Love in an unlikely place
I've heard many people say that it's very hard for them to see the love of God in the Old Testament. They see what seem to be harsh punishments, lots of rules and people dying everywhere, and have adopted the view that the New Testament is so much more lenient and not so death heavy. The funny thing is that there are nearly twice as many instructions given on how to live in the New Testament as in the Old, and the New Testament predicts that a day is coming when God is going to unleash judgements on the earth that will lead to the deaths of billions of people.* In fact, in the New Testament, we find the clearest teaching on hell in the whole Bible, a physical place of eternal punishment for the unsaved as they suffer under the full, unhindered wrath of God without hope of escape, redemption or death. If the New Testament is supposed to be "feely/touchy," I can't see how it is much more than the Old Testament. :-)
That said, it may not surprise you to know that one of the most powerful examples of God's love I find in the entire Bible is in the Old Testament, in the book of Deuteronomy of all places. Yes, there's a lot of instruction and laws given in Deuteronomy, as well as blessings and cursings, theological statements and warnings as well as promises and prayers, but there is a powerful statement in the 7th chapter of Deuteronomy that blows me away every time I read it.
"It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the LORD set His love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples, but it is because the LORD loves you and is keeping the oath that he swore to your fathers, that the LORD has brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt. Know therefore that the LORD your God is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep commandments, to a thousand generations..." (Deuteronomy 7:7-9 ESV)
Isn't this wonderful! Here we see God is saying to the Israelites that they have been saved from slavery by Him not based on any particular redeeming characteristic in themselves - in fact there was no redeeming characteristic in them!
It's as though God is saying, "Why do I love you? Because I love you! And because I made a promise generations ago that I would take care of you."
Wow! And God is still the same today as He was then!
Has He made a promise to you? Maybe He made a promise to your parents about you. Well, He's still good for it! He's still keeping it, and just waiting for you to receive it in faith.
Has He told you that He loves you? Have you heard it from others that He loves you? Well, it's true! He doesn't need a reason to love you. He just does! And He will care for you continually if you'll let Him. He hasn't given up on you, and there's no way you can un-earn His favor towards you. The sooner we all come to accepting, receiving and believing this, the sooner we'll all see the fruit of it manifest in our lives.
And what is the fruit of this rest in His love? Obedience to His word, as well as signs, wonders, miracles, healings and every blessing He has promised to us, if we would merely believe Him at His word; That He loves us, not based on our actions towards Him, but based on His unshakeable personal character.
So what about all of the violence and intensity of judgements we read about in the Bible? It's because of God's intense jealousy for the bride whom He loves. All who have hated her, persecuted her and attacked her without repentance are subject to His wrath, as well as all of those who would not trust in His love for them and so have become His enemies. The fact is that true, intense love must hate all that is not love. This is why a person who truly loves human life hates abortion, because it is the devaluation of human life, and more importantly, it is the devaluation of the image of God. In the same way, God hates such evils as abortion, and He alone is qualified to judge such evil. When He does judge those who've perpetrated such evil on the earth, He alone is qualified not only to determine what is an appropriate level of punishment, and only He is qualified to dispense such judgement.
But this is why Jesus went to the cross. That He might take the full wrath of God on Himself in our place, so that we would never have to face punishment, but simply receive the same love we read about in Deuteronomy 7.
"You shall no more be termed Forsaken, and your land shall no more be termed Desolate, but you shall be called My Delight Is In Her, and your land Married; for the LORD delights in you, and your land shall be married." (Isaiah 62:4 ESV)
* Revelation chapter 6 says that 1/4 of all of mankind will be killed in one judgement, and Revelation chapter 9 shows another 1/3 of all of mankind dying in another judgement. Both judgements by themselves add up to nearly 1/2 of the world population. That would work out to nearly 4 billion people if those judgements were to happen on the earth today.