Running From Hope is the current teaching series on Malachi at New Life Baptist Church.
There is nothing more pathetic than a heart broken Junior High student. We are not talking about the kind of hurt that is the result of injury, tragedy, violence, or misdeeds. This is the kind of brokenness that is experienced in those times when a student is separated from their ‘true’ love.
When I was a youth pastor we took our junior high students to camp. Every kid ought to have the chance to go to camp and did our best to take as many as possible. That particular summer one of our students invited a friend of his to go along. Everyone was enjoying the week and all the great things that go with that kind of experience.
It happened on Thursday night. Chapel was over and the campers were steadily getting hopped up on sugar and caffeine from the snack shop. Darkness was closing in and there was great anticipation for the night game that was about to begin.
Becky and I were spending time with the students and making rounds when we saw something out of the ordinary. My student’s friend was sitting all by himself, his face buried in his hands, and he was sobbing uncontrollably. This kid was in full-on body spasm mode wailing.
We sat with him to try to figure out what was going on. Through his gasps and tears he looked at us and said, “my girlfriend just broke up with me.” Girlfriend? That was news to us. We didn’t know this guy even had a girlfriend. Well he did up until about 5 minute before we found him.
I couldn’t figure it out. Did he get a phone call from home? Did the mail come late? How in the world did he learn his girlfriend broke up with him at 9:00 PM on a Thursday night at camp? The answer was simple. He had just met his ‘girlfriend’ Wednesday! The relationship was not even 24 hours old and it was over, and he was a mess. I managed to hold it together enough to make the effort to help him feel better.
Junior high students, senior high students, college aged, and adults all face the same dilemma in one form or another somewhere in their lives. We have all found ourselves asking, “how is it that he/she doesn’t love me anymore, what went wrong?” The moping and malaise can last for weeks. You know what I’m talking about.
We find stories just like that in Scripture. We can read about the agony of a lost personal relationship and humanity’s broken relationship to God. The difference is the broken ties with God will have eternal impact.
Israel (the two southern tribes of Benjamin and Judah) find themselves in an awkward position in history as Malachi begins. Here is the situation. Cyrus the Great (by some accounts the greatest leader of the ancient world) of Persia has made a good decision. He is allowing the captives of the former Babylonian empire to go home. He is letting them go back and rebuild their homes, walls, and places of worship.
Not long after getting home, Israel starts up with all the stuff that got them in trouble in the first place. They are pretty much ignoring God and falling into the sinful practices of worthless worship, intermarrying with the locals, and simply grieving the heart of God.
Malachi (who’s name means God’s messenger) is brought forward to be the voice of God and to have 6 pointed discussions. A prophet is a ‘covenant enforcer’ who bears the responsibility of directing people back to God and the covenant.
The first discussion God has with the people is tender at its heart. Chapter 1 verse 2 is God giving a direct address. He tells Israel, “I have loved you.” Perhaps not the first message that would come to mind when we think “covenant enforcer”. This theme is not, of course, limited to Malachi. It is found throughout the entirety of Scripture. God loves people! Yes, He is a God of justice but He is a God of love. John 3:16 is pretty clear, “For God so LOVED the world that he sent his only Son”.
The response that escapes the lips of Israel is shocking to me. They ask, “how have you loved us?”. What? Really? How can anyone ever ask that kind of question?
Yet, we do.
Somehow Israel forgot to remember that God indeed loved, loves, and will love them (the word has a meaning of timelessness). They were in the malaise of life and just got lazy. Pretty bad memories. Today we do the exact same thing. We find ourselves in a place that is neither fearful nor exciting and we forget that God loves, loved and will love as well.
When we say, “how have You love us? what is the response? Where have/do we see the love of God? The answer is simple. Besides ALL the blessings that God gives to people remember this: Romans 5:8 “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us”. Boom! Enough said.