We are comfortable saying that Jesus died to take away the sin of the world; but now bring that truth home. If humanity had been in good shape with no need for a savior—no need except for me, the one, single person separated from God—he would have died for me.
And, in fact, he did.
Image by Pete Linforth
By Steve Hall
Today’s text from the book of Deuteronomy is one of the most remarkable in the Old Testament. The author had personally known the work of God in Egypt, the plagues by which He convinced Pharaoh to accept His judgment, the Passover by which the children of Israel were saved from death, the parting of the sea to allow safe passage, the atmospheric storm which crowned Mt Sinai and the presentation of the Law at Moses’ hand. In Deuteronomy he visions it again, brooding over the wonders God has brought about and recalling once more the words of Moses. In this passage he ponders the consequences of what has happened. Listen again.
“Today you are making this agreement with the LORD:
he is to be your God and you are to walk in his ways
and observe his statutes, commandments and decrees,
and to hearken to his voice.
And today the LORD is making this agreement with you:
you are to be a people peculiarly his own, as he promised you;
and, provided you keep all his commandments,
he will then raise you high in praise and renown and glory
above all other nations he has made,
and you will be a people sacred to the LORD, your God,
as he promised."
“Today you are making this agreement with the LORD.”
“And today the LORD is making this agreement with you.”
This is an extraordinary statement! So extraordinary, in fact, that the author found it necessary to repeat it multiple times and even gave an explanation for its origin.
"For you are a people holy to the LORD your God; the LORD your God has chosen you to be a people for his own possession, out of all the peoples that are on the face of the earth. It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the LORD set his love upon you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples; but it is because the LORD loves you. . . .”
From this point we step into a design of cosmic significance, a concept so phenomenal that it puts all our ’oohs’ and ‘ahs’ over the discoveries of science into the trash bin of inconsequence. And, moreover, I am going to tell you something of equally cosmic proportion.
Take a deep breath.
Calm your senses.
Open your minds and hearts to what I am about to say.
Listen carefully lest you miss its import.
Here it is:
God Loves You!
That’s right! God Loves You.
We’ve heard it in the past. We hear it now. We will hear it at the end. God Loves You!
His love is not a passion which fades and may even die. Neither is it a love conditioned upon our behavior. He loves us with an Everlasting Love.
We are comfortable saying that Jesus died to take away the sin of the world; but now bring that truth home. If humanity had been in good shape with no need for a savior — no need except for me, the one, single person separated from God — he would have died for me; and, in fact, he did.
“In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only-begotten Son into the world, so that we might live through him.”
(1 John 4:9)
And then John goes on to explain:
“In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us . . . .”
(1 John 4:10)
He loved us first! He loved us into existence. He loved us in protecting us from ourselves. He loved us enough to approach us and speak to us. He loved us enough to tell us how we could be with him. “He so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16) RSV-CE
So . . . The question now, as it always is, how do we respond?
As the Psalmist says, “How shall I make a return to the Lord for all the good he has done for me?”
The answer is not complicated. We were first given the answer long ago, though we may not have seriously and attentively listened.
“Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD; and you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might.”
Jesus would repeat the teaching in his conversation with a lawyer of the Jewish Law.
“And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question, to test him. ‘Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?’ And he said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’”
We hear the teaching again today in Jesus’ words to the crowd.
“I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Heavenly Father.” But, just as in days of the Old Testament, any prophet of the Lord coming to us today would first accuse the world of ignoring this fundamental command. That is why it is crucial to remember that Our God loves us, and he loved us first. That is why we must regularly dwell on the question from the Psalms: “How shall I make a return to the Lord for all the good he has done for me?”