Love has always been an integral part of God’s relationship with His people. The commandments Christ called greatest (Mat. 22:37-39; Mar. 12:29-31) are contained in the the law delivered to Moses: “thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might” and “thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself” (Deu. 6:5; Lev. 19:5). In addition, the Old Testament conversation about love was not limited to instructions. God also declared His great love for His people.
For thou art an holy people unto the LORD thy God: the LORD thy God hath chosen thee to be a special people unto Himself, above all people that are upon the face of the earth. The LORD did not set His love upon you, nor choose you, because ye were more in number than any people; for ye were the fewest of all people: but because the LORD loved you, and because He would keep the oath which He had sworn unto your fathers, hath the LORD brought you out with a mighty hand, and redeemed you out of the house of bondmen, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt. (Deut. 7:6-8)
In the Old Testament, God’s love is revealed in many ways. He shows His love by rescuing Israel from Egypt and defeating her enemies. His love is contained in the law, given to protect His people from the consequences of sin. Love is shown every time He chastises Israel for forsaking Him and in the way He offers forgiveness and welcomes them back when they repent. He also tells His people He loves them.
“I Love You,” says God
When I first started studying this subject, I was amazed to read how many declarations of love God makes for His chosen people. He calls Himself Israel’s husband, and even after they were unfaithful to Him, He promised to redeem His people from their sins and marry them again — a promise fulfilled when Jesus Christ established the New Covenant. He says, “I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak comfortably unto her. … And it shall be at that day, saith the LORD, that thou shalt call Me Ishi [husband]; and shalt call Me no more Baali [master]” (Hos. 2:14,16).
And I will betroth thee unto Me for ever; yea, I will betroth thee unto Me in righteousness, and in judgment, and in loving kindness, and in mercies. I will even betroth thee unto Me in faithfulness: and thou shalt know the LORD. And it shall come to pass in that day, I will hear, saith the LORD, … and I will have mercy upon her that had not obtained mercy; and I will say to them which were not my people, Thou art my people; and they shall say, Thou art my God. (Hos 2:19-21, 23 KJV)
Can there be anything more beautiful than these promises? God is often accused of being unfairly harsh in His judgments, but how many human beings whose spouse was unfaithful would be as merciful towards them as the Lord is toward His unfaithful people?
But now, thus says the Lord, who created you, O Jacob, and He who formed you, O Israel: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name; You are Mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned, nor shall the flame scorch you. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior; I gave Egypt for your ransom, Ethiopia and Seba in your place. Since you were precious in My sight, You have been honored, and I have loved you; therefore I will give men for you, and people for your life. (Is. 43:1-4 NKJV)
This is one of my favorite passages from the Old Testament. It is so full of reassurance and love.
I was going to write a more complete concluding paragraph, but we have morning services today and I’m running out of time to get to choir practice. Happy Sabbath!