How does God respond to these denial-laden Israelites? First he sets the stage – “I have loved you.” (Malachi 1:2) This matters oh so very much.
My husband is not perfect and this bothers him quite a lot I suspect, because he’s the kind of guy who wants to do the next right thing. And if it’s perfect? Even better.
It turns out that he’s really quite good at lots of things, including sports. But he doesn’t want to just be good at sports, he wants to be perfect. This is a problem when we play tennis together. It’s really kind of insulting to me, who is neither very good nor prone to perfectionistic dreams on the tennis court. When he gets frustrated with himself for a serve that isn’t up to his standards but left me standing flat footed on the court AND losing the point too boot, I get fairly irritated at his self-directed grumpies. We’ve mostly worked through this issue. The resolution had very little to do with tennis and everything to do with love. He loves me; I love him. We may falter in our execution of said love, but we have a very firm foundation of mutual conviction that this is true. It is, I think, a strength we have in our marriage that helps mitigate a lot of our weaker marital skills. He loves me; I love him. We are doing the best we can. So God starts there with the Israelites: I have loved you. This foundation must be in place before the second part of God’s response to their demands for an accounting can proceed. After that, Malachi, one of God’s prophets, lays down the truth. And the truth is, the Israelites had really messed up big time. It was a difficult conversation, but a necessary one. When I explained to my husband how I felt when he got frustrated with himself while I struggled to win a game in any given set we played for the last 30 or more years….well, it helped him to hear the truth of that perspective. This is how hope works. Not with fantasy living and positive thoughts, but with difficult truths that, although messy, are still grounded in this one true thing. God loves us.
In Malachi 4:2 God offers a solution. “For you who fear my name, the sun of righteousness shall rise with healing in its wings. You shall go out leaping like calves from the stall.”
Sweet. Sometimes we get what we want, only to find out that it is not what we need. When that happens, we do well to remember that God is still at work and his plan is still being executed even on those days when we wandered a bit far afield. Once we remember this, there will be work to do on our part, but it will be done standing on this foundational truth: God loves us.