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We Love Because God Loved First

1 John 4:19 (ESV) … “We love because he first loved us.”

John cannot say it often enough. “We love him, because he first loved us.” He has loved us with a causeless love. Moses reminded the children of Israel that God loved them simply because He loved them (Deut. 7:7–8). There was no other explanation. Centuries later Jeremiah reminded the Hebrews that God loved them with a timeless love: “Yea, I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee” (Jer. 31:3). When it comes, then, to love and to “the love that drew salvation’s plan,” obviously, all the initiative was and is with God. God is love! That is the driving force behind the whole divine scheme to provide redemption for the fallen ones of Adam’s ruined race. As John has put it elsewhere, “God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).

Love, however, by its very nature is reciprocal. Nothing, in fact, is more tragic than unrequited love. Surely the most tragic person in the Old Testament was the prophet Hosea. When he was still a young man, God called him to preach to His apostate people Israel. He preached for a long time, possibly between sixty or seventy years.

Soon the young prophet felt his need for a wife, and God confirmed him in this desire. No doubt Hosea had in mind for himself someone like Sarah or Jochabed or Hannah. But then he met Gomer. Her name means “completion,” and that seemed to settle it for him. She would be Eve to his Adam.

God told him to marry her, “a wife of whoredoms,” indeed. We cannot be sure whether Hosea knew what kind of a woman she was, but he soon found out. In any case, God knew. If Hosea had any prior intimation as to what kind of a woman Gomer was, perhaps he assured himself she would become another Rahab and a true mother in Israel.

But the marriage soon turned sour. When his boy was born, Hosea was told to call him Jezreel, a name weighted down with judgment. Gomer could not have been too enthusiastic about that. In any case, she was getting tired of being married to a preacher. By the time the second child was born, Hosea suspected his wife was leading a double life, and he had strong doubts as to who the father was. By the time the third child arrived, he knew for sure the little boy was not his.

After this, Gomer abandoned all pretense. She left home and took to the streets. Hosea’s love, however, remained the same—undaunted. From time to time he caught a glimpse of her as she lived her wild and wicked life, and he noted that she had added a new vice to her lusts. She had become a drunkard. Still Hosea’s love held true.

He watched and waited. Then the day came when the wretched woman touched bottom, and she sold herself as a slave. Hosea sought out the man who owned her, he bought her, and took the reeking wreck of womanhood back home. She now belonged to him by right of purchase. He cleaned her up and put her under restraint. Taking the two unfortunate younger children of the marriage, he enfolded them in the embrace of his love. We are not told whether or not Gomer ever responded to the extraordinary love of Hosea. All was a parable of God’s love—and the longing of that love for love in return. The tragedy in Hosea’s home life became a parable, ordained of God, of the tragedy in Hosea’s homeland. The book ends with God saying of the Hebrew people, “I will heal their backsliding, I will love them freely” (Hos. 14:4), and with the added assurance, “Ephraim shall say, What have I to do any more with idols? I have heard him, and observed him” (Hos. 14:8). [1]

So God first loved us. The response of the redeemed heart is best expressed, perhaps, by the little chorus:

Oh, the love that sought me,

Oh, the blood that bought me,

Oh, the grace that brought me to the fold;

Wondrous grace that brought me to the fold.

[1] Phillips, J. (2009). Exploring the Epistles of John: An Expository Commentary (1 Jn 4:19). Kregel Publications; WORDsearch Corp.

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