[easyazon_image align=”left” height=”250″ identifier=”0830843981″ locale=”US” src=”https://englewoodreview.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/12/51LidtaolWL.jpg” tag=”douloschristo-20″ width=”167″]A Story of Divine Love
An Excerpt from
The Advent of
the Lamb of God
Paperback: IVP Books, 2018
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This was the heart of Israel’s religion: love. Only divine love made sense of the world. This love went beyond a mere feeling. This love was doctrine. Israel’s story was a story of being kept, and the only reasonable response was to love the Keeper.
This was more than the lore of old men spinning yarns. This was history—an actual, unbroken chain of actions and consequences, one following the other like chapters in a book, weaving together an inseparable union of narrative and law. Narrative told the story and law said, “If this is the nature of your God, then love him with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength.”
The people of Israel were to be a people of this law. And they were to post that law everywhere. They were to nail it to the doorposts of their homes and on their gates, that they might remember it in all their comings and goings. They were to bind it to their arms, that it might guide whatever work they set their hands to. They were to lash it to their foreheads, right between their eyes, that it might be the focus of every conversation and every face-to-face relationship they knew.
They were never to depart from this harmony of story and statute. It was to be their life. They were to teach it to their families. They were to recount the wondrous deeds of their almighty God, never stopping until the story was so ingrained in their children that those little ones would understand not only that this story was their story but also that they would tell it when they had children of their own.
This is what they were to tell their children: “Hear, children of Israel! The Lord your God is one. Love him with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.” It was a religion of relationship, but this relational response of love to a singular, omnipotent God was so gloriously uncommon in those days that it must have sounded to many like a tall tale.
And it is.
But a true one.
Woven throughout the story are all of humanity’s wrath and greed and lust and gluttony and sloth and envy and pride—together in force with all of their consequences. But through that darkness shine the bright rays of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control.
It is the story of evil against good, of darkness locked in an epic struggle to snuff out the light forever. Will the darkness prevail in the end, or will the light overcome the darkness?
This, ultimately, is what the story is about. It is a tale filled with people in trouble, all living somewhere between wandering and homecoming, between devastation and restoration, between transgression and grace. Every mortal character in the story needs rescue, but they have all turned aside, and together they have become corrupt. There is no one who does good, not even one.
It’s a textured story. But after clearing away all the levels of intrigue, conflict, and suspense facing mankind, this story is not ultimately about mortals. It is a story of divine love.
The law of the Lord is a love story.
It’s the story of the one true God calling a people his beloved, though they’ve lived in perpetual rebellion against him. They weren’t meant to live this way. Still, they did—forgetful and fickle, stiff-necked and proud.
Nevertheless, though their lives were a ruin of their own making, God swore a covenant oath to redeem them. Everything wrong with the world he would put right. He would remove their hearts of stone and give them hearts of flesh, putting a new spirit within them. And he would never, ever stop loving them. God was pursuing them.
Since the beginning, this story has had an end—a glorious end. God’s call on the lives of his people, ultimately, is to himself—though it would come at a greater cost than anyone could have imagined. The story ends with the maker and lover of the souls of men drawing his people to himself—purchasing their redemption through the lifeblood of his own Son. God did not spare his Son but gave him for us all. And if this is true, how will he not also, through his Son, graciously give us all things?
The tale is a tall one, but it’s true.
This is that story.
Taken from The Advent of the Lamb of God by Russ Ramsey. Copyright (c) 2018 by Russ Ramsey. Published by InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, IL. www.ivpress.com
C. Christopher Smith is the founding editor of The Englewood Review of Books. He is also author of a number of books, including most recently How the Body of Christ Talks: Recovering the Practice of Conversation in the Church (Brazos Press, 2019). Connect with him online at: C-Christopher-Smith.com