God’s Great Love: God’s unfailing love and unconditional election of His people
The oracle of the word of the LORD to Israel by Malachi. 2“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.” 4 If Edom says, “We are shattered but we will rebuild the ruins,” the LORD of hosts says, “They may build, but I will tear down, and they will be called ‘the wicked country,’ and ‘the people with whom the LORD is angry forever.’” 5 Your own eyes shall see this, and you shall say, “Great is the LORD beyond the border of Israel!” (Malachi 1:1-5 ESV)
What’s it all about?
Malachi begins his indictment of Israel declaring the unfailing love of God for His covenantal people. Unlike their forefathers who had fallen into sin because they were prosperous, those who had returned from the Exile were skeptical of God’s character because of their social, political, and economic struggles. The people struggled to trust in God’s promises and provision.
Like Malachi’s audience, we tend to question God’s character, especially the depth and width of His love. Malachi’s message, however, reminds us of the unconditional love (synonymous with loyalty and choosing in the Old Testament) of God for those whom He called to be His own. Our response to the unconditional call and unfailing love of God must be: (1) To worship God on His terms; (2) Reflect His love in all our relationships; and (3) Live by faith in the person and provision of the Savior.
1. How does the Bible define love (1:2)? Read John 15:12-13
2. Who are the particular objects of God’s love (1:2-3)? Read Romans 5:6-11
3. What does the Bible teach about election (1:3)? Read Ephesians 1:3-14
4. How would the greatness of God be displayed beyond the borders of Israel (1:5)? Read Matthew 28:18-20
When you are tempted to doubt the goodness and grace of God, consider His providential work to both save and preserve you as evidence of His unfailing love. In a culture that is highly skeptical of Christianity and its claims, testify to the ways in which God has demonstrated His faithfulness in your life.
Individual Study Questions
Scripture: Romans 9:6-29 (full scriptural citation below)
1. What does Paul say about “God’s purposes of election” in the choosing of Jacob and not Esau (9:11)?
2. How does Paul defend the character of God against the charge that He is unfair (9:14-18)?
3. How does Paul respond to those who question God’s character (9:19-26)?
4. What have you learned about the doctrine of election in Romans 9:6-29?
5. What are some of the reasons people give for rejecting the doctrine of election? Does Paul address any of these objections in Romans 9? If so, how? If not, how would you respond?
6. Consider the unfailing love of God in light of this explanation of election: “Love takes on special significance only when restricted.” Does the explanation relate to the doctrine of election?
Romans 9:6-29: But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel, 7 and not all are children of Abraham because they are his offspring, but “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” 8 This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as offspring. 9 For this is what the promise said: “About this time next year I will return, and Sarah shall have a son.” 10 And not only so, but also when Rebekah had conceived children by one man, our forefather Isaac, 11 though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad—in order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls— 12 she was told, “The older will serve the younger.” 13 As it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.”
14 What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means! 15 For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” 16 So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy. 17 For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” 18 So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills.
19 You will say to me then, “Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?” 20 But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?”21 Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use? 22 What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction,23 in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory— 24 even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles? 25 As indeed he says in Hosea, “Those who were not my people I will call ‘my people,’ and her who was not beloved I will call ‘beloved.’” 26 “And in the very place where it was said to them, ‘You are not my people,’ there they will be called ‘sons of the living God.’” 27 And Isaiah cries out concerning Israel: “Though the number of the sons of Israel be as the sand of the sea, only a remnant of them will be saved, 28 for the Lord will carry out his sentence upon the earth fully and without delay.” 29 And as Isaiah predicted, “If the Lord of hosts had not left us offspring, we would have been like Sodom and become like Gomorrah.”