Sunday, December 25, 2011

For to us a child is born…

For to us a child is born…
December 25, 2011
Pastor Lee Hemen

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David's throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this. (Isaiah 9:6-7 NIV)

"But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times." (Micah 5:2 NIV)
In the sixth month, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin's name was Mary. The angel went to her and said, "Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you." Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end." "How will this be," Mary asked the angel, "since I am a virgin?" The angel answered, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. (Luke 1:26-35 NIV)

In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to his own town to register. So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. (Luke 2:1-5 NIV)
While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger." Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests." (Luke 2:6-14 NIV)
When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, "Let's go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about." So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told. (Luke 2:15-20 NIV)
After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, "Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him." When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. When he had called together all the people's chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Christ was to be born. "In Bethlehem in Judea," they replied, "for this is what the prophet has written: "'But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you will come a ruler who will be the shepherd of my people Israel.'" Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. He sent them to Bethlehem and said, "Go and make a careful search for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him." After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen in the east went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route. When they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. "Get up," he said, "take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him." So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt, where he stayed until the death of Herod. And so was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet: "Out of Egypt I called my son." When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi. Then what was said through the prophet Jeremiah was fulfilled: "A voice is heard in Ramah, weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more." (Matthew 2:1-18 NIV)
Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 Biblica. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.

Pastor Lee Hemen has been the outspoken pastor of the same church for 25 years in Vancouver, WA. He writes regularly on spirituality and conservative causes and maintains several web blogs. This article is copyrighted © 2011 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Luke 2:8-12; John 1:1-5 - The Word among us…

Luke 2:8-12; John 1:1-5 - The Word among us…
By Pastor Lee Hemen
December 18, 2011 AM

From small beginnings mighty things can happen especially when God is involved. Take for instance the man known as Francis of Assisi. When he committed his life to Christ, he gave away everything he had. He came from a very wealthy family. For clothing, he put on a brown robe discarded by a peasant. For a belt he found a piece of rope lying on the ground nearby. It was a shabby outfit at best but ten years later his makeshift costume was the uniform of 5,000 men. Consider also the petite young woman who became huge in stature.

The missionary Lottie Moon was in China even before the great missionary Hudson Taylor. This tiny woman had a large vision for reaching the world for Christ. Taylor himself would remark, “God does not do His great work by large committees. He trains somebody to be quiet enough and little enough and then he uses them.” That’s what occurred with the birth of Jesus Christ. From the humble beginnings of being born in an animal feeding trough, Jesus entered into human existence to become the salvation of the world. Whether it is with a small woman quiet enough and little enough for God’s use, a simple brown tunic, or in a meager manger, it is often from small humble beginnings that mighty things can occur when God is involved. Jesus’ humble birth was the beginning of God’s complete revelation of himself to the world.

READ: Luke 2:8-12; John 1:1-5

As we look at Jesus’ humble beginnings we can see anew the miracle of the Bethlehem event and deepen our devotion to the son of Mary, who is also the Son of God and the Savior of the world. John’s Gospel contains no detailed account of the birth of Jesus. It does supply a strong statement on the incarnation: “The Word became flesh and lived for a while among us.” (John 1:14) This statement is at the heart of our study this morning, as we link Luke’s nativity story with John’s profound comments on the sublime mystery of Christ’s birth. This should be an experience of worship for us as we consider the Word among us. Let’s look first of all at the…

I. The paradox of Christmas! (Luke 2:8-12)

EXAMPLE: The paradox found here is in a person having seemingly contradictory circumstances. While the Word of God became flesh, it is still a fact that he also lived among us! Nowhere is this more graphically displayed than in the birth of Jesus in a humble manger. There is the paradox. The Savior of the world, God in human flesh, being born of a woman, in an animal stall! It was no ordinary birth, yet it was an ordinary birth. Luke reminds us of the supernatural nature of the event never experienced before. It kind of puts everything into perspective. Like the cub reporter, just out of journalism school who had landed a job with The New York Times. He asked a famous publisher for some advice. The publisher responded by telling him: “In promulgating your esoteric cogitations and articulating superficial sentimental and psychological observations, beware of platitudinous ponderosity. Let your extemporaneous decantations and unpremeditated expiations have intelligibility and veracious vivacity without rodomontade and thrasonical bombasity. Sedulously avoid all polysyllabic profundity, pusillanimous vacuity, pestiferous profanity, and similar transgressions.” The confused reporter asked: “What does that mean?!” The publisher explained, “Do not use big words. Keep it simple.” In communicating with mankind God chose to “keep it simple”.

