The word love has so many variations and brings to mind so many different things. That is one of the reasons that we need divine love, or love that is based on how God loves.
Proverbs 17:17 NASB
A friend loves at all times, And a brother is born for adversity.
That verse is the epitome of how God loves us. The Bible begins with the story of creation and the relationship between Adam and God. It was after Adam and Eve sinned that God began to pour out His love and mercy upon people. It really was undeserved love, but that is how God makes his love real to us. He meets us where we are, as we are and right where we need.
Exodus 20:6 NLT
But I lavish unfailing love for a thousand generations on those who love me and obey my commands.
The word LOVE in the Old Testament is a generous love. It is based on a covenant relationship and not a contract. It’s the kind of love God has for his people as part of following the Law. In other ancient treaties, where a king spelled out the sort of covenant he’d have with his people, the king promised to love them so long that they fulfilled their obligation. Of course, when they violated the treaty, there’d have to be consequences. God’s love is a steadfast love, but only as far as the Hebrews loved God back, or so humanly speaking they thought.
But to interpret it this way misunderstands what covenants are about. A covenant is different from a contract. It is a relationship. It spells out how the relationship works—what God offers, what we offer—thus it looks like a contract, because that’s how we do contracts. Yet in this covenant, in the Law, we understand that God provides everything and the Hebrews were expected only to give was their obedience. They brought had to offer nothing. They were slaves, rescued from Pharaoh and all of Egypt, not because they were great or deserving or worthy, but solely because God loved them and promised the ancestors to look out for them.
For you are a holy people, who belong to the Lord your God. Of all the people on earth, the Lord your God has chosen you to be his own special treasure. 7 “The Lord did not set his heart on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other nations, for you were the smallest of all nations! 8 Rather, it was simply that the Lord loves you, and he was keeping the oath he had sworn to your ancestors. That is why the Lord rescued you with such a strong hand from your slavery and from the oppressive hand of Pharaoh, king of Egypt. 9 Understand, therefore, that the Lord your God is indeed God. He is the faithful God who keeps his covenant for a thousand generations and lavishes his unfailing love on those who love him and obey his commands.
Jesus’ covenant with us was gave His death for our sins. That reality granted us eternal life, while we were still in sin. In both covenants, God heightened his general kind of love or mercy into what we know as His unending and limitless love. He was going to love his people “for a thousand generations” (see verse 9) which is a Hebrew way of saying “till you lose count”— forever. God’s love for them exceeded anything they knew.
We need that kind of love in our lives. As we examine what the Bible says about love, we come to understand and are more and more compelled by and changed by His love. Love changes things. When we know we are loved and accepted, we act different. When love is not an option but a reality, we begin to live differently, make different choices and even to love in return.
God’s love changed people and continues to change people. That has been the case since the beginning of the world. I want my love to be seen by others as God’s kind of love!
John 15:13 NASB
Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.