THE LOVE OF GOD (I)
When Israel was a child I loved him as a son and brought him out of Egypt. But the more I called to him, the more he rebelled, sacrificing to Baal and burning incense to idols. I trained him from infancy, I taught him to walk, I held him in my arms. But he does not know or even care that it was I who raised him. As a man would lead his favorite ox, so I led Israel with my ropes of love. I loosened his muzzle so he could eat. I myself have stooped and fed him. But my people shall return to Egypt and Assyria because they will not return to me. War will swirl through their cities; their enemies will crash through their gates and trap them in their own fortresses. For my people are determined to desert me. And so I have sentenced them to slavery, and no one shall set them free. Oh, how can I give you up, my Ephraim? How can I let you go? How can I forsake you like Admah and Zeboiim? My heart cries out within me; how I long to help you! No, I will not punish you as much as my fierce anger tells me to. This is the last time I will destroy Ephraim. For I am God and not man I am the Holy One living among you, and I did not come to destroy. For the people shall walk after the Lord. I shall roar as a lion [at their enemies] and my people shall return trembling from the west. Like a flock of birds, they will come from Egypt - like doves flying from Assyria. And I will bring them home again; it is a promise from the Lord – Hosea 11:1-11 (NIV).
For God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son so that anyone who believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. God did not send his Son into the world to condemn it, but to save it. ''There is no eternal doom awaiting those who trust him to save them. But those who do not trust him have already been tried and condemned for not believing in the only Son of God. Their sentence is based on this act; that the light from heaven came into the world, but they loved the darkness more than the light, for their deeds were evil. They hated the heavenly light because they wanted to sin in the darkness. They stayed away from that light for fear their sins would be exposed and they would be punished. But those doing right come gladly to the light to let everyone see that they are doing what God wants them to – John 3:16-21 (NIV).
See how very much our heavenly Father loves us, for He allows us to be called his children - think of it - and we really are! But since most people do not know God, naturally they do not understand that we are his children. Yes, dear friends, we are already God's children, right now, and we cannot even imagine what it is going to be like later on. But we do know this, that when He comes we will be like Him, as a result of seeing Him as He really is – 1 John 3:1&2 (NIV).
These three passages of scripture capture the love of God in a very special way. His love is overwhelming and amazing. It is beyond our limited mind and shallow thinking. God's love touches our very soul and opens new dimensions in our relationship withHim.
The Indescribable Love of God
Paul in his letter to the Ephesians prays in Chp. 3:17b-19 : that you, being rooted and established in love may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love thatsurpasses knowledge - that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. And so indeed is the indescribable love of God. The very thought of God's love is overwhelmingly beautiful. I am totally lost for words to articulate the love of God. In fact I must confess that the depth of God's love for human kind is incomprehensible to my ordinary mind. It takes His grace to enable us to grasp it, and I daily need grace to even begin to understand God's love.
In this article I would like us to catch just a glimpse of this great love from God who is Infinite, Almighty Lord, Ever - present and All - knowing. The Bible is really a summation of the love of God for man.
Love is the very essence of the nature of God - it is at the deepest depth and at the very root of all His being. ''Love is the heart and hand of His creation. It is out of His love that He creates , and that is how George Macdonald, the Scottish poet, preacher and novelist puts it. We find this at the very beginning of the Bible. In Genesis Chapter 1 we read in verse 1 onwards that God created all things, out of nothing, with His Word. And in verses 26-28 God's says ' Let us make man in our own image, in our likeness and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock and over all the earth and over the creature that move along the ground .' Verse 28 says that God blessed them and said to them, Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it . For me this is true love - to give of yourself to another, and to share your very nature and your power without counting the costs. Which is exactly what God has done for us. He has made us like Himself and given us His creation to have dominion over. It is indeed an amazing love especially since God knows us through and through and knows our potential for rebellion.
Jesus Christ's Love and Suffering
It did not take us long for us to rebel - to actually want more than all that God has given us. We want to take what is not ours – we want the wisdom, the power and the sovereignty of God. We want to be gods.
But even then God's love comes out clearly in Genesis Chp. 3 verse 15 when God reveals His plan of salvation that there will be enmity between the serpent and woman and that the offspring of the woman would crush the serpent's head. This was fulfilled when Jesus Christ suffered and died on the Cross of Calvary to take away the sins of the world and to bring salvation, redemption healing and deliverance to all human beings. It was love that caused Jesus Him to leave His glory above (Phil. 2:5-8 & Col. 1:15-17) to bring God's Great Act of Love to all mankind.
We therefore,we find that the whole Word of God reveals the various ways in which God's plan of redemption for His people is. For example:
i. Genesis 1-12 - Reason for Redemption
ii. Genesis 13 - Malachi - Preparation for Redemption
iii. Matthew - John (Gospel) - Manifestation of Redemption - Jesus Christ
iv. Acts - Propagation of Redemption
v. Romans - Jude (Epistles) - Explanation of the Redemption
vi. Revelation - Consummation of the Redemption
Why should God be so interested in our redemption? As I have said earlier, love is the very essence of God and in creating us in His image He meant to have a deep and an everlasting relationship with us - that of a Father with His sons and daughters.
In Jeremiah 31:3 : The Lord God tells us that He has loved us with an everlasting love.
Since God's covenant with us is that we will be His people and He will be our God, He has to keep His covenant by drawing us to Himself in an intimate full relationship with Him.
God's Enduring Love
In the Hosea 11:1-11 – God reveals His enduring love for us in spite of our gross unfaithfulness. The love affair between Hosea and Gomer is exactly the way it is between us and God: Hosea faithfully loves his wife and goes to all extents to be with her in fulfillment of their marriage covenant. He even goes to the extent of buying her back from her prostitution.
God used this analogy to explain to the children of Israel that their unfaithfulness to Him as their loving God is just like that between an adulterous woman and her loving husband. As we all know, in almost every society in the world it is the man who marries a woman and therefore, has certain rights for ''possessing'' her. Thus, as our creator and loving Father, God has every right over us as His 'treasured possession'.
We are His own and whenever we give our love to anyone or anything other than Him it is tantamount to unfaithfulness and He has the right to ''divorce'' us. On the contrary, however, God loves us unconditionally and woos us back to Him. He buys us back as Hosea did (Hosea 11:8-9).
In order to have us back into a full relationship with us God has purchased us at a price - the price of His son Jesus Christ ( I Cor. 6:19b-20a).Rom 5:8 describes it more succintly, God demonstrates His love for us in this, while we were yet sinners , Christ died, and in Eph. 2:4&5 Paul says it this way ''But because of His great love for us, God who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in our transgression - it is by grace that we have been saved.
John 3:16 therefore sums it up so beautifully - God so loved the world, His own creation and people, His handiwork and His sons and daughters, created in His own image – that He sent His only begotten son that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life – the very life that God wanted for us in the first place. It is God who has initiated reconciliation with Him through His Son Jesus Christ so that if we confess with our mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in our hearts that God raised Him from the dead we shall be saved (Rom.10:9). TO BE CONTINUED!
9 th March, 2012
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