We are saturated with images in our society of love. They all usually revolve around one aspect of love... the "feeling" of love. Most of them miss the core and true meaning of love... the verb. The verb that demands to remain when the feeling is not there. The verb that demands to remain when the one being loved hurts you and disappoints you and rejects you.
God's love is never failing. It is unending. It is unconditional. It is boundless and incomprehensible.
How often God loves us when we are hurting Him. As I read the Old Testament and see His deep, deep love for Israel (His chosen people) and watch them turn against Him time and time again... I get a glimpse of the kind of love He has for me. He never stopped loving them. He allowed them to fall in their sin and disregard for Him and His word... but He never stopped loving them.
Isaiah is one of my favorite books in the Old Testament. God's love for His people is vivid and alive in these pages. I am moved at how much He loves us.
"For a mere moment I have forsaken you, But with great mercies I will gather you. With a little wrath I hid my face from you for a moment; But with everlasting kindness I will have mercy on you," says the LORD, your Redeemer." Isaiah 54:8~
Hosea is another book that is the love story of the LORD with Israel. If you have never read Hosea... you would be giving yourself a gift to do so. It is a short book... just 14 chapters. And it is simply beautiful.
And there is something I must say. It is something I learned during this past year and it has caused the Old Testament to become alive to me. It has given me a passion for reading it as I have never had before... because I never knew how much it applied to me.
I have often been confused at how the entire Old Testament could be about Israel (God's chosen people) and how the New Testament was about Christ who came for sinners. How did these two books fit together? Why was it given to us and so important? If it was only about the New Testament... why were we given the Old too?
My answer was that it (Old Testament) was to simply show us God's love and grace and mercy and power. It also showed clearly how He views sin and disobedience as well as righteousness and obedience. But then I was shown something that changed everything. I was shown that I am part of Israel. It was always about Israel and it is still about Israel! And then it all had new meaning... it was written for me and about me. Isn't it sad that something has to be about us sometimes to really speak to us? It may be sad, but it often true. Suddenly God's passion and pain and love and mercy and grace and blessing and promise was not just about Israel (and I didn't really understand that)... it was personally about me.
All through the books of Psalm, Jeremiah, Isaiah, Hosea and Ezekiel (and other books too) the LORD refers to the house of Judah and the House of Israel. The house of Judah refers to two of the twelve tribes of Israel and the house of Israel refers to the other ten. After each set of "houses" were sent into captivity (due to their disobedience) God offered freedom and restoration to them. The house of Judah (including the tribe of Judah... the Jews) returned to God but the house of Israel (10 other tribes) liked their worldly life and said "no thanks... we want to stay here". So God scattered them to the ends of the earth and they married Gentiles and people outside God's chosen people... foreigners.
Psalm 106: 24-27 "Then they despised the pleasant land; They did not believe His word, But complained in their tents, And did not heed the voice of the LORD. Therefore He raised an oath against them, To overthrow them in the wilderness, To overthrow their descendants among the nations and to scatter them in the lands."
The chapter continues to give example after example of how they disobeyed God over and over and over.
(34-36) "They did not destroy the peoples, concerning whom the LORD had commanded them, but they mingled with the Gentiles and learned their works; they served their idols, which became a snare to them."
(39) Thus they were defiled by their own works, And played the harlot by their own deeds. *(The book of Hosea is about the harlot who goes back to sin over and over and over... Israel and how God continues to follow her and forgive her and love her.)
(40,41) Therefore the wrath of the LORD was kindled against His people, So that He abhorred His own inheritance. And He gave them into the hand of the Gentiles, And those who hated them ruled over them."
(46,47) "He also made them to be pitied by all those who carried them away captive. Save us, O LORD our God, And gather us from among the Gentiles, to give thanks to your Holy name, to triumph in Your praise."
Psalm 108:5,6 "Be exalted, O God, above the heavens, And Your glory above all the earth; That your beloved (Israel) may be delivered, Save with your right hand, and hear me." *(Christ sits at the right hand of God)
Psalm 110 announces the reign of the Messiah... Christ Psalm 22 is also the crucifixion story!
(1) "The LORD (GOD) said to my Lord (Christ), "Sit at my right hand, Till I make your enemies Your footstool.."
Psalm 111 talks about God's faithfulness to HIS people... and who is HIS people... Israel.
(4-10) "He has made His wonderful works to be remembered; The LORD is gracious and full of compassion. He has given food to those who fear Him; (manna and qual in the wilderness to Israel) He will be mindful of His covenant. He has declared to HIS people the power of His works, In giving them the heritage of the nations. The works of His hands are verity and justice; All His precepts are sure. THEY STAND FAST FOREVER AND EVER, and are done in truth and uprightness. He has sent redemption to HIS people; He has commanded His covenant forever: Holy and awesome is His name. The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; A good understanding have all those who do His commandments. His praise endures forever."
Psalm 118:21-24 "I will praise You, For you have answered me, and have become my salvation. (Christ)
The stone which the builders rejected Has become the chief cornerstone. (Luke 17:25 "But first He must suffer many things and be rejected by this generation.")
