The Love Of God - Hymns 4 Him - Part 9
Today I want to talk about the love of God. The Bible is filled with verses about God’s love. The challenge to any preacher when thinking about this topic is how ever will we narrow down the verses to talk about inside of a single sermon? (We can’t.) How can we exhaust the topic of God’s love? (We can’t.) How ever will we talk about something new or different than has been talked about before about God’s love? (We can’t!)
Yet, we must talk about God’s love. Not because anyone makes us do it. Rather, because we cannot help ourselves. The love of God is the story behind every story. The love of God is the reason behind every reason. The love of God is the motivation behind every Christian action, including the writing of a sermon.
And including the writing of a hymn.
“The Love of God” was written in 1917 by a German immigrant, Frederick Lehman. Frederick had attended a Sunday evening camp meeting worship service and came home overwhelmed with the love of God. He just couldn’t stop thinking about it. At the time he had lost everything in former business and was working manual labor packing oranges into boxes. But all day while he was packing oranges, he thought and thought about the love of God.
#1 - The love of God in ___MEDITATION___.
“I will meditate on your precepts and consider your ways.” Psalms 119:15
At first glance you may wonder why I chose this among all the Bible verses about the love of God? The “love of God” is not even mentioned. Or is it? What are God’s precepts? What are God’s ways? Is there any principle that God follows or any action that He takes that is not grounded in love? No! The truth is we cannot think about or meditate upon God without at the same time thinking about and meditating upon the love of God!
Yet - in our busyness of life, with the urgent robbing from the vital - we fail to stop and deeply consider the love of God and how it has changed us. We accept the love of God. We believe in the love of God. We assume the love of God. But we fail to meditate upon the love of God. In so doing we miss out on a great benefit of life as a Christ follower.
We have the best fortune, the one-in-a-million lottery kind of luck, the greatest gift that could ever be bestowed upon us - the love of God. But we rarely stop and think about it. We rarely allow it to move us away from the more urgent cares of the day. We keep the benefit of the gift but lose the awareness of how great the gift really is!
49-year-old Frederick Lehman could not stop thinking about the love of God. It overwhelmed him. His every thought, his every meditation was on the love of God. The memories of his failed business - gone! The burden of his manual labor - gone! He came home and penned the hymn we know as “The Love of God.”
Sing Verse 1 and Chorus.
#2 - The love of God in ___ACTION___.
“God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8
At first, when I would listen to this hymn, I would wonder who the guilty pair were? After thinking about it for just a little bit, it became obvious that the hymn writer was talking about Adam and Eve… the guilty pair. Not just Eve. Not just Adam. God’s love stretched back to the very beginning of creation. God gave His one and only begotten Son at that very moment when Adam and Eve, the guilty pair, rebelled against God. “His erring child He reconciled.”
Of course the same is true of you and me too. We are born with Adam and Eve’s sin, but that is not an excuse. We continue to sin. We continue to rebel. We’ve made our own choices to live and go our own way and not to go the way that God would desire for us. And yet, while we were still sinners, God gave His Son. Jesus gave His life. Christ died for us.
How do we just go on about our daily, busy lives so full of the mundane, or so full of the bitterness, or so full of the boredom, that we lose sight of just how blessed we are with this love of God? Not only do we lose the appropriate gratitude to the Lord, we also lose our special purpose and position as God’s beloved children. For nothing will ever be able to separate us from this amazing love of God! (Romans 8:38.)
Sing Verse 2 and Chorus.
#3 - The love of God in ___SPITE OF US___.
“This is how God showed His love among us: He sent His one and only Son into the world that we might live through Him.” 1 John 4:9
It’s not just the guilty pair. The Bible tells us that we are all sinners. That we have all fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). Yet, even with this knowledge, even knowing the story of Adam and Eve, knowing the story of God’s people in the 1500 years leading up to the time of Jesus, even knowing what Jesus did for them and for us… we continue to sin. We continue to live our lives in defeat rather than in victory. We continue to offer our prayers and worship to any and everything else but the One Glorious Father God Who most deserves it.
