Because He first loved us

In 1860, Anna B. Warner wrote the song “Jesus Loves Me.” Many of us grew up with this song in Sunday School because it tells us as children that “Jesus loves me. This I know, for the Bible tells me so.” There are five verses. As kids, we probably didn’t sing all five, but the last verse goes like this: “Jesus loves me! He will stay Close beside me all the way; Thou hast bled and died for me, I will henceforth live for Thee.” Also, in the 1800’s, Hymnist Fanny Crosby wrote a similarly-themed hymn “Because He first loved me,” saying, “I love my blessed Savior because He first loved me.” These songs have a far deeper meaning that goes back to the time of Moses teaching the Israelites about God’s love and how to experience it.

In Deuteronomy 7:12, Moses says, “And because you listen to these rules and keep and do them, the LORD your God will keep with you the covenant and the love that he swore to your father’s.” The traditional Jewish interpretation of this verse is, “because you will listen…” as in, “and it shall be that your heel is ready to take a step, you will listen to your heart.”  This is the step of faith, as you walk with God, you will come to know that love—and love Him in return. Listening and responding, is the point. If the people listen to God’s word and are obedient to it, then the blessings of God will be abundant. The more we walk with the LORD God, and hear His ways, the closer we will be drawn to Him.

Moses reminded them how the LORD had kept them all the years in the wilderness, and did this so that they would look to Him for their needs. And now the Promised Land laid before them, and the LORD would continue to care for them as He had in the desert. The blessedness came from walking by faith, Moses warned the people not to forget the LORD by ignoring His commandments.  If they forgot their deliverance and turned away trusting in their own ingenuity, God promised they would soon perish from the land. Moses reminded the people of God’s forgiveness, exhorting them to “circumcise” their hearts–that is to remove their hard heartedness. Open hearts toward the love of God compels us to love Him in return.

The book of Deuteronomy mentions the word love over twenty times, mostly dealing with God’s love for us as His people. Let us recall Christ telling the lawyer in Matthew 22:37 what is the most important commandment: “to love the LORD your God, with all your heart, with all your mind, and with all your strength.” Jesus is reaffirming the Jewish Shema, commanding us to also love the Lord God in response to His love. 1 John 4:19 says, “We love him, because he first loved us.” Let us learn to walk with God, with Christ, learning His ways and His love for us that we might Love the LORD our God with all our heart, our mind and strength. By this, we might also love our neighbor as ourself, showing the light of Christ to all.

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Bill Wilson