1. Notice the common circumstances! (v.12) What the shepherds found hardly matched the expectations aroused by the announcement found in verses 9-11! Yet, it is appropriate for God’s use. Jesus is born into very humble and poor circumstances. With no particular social status the couple who had journeyed all the way from Nazareth, found “no room for themselves in the inn.” The immediate birth has to take place, not in a palace, but among the beasts of the stall and common barnyard.
2. Go back, however, and notice the angelic acclaim! (vv.8-11) The circumstances show that the modest shepherds had little time to comprehend the announcement of angels that “today... a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord” or the physical conditions attending his birth. No time to wonder. No time to ponder. Just time enough to run. These unassuming folk pay homage to mother and child, and went on their way rejoicing telling others of what they had experienced and saw for themselves. That is the paradox of Christmas, God being born into the world in total humility!

People today would rather pay respect to a “Christmas spirit” of good will and peace to all mankind, rather than pay homage to the wonder of God incarnate. They disdain the fact of a Savior born in a manger. They revere good cheer, expensive gifts, and the art of getting instead. We notice as we read the Bible that as John thought through these things, he understood…

II. The eternal Word of Christmas! (John 1:1-5)

EXAMPLE: John refers to the Lord Jesus as “the Word.” It is an expression that some have tried to explain away philosophically or even esoterically in secretive and mystical terms. But in reality, Jesus’ whole life was never secretive or mystical in any way. Jesus would flatly declare that He had done everything openly (John 18:20-21) and that His followers were to literally “yell” the message from the rooftops (Matthew 10:27)! In the 70’s it was popular for hippies to garishly paint up their VW vans with peace symbols, bright flowers or large slogans. Today we see it in the simplistic socialistic political slogans of the Occupy Movement. Some people today have tried to reduce Jesus’ coming into the world down to “catch” phrases or slogans. Like a Nike ad, they try and sell Jesus simplistically. While Jesus’ message is simple, Jesus is not simplistic. Christians are not about selling a product called “Christ.” Jesus is more than that, he is the eternal Word.

1. We discover the startling fact that Jesus was in the beginning with God! The term used here is the common Greek word “logos”, which meant “speaking, a message, or words” John used the term because it would be very familiar to his readers. Jesus, the “spoken Word” was with God at the very beginning of creation. Jesus’ fellowship with God means literally that He was “in company with” God. It is a statement of fact, concerning the trinity’s existence, and so important is this to John that he writes it down twice (vv.1 & 2)! More than that, we find that the “Word was God” not “a god,” and not simply just a “divine” being as some cults would have you believe. Jesus, the Word, is God in human flesh! Humbly born in a human body, to a human mother, but also divine; born of the Holy Spirit of God! Jesus is the eternal Word of Christmas!
2. We discover therefore that Jesus is God! According to John we learn that “through him all things were made… without him nothing was made that has been made!” Paul would declare, “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” (Colossians 1:15-17 NIV)
3. We discover also that the eternal Word is the “light that shines in the darkness”! The Word is among us as a shinning light of holiness in a sin darkened world. The RSV renders this verse: “the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it!” Since there is no darkness in heaven the Son of God had to enter this sphere of darkness where he was and still is met with rejection and opposition! Christmas is about the eternal Word, who was with God in the beginning, is God who created all things, and is the light that shines in a sin darkened world!


Which elicits more response in your heart: the humble birth of Jesus or the glorious statement of the outcome of His birth?

Those who reject Christ lose the opportunity for life, eternal life. On the other hand, those who receive Christ are given a new standing before God. Ironside, a great Christian theologian, teacher, and preacher once said: “There is always the danger of keeping Christmas and losing Christ.” One day in December of 1903, Katherine, received a telegram from her two brothers. It read simply: “We have actually flown 120 feet. Will be home for Christmas.” The Wright brothers had flown! Katherine hurriedly ran to the local newspaper and showed the telegram to the editor. He read it, tossed it aside, and said, “How nice. The boys will be home for Christmas.” He had totally missed the big news that someone had flown for the first time in history!

We can make a similar mistake today when we hear the word “Christmas” and not place it in proper perspective. It is a paradox concerning the Word among us.
Pastor Lee Hemen has been the outspoken pastor of the same church for 25 years in Vancouver, WA. He writes regularly on spirituality and conservative causes and maintains several web blogs. This article is copyrighted © 2011 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Malachi 1:6-14 – Being honorable!

