In this month of February when love is emphasized, we find ourselves thinking about how to express our love to our loved ones. Some of us know exactly how to make our favorite people feel loved. We know what they like and exactly what they want to receive. Others of us have no idea and, despite our great adoration of them, find ourselves scratching our heads.
What about that most important relationship with the God who is love? What makes God feel loved? What does He most desire from us? All of us have people on our gift-giving lists who have everything. We cannot think of a single thing to get these people because they have all we could ever imagine them wanting or needing. We almost want to sigh and say, “Why bother!”. Sometimes we see God this way as well. He does not need anything because...well...He's God. There are, however, ways that He tells us we can bring His heart great delight.
“The third time he said to him, 'Simon son of John, do you love me?' . Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, 'Do you love me?' He said, 'Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you'. Jesus said, 'Feed my sheep. Very truly I tell you, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go'.” John 21:17-18 NIV
In this cryptic exchange, Peter expresses what many of us feel. “Lord, you know all things! You know I love you!”. In other words, “Why do I have to tell you? You know!”. But any of us who have loved ones know that just because you know they love you doesn't mean you don't want them to continue to affirm it both in words and actions.
“If you love me, keep my commands”. John 14:15 NIV
A life of loving God is a life of following His words. Most think “commands” and limit it to the “thou shalt” list, but the truth is much more relational. God feels loved or honored when we follow both His written words and the callings He has placed in our lives. God makes the contrast of before obedience versus after obedience in His conversation with Peter by comparing it to being lead somewhere that is not our choosing. Obedience may not be easy, but it will always be worth it and will fulfill the wonderful plans God has to prosper us. I think of Moses. He agrees (after so many excuses and reluctance) to go speak to Pharaoh because God promises:
“And I have promised to bring you up out of your misery in Egypt into the land of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites—a land flowing with milk and honey.
The elders of Israel will listen to you. Then you and the elders are to go to the king of Egypt and say to him, ‘The Lord, the God of the Hebrews, has met with us. Let us take a three-day journey into the wilderness to offer sacrifices to the Lord our God.' But I know that the king of Egypt will not let you go unless a mighty hand compels him. So I will stretch out my hand and strike the Egyptians with all the wonders that I will perform among them. After that, he will let you go. And I will make the Egyptians favorably disposed toward this people, so that when you leave you will not go empty-handed. Every woman is to ask her neighbor and any woman living in her house for articles of silver and gold and for clothing, which you will put on your sons and daughters. And so you will plunder the Egyptians.” Exodus 3:17-22
It sounded pretty cut and dry. “The elders will listen. Pharaoh may be a little stubborn, but I will compel him. You'll be released, and with plunder!”. When Moses's first attempt brings even more severe oppression on his people (Exodus 5), Moses is understandably confused.
“Moses returned to the Lord and said, 'Why, Lord, why have you brought trouble on this people? Is this why you sent me? Ever since I went to Pharaoh to speak in your name, he has brought trouble on this people, and you have not rescued your people at all'.”
The second attempt, the third, the fourth, and so on came and passed, and Moses must have wondered. Ultimately, however, Moses remained obedient. He did not give up until it was done, even as he was pursued into the sea. God did exactly what He promised. He did not give Moses the play-by-play of how it would unfold, but all He said was true. We see here such LOVE in this two-sided exchange. By not giving up on doing as God commanded, Moses showed God He loved and trusted Him. In return, God showed His love to Moses -and an entire nation- through faithfully fulfilling their desire to be free. What is God commanding you to do? This month think about going beyond just obedience to the commandments by asking, “How could you use me, Lord?”. As you show your love in obedience and persist (even when the unexpected happens), watch God's love and faithfulness part seas in your own journey!