2 “I have loved you,” says the LORD. “Yet you say,`In what way have You loved us?’ Was not Esau Jacob’s brother?” Says the LORD. “Yet Jacob I have loved; (Mal 1:2)
There has been much ink spilled on this verse in relation to the doctrine of election. In fact, that is Paul’s entire point in Romans 9. I am unabashedly Reformed and hold to the doctrine of election and reprobation as summarized in the Canons of dordt. But I can’t tackle every subject every time I write. So lets assume that one, and look at this verse from another direction.
I would like to analyze the sneering response of Israel. God says, “I have loved you” and you say, “Yeah? Really? How?”
Satan’s first temptation was an attack on the goodness and benevolence of God. “Yeah, hath God said…”
And this is the heart of every sin. God says, “I am good.”
And we say, “yeah? Prove it.”
God says, “I love you”.
And we say, “Yeah? prove it.”
And every time we do, we fall into the same temptation that Adam and Eve succumbed to. I think that this is the primary battle against the flesh that we must war against daily.
It is so prevalent and deadly that the Reformed Confessions, primarily the Heidelberg Catechism, summarizes the whole duty of redeemed man as “gratitude” – embracing God’s goodness.
“Rejoice in all things, and again I say, rejoice!”
So how do you do that when you are in pain? When you are mourning? When you face disappointment and heartache and loss? How do you rejoice always, even in a Roman prison (which is where Paul was when he wrote that).
“Jacob have I loved”.
First, you start with the love of God, beyond all understanding. It is God’s desire that you know him. Not only in words and in theory and in treatises, but in actually experiential knowledge. That you might know his redeeming power, his strength in weakness, his love in a world of rage, his beauty in the midst of ugliness, his glory in the midst of ashes.
And because God loves his people in Christ, he shows us glimpses of his goodness, the amuse-bouche for the wedding supper of the lamb. He gives us just enough of a glimpse in this cursed world that we might long for him, set our affections where he is, and stop glorying in our strength and our wisdom and our goodness.
He gives us those glimpses of his goodness in the midst of the ashes of this cursed world.
The tang and crunch of the apple. Try the Opal, if you haven’t yet.
The brilliant skill of a talented baker of pie (I’m a sucker for good cherry pie. If you are ever south of Yuba City on Highway 99, try Stephen’s Farmhouse. Amazing pie – they can even do gluten free!)
Fresh baked bread and sharp cheese.
The smell of rain on dry ground (petrichor – I didn’t know it had a name until recently.)
The astounding beauty of a skilled musician; the breathtaking scope of art; the curve of the tulip…
The thrill of discovering something new; the kiss on the cheek; snuggling with your sweetie while watching British mysteries; the wine on the back porch around the patio fireplace in the evening…
Far too often we are so busy demanding that God prove his goodness to us that we miss the innumerable proofs that he surrounds us with daily.
Elie Wiesel wrote that Adolph Hitler was the only one who kept all of his promises to Israel. I understand why he thought that, but what a sad statement! God kept every promise to every one of his people, and always has. The problem is not in the reality. It is in our eyes.
“I have loved you.”
“Yeah? Prove it.”
We all do it, because we are in the midst of a cursed world and because we have inherited the sin of Adam. Don’t we all mimic the sentiment of Elie Wiesel when we are at our lowest? God is not good. He does not love us.
But God has not left us there.
“First of all, I love you. I called you out of Egypt. I redeemed you from your misery and sentence of death that you might know me.”
Even in our darkest moments, God is near. He doesn’t abandon us in the valley of the shadow of death. He walks with us.
And beyond that, he did not need to create the world in color. He could have given us food in the form of tasteless paste to keep us alive. What purpose does music serve if the point of life is simply to stay alive?
When we remind ourselves that “Jesus loves us, this I know for the bible tells me so”, from there we will see endless examples of his love and beauty and goodness to mankind.
To paraphrase Calvin, every blade of grass is created that the hearts of the sons and daughters of men might rejoice. The fault is not in the love of God. The fault is in our ingratitude.
Remind yourself of the gospel. Stop being afraid of everything. You don’t catch sin by looking at the wrong thing, or hearing the wrong thing. Your sins are washed away completely. And then look around. See all of the beauty that you are missing?