The least of all peoples
by Glenn Pettit
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6 "For you are a holy people to the LORD your God; the LORD your God has chosen you to be a people for Himself, a special treasure above all the peoples on the face of the earth.
7 "The LORD did not set His love on you nor choose you because you were more in number than any other people, for you were the least of all peoples;
8 "but because the LORD loves you, and because He would keep the oath which He swore to your fathers, the LORD has brought you out with a mighty hand, and redeemed you from the house of bondage, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt."
For some people, unconditional love is a hard thing to grasp. We cannot imagine loving someone who is, in our eyes, unlovable. For example, if someone wrongs us in some way, we cannot conceive of a way to love them. If someone doesn't think or believe the same things we do, we find it hard to love them. If someone is not born into our family or community or nation, we find it hard to love them. We usually want people to qualify for our love, to do something for us first that shows they love us. We live in a world that is based on tit-for-tat, "you scratch my back and I'll scratch yours", and no free lunch--and it never occurs to us that SOMEONE has got to take the first step to show love.
Of course, most parents know a lot about unconditional love--and a thing or two about how difficult and heart-rending it can be. Loving our children is the most natural thing in the world, and yet when they wrong us or don't believe what we do, we start treating them like we would anyone else: they must somehow qualify for our love. Seems kind of silly when you look at it that way, doesn't it? And yet I am sure there are a lot of parents and children out there who can testify that they have been on either the giving or receiving end of such a twisted love equation. Some of us have even made things worse by being one who was excluded from our parents' love, and so we ourselves exclude our own children from our love.
Praise be to God that He doesn't operate that way!
We don't have to perform incredible acts of heroism to qualify for God's love, nor do we need to be mighty in number. We don't need to be from a particular family, nation, tribe, or tongue. God did not choose Israel to be His people because they were well-known or because they were a mighty nation. In fact, if you follow how things started for the Israelites, God chose Abraham for His FAITH and made a covenant with him to bless him and all nations. (Genesis 12:1-3) Three generations later, Abraham's descendants made homes for themselves in Egypt to avoid a famine in Canaan, and they stayed and prospered. And a few more generations later, their descendents were put into slavery. (Exodus 1:1-14) Does that sound like a mighty nation? And yet He called them "a special treasure above all the peoples on the face of the earth."
Israel endured a lot, but God is faithful and He didn't make a promise to Abraham just to break that promise with Abraham's children. In fact, God watched until Israel WAS mighty in numbers, and then He brought them out of slavery and back to Canaan, a promised land overflowing with milk and honey. And God didn't bring them there because they were particularly mighty, nor because they were all as faithful as their forefather Abraham, but because He simply loved them as they were. As we read throughout Leviticus and Deuteronomy, all the Lord asked was obedience and they would be blessed, and if they were not obedient then they would miss out on the blessings--but He never stopped loving them, never stopped thinking of them as His special treasure! The Lord never left them, never gave up on them, never broke His covenant with them. On the contrary, having seen how badly Israel broke their covenant with Him, He gave them an opportunity for a NEW covenant.
31 "Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah--
32 "not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, though I was a husband to them, says the LORD.
33 "But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD: I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.
34 "No more shall every man teach his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, 'Know the LORD,' for they all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them, says the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more."
Does that sound like an angry parent? Does that sound like someone who demands we show our love before He shows His? No, not at all. On the contrary, God reached out to Israel--and to you and me and all the world--with the new covenant, one that shows how God forgives us for NOT loving Him. And the new covenant?
26 And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to the disciples and said, "Take, eat; this is My body."
27 Then He took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, "Drink from it, all of you.
28 "For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins."
For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified.
That love of God was not offered with any conditions other than that we ACCEPT that love, accept the offering that Jesus Christ has made to sanctify us before God. All He asks is that we set ourselves apart from the world and be His people. We didn't start as holy--in Hebrew "qâdôsh", set apart as sacred, clean, pure--but He has MADE us holy because He loves us. And He doesn't love us because we are big and mighty, but because we are the least, the smallest, the few.
13 "Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it.
14 "Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it."
We are few because we have chosen a difficult path, the path which many turned away from when they first heard about it. (John 6:22-66) But Jesus died once for all (Romans 6:10), and He died and was resurrected NOT while we showed our love to God but while we were separated from God by sin.
6 For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.
7 For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die.
8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
Now THAT is unconditional love, the love of a Father for His children, the love of a Shepherd for His lost sheep, the love of a merciful God for the least of all people.
I know there are many times when we feel unlovable, and even we who have accepted salvation by believing on Christ Jesus, we experience doubt when we have fallen by the way. But God is merciful and just, and He doesn't go back on His promises. And best of all, He puts no conditions on His love. Yes, salvation from death is only for those who believe in Jesus as Lord and Savior (John 3:16-18), and His blessings are for those who adhere to His way and His will (Psalms 1), but God's love never departs from us. No matter how small we may feel, God loves us as if we are "a special treasure above all the peoples on the face of the earth." All we need do is accept His unconditional love and love Him unconditionally in return with all our heart and mind and soul and strength. (Luke 10:27)
Gracious Lord God, how wonderful it is that You love us so much! Praise be to Your holy name! Praise be for Your love and mercy and salvation! When we were the least of all people, when we were broken by our own sin, when we were anything but lovable, You loved us first. Help me, Father God, to love You in return with all that I am. Amen.
© 2012 Glenn A. Pettit
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