Pentecost 8 (Proper 12), July 26, 2020 Unfettered Love Text: Deuteronomy 7:6–9
The context of the text points to a people living among those who do not serve YHWH - the problem is not that the heathen people are terrible but that the church (Israel) instead of being salt and light will confirm the heathen evil by joining THEM in their unbelief and lack of following the word of YHWH!!
- The three speeches of Moses contain a series of recurring and interwoven themes”
- Moses repeatedly reminds the people of the Lord’s mighty deed in delivering Israel from Egypt. No god has ever done such a thing. Israel is therefore to recognize that the Lord alone is God (1:30; 4:34–39; 5:6; 6:21–22).
- Israel is likewise not to forget the love, care, and blessing that the Lord granted it during its forty years in the wilderness (1:30–31; 8:1–20).
- The Lord, in his freedom, has set his love on Israel alone out of all the nations, without any merit or worthiness in it (4:20, 37–38; 7:7–8; 9:4–7).
- The Lord correspondingly calls Israel to respond to him in undivided love, worship, and service.
- Just as the Lord has set his love on Israel, so Israel is to fear, love, and trust in the Lord above all things (6:4–5, 13–15; 11:1–7, 13–17, 22–25).
- It is to have no gods before the Lord, to make no idols for itself (4:23–24, 39; 5:6).
- Its love for the Lord is to be embodied in its obedience to the Lord’s commandments, which it first received at Horeb (Sinai) and which it now hears afresh from Moses (4:1–20, 39–40).
- This promise to Israel has been fulfilled in Jesus Christ, the crucified and risen Lord. He has redeemed Israel—and with Israel, all humanity—from the curse of the Law, himself becoming a curse for us in his death on the tree (Gal 3:13; Deut 21:23).
Unconditional love is an expression we hear talked about, a concept or principle that is commended to us by many. Yet, the truth is, among human beings, no such love exists. All human love breaks down, is finite, and proves its limits. At some point, human love turns out to be, well, all too human.
That makes sense to us. It makes sense to love those who are lovable, who love us back, who are loyal and kind and considerate to us. What doesn’t make sense is to love those who lack any lovable qualities whatsoever, or are even unfaithful to our love. Makes no sense at all. But that’s the kind of love we need, and, as our text from Deuteronomy illustrates, we have it in God’s love. God’s love is, really, inexplicable; it doesn’t make sense. But it is what it is, and, though we may not understand it, if we take it at face value, as God himself says it is, it makes sense of all this confusion.
- “You are a people holy to the Lord your God.” To be holy means to be set apart to God. Too often this carries negative connotations in people’s minds, as if it meant we are deprived of humanity or that by this God is making demands on us.
- But holiness means to be taken up by God, to be acknowledged as his, and to be the objects of his loving regard and the recipients of his gifts.
- Election is not, as some have portrayed it, about God’s excluding people, but is about God’s inclusion of us in his own life. “Treasured possession,” the Hebrew word “segullah”, denotes a valuable or highly prized possession, a treasured property.
Here God begins to reveal why and how this love comes about for his people.
- He first notes that its cause is not found in us. “It was not because you were more in number than any other people.” No quality or quantity of human glory has inspired God to love us. Our significance or value or status in the eyes of men does not form the basis of God’s love. We should keep this in mind when we are tempted to think that we have provided, or must provide, God a motivation to love us.
- “For you were the fewest of all peoples.” Quite literally, Abraham was one soul and through him God, by his promise, constituted his people. Abraham stands as an example of all who believe that, as sinners, we are in fact no people at all.
- Israel is the recipient of the unfettered love of the Lord. It has been delivered from the house of slavery and from “the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.” It has been delivered from powers far greater than itself. So, too, we have been delivered from the powers of sin and death in Jesus.
- It is God’s nature to love regardless of the loveliness of those to whom it comes. Human love is dependent upon its object and even at its best is conditional. But God’s love is sustained by his own love-virtue.
- Being described as “mighty” points to the fact that God exercises an overpowering or prevailing force.
- (The Hebrew word is chazaq, which denotes firm, superior, or controlling power, subduing force.)
- Jesus, by his death on the cross, overcame the guilt of sin, the accusation of the Law, the thralldom of the devil, and the chains of death on our behalf.
The Lord, for his part, is faithful
- He maintains his devoted love (khesed) to a thousand generations toward those who love him and keep his commandments (cf Deut 5:10; Ex 20:5–6; 34:7).
- The Lord who has called Israel will not abandon them, no matter what trials they endure or foes they must face, provided that they remain true to him.
- Provided! Moses already has announced that they will not remain faithful. They must suffer the curses of which the Lord has warned them.
- The saving promise of a “circumcised heart” still awaits them and the world in Jesus Christ (Deut 30:6; Rom 2:29).
- “Know therefore” (literally, “and [so] know”) shows what we are to conclude in view of the statement just made concerning God’s uncaused and unconditional love for his people. “Know therefore that the Lord your God is God.”
- Those who love God and keep his Commandments are those who believe his promise of justification.
- God’s Commandments as Law can only condemn, and the loving of God and keeping of his Commandments according to the Law call for perfect and perpetual obedience.
- Only as and in the Gospel, which calls for faith alone in Christ, does this take place. To receive his love is to love God; to receive his forgiveness is to be declared righteous and in conformity with God’s Commandments.
The Christian life is a continual return to our Baptism, and thus a return to Christ, who has been given to us there.
God’s love for the sinful likes of us is itself inexplicable; it doesn’t make any sense. But with that love a magnificent reality, everything else is now explained. We sinners are God’s people, why? By his gracious choice alone—his love from eternity. And he made that happen how? By the redeeming act of his Son on the cross—his UNFETTERED love in action. That explains everything.