Malachi 1:6-14 – Being honorable!
By Pastor Lee Hemen
December 11, 2011 AM

We can dishonor someone by not holding them in high regard. The people of Israel had done this with God. Within the Ten Commandments given to them on Mt. Sinai was the first and most important command that instructed, “You shall have no other gods before me.” Following this command was the simple reasoning that they were also not to make any “idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below.” They were not only not to make them, they were not to “bow down to them or worship them (Exodus 20:3-4).” Yet, in all of this, the Israelites had dishonored God and done all of the above.

Malachi’s second burden therefore deals with the dishonor God’s people can have for the Lord. While it may be easy for us to point to specific denominations today that make idols and worship them, we often as evangelical Christians can fail to see the idols we form and impure worship in our lives. In this, Malachi’s burden is just as much a message for us as it was for the Israelites. We are to honor God with acceptable sacrifice. Let’s find out what Malachi teaches us about being honorable…

READ: Malachi 1:6-14

Relationship is important to God. We discover this from the very beginning in Genesis to the final chapter of the Book of Revelation. When God told the Israelites, “You shall have no other gods before me.” (Exodus 20:3 NIV) he meant it. It is also why Jesus reiterated that the greatest commandment was to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” (Mark 12:30 NIV) Therefore, Malachi’s burden begins with…

I. A charge of a dishonorable relationship (1:6)!

1. A relationship by any other name is not a relationship!

1) Malachi spoke of proper relationships in his society. The Israelites understood the idea that “A son honors his father and a servant his master.” People respected relationships and the structure they had. In fact one of the Commandments stated that a person was to honor their parents (Exodus 20:12). However, God asks the applicable question that goes to the heart of the issue, “If I am a father, where is the honor due me? If I am a master, where is the respect (fear) due me?” If God was seen as the Father of the Israelite people and also as their Master, where was the respect due Him? God did view Israel as his “firstborn son” (Exodus 4:22) and the Commandments stated very clearly that children were to honor their parents. Israel recognized that “O Lord, you are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand (Isaiah 64:8 NIV).” What had happened then to the relationship Israel was supposed to have with God? They had allowed false and perverted ideas of worship to creep into how they honored God.

2) The absurd response of the people, especially the priests, proves the point God made through Malachi. So conceited and into themselves are the people and their spiritual leadership that they have no idea they had flagrantly and deliberately strayed from God! They act like they are the ones offended and arrogantly ask, “How have we shown contempt for your name?” (I can almost see Malachi stepping off to one side to get out of the way of the righteous fire from heaven!) Fear of God does not necessitate being terrified of him; but rather having a proper respect and reverence for him, a reverence that leads his people to worship and obedience! They had deliberately followed their own selfish desires instead and dishonored their relationship.

EXAMPLE: Their contempt was in the manner in which the Israelites totally disrespected their relationship with God. They called him “Father” and “Master,” but wanted what they could get out of God rather than what they could sacrificially bring to his temple and altar. America has become a nation of consumers. There is nothing wrong with this except where our relationship with God is concerned. We consume God instead of offering our sacrifice to him. We look for ways to get the most bang-for-our-buck instead. This is why so many hardly give anything to their church in time, talent, or treasure. Churches often do ask folks to join and instead offer up bigger and better Sunday morning shows knowing that the consumers in the pews may shop elsewhere. It is contemptible when we continually want God to fill our plastic bag with goodies, but never sacrifice anything for his kingdom. It is a matter of honoring our relationship with the one who sacrificed everything for us. The Israelites had dishonored God.

When folks give the Lord something that doesn’t really cost them anything, it is not a sacrifice. The idea of sacrifice demands that it cost the giver. Very little that is given in the church today is truly sacrificial in nature. The Israelites understood what it meant to sacrifice because they were required to give the very best they had to God in order to show that they truly honored the Lord. Malachi goes on to tell the people that if you really want an answer how they had dishonored God, well here is…

II. The evidence of dishonorable sacrifices (1:7-14)!

1. The proof was in the pudding and it contained a huge hairy fly!

1) The priests were responsible to teach the people God’s covenant and turn their hearts to God! If the priests failed to honor God, what could be expected of the people? The “food” here refers to the sacrifices that were to be offered to the Lord. They were warned against offering such sacrifices and thereby profane God’s name (Leviticus 22:2, 32). These sacrificial offerings were symbols of obedience, trust, and the cost involved. God savors and honors righteous sacrifice and they were bringing contemptible ones to his temple and table. Apparently they had become so hardened they rationalized their sin! They arrogantly brought blind, crippled, and diseased animals. If they thought it was okay to do, they should try offering them to their Persian governor! Would he be gracious and accept them? The answer is, “Of course not!”