Isaiah 56:1-3 "Thus says the LORD: Keep justice, and do righteousness. For my salvation is about to come, and My righteousness be revealed. Blessed is the man who does this, And the son of man who lays hold of it; Who keeps from defiling the Sabbath, and keeps his hand from doing evil. Do not let the son of the foreigner, who has joined himself to the LORD (Gentiles) speak, saying, The LORD has utterly seperated me from HIS people (Israel)." (8) "The Lord God, who gathers the outcasts of Israel, (10 scattered tribes... House of Israel) says, Yet I will gather to him (Jesus) others (Gentiles) besides those who are gathered to him."
Ezekiel 34 refers to scattered Israel as lost sheep needing a shepherd. MANY are the references to the scattered tribes as the lost sheep. (5,6) "So they were scattered because there was no shepherd, and when they were scattered they became food for all the wild animals. My sheep wandered over all the mountains and on every high hill. They were scattered over the whole earth, and no one searched or looked for them.
(11-13) "For this is what the Sovereign LORD says: I myself will search for my sheep and look after them. (Christ our Shepherd) As a shepherd looks after his scattered flock when he is with them, so will I look after my sheep. I will rescue them from all the places from the nations and gather them from the countries, and I will bring them into their own land. (16) I will search for the lost and bring back the strays. I will bind up the injured and strengthen the weak, but the sleek and strong I will destroy. I will shepherd the flock with justice. (22-25) I will save MY flock, and they will no longer be plundered. I will judge between one sheep and another. I will place over them one shepherd, my servant David (Christ), and he will tend to them; he will tend them and be their shepherd. I the LORD will be their God, and my servant David will be prince among them. I the LORD have spoken. I will make a covenant of peace with them..." *(Christ is the Prince of Peace)
Jesus Himself talks about this in the book of John in chapter 10. (1-5) "Most assuredly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door, but climbs up some other way, the same is a thief and robber. But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the doorkeeper opens, and the sheep hear his voice and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. And when he brings out his own sheep, he goes before them; and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. Yet they will by no means follow a stranger, but will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers." (7- 11) "Then Jesus said to them again, "Most assuredly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who ever came before Me (false gods) are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not hear them. I AM THE DOOR. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief does not come excpet to steal and kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life and have it abundantly. I AM THE GOOD SHEPHERD. THE GOOD SHEPHERD GIVES HIS LIFE FOR HIS SHEEP."
This next scripture shocked me and sent me deeper into study.
"Matthew 15:21-24 "Then Jesus went out from there and departed to the region of Tyre and Sidon. And behold a woman of Canaan came from that region and cried out to Him saying, "Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David! My daughter is sverely demon-possessed. But he answered her not a word. (*Wow... someone cries out to Jesus and he ignores her... that should catch our attention!) And His disciples came and urged Him saying, "Send her away for she cries out after us. But He answered and said, "I was not sent except to the lost sheep of the house of Israel."
I have read this passage before and yet read right past this! The woman, who is a Gentile, goes on to plead and worship Him! (26) "But he answered and said, "It is not good to take the children's bread (Israel's inheritance of salvation) and throw it to the little dogs." (Gentiles) (27) And she said, "Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs which fall from their masters' table." This is so bold, sweet, humble and sincere and heartfelt. She was recognizing she wasn't entitled... but still in need and asking for His mercy. I LOVE this passage and I LOVE this woman! (28) Then Jesus answered and said to her, "O woman, great is your faith! Let it be to you as you desire. And her daughter was healed that very hour." HER FAITH is what touched Jesus!
Isaiah 42, 60, and 63 talk about how it wasn't enough to send Christ only to gather the lost sheep but He would be sent also as a light unto the Gentiles. Paul talks about how once you hear the voice of the Shepherd and follow him, it is no longer about being Jew or Gentile... because Gentiles are grafted in... and the two become one... Gentiles are taken into the fold and become part of Israel. They become part of God's chosen people. And God's chosen people is Israel.
Once I saw how intertwined the Old Testament is with the New and realized that I am part of Israel (whether I am descended from the lost tribes or grafted in) and that Christ came to find me and call me by name... the entire Bible became 3-D and my passion for His word exploded.
I know that was a lot. And I am not sure how this post really came to be. But we are weathering some storms right now and I was clinging to God's word and the reality of His love for me. The enemy is raging and trying to steal, kill and destroy. And I was led to share this about God's love and who we really are in Christ! If the holy and living God loves me despite my flaws and weaknesses and shortcomings... and seeks me out, calls me by name, and gives me grace... then WHO am I to deny someone love who has not earned it?
This past year has been huge for us as God reveals more and more of His word and His love and His will and His presence. I can not keep it to myself!
I pray you are encouraged. I pray you take time to dive into His word and read it! The enemy keeps us (tries to keep us) distracted and out of God's presence. He gets a hold of us so quickly when we allow him to keep us from the most important place to be. We need a shepherd... every moment... of every day... and we have one in Jesus Christ!
Love and hugs...