Jacob I Loved, Esau I Hated
Passage: Malachi 1:1–1:6
Below are some thoughts and questions for personal reflection or group discussion. (NOTE: This recap is much longer than usual because of the difficult nature of the content in the message.)
- Receive His love humbly
Read Malachi 1:1-5. As God sought to convince Judah of His love for them, He did not identify His love for them in reasons within them, but within Himself – in His choice to love them freely.
When God said, “Jacob I loved and Esau I hated,” He affirmed that the nation that descended from Jacob’s twin brother Esau, the Edomites, was judged and rejected by God for their sin – just as Judah might have been – yet Judah was shown mercy and was preserved.
In other words, God loved Judah because He loved Judah, according to His decision to be merciful and loving, even though He could have been just in treating Judah as He treated Edom.
This is an uncomfortable yet crucially vital truth of God’s love: God is eternally loving toward us, not because we deserve it, but in spite of the fact that we do not deserve it. He loves us and has mercy on us because He chooses to, not because He has to (e.g., see Ephesians 2:1-10; Romans 3:9-12).
We are deeply meaningful creations. We have tremendous value as those created in the very image of God who are “fearfully and wonderfully made.” But because of our sins against God, we do not deserve His love, we deserve His just judgment and anger.
Yet God chose to pour the anger and judgment that we deserve on His Son. And instead of His judgment, all of us who have come to Christ for God’s mercy receive His eternal love.
- In light of all of this, can you explain why we should be humbled by God’s love?
- How should God’s freedom to love and be merciful to whomever He chooses encourage our prayer and care for the lost?
- Receive His love confidently
Read Titus 3:3-5 and Romans 8:29-34. The fact that God choses to love you freely, despite your sin, should also give you great confidence in His love for you.
Here is why: if your character and performance were not the reason for His loving you in the first place, then they do not become the reason for His loving you going forward. While there is all the reason in the universe to love God and to serve Him out of love, there is never a need for you to “perform” for God to earn His love.
Yes, you are a new creation in Christ and one day will be perfect in love and beauty and truth - as you are conformed perfectly to the image of His Son Jesus. But make no mistake: God loves you because He loves you. And once more, His Son has taken away every reason why He should ever stop loving you through His shed blood on the Cross, which has paid for all of your sins.
- Do you struggle to believe that God loves you? How might this reveal a misunderstanding of God’s reasons for loving you?
- If you have trusted Christ for His mercy for your sins, why should His shed blood give you the greatest confidence that God’s love will never be taken from you?
- Receive His love freely
Many people struggle with the idea that God would choose to not have eternal mercy on anyone – and yet the Bible does teach that God will not save all people, although He is free to have eternal mercy on anyone He chooses.
This is a great mystery, but also presents us with a danger: our sin mixed with our limited understanding, may cause us to decide that this difficult truth means that God is not just or loving, or that He does not want all people to be saved.
And yet - this is exactly what the Bible teaches: though God does not save all, He wants all! (E.g., 1 Timothy 2:3-6; Ezekiel 18:23, 33:11; 2 Peter 3:9.)
Though we cannot explain this tension, we must affirm both God’s sovereign choice in who He saves and God’s good heart toward all.
Whatever Malachi 1:1-5 tells us, it does not cancel Psalm 145:8-9:
“The Lord is gracious and compassionate,
slow to anger and rich in love.
The Lord is good to all;
he has compassion on all he has made.”
God wants all people to receive His salvation. No one will not be saved because Jesus did not want them. And if anyone wonders whether Jesus wants them to come to Him, they must trust His heart and His invitation when He said in John 3:7, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’”
- Pray for the grace to receive God’s love humbly, to trust His love confidently, and to affirm that though there is a great mystery here, God’s heart is truly good.