Updated: Sep 9, 2020
2-5 “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!” (ESV) God begins His appeal to the people He loves in love. "Israel, I have loved you", says the Lord. God anticipates Israel's response, "How have you loved us?"
The fear of the Lord is God's cure for all forms of pride
Pride causes spiritual blindness… to our own sin and to the love of God. Israel became spiritually blind and could no longer see God's goodness through the lens of love. So God appealed to them not through expressions of patience, mercy and blessing but through reproof, discipline, and the fear of the Lord. The restoration of the fear of the Lord is what is needed to be healed of spiritual blindness and to be restored to the love of God.
Consider what the Scripture says, that God has given over everyone to disobedience that He may be merciful to all. Without the fear of the Lord there is neither disobedience nor mercy. So all of our beginnings in God begin with the fear of the Lord. And yet, it is possible to depart from it. We who were once blinded by worldly pride can become blind once more with spiritual pride. This is why Paul writes to believers urging them not to despise God's goodness and kindness which is meant to turn us from sin. This is why Paul writes again to the same believers, urging them not to become arrogant concerning their election in Christ, but rather fear the Lord. The fear of the Lord is necessary to resist pride and grow in love.
... look beyond and see, with trembling heart, the greatness of His Name.
The fear of the Lord comes with perspective. Arrogance had blinded Israel in part because they were looking too narrowly. Rarely, if ever, are we able to see God's love when we are only focused on ourselves and our own interests, even if they are God-given interests. With admonishing, God offers Israel a larger perspective, indeed His own perspective. He invites them to look beyond and see, with trembling heart, the greatness of His Name. "Look beyond" is a reminder to look back at our past with gratitude and remember our humble beginnings in God. "Was not Jacob (Israel) Esau's brother?", asks the Lord to Israel. Though Jacob and Esau had the same beginning, they have strangely different outcomes. Why? God says the difference maker is His love. Nothing more. Nothing less. Apart from God we can no nothing. With God all things are possible. Jacob and Esau, that is Israel and Edom, help illustrate this reality for us in very certain terms. "Look beyond" is an invitation to look outward from the vantage point of our personal journey and see how we fit in the family of God. Yes, my individual story is important, but only in the sense that it serves God's purposes for your story. And your story serves another story, so on, and so on. In this way God is writing all of our stories together as a beautiful and perfect illustration of His Oneness. Israel's failed to look beyond it's own borders to see how God wanted to work through her to reveal Himself to others.
Finally, "look beyond" is an encouragement to look forward with a prophetic confidence and set our hope on eternal promises. Our blessed hope is not of this world, but in the heavenly kingdom that is coming to this world. The kingdom of God is not a matter of earthly comforts, but it is righteousness, peace and joy in the Spirit, now in part and in fullness at the coming of our Lord. Did we redeem the time? Were we faithful in our assignments? Did we learn to love with His love? Did we live wisely, with the fear of the Lord instructing us? These are what will matter then, and therefore these are what defines our success or failure in this life.