One thing I am sure of intuitively: God’s ways are higher than my ways. Which means: If he reveals through the Bible his ways of loving me, they will certainly be jarring.
The ease with which the human race presumes to tell God how he should love is breathtaking. There is only one way to know how God loves me: Listen to what he tells me, and believe him.
One of the things he tells me in the Bible is that he loved Israel from all eternity in a way differently from the way he loves the other nations. And then he tells me that there is a true Israel made up of believers in the Messiah Jesus, whom he has loved from all eternity in a way differently from the way he loves other people. This is jarring.
Different from All the Nations
Both in the Old Testament and the New Testament, God is bent on telling us this. Like a prince telling a filthy, bloody foundling: You are mine, I love you like I love no other. I will raise you, cleanse you, and marry you (Ezekiel 16:1–14).
God told Israel in exile, “I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you” (Jeremiah 31:3). Behind all the divine acts of love in Israel’s history lay the eternal love. She was loved before she was.
“It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the Lᴏʀᴅ set his love on you and chose you, . . . but it is because the Lᴏʀᴅ loves you” (Deuteronomy 7:7–8). He loved her differently from all the nations because he loved her. It was not a response to her. It was before she was.
He told her that this love was for her alone, not Esau and the Edomites. “‘I have loved you,’ says the Lᴏʀᴅ. But you say, ‘How have you loved us?’ The Lᴏʀᴅ declares, ‘Is not Esau Jacob’s brother? Yet I have loved Jacob and I have hated Esau’” (Malachi 1:2–3). This is jarring. Will we listen? He loved Israel. Uniquely. From eternity.
Believers on the Messiah
In the New Testament, Paul makes clear that all along there has been a true Israel, a remnant within the nation of Israel — the ones who truly trust the Messiah Jesus. “A Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter” (Romans 2:29). “It is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as offspring” (Romans 9:8).
And these “children of God,” he goes on to say, are “not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles” (Romans 9:24). “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame. For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek” (Romans 10:11–12).
Then he makes clear that these true Jews — these children of God, these believers on the Messiah — have been loved by God from all eternity, differently from all other people.
Loved with a Great Love
“He chose us in him before the foundation of the world. . . . In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 1:4–5). He loved us before we were created or adopted — or married. Like a prince looking out on a kingdom of vicious traitors and choosing as his wife one who despised him.
This is what he tells me in the Bible about how he loves me. He saved me “because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave [me] in Christ Jesus before the ages began” (2 Timothy 1:9). Before creation he loved me like this.
Paul calls this a “great love.” And what marks it as great, he says, is that because of it, God came to me in my bloody, filthy, traitorous, deadness of heart, and made me alive. “Because of the great love with which he loved us, God made us alive together with Christ” (Ephesians 2:4–5). Great love made us alive.
This is jarring. This is often more than I can bear. He found me dead “like the rest of mankind” (Ephesians 2:3). But he didn’t leave me dead, though that is what I deserved. He looked into my stinking tomb and said, “John, come forth” (John 11:43). He gave me the gift of faith (Ephesians 2:8; Philippians 1:29). He adopted me. He included me in his people, his bride.
Will You Yield?
This is a world of love that is different than anything we know among men. To fathom this love, to feel this love, is not natural. To know this love, to feel this love for what it is, requires the experience of this love, which is the acting of this love itself.
Do you want to be loved like this? Maybe not. It certainly would be natural to demand that God love more democratically, more universally — that he not choose Israel from all the nations, that he not choose a bride from all the people. Perhaps you don’t want to be loved like this.
But if you understand what he is saying, and if you do want to be loved like this, then yield to this love which is already at work in you, and embrace its fullest embodiment, Jesus, the Son of God and Messiah. “For if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9). You will find that that you have been loved with a great love from all eternity. I pray that you will.
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