Agonizomai: Malachi 1:2-3 - Picking and Choosing

Friday, July 17, 2009

Malachi 1:2-3 - Picking and Choosing

Malachi 1:2-3 - Picking and Choosing

Malachi 1:2-3 "I have loved you," says the LORD. But you say, "How have you loved us?" "Is not Esau Jacob’s brother?" declares the LORD. "Yet I have loved Jacob 3 but Esau I have hated. I have laid waste his hill country and left his heritage to jackals of the desert."

If Paul had not used this verse (3) in the context of the election of the believer {Ro 9:13} it would be an easy matter to think this refers only to nations. God loved the nation of Israel and hated the Edomites - the nation of Esau’s descendants. In fact, there are some who claim that in Romans chapter 9 Paul is somehow only harking back to this passage in some vague allusion to the "selection" of nations for God’s favour.

To this I make the following comments. Firstly, what’s the effective difference between electing one nation for grace and not another - and electing one individual for grace and not another? Isn’t the principle the same anyway? Isn’t the matter one of God being sovereignly and justly able to dispense grace and mercy to whomever He pleases and to let others remain the subject of His abiding hatred on account of their sin? That’s the context here in Malachi - the setting of love upon Israel and the passing over of Edom so that they abide under wrath.

In Romans chapter 9 Paul uses the principle as an illustration of His sovereignty in salvation. The Romans context is indeed about individual election unto salvation - about the grace that God extends from an everlasting love towards some - and the just and righteous passing over of others. All are sinners and all are equally subject to wrath, but some have been freely given grace to repent and believe the gospel. It’s hard for a fallen mind to embrace, but it is the clear teaching of scripture.

Paul is simply taking something from the history of Israel that is the inspired word of God, faithfully recorded and preserved, and making an application of the underlying principle - a principle that speaks to the nature and purposes of God. When we ask what God is like then the Bible is the source that we go to for that information. And in both testaments the Bible tells us that God has mercy upon whom He has mercy - that He is a God who sovereignly chooses His people - and that He elects or passes over whomever He determines to elect or pass over for reasons known only to Him.

The reason this clear teaching of scripture is so universally resisted and, in some quarters even hated, is precisely because it makes God sovereign. It restores or preserves unto the name "God" what was always true of that designation - that He rules and does all His will in heaven and earth and that no hand can stay Him. Many people are content to believe in a god that does as they please - but just once let Him be seen as truly the One upon whom all things depend - the One who disposes of all that is His as He sees fit, including the human will - then many of those same people will hate such a God and will twist the meaning of scripture in order to preserve their own vaunted view of their worth and their will.

As I write this, I have just read a review/commentary on the movie "Superman Returns" which was intended to show the themes it has in common with the gospel. This is a review that was published in the Religion section of the Sunday Star, and was written by Stephen Skelton. Here is a quote from the script that was touted as being an accurate picture of the Father’s plan for the Son’s mission; Jor-El, Superman’s father explaining his mission:
"They can be a great people. Kal-El; they wish to be. They only lack the light to show the Way. For this reason above all, their capacity for good, I have sent them you - my only son."
This is supposed to be a Biblical view of the condition of man and the motive of God in the incarnation? Yet I would venture that not one in ten professing Christians who see the film or who read the review will see anything wrong at all with this statement. It is, in fact undiluted Pelagianism - a heresy always condemned by the church (until Charles Finney made it popular among "evangelicals" in the 19th Century). As comic book fare or as movie dialogue it is perfectly innocuous - but if seen as an analogy to the Biblical doctrine of salvation it is pure heresy. Another quote from the fictional Superman answering Lois Lane’s letter after returning from his 5 year absence from the earth:
"You wrote that the world doesn’t need a saviour. But everyday I hear people crying for one."
More vague, incomplete and misleading parallels that add up to Pelagian heresy if accepted for what they are.

Was Edom seeking after God? Were they a good people? In fact I am reminded of the answer given by C.H. Spurgeon to a lady who complained, "I could never believe that God would hate Esau." The Prince of Preachers answered, "Madam, it is not that God hated Esau that puzzles me, but that He loved Jacob." For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God. There is none that seeks after God - no not one.

It is clear that the historical Malachi wrote under inspiration regarding the nations of Israel and Edom. In history the land of Edom was laid waste as God had promised it would be. {Jer 49:16-18}. Israel, too had been severely chastised by God, but a remnant had returned and the temple was rebuilt. God had compassion and mercy upon His people, but the disasters that befell Edom were judgements. And when Edom is seen as the type for all that the Lord passes over it is a dreadful light that dawns.


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