This is what the hymn writers means by “when years of time shall pass away and earthly thrones and kingdom falls, when men here refuse to pray, on rocks and hills and mountains call.” What’s he talking about? Worshiping the creation rather than the Creator. By now we should know better. But we choose to live as ignorant heathen rather than as the loved children of God we really are.
The amazing thing (and surprising thing) about God’s love is that this doesn’t matter. God continues to love us in spite of us!
“This is love: not that we loved God but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” 1 John 4:10
Again, Frederick Lehman gets this so right. God’s love is sure. God’s love still endures despite how badly we mess it up. God’s love IS measureless. God’s love IS strong! And as amazing as this hymn has been up until now, the best verse is yet to come!
Sing Verse 3 and Chorus.
#4 - The love of God in ___EVERYTHING___.
“See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! 1 John 3:1
“And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love, lives in God, and God in them.” 1 John 4:18
God does not give us just a little taste of His love. God does not give His love to us in appetizers. God’s love is like a feast, with serving after serving.
God does not give us just a little glimpse of His love. He takes us into La Louvre and shows us painting upon painting, then takes us to the highest mountaintop over the most glorious valley. He takes us to the moon so we may see the whole Earth, the entirety of His love.
He LAVISHES his love upon us. God not only gives us His love, God wants us to know beyond any shadow of doubt that God gives us His love. God is love. We are His children. We are the most beloved children of a most loving God!
“To write the love of God would drain the ocean dry nor could the scroll contain the whole though stretched from sky to sky.” Wow!
Almost 50 years after Richard Lehman wrote this hymn, he published a pamphlet telling the story of how this 3rd verse came to be written. Lehman had written the first two verses and the chorus. But he felt he needed a 3rd verse. Without a 3rd verse, in his mind, the song just wouldn’t be a complete hymn. Then he remembered a sermon when a preacher quoted a poem. He had hidden the poem in his Bible, took it out and found it matched the song he had written perfectly.
Where did this poem come from?
Years earlier a prisoner was kept in a solitary room in an insane asylum. At some point in his captivity, this prisoner wrote down these words on the wall. No one ever saw the words until after the unnamed prisoner had died and was buried. The prison hired painters to come in and clean and repaint the walls. But when they saw this poem, they wrote it down and gave it to a pastor, who used it in a sermon when Richard Lehman was present, who wrote it down and stuck it in his Bible.
Where did the prisoner of questionable sanity come up with the poem?
Years later this 3rd verse was shown to a Jewish Rabbi who spoke both English and Aramaic as second languages; he was also knowledgeable of his own Jewish history. When he translated back the words of the third verse, he discovered that this poem had originally been written as an eleventh century acrostic Jewish poem of 90 couplets written in the Aramaic language. It was composed in the years around 1050 to 1096 by a Jewish rabbi and cantor in the city of Worms, Germany.
Centuries later a still unnamed and unknown, sometimes “crazy” man, had memorized the Aramaic, translated into English, wrote it on a wall, died, the painters found it, the preacher preached it, Lehman heard it and made a hymn with it. We call that hymn, “The Love of God!”
Conclusion: Do you believe in coincidences? Or do you believe in God-incidences? Do you believe that over a period of a thousand years, with three languages, and no connection of man or faith between them, that Lehman would just happen to come upon some of the best ever lyrics about the greatest love ever known?
Or do you think that maybe, just maybe, God is trying to tell you something. Something huge. Something so big that it’s easy to miss because it fills your entire view.
God loves you with an everlasting love that will never cease, that will never go away, that you can’t ruin. This love of God is bigger than your mistakes. God’s love is bigger than your sins. God’s love is bigger than you and I can possibly imagine.
But imagine God’s love the best we can is what God wants us to try to do.