OD loved Israel, and still loves them. From an emotional standpoint, it can be said that God loves the Jews. Jesus showed this care of, affinity for and attachment to them when He stood over Jerusalem weeping because of their rebellion and rejection of Him (Luke 13:34). But the wonderful thing is that God loved Israel in a practical way too. Love is a verb. Love includes actions, not just an attitude. And, in that way, God loved Israel especially. How amazing that is! But, how did they respond to Him? They did not reciprocate.
Malachi was another post-exilic prophet. God had blessed the Jews and brought them back home from Babylon. Yet, they drifted away from Him again. By the time Jesus came to earth, the Jews had fully rejected God. They still bore His name. They still carried His book. They still gave lip service to His prophets. But truly, they worshipped themselves. Centuries before Jesus preached against these vices, Malachi did so too. Obviously, there was no lasting effect though, because the nation was still wayward when John and Jesus commenced to preaching.
Take note of the evidence of Israel's spiritual callousness as it is presented in this chapter. The people had a saying, "You don't love us!" What a ridiculous accusation (vs. 2). The Jews didn't honor or fear God. They despised & denied His name (vs. 6). When they worshipped God, they gave Him the leftovers. As gifts, they gave Him that which was old & worn out; that which cost them nothing (vs. 7). They would have been better off giving nothing at all. They considered God's program to be insignificant & optional. They treated Him worse than they treated their human authority figures (vs. 8). They were bored with God's truth (vs. 12-13). They imagined that they could lie to Him & get away with it (vs. 14). What would God do in response to their backslidden condition? God's response to Israel is prophesied here in Malachi 1. He decided to turn His attention to the ignorant Gentiles.