July 29, 2015 Ponder
Although I have read through the Book of Isaiah several times before, I recently discovered a new insight. In chapter 43, verse 4, God told Israel, “I love you.” At first glance, that should not surprise me, because God is Love and the Story of the Bible is all about His Love. What caught my attention is that I cannot find this statement anywhere else in the Bible.
The Bible is all about God’s love for humans. It is declared in words and in actions. The well-known verse, John 3:16, declares that, “God so loved the world that He gave His only Son to be our Savior.” There is no question, from Genesis to Revelation, that the Gospel is God’s love story written to all mankind. The Bible cannot be read seriously without sensing God’s love – often demonstrated in spite of man’s rejection of Him.
The placement of those words in Isaiah is especially significant, in that much of the book is filled with warnings of coming judgment. Now and then there is a statement of hope that reminds us God will complete His work with the Israelites. But how powerful it must have been for the prophet Isaiah to hear: “I love you!”
The root word for “love” in this context suggests a close relationship involving affection for a friend. It is an expression of tender and loving care. There is nothing casual or flippant about it, as is so often heard in our own culture today. People say, “I love you” with little or no intention of following through on what that should imply.
In our early days of courtship, Carol and I enjoyed an amazing friendship. It was based on respect, a growing trust and the fact that we had many common interests. Although very different in personality and from extremely different backgrounds, we enjoyed delightful times together. In my mind was a dream that we might spend our lives together, while her thinking was that I was a nice guy but not her type.
The day came that I actually asked her to marry me. Her response shocked me into reality when she asked, “Do you love me?” Talk about an unprepared country boy! I had never actually told her in words: “I love you.” It pains me to admit my next words: “Well, I think I do. Yes, I know I do.” I am grateful that she did not run. I do not believe that Carol actually wondered if I loved her, but she needed to hear the words. And I needed to say them. I had grown up in a culture where you did not express, “I love you,” although you tried to live it. But those words need to be spoken with truth and sincerity.
From God’s perspective, it was obvious that He loved the Israelites, for by the time of Isaiah’s writings, they had messed up so many times that, if He had not loved them, He would have abandoned them. But I think it must have had significance to Isaiah, while delivering all of those messages about discipline, to hear God say, “I love you.”
I like hearing those words from people, especially from Carol, and certainly from God. Everything about Him tells me He loves me, but the actual words are wonderful. Maybe someone reading this “Ponder” can help me find any other verses where God said: “I love you.”
Pastor Bill Ehmann