Summary: Despite our failure and compromise, God loves us and has done everything possible for us to be in his presence. But we must respond and receive that never-ending love.
They were good times! Israel had just rebuilt their temple from scratch after it had lay in ruins for 70 years. Their country had been over-run by the Babylonians who destroyed their cities and took most of the population captive in Babylon. But finally a new empire arose, the Persians, who freed the Israelites and sponsored their project to rebuild the temple in Jerusalem. So, thousands returned and resettled in their homeland. It was a wonderful time to be able to start over.
But something else happened after that fresh start. What was that? COMPROMISE. They began to compromise the standards that God had given them. They began to start to live like the world around them and what was normal in the world. Their love for God and commitment to Him waned and their love for the world strengthened.
Compromise is a very comfortable word. It’s not evil. In order to settle a dispute we will often have to compromise. You give a little and I give a little and we meet in between. And in many cases we must compromise – we do it all the time in marriage, in church, in business. We come to a consensus which demands some give and take.
But concerning the standards of the Word of God, there is never to be any compromise. We simply do not give and take concerning the 10 commandments. When we see the moral law of God, there is no compromise because it is the truth.
The people of Israel began to compromise and the book of Malachi writes about this. They began to give honor to man more than God. They began to marry non-believers. They started giving God less than their best. They cut down on their tithing – on stewardship. Many were unfaithful to their spouses.
Now, these issues aren’t extreme – it’s not that they were worshiping other gods. But they were simply compromising on God’s standards. And therefore he sent the prophet Malachi to confront them with the truth and to encourage them to return to where they started.
We’re going to spend several weeks looking into this book of Malachi. Not because I believe that we’ve compromised or anything of the sort. Maybe some have, maybe some haven’t. But what I find amazing is that the issues that they struggled with way back in 350 B.C. are the same issues that we deal with in 2012. People are the same and the struggles are the same. And the ministry of Malachi is to bring God’s people back to the standard of God’s Word. We too always need to be mindful of turning our standards back to the Scripture.
Malachi begins his message with these words: Malachi 1:1-2a The oracle of the word of the LORD to Israel by Malachi. 2 "I have loved you," says the LORD. But you say, "How have you loved us?"
“I have loved you” says the Lord! The beginning of this little book is God’s love! What an appropriate place to start because God’s love is very often at the heart of any compromise with the world. We often misunderstand what God’s love is and what it isn’t. What are the truths about God’s love that cannot be compromised or altered?
1. First truth about God’s love: God wants us to know first of all that his love is unconditional and continual.
Yet our normal thinking is that God loves us if we are good and do certain things for him and for others. We naturally think we have to earn God’s love.
Think of the story of the prodigal son from Luke 15. The son takes his inheritance and goes off on his own in the world. It’s as if he’s saying to his father, I wish you were dead so that I could get my inheritance but since you’re not, I’ll take it now. The son leaves after this disgraceful treatment of his father. Does his father still love him? Absolutely! His father loves him when he is at home and he loves him when he has left him and rebelled. His father also loves him when he returns. The love doesn’t change. God’s love is constant toward you.
God loves you the same whether you faithfully attend church and worship the Lord or if you come only twice a year. He loves you if you fail him or if you are faithful. He loves you if you are a good mother, or a poor mother. He loves you if cheat or if you are honest. He loves you if you’re Lutheran or Pentecostal, Catholic or Baptist, Muslim , Buddhist, or Atheist. There is nothing you can do to make God love you more or less than he already does! “I have loved you!”