“Oh, the unspeakable greatness of that exchange,—the Sinless One is condemned, and he who is guilty goes free; the Blessing bears the curse, and the cursed is brought into blessing; the Life dies, and the dead live; the Glory is whelmed in darkness, and he who knew nothing but confusion of face is clothed with glory.” Trailady

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A person God turned around many times.

Monday, November 23, 2009

What love is

Do angels love? Or are they more like red army ants? Mechanical, robotic, heartless automatons? Which angel was as gorged on affection as the disciple Peter? The angel who appeared to Samson’s parents, what do we know of him? What did he say?

“Behold now, thou art barren, and bearest not: but thou shalt conceive, and bear a son. Now therefore beware, I pray thee, and drink not wine nor strong drink, and eat not any unclean thing:
For, lo, thou shalt conceive, and bear a son; and no razor shall come on his head: for the child shall be a Nazarite unto God from the womb: and he shall begin to deliver Israel out of the hand of the Philistines.”
“Of all that I said unto the woman let her beware. She may not eat of any thing that cometh of the vine, neither let her drink wine or strong drink, nor eat any unclean thing: all that I commanded her let her observe.”
“Though thou detain me, I will not eat of thy bread: and if thou wilt offer a burnt offering, thou must offer it unto the Lord.”
“Why askest thou thus after my name, seeing it is secret?” (Jud. 13:3-5,13-14,16,18).

Until now the angel was simply conversing with Manoah concerning the promise of a child. Manoah didn’t know this was an angel, and the angel didn’t seem to mind being spoken to as an equal.

“So Manoah took a kid with a meat offering, and offered it upon a rock unto the Lord: and the angel did wonderously; and Manoah and his wife looked on.
For it came to pass, when the flame went up toward heaven from off the altar, that the angel of the Lord ascended in the flame of the altar. And Manoah and his wife looked on it, and fell on their faces to the ground.
But the angel of the Lord did no more appear to Manoah and to his wife. Then Manoah knew that he was an angel of the Lord.” (v. 19-21).

What can we tell about angels? Do they love? Did this one show love? Or was he standoffish? Too serious? Businesslike? Condescending? Holier-than-thou? Unwilling to accept a gracious meal?

I perceive in the angel a commission by God. It was on a holy mission for the King of the universe. Its demeanor was holy, yet humble. The angel had a love that was full of divine authority. It spoke for God; therefore it could not play games with sinners. Its message was of fearful importance. Not only was it time for Israel to be delivered from the Philistines through this promised son, but Samson was going to represent a type of the Son of God—big and strong and as unstoppable by Satan and his hosts as Samson was by thousands of Philistines.

Did the angel have mercy on Manoah? This isn’t immediately noticeable, but we do see a willingness to join in fellowship with sinful man. But how much fellowship was available with this Danite couple when Israel had fallen deeply into idolatry, and spirituality was well nigh extinct?

Contrast this angel visitor with Gabriel who came to Daniel. “Yea, whiles I was speaking in prayer, even the man Gabriel, whom I had seen in the vision at the beginning, being caused to fly swiftly, touched me about the time of the evening oblation.
And he informed me, and talked with me, and said, O Daniel, I am now come forth to give thee skill and understanding.
At the beginning of thy supplications the commandment came forth, and I am come to shew thee; for thou art greatly beloved: therefore understand the matter, and consider the vision.” (Dan. 9:21-23).

Gabriel touched Daniel, informed and talked with him, and let him know that he was greatly beloved. Has an angel ever told you that you are greatly beloved by God? Not only did he bring words of comfort, but he was true to his assignment and discharged his duty in giving prophetic information to Daniel. He performed his duty, but he was also gentle and warm.

What we see in these angels is strict adherence to godliness, a perfect balance of grace and truth—perfect love, God-like love, godliness.

Is this what we should have? Are angels our pattern of conduct? Could they say as Paul said of himself, “Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ”? (1Cor. 11:1). No doubt, yes we can. But, must love be so fraught with business and duty and accomplishment of mission? Does that make love a bit on the chilly side?

If we knew the power of God’s love for us, as the angels know God’s love for themselves, we would have no problem standing as strictly for perfection as they do. Does that mean there is no room in our ministry for warm affection and attention? No, these angelic messengers showed that side of love, too. It may have been more reserved with the idolatrous Israelites than with the godly and repentant Daniel. But, to the extent that sinners could appreciate warmth, it was given.

Sinners in rebellion naturally disdain that kind of love. To the perverted heart, unless love is indulgent and doting, it isn’t love. Nothing makes a hopelessly rebellious sinner angrier than for it to witness love that holds firmly to self-denial and self-sacrifice. Nothing exposes the hollowness of self-indulgent “love” more than “charity out of a pure heart, and of a good conscience, and of faith unfeigned.” (1Tim. 1:5). Nothing has ever gotten Satan’s persecution fires burning hotter.

True love. It has self-control; it doesn’t “let it all hang out.” It has reservation; thus it has modesty. It trusts only when its object is worthy of that trust; when the receiving heart has bowed its destructive pride. True love verifies the loyalty to God in others. “Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.” (Mat. 10:16).
They might call this “judging” or condemning, but in reality it is offering the best for both parties.

Christ set the example. “Many believed in His name, when they saw the miracles which He did.
But Jesus did not commit Himself unto them, because He knew all men,
And needed not that any should testify of man: for He knew what was in man.” (Jn. 2:23-25).

Yet, this does not mean that He ended His ongoing appeals to their hearts. Nor should we neglect our fellow men; even our enemies. Redeeming love will extend its hand to all who will respond to love. Love begets love; trust begets trust.

Love naturally has the disposition to respond in kind to love. In the parable, the prodigal’s father had a deeper relationship with his youngest because this son responded to his abundant acceptance with abundant love in return. We can never love so much as when perfect trust exists in the relationship. When that trust is not developed, perfect love cannot thrive.

Yet, although his eldest son did not respond with the same degree of love as the youngest had, his deep fatherly love was still extended to his first-born child. Only grace will love in spite of the lack of trust. That is what grace is all about—loving when trust is missing, loving in the atmosphere of distrust. And our Father in heaven has infinitely proven Himself here. When we proved ourselves untrusting and untrustworthy, He wouldn’t let us go. He stepped away from the center of heaven and called on advocacy from His Son. Between Them both, They worked to give grace to the race in rebellion.

God couldn’t give us up; He couldn’t let us perish without a fight. It was He who was in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself. God loved despite our great deficit of trust. He loved while us rebels were killing His only beloved Son. He spoke to the world through His Son when the words fell from the Saviour’s lips, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.” (Lk. 23:34). Christ had been trained up by His Father through all eternity past, and now, in the clash of the ages, He could not depart from the love embedded in His heart.

“To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation.” (2Cor. 5:19).

O Love that wilt not let me go,
I rest my weary soul in thee;
I give thee back the life I owe,
That in thine ocean depths its flow
May richer, fuller be.


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