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God Is Love series

Links to Psalm Themes

Last week, when we unpacked the difficulty of translating Psalm 32:5, particularly when translation the Hebrew word “Nasa” (Forgive, to bear) I mentioned posting links to the root word study for aiding in some devotional time in your private study of the Psalms.  Here are those links.

Occurrences of the word “Love” in the Psalms (ESV, this will vary by translation):
https://www.blueletterbible.org/search/search.cfm?Criteria=Love&t=ESV#s=s_primary_19_1

Some of the key themes we talked about this past Sunday during our dialogue time are reposted here with the links.  Remember, that if you use BlueLetterBible (shortcut, use blb.org) that clicking on the Book Filter on the right will give you just the Psalms.  For example, here is Redeemer in the whole Hebrew OT…
https://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=H6299&t=ESV

…and here it is in just the Psalms, so you can narrow a search.
https://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=H6299&t=ESV&bn=19#lexResults

Most of these searches have been narrowed to just the Psalms.

Yeshua – Salvation https://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=H3444&t=ESV

Ahav – Love https://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=H157&t=ESV&bn=19#lexResults

Esher – Blessed https://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=H835&t=ESV&bn=19#lexResults

Checed – Mercy, Loving Kindness https://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=H2617&t=ESV&bn=19#lexResults

For fun, you can combine searches so that you can look at words occurring together.  For example, here is “Love + Salvation” only using the exact Hebrew search it is “H157+H3444” (the word numbers are from Strong’s concordance)
https://www.blueletterbible.org/search/search.cfm?Criteria=H157+h3444&t=ESV#s=s_primary_0_1

Here is “Mercy + Salvation”
https://www.blueletterbible.org/search/search.cfm?Criteria=H3444+H2617&t=ESV#s=s_primary_0_1

Here is a root of the word Salvation, “Save + Mercy”
https://www.blueletterbible.org/search/search.cfm?Criteria=H3467+H2617&t=ESV#s=s_primary_0_1

 

For the broader view, to see how often a particular OT book is quoted or alluded to in the NT, check out this resource.
https://www.blueletterbible.org/study/misc/quotes.cfm

There is obviously a ton on this topic posted all over the net, and hundreds of books on the subject, but as always, the best resource is just looking at the cross references and reading the Bible for yourself.

The Father’s Love – The Akedah (Binding of Isaac)

This devotional is from our “God is Love” series from the sermon “The Father’s Love – The Akedah (Binding of Isaac)” See also: Genesis 21:9-12; Genesis 22:1-19; 1 John 4; Heb 11:1-19; Ps 102:20-21; Mat 3:9; Luke 16:23-31; Luke 20:37-38; John 8:48-58; Acts 3:25; Acts 7:8; Galatians 4

By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was in the act of offering up his only son, 18 of whom it was said, “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” 19 He considered that God was able even to raise him from the dead, from which, figuratively speaking, he did receive him back. (Hebrews 11:17-19)

The writer of Hebrews refers to a “parable” (translated in many modern translations by the words “figuratively speaking”) that Isaac would be raised from the dead.  Some have wondered about this in modern times because we may be unfamiliar with the Hebrew word for parable – “midrash”.  There are a set of writings which are the teachings of ancient rabbis, called the Midrash, and they do indeed have interpretations of the events in Genesis 22 that Isaac would (or in some rabbis’ interpretations in fact did) experience actual death and resurrection in the Akedah (The “Binding of Isaac”).  This is the first time that the word “love” appears in scripture. Abraham was promised that he would be the father of many nations through Isaac, whom he loved; so why sacrifice him?! Commentators often point out that in Abraham’s time there was a culture of child sacrifice to an idol named Molech; however, in this amazing (and to modern readers, often horrific) story of Isaac what we may miss is that God is totally doing away with child sacrifice in the new culture being established through Abraham. God is creating a new culture, one of justice, mercy, and protection for the weak.  Yet God was also doing something else, he was creating a prophetic type that firmly established a principle in Jewish (and therefore in Christian) teachings: that God will keep his promises through the resurrection of the Promised One.  Jewish rabbis  were teaching that God is so serious about keeping his promise through Abraham that the “one who is bound*” would be freed from death.  This became the benchmark for what became a “substitutionary” sacrifice, the lamb of God in place of the sinner; but only a man can pay for the crimes of a man, so these were temporary, repetitive.  Scripture says that Christ came, as the Son of Promise, at precisely the right time to die in our place so that God could give you and me an inheritance, adopted in to take his place as heirs while he took our place in judgement.  That is how deep the Father’s love is for us.

