In last Sunday’s message taken from Malachi 1:1-5, I asked the question – “Does God really love some people and hate others?” The answer is an emphatic “No!” But the history of God’s dealings with Jacob and his descendants, the nation Israel, and Esau and his descendants, the ancient Edomites, is a compelling illustration of how God loves us, and how we, by our response to His love determine our life and our future.
God said to Israel through His prophet, Malachi: “I have loved you” (v.2). Skeptical Israel asked, “How have you loved us?” God replied in a way understood by the people of that day, but a conundrum to those familiar with 1 John 4:8: “God is love.” Fifth century Israel recognized the reference to their forefather Jacob and his brother Esau, sons of Isaac and grandsons of Abraham. Even before birth, the twins wrestled in Rebekah’s womb; and their descendants struggled ever thereafter. The Bible excerpts a history of rage between the two nations: Numbers chapter twenty records the Edomites’ refusal to help Israel, newly delivered from Egyptian slavery; and the book of Obadiah prophesied doom to Edom for their ill treatment of their brothers in the days just prior to Babylonian captivity. Also, Obadiah’s prophecy revealed that while “the house of Jacob will possess its inheritance” . . . “the house of Esau will be stubble” . . . “There will be no survivors from the house of Esau.” (Obadiah 17-18).
God’s point in Malachi 1:2-3 is that He had loved them (the nation Israel) by dealing with both them and Esau (the nation Edom) exactly as He had prophesied in His Word. Since making them a nation, God had dealt with Israel according to what Moses called a covenant of love. His covenant of love governed how God conducted Himself toward Israel and toward any who would keep it:
Know therefore that the Lord your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commands. (Deuteronomy 7:9 NIV)
Throughout the Old Testament (Old Covenant) period, this defined how God dealt with His chosen people. It guaranteed God’s blessings to those who love Him. It also promised destruction for those who hate Him:
But those who hate him he will repay to their face by destruction; he will not be slow to repay to their face those who hate him. (Deuteronomy 7:10 NIV)
Deuteronomy 7:11 also made clear the choice was individual whether they loved God and enjoyed the blessings or hated Him and incurred destruction.
God is love (1 John 4:8) and He always deals with the whole world according to love (John 3:16). When Jesus Christ came, He established a New Covenant which defines how God deals now with anyone and everyone who chooses to accept it:
For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. (John 3:16-17 NKJV)
God didn’t hate Esau or the Edomites or anyone else. “Esau have I hated” is euphemism for them that hate God (Psalm 9:17). From before time began, “God is love” and has dealt with us, all of us, according to His great love ultimately expressed in His giving Jesus Christ to the world. But whether you enjoy the blessings promised to those who love Him or suffer the destruction appointed to those who hate Him is a choice only you can make.