Have you ever found yourself questioning God’s love? Being the fickle people that we are, we give our circumstances far too much respect and power over our lives. We encounter a God in the Bible who has expressly said and shown that he has loved us. We love to sing, teach, preach, and share of God’s love. But the moment we don’t feel God’s love, we begin to question whether he ever loved us to begin with.
Loss often leads us to doubt God’s love. If we lose a job, lose a family member, lose our health, lose a relationship, or lose status, we wonder where God’s love has gone. We equate God’s love with blessing. We forget that the God who gives is also the God who takes away (Job 1:21). We view God’s love only in terms of the good things we receive from him. Oh, how fickle we are.
Malachi’s prophecy opens with a flooring statement of his love. “I have loved you,” says the Lord. The first word from the Lord to his people who are unashamed of their sin and apathetic in their worship is an overwhelming word of grace. God simply, yet profoundly says, “I have loved you.”
But the people of Israel ask a question you and I ask in the depths of our hearts when we walk through difficult circumstances: “How have you loved us?” What would you expect God to say in response? How has he shown his love to his people? I automatically think of the exodus, the conquering of the Promised Land, choosing to dwell with Israel in the Tabernacle and Temple, preserving his people in exile, and bringing them back to their homeland. The examples of God’s love for Israel in the Old Testament are endless.
However, the example God gives for how he has loved his people extends back to the time of the patriarchs. God loves his people because he “loved Jacob and hated Esau.” In other words, God loves his people today because he freely chose to love them in the first place. Both Jacob and Esau proved their unworthiness of God’s love in their lives, but before either of the twins was born, God freely chose to set his electing love on Jacob and not Esau (Rom. 9:6-13).
How has God loved his people? He has loved them by freely choosing to love them when nothing compelled him to love them. Esau was Jacob’s twin brother. By cultural standards, Esau deserved his father’s blessing, but God chose to set his covenant love on the younger brother, Jacob. God’s love for his people, his love for you, is based on nothing but his free and sovereign grace in election. God loves you because he freely chose to love you. How freeing it is to know that you don’t have to earn God’s love through religious performance!
Nothing outside of God, certainly nothing in us, compelled God to love us. We should tremble at the awesome thought that God has chosen to set his sovereign, immovable, unchangeable love on us. Nothing can compel us to be confident in God’s love in the midst of difficult circumstances, and nothing can motivate us toward greater obedience like possessing the love of a sovereign God he didn’t have to give.