Dialogue Questions:

    • What do you think about the parallels between the story of Isaac and the death of Jesus? Do you agree with the early Christian doctrine about Isaac as a prophetic type pointing forward to Jesus?
    • Why do you think this is the first time God inspired “love” and “worship” to be used in scripture?

Things to Pray about:

    • Pray for a deeper passion in understanding the promises of God and his love for us.

Psalm 102:20-21,translated as a plural “prisoners” for modern readers not familiar with Jewish teaching, but is singular in the original text.

God’s Love for the Unloved

This devotional is from our “God is Love” series on Leah, “God’s Love for the Unloved”

When the Lord saw that Leah was hated, he opened her womb, but Rachel was barren. And Leah conceived and bore a son, and she called his name Reuben, for she said, “Because the Lord has looked upon my affliction; for now my husband will love me.” She conceived again and bore a son, and said, “Because the Lord has heard that I am hated, he has given me this son also.” And she called his name Simeon. Again she conceived and bore a son, and said, “Now this time my husband will be attached to me, because I have borne him three sons.” Therefore his name was called Levi. And she conceived again and bore a son, and said, “This time I will praise the Lord.” Therefore she called his name Judah. Then she ceased bearing. (Gen 29:31-35)

A few things stand out if we read the Bible without blinders; these things likely reflect a record that was not “adjusted” by later generations to polish up their past.  Story touches parts of our hearts that simple reporting of facts would not; the Bible is much more than just a book of history.  In Genesis 29, several of these come right out to the surface.  First, the hero stories are often filled with less than favorable reflections of their characters.  In the case of the origins of the 12 Tribal Patriarchs, their names and origins are attributed to the emotional struggle of two sisters in tension over who would be loved by their common husband, hardly the most favorable way to introduce the national fathers!  Second, the story (among many others) paints an unfavorable light on polygamy.  Also, this story shows something that almost never appeared in ancient literature – that women are also made in the image of God and that their emotions matter deeply to God. In fact, ancient literature rarely even mentions women, much less what is going on in their heart!  Similarly, the ancient promotion of the first born son (called “primogeniture”) is constantly thwarted in Genesis, reflecting an honest account of how things really were, but also of how God is not subject to human institutions for His plan.  In fact, women and second born sons got protection unparalleled in the ancient world.  We could go on, and we should study for these things, but one final thought on this passage should resound deeply with us – God loves the unloved.  In fact, the love of God for the hidden pain of the brokenhearted matters so much that, in the story of Leah, he chose an ugly, unloved, sad woman to be the torch-bearer of praise in spite of her emotional distress; we too can reach for God’s love when earthly love is unreachable.  For Leah, her reaching out to God in praise has her forever recorded as the matriarch of the coming Christ. His love, you see, is eternal.

Dialogue Questions:

    • Why do you think about Leah’s story of being unloved? How does it speak to the broken hearted?

Things to Pray about:

    • Pray for God’s heart of love to be real and tangible to the lonely and the unloved.

