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"He loves me . . .He loves me not . . ."

Malachi 1:2-5 NIV


"'I have loved you,' says the Lord. But you ask, 'How have you loved us?' 'Was not Esau Jacob's brother?' the Lord says. 'Yet I have loved Jacob, [3] but Esau I have hated, and I have turned his mountains into a wasteland and left his inheritance to the desert jackals.' [4] Edom may say, 'Though we have been crushed, we will rebuild the ruins.' But this is what the Lord Almighty says: 'They may build, but I will demolish. They will be called the Wicked Land, a people always under the wrath of the Lord. [5] You will see it with your own eyes and say, Great is the Lord--even beyond the borders of Israel!'"

It is remarkable, in view of Israel's sin, that God's first message to them in this book is that He loves them. His love is a historical love that goes back to their ancestor Jacob, who received his father's and God's blessing rather than his older brother Esau.

They may have felt unloved because of the suffering of the captivity, the shape of Jerusalem when they returned, the drought and economic instability, but God reminds them that they will recover. If He was against them, they wouldn't be able to bounce back. Edom may rebuild, God said, but He will destroy what they rebuild. His activity will cause all who see to say, "Great is the Lord!"

Israel's situation is far different from Edom's, Israel will bounce back. They will rebuild. God didn't stop bad things from happening to them, but He did give them the opportunity to improve their lives.

The objection of Israel in this text surfaces a universal question: How can a loving God allow bad things to happen? Since He is all powerful, can't He stop evil's reign? Let me tell you a story.

Hospital Chaplain Norris Burkes went on full alert when he heard that a family of stab victims would arrive at the emergency room in a few minutes. Chaplains deal with tragedy and death on a daily basis, but it never becomes routine. They are a special breed of minister who prefer to spend their time immersed in the suffering of others, and representing God and His people to hurting traumatized people. They extend grace & hope in hopeless situations every day of their life-this was one of those occasions.

The family was entertaining a friend in their home who had a dark secret-he was a crack addict. The tranquil visit turned into a nightmare when he ran out of crack and lost his sanity. He demanded money from his hosts, and when they wouldn't comply with his request, he began stabbing them.

It was horrible. Blood was everywhere.

The father died. The baby was critical. Mom was stable.

Big sister was in the best shape physically, but emotionally she'd entered the twilight zone. As the doctors worked with those needing medical attention, Chaplain Burkes took the ten year old girl into the chapel to pray.

Her prayers began very innocent, like you'd expect to hear from a little girl. She asked God to help her family recover and that everything would be OK. Then her prayers lost their innocence, as she had that night, and became brutally honest. "She demanded to know why God let her father die," Chaplain Burkes said, and "she had a few choice words for her houseguest as well."

Rage got the best of her, she swept the candles off of the altar and began overturning chairs in the chapel. The Chaplain called for Jeannie, the nurse supervisor, who held the child in her arms and took her back into the ER to give her a sedative.

Where was God's love for this little girl? 

Shouldn't His love have stopped this man from ravaging her family? Shouldn't his love have stopped this man from becoming addicted to crack? Shouldn't His love have stopped the drug pushers from selling drugs to this man? 

And that's the rub. When we analyze what we expect of God's love, have you noticed that it always goes back to limiting man's choice or to negating the consequences for choices? Because of man's free will, the man had a choice to kill or not to kill, to buy drugs or not buy drugs, to use drugs or not use drugs. Is it God's fault that he chose to sin? Is it God's fault that the man's sin carried consequences?

Can a just God negate the consequences for man's choices? Do you think God is obligated by love to give you the answers at a test that you didn't study for? Is God constrained by His love to keep a person healthy and strong that never exercises? If God loves you, will He place an umbrella of protection over you and keep bad things from happening to you, but not everyone else? Matthew 5:45 says, "he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust." 

To describe God as a loving God and stop at that description is a great injustice to our understanding of who He is. Not only is He loving, he is also just. He must punish sin and he must allow society to suffer the consequences of sin. 

Your personal sin doesn't just affect you-it affects people around you too. Robin Reid, the father of Richard Reid, the alleged "shoe bomber" admitted his personal culpability in his son's crime. He said, "Look at the terrible childhood he had . . . Look at the father he had. I have spent 18 years in total behind bars. That can't have helped, can it? Every time he needed me I was nowhere to be found." (Newsweek, Jan. 14, 2002, p. 19) Think of the domino effect of Robin Reid's sin and the impact it could have had on the American psyche if his son had been successful in blowing up that plane.

Here is another question we need to consider: would God be a loving God if He didn't allow us to exercise free will? Wouldn't that make him a tyrant-controlling, overbearing God, instead of a loving God?

Besides, it wasn't God that got the man hooked on crack and it wasn't God that stabbed the family members. Have you noticed how quick we are to blame God for stuff He has nothing to do with?

Some will blame God. Some will blame the knife maker. Some will blame society as a whole. 

But what about the crack addict himself? Can't we blame him? Some will be quick to say that he isn't to blame for his actions-he has a disease. His addiction is a medical problem, not a moral one. But wasn't the first time he took crack a moral choice, not as a result of an addiction? 

What about Satan? Shouldn't he deserve some of the blame? Ephesians 2:2 says, "You used to live just like the rest of the world, full of sin, obeying Satan, the mighty prince of the power of the air. He is the spirit at work in the hearts of those who refuse to obey God." (NLT)

Satan is active, working in the hearts of those who are disobedient to God. His intent is evil and destructive.

God has chosen to allow evil and good to grow next to one another. People choose which path they take, either they follow God, or they follow Satan. In Matthew 13:25-30 Jesus tells the parable of the "wheat and the tares," He said, "But while men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed tares also among the wheat, and went away. [26] "But when the wheat sprang up and bore grain, then the tares became evident also. [27] And the slaves of the landowner came and said to him, 'Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have tares?' [28] And he said to them, 'An enemy has done this!' And the slaves said to him, 'Do you want us, then, to go and gather them up?' [29] But he said, 'No; lest while you are gathering up the tares, you may root up the wheat with them. [30] Allow both to grow together until the harvest; and in the time of the harvest I will say to the reapers, First gather up the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them up; but gather the wheat into my barn.'" (NASB) In this world, good and evil will co-exist.

So where was God's love?

God's love was in the prayers and the presence of the Chaplain. His love was in the arms of the nurse. His love is in the girl's ability to forgive and to heal. God's love is in the likelihood that this little girl will one day be a "wounded healer" and help others.

This wasn't the first wounded child Jeannie, the nurse supervisor had taken in her arms. A year before it was her own son. Chaplain Burkes said, "She placed her arms around that child in much the same way I'd seen her place her arms around her own son who was paralyzed in an auto accident the year before."

Where is God's love? No, He doesn't keep evil from happening, but he makes sure that evil doesn't stand alone. He sends His people, and his Spirit to comfort the afflicted and heal the wounded. 

Impact Preaching: A Case for the
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