom. 7:24).  The victory is Christ’s! Let us walk in it (1 Cor. 15:57)

Will you receive it and respond to it? 

There is nothing more clear than God’s love;
question God’s love and you’ll become miserable,
trust God and you’ll experience more love than you can imagine.

 

1Comments are based on the article found at: http://psychology.about.com/od/childcare/f/uninvolved-parenting.htm

 

 

Message Based Discussion Questions

1)      Have you ever seen a child grow indifferent to his parent’s love?  How would you describe it?

Digging Deeper

2)      What are passages of Scripture that describe God’s love?

3)      Why do people grow indifferent toward God’s love (cf. Rom. 1:21-32; Eph. 4:17-19)?

4)      What do you learn from the following passages about Edom (1 King 11:11-25; 2 King 14:7-10; 2 Chron. 25:19; Ps. 60:8-9; Ps. 108:9,10; 137:7; Is. 11:14; 34:5)?

5)      Why does God allow antagonism toward His people if He loves them?

Making application of the message to life:

6)      How would you disciple someone to understand the confidence he can have of God’s love?

7)      If God was willing to explain his love to Israel, what should our response be to others when they question us?  Is that response the same in every case?

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