Joseph, Beyond Brotherly Love

This devotional is from our “God is Love” series from the sermon on Joseph

So Joseph said to his brothers, “Come near to me, please.” And they came near. And he said, “I am your brother, Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt.  And now do not be distressed or angry with yourselves because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life.  For the famine has been in the land these two years, and there are yet five years in which there will be neither plowing nor harvest.  And God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth, and to keep alive for you many survivors.  So it was not you who sent me here, but God. He has made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house and ruler over all the land of Egypt. (Gen 45:4-8)

The story of Joseph is a wonderful part of history, one which should be studied, retold, and woven into our cultural fabric (as it sometimes is).  Like all good stories, there are twists and turns, subplots, morals, and principles such as stewardship, hard work, planning, and forgiveness.  But if we only look at the story of Joseph as a literary treasure, we may miss the fact that it was woven into scripture as part of the overall story of God.  In this story, the supposed death of a brother brought life to the nation, after he was sold for a few silver coins.  In the end, it was the love of God through Joseph that could see the bigger plan, that it was God working through him that brought about salvation (from the famine).  There are a number of ways we can see the pattern of God’s love through Joseph’s life and, as we study the character of God that desires to restore, forgive, and preserve life, we can look at the life of Joseph as a foreshadowing of God’s own son, whom he would allow to go down into the pit of Hades to save us all.

Dialogue Questions:

    • How can we learn from Joseph’s story about the blessing of letting go of past hurts? What kind of hurts did Joseph need to overcome in order to be a wise, gracious, and effective steward of Egypt?
    • Given the many family dynamics of Genesis before Joseph, what do you think about the way he is reconciled to his brothers? How is this different than other “brotherly” examples from Genesis (hint, those resulted in multiple nations – what nation did Joseph save)?
    • How do forgiveness and love work together in the story of Joseph?
    • What do you make of the prophetic types of the Baker and Wine Steward?
    • What do you make of the story of Joseph’s empty tomb?

Things to Pray about:

    • Pray for our hearts to be softened towards those who have wronged us, especially family.
    • Pray for insight as we study the character of God’s love and that we would reflect His love to others; pray that we, like Joseph, would see our distress in the light of God’s love for us.

Exodus to Grace

This devotional is from our “God is Love” series, from the sermon “Exodus to Grace”

You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life. I do not receive glory from people. But I know that you do not have the love of God within you. I have come in my Father’s name, and you do not receive me. If another comes in his own name, you will receive him. How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the only God? Do not think that I will accuse you to the Father. There is one who accuses you: Moses, on whom you have set your hope. For if you believed Moses, you would believe me; for he wrote of me. But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe my words?” (John 5:39-47)

We have a very difficult time reconciling love and justice. We demand that the oppressed be set free, but do we demand that the oppressor be condemned? Some would see mercy, others would see retribution.  We can look back at the history of Israel, particularly in the Exodus, and see justice and oppression being balanced in a way as never before in history – the nation was called to remember the poor and oppressed because they were once poor and oppressed.  The justice that was demanded by the grumbling heart was one that could simply set boundaries, limits on retribution and action, but not one that could be free to extend the love that represents the character of God himself.  That takes a kind of discipline that allows us to work for good, in spite of the evil done to us, and thus to follow in the steps of Christ.  Freedom from the law came at a great price.  God freed Israel from Pharaoh, and they expected freedom from Rome in the Messiah they awaited; Christ came to free us from our own hearts, bound in grumbling, anger, and the bondage of imperfection.

Dialogue Questions:

    • Why do you think man struggles with power to oppress others to begin with? What is it about the human heart that causes us so often in our history to abuse power rather than use it for good?
    • How does God use justice as a stop-gap to limit the authority of those in power?  Does the law fix our heart, or just stop our hand?
    • How is Christ “the one Moses wrote about”?
      • What do you think of the New Testament interpretations of Christ as having fulfilled the types and patterns of the Old Testament?
      • Do you take this as later reinterpretation or do you see you Christ was the Messiah that Israel was waiting for?
    • What power does Christ follower have, really, to act out of love, rather than out of legal obligation?

Things to Pray about:

    • Pray for God to free the captive, bind up the broken hearted, and bring justice through our hearts renewed in Christ and our hands set towards His will.

