April 26, 2017

Deuteronomy 7:12-13 If you pay attention to these laws and are careful to follow them, then the Lord your God will keep his covenant of love with you, as he swore to your forefathers. He will love you and bless you and increase your numbers. He will bless the fruit of your womb, the crops of your land—your grain, new wine and oil—the calves of your herds and the lambs of your flocks in the land that he swore to your forefathers to give you.

I don’t know Hebrew grammar, but in Japanese you don’t hit a period from the beginning of verse 12 all the way to the end of verse 13. The impression is of an unstoppable torrent of blessing for God’s people who follow His laws. It’s interesting that where the NIV calls this a “covenant of love,” the Japanese calls it a “covenant of grace.” Those really are inseparable, because as Moses points out in verse 7, God does all these things not because of who we are but because of who He is. Some people try to follow God because of what they think they will get for it. This list is pretty impressive! However, that motive is ultimately insufficient. The real reason to love and obey God is that He is worthy, not only of our obedience but of all our love and devotion. We need to get to the place of Job, who would not reject God even though everything had been taken away from him. (Job 1:21; 13:15) God provides abundantly, but if we love Him only for what He gives us we haven’t really tasted His love.

This is an issue I have dealt with off and on over the years, both in myself and in others. I am as prone as anyone to fall into conditional, rather than unconditional, love. (In this case it really is a descent, rather than the usual “falling in love.”) However, if I love others just for what they do for me, I can’t begin to open up to the magnificence of God’s love for me. The whole Bible is a story of God’s unequal love. We can’t begin to love Him, much less other people, as He loves us unless we open our hearts to receive His love. I put it that way in my standard “wedding sermon,” because even a husband and wife can’t love each other fully apart from the love of God. God gives us rules because actions do have consequences, but even if we violate those rules He still loves us, because He has given us the rules to protect us from the consequences of our foolishness. As a pastor I try to help people understand that, but we can be remarkably stubborn! I have been amazingly blessed, but if I love God only for what He has done for me, I have missed the greatest blessing of all.

Father, this is really deep and really important. I have had times of real discouragement because of the low rate of return on my labors. Help me grasp, at the deepest level, that such things in no way diminish Your love for me. Help me receive Your love fully so that I may give it back to You fully, and to those around me as well, so that all of Your purposes for me may be fulfilled, for Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!

About jgarrott

Born and raised in Japan of missionary parents. Have been here as an adult missionary since 1981.
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