2) In our day and age we think that if we feel it, it must be sincere! God knows better. He isn’t “pleased” with half-hearted offerings—they are contemptible and he “will accept no offering from [our] hands”. Notice it would have been better if they had “shut the temple doors” so they did not “light useless fires on” God’s altar! The Hebrew word “because” actually begins verse 11 and is not found in the NIV. It was “because” God’s name would be “considered great among the nations” that they needed to make “pure” sacrifices. It was a matter of the Israelites witness to the world! They not only profaned God’s table by bringing the worst they had but they contemptuously turned their noses up to it as well! Levitical law stated they were to get a share to eat, but they didn’t want the diseased food they had brought God! They were blatant hypocrites. God tells them, “Cursed is the cheat who has an acceptable male in his flock and vows to give it, but then sacrifices a blemished animal to the Lord.” Are there evidences where Christians “cheat” God with their blemished sacrifices and then say that God’s church is a “burden”? I suspect there is.

EXAMPLE: Both the priests and the people dishonored God. God related, “Because of you I will rebuke your descendants; I will spread on your faces the offal from your festival sacrifices, and you will be carried off with it.” Much of what is done as worship will end up being wiped waste on folks faces! Even today there are those who deserve the condemnation of Malachi, who have taken the holy out of worship. They do not bring pure sacrifices to God’s table, yet think God should bless them. It makes one wonder if the words of Jesus are not more accurate than we realize. He related that, “by their fruit you will recognize them.” And went on to admonish, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’” (Matthew 7:21-23 NIV) Is there evidence of dishonorable sacrifices in God’s church today? Malachi’s words should give us pause.

What is disrespect? The dictionary defines it as “a lack of respect or esteem.” We can disrespect something or someone by not holding them in high regard. We honor God with a righteous relationship with him and our pure sacrifices.
Pastor Lee Hemen has been the outspoken pastor of the same church for 25 years in Vancouver, WA. He writes regularly on spirituality and conservative causes and maintains several web blogs. This article is copyrighted © 2011 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

Sunday, December 04, 2011

Malachi 1:1-5 – Being responsive!

Malachi 1:1-5 – Being responsive!
By Pastor Lee Hemen
December 4, 2011 AM

My Mom used to play mind games with us kids when we did something bad. A lot of mothers do this. Here’s what I mean: Right in the middle of scolding us over our bad behavior, she would innocently ask, “Don’t you love your dear old mother?” Or she would declare, “I work and I slave and what thanks do I get?” It was a form of psychological warfare to get a response from us and to have us think about the consequences of our actions. It’s called guilt.

Malachi is kind of like my mother. His message is for God’s wayward children. Didn’t they love God? Didn’t God love them? If that were true, then why were they acting the way they did? Had they gotten spiritually soft? God’s chosen people had gotten so lackadaisical about their faith that they forget what their relationship to God meant! Malachi’s message from the Lord is to illicit a response from his people. Malachi’s message applies to us as much as it did for the spiritually lax Israelites of his day. They needed to be responsive to God and what he continually did for them. The same is true for us today, let’s discover how...

READ: Malachi 1:1-6

Malachi ministered in the fifth century BC, about 100 years after the Persian King Cyrus had issued the decree in 538 BC which permitted Jews to return from exile to Judah. Life was not easy under the political rule of Persia. Most hearts were indifferent or resentful toward God. Both the priests and the people were violating the stipulations of the Mosaic Law regarding sacrifices, tithes, and offerings. Much like today, their hope in God’s promises had dimmed, as evidenced by their (a) intermarrying with nonbelievers, (b) divorces and (c) general moral apathy. They needed to respond to God’s love. Let’s discover what occurred and perhaps find a proper response for our day and age. We discover that...

I. God’s people need to respond to Malachi's message! (V. 1)

1. One man’s message is another man’s burden!
1) Malachi had a spiritually heavy message he had to share with his people. The word mas-saw’ (“burden”), which this book begins, sets kind of a sober mood. The NIV translates this word as “An oracle.” In the prophetic books mas-saw’ introduces messages of a threatening nature and this gives the prophet’s entire message a sense of anxiety and foreboding. Contrary to many modern religious pundits God’s messages are not always welcome and can often be sinister in nature! Especially if we know how we have been acting and we know how we should be responding! Notice that this spiritually heavy message was from God Himself! Traditionally Malachi, “My messenger”, has been viewed as the last prophet of the Old Testament period before John the Baptist, whose ministry Malachi predicted (Malachi 3:1). Nothing is known of his family and he is not mentioned by name elsewhere in the Bible. However, his message is so personal and intimate that the contents clearly indicate it was written by an actual person. Malachi was God’s voice speaking a heavy message to God’s spiritually lax people. Using a series of questions and answers, Malachi engages his listeners in a debate many would have rather ignored, but God’s people from all ages need to respond to Malachi’s message because it is a “word of the Lord” for his people!