Our Kinsman Redeemer

This devotional accompanies the sermon series “God is Love: Ruth and Our Kinsman Redeemer”

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works. Declare these things; exhort and rebuke with all authority. Let no one disregard you. (Titus 2:11-15)

Humanity has a very difficult time reconciling the idea of poverty.  Those of us who have been born into the privileged life of an American citizen, with food and shelter abundantly available even for our poorest, when we grumble and complain about our lack we can be pointed to those who live on less than $1 each day overseas and count ourselves lucky.  But is our case, even when we are not in material need, really better?  Our lives, even in abundance, are deeply entrenched in depression, doubt, anger, loneliness, and the kinds of pain and suffering we cannot fully put words to.  These are part of the universal “human condition.”  We suffer and groan under a debt that we do not understand and that we cannot pay.  We are the poorest of the poor, we only mask that and numb it with material things, temporary passions, and dim hope.  But real hope has come!  What now if we were to truly release our hearts into a full acceptance of God’s love for us and his purchase of us? Would it not make us the most loving of all people (1 Peter 1:18-23)?  If we can accept it, God will lavish his love on us in a way we could never fully comprehend but that we desperately need, for our Redeemer lives.

Dialogue Questions:

    • What do you make of the book of Ruth, is it merely a beautiful ancient love story or do you see the pattern of God’s saving plan for mankind?
    • The prophet Isaiah proclaimed God as the Redeemer, the one who would bear the iniquities of the world.  There are only three possible ways to take this: Do you see this as wishful thinking to a nation in bondage, an unfulfilled prophecy so that we should wait for another, or is it fulfilled in Christ?
    • How has the redeeming love of God freed us to love one another and those around us?

Things to Pray about:

    • Pray for the poor, especially those without access to the basic necessities of life (food, basic health care). Pray for generosity as we approach a season of giving in the US to bring aid overseas and here at home to those in need.

God of Mercy

I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not cover my iniquity; I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD,” and you forgave the iniquity of my sin.(Psalm 32:5)

The word “forgive” in Hebrew helps us to picture what the action really is – the one who forgives bears the cost of the one who owes the debt.  What is the debt?  We have a difficult time with words rarely used in our culture.  We better understand guilt rather than iniquity, rebellion instead of transgression, and imperfection rather than sin.  But forgive is a term we use quite a lot without really thinking about what the word implies.  We tend to think of forgiveness only as a blessing to the one forgiven and not as a cost to the one doing the forgiving!  David understood this and captured it in poetry unlike anyone before him in human history, at the same time feeling the weight of his emotional guilt for the outright rebellion in his heart towards God and yet still fully understanding that it was God who took that weight. The word forgive is, perhaps, something we have become too familiar with as “letting someone off the hook.”  We often tend to underestimate the impact of our mistakes on others; “oh, so-and-so is just being too sensitive, they need to get over it!”  Are we really in any place as the one who commits the error (and in most cases barely see it as an error to begin with) to estimate the cost of the damage?  How much imperfection does it take to make something no longer perfect?  We were created in the image of God.  We know instinctively, because we feel the guilt of it without ourselves, that we do not measure up to that perfect image and that we make mistakes, errors, and imperfections.  More often than not, we make matters worse when we cover that over to hide it.  The best we can do is seek grace when we offend others, why should this not be true of God also?  But we cannot undo the imperfection.  Instead, the only way for an imperfect person to stand before a Holy God is for a perfect person to take their place.  When God “bears the cost” of forgiving us, he alone is qualified to stand there as a perfect substitute for our imperfection, rebellion, and failures.

Dialogue Questions:

    • What do you think of the word guilt – do you ever experience this?
      • What causes guilt?
      • Can we still be guilty if we do not feel guilty?
      • If we are forgiven of something, do we still feel guilty for it?
    • We tend to think of sin as moral failure only, rather than the whole scope of our mistakes and imperfections. How does your view of God’s Holiness change if you honestly admit making mistakes and being imperfect?
    • Why does forgiving us cost God anything?  Why did it actually cost Him everything and not just a little bit?

Things to Pray about:

    • Spend some time this week in prayers of thanksgiving, just resting in the fact that God is gracious to us when we do not deserve it.  Pray for the others you know that really need to rest in grace.

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