For the week of January 9, 2016 / 28 Tevet 5776
Torah: Shemot/Exodus 6:2 – 9:35
Haftarah: Ezekiel 28:25 – 29:21
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Say therefore to the people of Israel, “I am the LORD, and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will deliver you from slavery to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great acts of judgment.” (Shemot/Exodus 6:6)
Love is core to Holy Scripture. The Torah commands the people of Israel to love God with everything they’ve got (see Devarim/Deuteronomy 6:5) and others like oneself (see Vayikra/Leviticus 19:18). Messiah was clear that these particular commandments are the greatest of them all (see Matthew 22:36-40). Love is so key that God himself is defined by it (see 1 John 4:8).
But none of this means anything unless we know what love actually is. Most commonly the term love is used as code for having romantic feelings. “I love you” means “I want you.” It’s not exclusively used that way, of course. Parents, children, and siblings may love one another, but it would be an interesting exercise to see if people could tell you what love really means to them in those contexts.
Irrespective of what people mean by it, the biblical call to love is a call to give of oneself to another. To love within a marriage, or any other sort of relationship, should be about giving not getting. What is given, if it is true sincere love, is to be based on what is best for the other person. Once we understand that, then it’s easier to understand the concept of tough love, doing what is necessary for another, not perhaps what they would prefer. Disciplining a child or refusing to fuel a spouse’s addiction are examples of that. Similarly, in our relationship with God, we shouldn’t misinterpret hardships as something other than his love, for it is through difficulties we become better people (see Hebrews 12:7-11).
Sometimes true love within a relationship is expressed through actions outside that relationship. Loving the poor and the oppressed can and should include direct relief to such persons, but may also require confronting the societal structures causing the oppression. One of the greatest examples of God’s love, therefore, was the plagues of Egypt. The story of Israel’s rescue would have been a much nicer one, had God’s love been expressed solely through Moses’s word to Pharaoh to let the people go. However, Pharaoh’s stubborn refusal called for harsher action.
To grasp the fullness of the meaning of love, whether it be divine or human, we need to come to grips with the need for the kind of extreme measures that God himself utilized in order to alleviate his people’s suffering. Bullies – whether they be a ten-year-old child in the school yard, or oppressive regimes like ancient Egypt – cannot be effectively dealt with by niceness. After being given a reasonable amount of time to cease their destructive behavior, harsh action may be necessary. It is one thing to endure injustice ourselves for God’s sake, but to expect others, be it our own children or people groups, to suffer when we have the means to put an end to it, is to hate, not love, them.
How might you put love in action today?
All scriptures, English Standard Version (ESV) of the Bible