Malachi, apocalyptic series, Disputation #1
The book of Malachi, “The oracle of the word of the LORD to Israel by Malachi” (Malachi 1:1), begins as a tale of two brothers. Jacob I have loved, but Esau I have hated is the undergirding reality of much of the Old Testament after Abraham and Sarah’s family is birthed.
What in the world is that all about?
Abraham had one son, Isaac. When Isaac’s sons, Esau and Jacob, were in Rebekah’s womb, God had already determined that Esau would be “hated” and Jacob would be “loved.” That sounds harsh to our ears. However, “in this context, loved refers to choice rather than affection, and hated refers to rejection rather than animosity” (which was explicitly prohibited against Edomites, Esau’s descendants, in Deuteronomy 23:7 (“You shall not abhor an Edomite, for he is your brother…”).1. After all, both were sons of Isaac, son of Abraham.
God chose one lineage for Messiah Jesus. Abraham. Isaac. Jacob. To produce His people Israel, God chose the man who, as a young man, had spent his days in the tent helping his mother. This progenitor, Jacob, married two sisters, had several concubines, and fathered twelve sons and one daughter. These were his tribe.
Abraham’s lineage: Jacob’s lineage.
“Jacob in Hebrew Yaʿaqov, and in Arabic Yaʿqūb, was also called Israel in Hebrew Yisraʾel, and in Arabic Isrāʾīl, Hebrew patriarch, the traditional ancestor of the people of Israel.”2.
As the one chosen, Jacob “experienced God’s sovereign favor by which he was granted a privileged role in redemptive history as a bearer of the messianic promise . . . Meanwhile, ‘Esau experienced God’s rejection in terms of this same role. Malachi is concerned primarily with the nations of Israel and Edom, of which Jacob and Esau were representatives and progenitors.'”3.
“In this letter, Malachi defends the reality of God’s elective love for Israel, a love which calls for robust covenant obedience and sincere worship as its response. Instead, the people were dishonoring God by their worthless offerings and the hypocritical formalism of their worship.”4.
Meanwhile, the LORD says regarding Esau, “I have laid waste his hill country and left his heritage to jackals of the desert.” If Edom says, “We are shattered but we will rebuild the ruins,” the LORD of hosts says, “They may build, but I will tear down, and they will be called ‘the wicked country,’ and ‘the people with whom the LORD is angry forever.'” (Malachi 1:3b-4 ESV).
In other words, God says He will not ever allow Esau’s tribe Edom to be strong enough and equipped enough to at any time harm or destroy Jacob’s tribe, Israel.
The LORD says to Israel: “Your own eyes shall see this, and you shall say, ‘Great is the LORD beyond the border of Israel!” (Malachi 1:5 ESV). And so, here, yet again, the LORD affirms His choice of Jacob and His rejection of Esau. “A chastened Israel will acknowledge the Lord’s universal sovereignty.”5.
To elevate the one, the Lord had to put down the other, lest Esau thrive. If Esau and his tribe Edom did thrive, he would wipe out Messiah’s lineage, for he was a fighter.
These two brothers were never close. Their arguments have impacted millions throughout the history of this region and still do impact their descendants on both sides today.
“Malachi presents the sovereign Lord as the God of Israel and the God of the whole world.”6.
This book opens like a love letter to Israel, the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. We who have accepted Jesus Messiah as Savior, are now considered to be Abraham’s offspring, a part of this promise.The book of Malachi opens like a love letter to Israel, the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. "I have loved you," says the LORD. But you say, "How have you loved us?" (Malachi 1:2) #Bible Click To Tweet
“I have loved you,“ says the LORD. But you say, “How have you loved us?” (Malachi 1:2a ESV).
The LORD declares: “Is not Esau Jacob’s brother?” (Malachi 1:2b).
To clear a path for Jacob to thrive, the LORD had to bring hardship on Esau.
However, for Jacob and his descendants this was a blessing. Jacob’s family, whom the LORD held tightly together, suffered together, reinforcing their tribalism. We may have little knowledge of the span of time covered by the Old Testament addressing all the feuds between Esau and Jacob’s offspring.
When Israel was marched naked and bound as slaves, trudging through the desert toward Nebuchadnezzar’s homeland, taken into captivity in Babylon, the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple occurred as a result.
“That the Edomites did participate, and with a fury and a vindictive spirit, in the 587 B.C. destruction of Jerusalem is clearly evident from the biblical references…. Historical evidence makes it difficult to explain the intense hatred of the Jews for Edom unless the Edomites did actively participate in the destruction of the Temple in 587 B.C.‘ . . .Not enough attention has been given either to the nature and precise contents of the biblical texts, or to the general historical background.”7.
“Two centuries earlier Jeremiah had announced the Lord’s impending judgment against Judah: ‘I will make Jerusalem a heap of ruins, a lair of jackals, and I will make the cities of Judah a desolation, without inhabitant.‘ By applying this same threat to Edom, Malachi makes clear that like Judah, Edom will not escape God’s judgment.‘”8.
With this in mind, Jacob’s offspring scream, “How have you loved us?”
“In painful contrast to the tearful tenderness of God’s love stands their insolent challenge. The root of their sin was insensibility to God’s love, and to their own wickedness. Having had prosperity taken from them, they imply they have no tokens of God’s love; they look at what God had taken, not at what God had left. God’s love is often least acknowledged where it is most manifested.“9.
How are we just like them? What if we lost everything and everyone?
Would we see the Lord’s love in what He had left us?
How often do we grow blind to all the kindnesses of the Lord and the mercy He has shown? How often do we whine about our latest losses, all while ignoring the many blessings and tender words poured out upon us as we hear the Lord’s assurance, read God’s Word, or hear it preached?
When we accept Christ, we are the beloved, part of Jacob’s tribe. What is our take-away from the beginning of this letter written sometime after 516 B.C.?
Though millennium have flown by, do we see ourselves in these words?
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