“The oracle of the word of the LORD to Israel by Malachi. ‘I have loved you,’ says the LORD. But you say, ‘How have you loved us?’ ‘Is not Esau Jacob’s brother?’ declares the LORD. ‘Yet I have loved Jacob but Esau I have hated'” (vv. 1–3a).
By the time we finish the Old Testament, we find that all was not well for the people of God during the final period of history recorded in the Hebrew Scriptures. The exile of both Israel and Judah to foreign lands had come and gone, but the people who had returned to the Promised Land continued to suffer. The great restoration foreseen by Moses and the other prophets had not occurred (Deut. 30:1–10; Isa. 2:1–5; 65:17–25). Moreover, there was little indication, humanly speaking, that it would ever come to pass. Although the rebuilding of the temple had been completed in 518 BC (Ezra 6:13–18), the Jews were not in control of their own destiny but remained servants of the Persian Empire (Neh. 1). Those who were in their own homeland faced opposition from their neighbors who did not want the post-exilic community to be able to provide for its own protection through the reconstruction of Jerusalem’s wall (chap. 4). High Persian taxes sapped the economic productivity of the people, who worked hard and had little to show for it (9:32–37). In this environment, it is easy to see why the old covenant people could become discouraged and could come to believe that the Lord did not truly love them. It is easy to see why so many Jews doubted that God would fulfill His Word. The last prophetic book both chronologically and in canonical order reveals our Creator’s response to this situation. In the middle of the fifth century BC, God sent Malachi to remind His people of His love for them and His faithfulness to His covenant as well as to call them to repentance and faith, for it was their lack of repentance that was causing the conditions of exile to continue, as Daniel 9 teaches us. Malachi, whose name means “my [Yahweh’s] messenger,” is the author of the last prophetic book and the final book we are studying in our yearlong overview of the prophets. With Malachi we again have a man who appears nowhere else in the Old Testament. Most scholars believe he ministered sometime around 460 BC, at roughly the same point that Ezra and Nehemiah were attempting to re-implement the law of God as the covenant community’s standard for worship and behavior. Malachi came to reveal the Lord’s support for this effort, and to remind the people of Judah of God’s enduring love for them. Today’s passage reveals this love. When the people ask for proof of God’s love, He reminds them of their election. Out of all the nations of the world, the Lord chose the descendants of Jacob, not Esau, to be His covenant people and treasured possession (Mal. 1:1–5).
Coram DeoLiving before the face of God
In Romans 9, Paul applies the election of the people of Israel to individual believers, telling us that those who are saved have been chosen from the foundation of the world. Divine election assures us of God’s love and that we belong to Him now and always if we trust in Him alone. If you believe in Christ, you are elect. And if you are elect, you have been elected and loved by God in Christ from all eternity. Nothing could be more secure than that.