Summary: God loves us so much that He continues to pursue us even when we rebel against Him. So He desires that we pursue Him with that same fervor.
As most of you know, I met Mary the summer after my freshman year at the University of Arizona when we were both working as Student Hosts for the orientation of incoming freshmen. Although I was immediately attracted to her, I was pretty shy around attractive girls back then, so it usually took me a while to get up the nerve to actually ask one of them out. But over the two weeks we worked together I got to know her a bit, both during the time we worked together and in some of the social gatherings that all of the Student Hosts took part in during that time.
So when there was a get together one night and she offered to give me a ride, I began to think that maybe there was an opportunity to ask her out. But later that evening there was a miscommunication and I thought she had left the event without me, but she had actually only left temporarily to help out one of the other female student hosts. But since I wasn’t sure she was coming back I got a ride back to campus with someone else. So I mistakenly assumed that she just didn’t have any interest in me.
Fortunately for me, however, I was wrong about that, and even more importantly, Mary continued to pursue me even after we finished our two week job on campus. At the time I was working at the Lucky Wishbone and she kept coming by to see if I was at work there. Somehow, she kept coming by when I wasn’t working, which is really amazing considering how many hours I was working over the summer. So she bought a whole lot of sodas there over a couple of week period.
Some of my co-workers began to ask about this good looking woman who kept coming by to see if I was at work, and I figured out pretty quickly by their descriptions that it was Mary. So I finally got up enough nerve to call her up and ask her out. And the rest, as they say, is history. But I often wonder whether I would have pursued Mary if she hadn’t pursued me.
As persistent as Mary was, we all have a God who is much more persistent in pursuing us. And when we understand that He does that because He loves us so much, hopefully we’ll pursue Him with as much or even more fervor that that with which I pursued Mary beginning that summer.
That’s why we’re going to spend the next eight weeks or so exploring the book written by the Italian prophet – Malachi. Although Malachi’s prophecy was written nearly 2,500 years ago, it is just as relevant for us today as it was for Israel when those words were written. As we’ll see, Malachi describes how God has lovingly pursued His chosen people – and that includes us – and how we are to respond as a result of that pursuing love.
So go ahead and open your Bibles to the book of Malachi. It is a small book at the very end of the Old Testament, right before the gospel of Matthew in our Bibles. It’s only 4 short chapters long – only 3 chapters in the Hebrew Bible – but it contains a wealth of profitable teaching for us.
Let’s use verse 1 to help us understand the context of Malachi’s prophecy:
The oracle of the word of the LORD to Israel by Malachi.
(Malachi 1:1 ESV)
Nothing is really known about Malachi than what is revealed in this book. His name appears nowhere else in Scripture. And unlike most of the other prophets, Malachi tells us nothing about his family background or even the historical setting in which he ministers.
So really all we know for certain about Malachi is his name, the meaning of which is certainly significant:
• The author: Malachi = “my messenger”
Malachi is God’s messenger, a fact that is confirmed by the fact that what he writes is “the word of the Lord.” Like all Scripture, these words were penned by a human author, but they were inspired by the Holy Spirit and are the words of God.
• The audience: Israel
I think it’s important for me to take a few moments to share a brief history of Israel in order for us to understand the historical context of the book.
In Genesis 12, God called Abram to leave his home in Ur, which is modern day Iraq, and go to a land that He would show Abram. God promised that He would make Abram’s descendents into a great nations through whom all the nations of the earth would be blessed. And God even changed his name to Abraham, which means “exalted father”, as a lasting reminder of His promise to Abraham.