EXAMPLE: My Dad always knew when I wasn’t listening to him when he was getting after me. I would let my eyes kind of glaze over and roll back in my head. Perhaps the blank expression on my face also gave me away. My father knew I wasn’t listening to him and he would confront me about it by declaring, “Young man, you haven’t listened to a single word I said to you!” I would try to play innocent, but we both knew better and the clincher would be when he would say, “All right, tell me what I just said to you.” He wanted me to respond appropriately and I knew I was in real trouble when he would finish by telling me, “This is going to hurt me more than it does you.” This is kind of the way God deals with Israel and us through Malachi. However, our sin and its consequences often hurt us more than it does God. Yet God’s people need to respond to Malachi’s message!

We can forget that while God is love, his love demands a response from us. Not that we can earn his love because God indeed always does love, but that we need to realize that when we fail to respond the way we should to his love we are rejecting what he has done for us! Malachi reminds us of…

II. Our failure to respond to God’s love! (Vv. 2-5)

1. An appropriate response to love is devotion!
1) Malachi brings the claim of God’s love for Israel (1:2a)! God had always loved Israel. In fact, He could have chosen anyone else but He chose Israel. The Lord’s claim over Israel was vindicated by two considerations. His love expressed in his free choice of his election of Jacob and his rebuff (hatred/rejection) of Esau. Yet, like a spoiled child, Israel’s questions God’s claim (1:2b)! How had God loved them? What a question to ask! God had deliberately decided not to follow the prescribed law of choosing the eldest son Esau over the younger brother. Instead God chose, out of love, Jacob! While Jacob had his deceptive faults, we soon learn Esau was willing to give up and cave in to his own natural sin rather than follow God. The Hebrew words here for “love” and “hatred” do not refer to emotions but rather actions. How can a child question a parent’s love when it was shown so dramatically? Yet, spoiled Israel did. Can we be like that as well? Yes! God has loved us and shown his love through Jesus Christ. In fact that Bible tells us that “God so loved the world, that he gave his one and only Son”! (John 3:16 NIV)

2) The vindication of God’s love claim is given by him (1:2c-5)! The verbs “I have loved” and “I have hated” (vv. 2b-3a) are in the perfect tense and therefore express not only God’s past relationship with Israel and Edom but also His historical and present dealings (in Malachi’s day) with these people. This then provided the second consideration which vindicated God’s claim of love. Israel needed to consider what her lot would have been like if she, like Edom, had not been elected to a covenant relationship with Yahweh. God restored Israel and not Edom. In fact, God would turn Edom’s “mountains into a wasteland” and leave “his inheritance to the desert jackals.” Edom may try to rebuild, but God would not allow it. They would be called “A Wicked Land,” as opposed to God’s “Holy Nation.” God tells spoiled Israel that if she doesn’t believe it, “You will see it with your own eyes and say, ‘Great is the LORD—even beyond the borders of Israel!’” Israel was guilty, like Edom, perhaps like we often are, of failing to respond to God's love! What about you this morning, have you failed to respond to the love of God?

EXAMPLE: I remember my mother giving me the parent’s curse. It goes something like this: “One of these days I hope and pray you have children just like you.” While God’s declaration through Malachi isn’t quite like this, it is similar in that he tells Israel, “You dare question my love after all I have done for you? Let me tell you something, Buster, there will come a time when you will see my love with your own eyes and recognize it for what it is.” That time would come through Jesus Christ. Paul says not only will spoiled Israel ultimately recognize God’s love, but every wayward child of God will: “Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father (Philippians 2:9-11).” We can be guilty of failing to respond to God's love in our lives!

Perhaps you have forgotten just how much God loves you or like Israel, you may question God’s love. Let me remind you that God loves us with an everlasting love and proved it by sending Jesus into the world. Paul reminds us that “at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly” and that “God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:6 & 8 NIV) The heavy spiritual message of Malachi is just as valid this morning. God is telling us, just like he did when Israel questioned his love that he does indeed love us and has proven it through Jesus. How will you respond?
Pastor Lee Hemen has been the outspoken pastor of the same church for 25 years in Vancouver, WA. He writes regularly on spirituality and conservative causes and maintains several web blogs. This article is copyrighted © 2011 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.