- Introduction – children can be belligerent and argumentative. In Malachi, we see no less than 7 occasions when God’s children disagree with Him, and one occasion when they ‘can’t be bothered’ to respond to Him. Ironically, the very first thing that the children of God dispute is the reality of God’s love for them. God’s response to this is surprising, cf. verses 2-3. We face 4 key dangers when trying to understand God’s words…
- Danger 1 = the danger of toning the words down – some scholars have tried to make the words sound less severe. St Paul didn’t try to do this and neither should we (Romans 9:11-18). God is not lukewarm in any manner of means. His love is marvellous and His wrath should be the ultimate source of fear (Matthew 10:28).
- Danger 2 = the danger of seeing things only in human terms – we tend to view love and hate in terms of emotion and emotional responses. In Malachi, love and hate are also seen in covenant (agreement) terms. To be ‘loved’ is to be safely inside the ‘covenant circle’ of God. To be ‘hated’ is to be outside this circle and in a very perilous place. This teaches us something about the New Covenant that Jesus invites the world to be a part of.
- Danger 3 = the danger of not having the full story – key Scriptures show us that God’s covenanting with humankind is not limited to His agreement with Jacob (and His lack of agreement with Esau). Genesis 9:9 talks of God’s covenant with all of humankind; John 12:20-23 describes the moment when the wider world is about to be welcomed into God’s covenant (i.e. not just the Jewish people); 1 Timothy 2:3-5 reveals God’s desire that all come to salvation.
- Danger 4 – the danger of forgetting love – it is hugely significant (and wonderful) that God chooses to define His relationship with us in terms of ‘Love’. He could easily have described us as being in His ‘Grasp’ or ‘Thrall’ or ‘Dominion’. To be loved by God is the greatest thing possible.
- Parent/child relationships can be both excellent and very challenging! Can we learn things about our relationship with God by reflecting on human relationships between parents and children?
- There are many passages of Scripture that people describe as ‘difficult’ – often, because they say things that challenge our understanding of God. Have you come across anything in Scripture that you’ve found difficult to grasp? How have you tried to come to terms with these challenges?
- Do we enter into covenants (agreements) with people/organisations other than God? What benefits do covenants give to the people who enter into them? Are there any dangers involved when entering into a covenant? Can you think of any benefits that are unique to making a covenant with God?
- Have you ever tried to consider the Scriptures ‘as a whole’ – perhaps, through a Bible In A Year programme? Why might it be good to do this from time to time?
- In what ways does God demonstrate His love for us?