So, I’m not saying that “love” is simply an emotion. But I’ve noticed that people, in order to get their point across, are often prone to overstatement; and “preachers,” it seems, are particularly prone to hyperbole. And those who try to subtract emotion from the love equation, because of some misdirected concept they have of God in all His glory, are doing not only themselves, but others, a grave injustice. Maybe you’ve heard it said, or even preached from the pulpit: “love has nothing to do with emotion,” or “God’s love for us is a choice, a commitment, that He has made to us based solely on His own righteousness, and not some kind of emotional response to His creation.” I’ve encountered that kind of teaching too often; and, sadly, I’ve even made such statements from the pulpit myself in times past. I repent!
To those who think that God does not love us with a fond, emotional, kind of love haven’t read their Bibles deeply enough. Try telling something like that to Hosea who was told, “Go again, love a woman who is loved by her husband, yet an adulteress, even as the Lord loves the sons of Israel, though they turn to other gods and love raisin cakes” (Hosea 3:1, NASB). Why would God command such a thing of His prophet, except to demonstrate to Israel how that, like Hosea, His own heart was all over the place toward Israel. God was going for the emotional impact, hoping that, through Hosea, Israel would understand how deeply and emotionally invested God was toward them — even though they had been unfaithful to Him.
Likewise, try telling something like that to Ezekiel who was told, “Son of man, behold, I am about to take from you the desire of your eyes with a blow; but you shall not mourn and you shall not weep, and your tears shall not come. Groan silently; make no mourning for the dead. Bind on your turban and put your shoes on your feet, and do not cover your mustache and do not eat the bread of men” (Ezekiel 24:15-17, NASB). Ezekiel then goes on to tell us, “So I spoke to the people in the morning, and in the evening my wife died“ (Verse 18). Can you imagine? Because you are a prophet, and God wants to communicate His feelings to His people through you, He takes your wife! And furthermore, while God allows Ezekiel to mourn privately, He does not allow him to make any kind of public display of emotion. Why? Because God wants Israel to know how God felt — emotionally — about their idolatry and His having to discipline His people by allowing the Babylonians to conquer Jerusalem, ransack the temple, kill virtually everybody, and take the remaining remnant captive back to Babylon. They needed to know that, while God permitted this terrible destruction, His heart was breaking. And if you doubt that, consider that God stated that very fact earlier in the book of Ezekiel, when He said, “The slain will fall among you, and you will know that I am the Lord … However, I will leave a remnant, for you will have those who escaped the sword among the nations when you are scattered among the countries. Then those of you who escape will remember Me among the nations to which they will be carried captive, how I have been hurt by their adulterous hearts which turned away from Me, and by their eyes which played the harlot after their idols; and they will loathe themselves in their own sight for the evils which they have committed, for all their abominations” (Ezekiel 6:7-9, NASB).
There are many emotions connected with love. I love the statement by King Solomon who reminds us, “For love is as strong as death, jealousy is as severe as Sheol; its flashes are flashes of fire, the very flame of the Lord” (Song of Solomon 8:6, NASB). No wonder God said to ancient Israel, “You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth. You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing lovingkindness to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments” (Exodus 20:4-6, NASB). And to His new covenant children, the Bible says, “He jealously longs for the spirit He has caused to dwell in us” (James 4:5, NIV).
God is emotionally invested in His children — “See how great a love the Father has bestowed on us, that we would be called children of God; and such we are” (I John 3:1, NASB). Furthermore, He has every right to be jealous over us and to be angry with those evil forces and practices that threaten to take us away from Him. But righteous, godly jealousy — not the worldly, controlling, manipulative jealousy which, the Apostle Paul says, is not love (I Corinthians 13:4) — is but one emotional characteristic of love. I’m sure we can all think of many more: concern, compassion, commitment, bonding, goodwill, warmth, fondness, kindness, desire, the need to provide for and protect, etc… But my point is simply that we ought not to think of God, or treat God, as though He was some kind of unfeeling, uncaring, abstract spiritual entity, or force, or great power in the sky. If Jesus, who the Bible says, “is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature“ (Hebrews 1:3, NASB) teaches us nothing else about the nature of God, it is that our God is as intimate as He is infinite; and I take great delight in that thought.
I like living with the thought that God loves me, that He has a great fondness toward me, and that jealously desires my love in return. I love the verse that says, “Therefore we also have as our ambition, whether at home or absent, to be pleasing to Him” (2 Corinthians 5:9, NASB). I like contemplating the fact that, when I please Him, God smiles!
~ Philip ~