There's something tenderly awesome about the way the book of Malachi begins. Malachi is the last of the Old Testament Prophets (at least in terms of our book order), and there's a lot to love in his few words. But the beginning strikes me simply for this:
I think it's the way God talks to most of us.
Most of the prophets begin their books by telling the reader who they are, and Malachi does the same. But when God starts to speak, what we usually get is, "Then God spoke His word to the prophet and said to him, 'This is My Word that I am speaking to you'...." Or something like that. A lot of these prophecies are very formalized. They are very...sterile. Malachi's is not. He tells us who he is - he's Malachi - and then the Lord speaks.
I loved you.
Those are the words the Lord speaks. Nothing formal around them. Nothing to distance Malachi or the people of God or the readers of the Word from what the Lord is saying. Nothing to give anyone any direction on how to interpret it. Just the tender word of God, whispered into an empty space. I loved you.
Which is a little heartbreaking, right? Given my druthers, I'd prefer if God's first words to me were something more...present-tense. I love you. What is this loved business?
But it's the empty space of it that gets me. Because that's how God works, at least in my experience. That's how He speaks, at least to my ears. There's this empty space, this silence, this vacancy and then, the whisper of God with a simple, yet powerful word.
And maybe for you, it's not, I loved you. It doesn't have to be. Maybe it's I was there, and suddenly, you realize what you were thinking about without even consciously thinking about it and you know that word of God was given just for you. Or maybe you get the present-tense word of God. I am here. And all of sudden, the crushing loneliness of the empty space hits just as it is becomes filled with the presence of the God who speaks.
Maybe God doesn't make a declaration to you about Himself at all; maybe he speaks into your open spaces so that you will hear what He says about you. You are beautiful. You are blessed. You are beloved. You are treasured. You are amazing. You are Mine.
I think these simple words, I loved you, are among the most meaningful of all words spoken to the prophets. Sure, there are the prophecies about the coming Messiah, which had more impact long-term, but have you really read the prophets? Most of the words God spoke to them were about their disobedience, His anger, His punishment, His judgment, what He was about to do to some nation or another. This is the word of the Lord...I will destroy this place. Which is really great if you're a people out for judgment on those who have stood against you and yes, it's really cool when God fights for you and defends you. It's encouraging when He disciplines you but promises to restore you.
But there is nothing quite like hearing the God of the universe declare, I loved you, even if it's implied that maybe He doesn't love you right now. It's a personal word, an intimate word. It's got a lot of weight to it. It's powerful.
And that's the way God speaks to most of us. There's this quiet moment, this empty space, and all of a sudden, it's filled with a profound, yet simple, intimate word of the Lord whispered just to break the moment, just to start the conversation, just to open our ears so that we are hearing. Then He continues to speak.
So give yourself the quiet moments. Give yourself the empty spaces. Listen for the whisper. Because that's where God starts to speak. That's where He starts to say all these little words you need to hear. Words like I loved you....and I still do. I was there....and I'm still here. You are beautiful. You are blessed. You are beloved. You are treasured. You are amazing. You are mine.
I am yours.