Sing, Daughter Zion;
shout aloud, Israel!
Be glad and rejoice with all your heart,
The LORD has taken away your punishment,
he has turned back your enemy.
The LORD, the King of Israel, is with you;
never again will you fear any harm.
On that day
they will say to Jerusalem,
“Do not fear, Zion;
do not let your hands hang limp.
The LORD your God is with you,
the Mighty Warrior who saves.
He will take great delight in you;
in his love he will no longer rebuke you,
but will rejoice over you with singing.”
—Zephaniah 3:14-17 (TNIV)
Yesterday we lighted the fourth candle on the Advent wreath, the candle of love. The biblical notion of love is multifaceted and much too complex to explore fully in these reflections. Suffice it to say that the biblical notion of love always manifests itself in action. It is not some sappy or sentimental feeling, but rather it seeks the best for the beloved. Of course, since humans are the creatures and God is the Creator, we do not know what is best for God nor can we ever love him in that way. Instead, our love for him must perforce manifest itself in obedience and service toward other humans. We love God by obeying him and loving others.
Do you see God’s great love for us manifested in today’s OT lesson? Despite Judah’s best efforts to separate herself from God by refusing to be the blessing to others as he called her to be, God does not give up on Judah (or us). God certainly lets Judah know that there will be consequences to her rebellion, but he tells her (and us) this not because he is angry with her in the unholy ways we humans sometimes get angry. No, there will be punishment because God wants Judah (and us) to have life and turn from doing those things that cause death. And because God understands that we cannot ultimately do that for ourselves, God promises to come and live with his called-out people to help them be who he called them to be. That is the definition of godly love. Read today’s passage from Titus in that light. All of a sudden Paul’s passage bursts forth with love. Like the Lord who claimed him, Paul wanted his people to live.
Likewise, we see God’s great merciful love manifested throughout Scripture. Consider, for example, the Fall. Have you ever thought about how easy it would have been for God to simply destroy Adam and Eve after they rebelled against him? How much easier it would have been to wipe out these miserable creatures and start all over. The great Plan had failed; why not start anew? But God did not do that, did he? Certainly there were consequences for their sin, but did you notice that only the serpent was cursed, and not the humans? No, ever since the Fall, God has worked to reclaim and redeem his fallen creatures because he loves us and love does not seek to destroy, but rather seeks to give life.
How does God do this? He gives us himself and consequently has overcome our sin and the alienation it causes. God loves us and wants us to be happy. He knows we will only be happy when we have the kind of relationship he created us to have with him. He doesn’t want us to have limp hands, i.e., he doesn’t want us to live in fear and darkness. Rather, he wants us to live in truth and light so that we will be real and happy. He wants us to live with him so that we can live forever.
Can you love a God who condescended to take on our human flesh and do the impossible for us so that we can live in peace, joy, and happiness all our days?
Tomorrow: Love continued.