The Starting Place for Understanding the Love of God
The love of God is NOT essentially or exclusively a gushy emotion; and it is therefore NOT a purely private matter. Based in God's covenant relationship with His people, the love of God in the Tanakh is a matter of both ACTION and AFFECT, with each mutually influencing the other. Efforts to separate action and affect lead to a drastic misunderstanding of the love of God. The love of God (God's love for His people, and His people's love for Him) is interchanged mutually, back and forth, in action and affect. It is a love that becomes real and attains social force in acts of service and regard for one another. This paragraph is primarily a paraphrase from Jon Levenson's latest book, which is hot off the press and highly recommended.
ACTION = covenantal loyalty, fidelity, or faithfulness demonstrated in tangible DOING in devotion and service to another
AFFECT = covenantal loyalty, fidelity, or faithfulness demonstrated in tangible feeling, emotion, affection, intention, and disposition towards another by DOING
This Is Clearly Shown in Deuteronomy
Deut 6:4-5 is a summary statement about the AFFECT; and the other passages shown here demonstrate the main ACTIONS that God had in mind: "Deuteronomy is the biblical book of the love of God par excellence. Love in Deuteronomy is a love that can be commanded…. Above all, it is a love which must be expressed in loyalty, in service, and in unqualified obedience to the demands of the Torah. For to love God is, in answer to a unique claim (6:4), to be loyal to him (11:1, 22; 30:20), to walk in his ways (10:12; 11:22; 19:9; 30:16), to keep his commandments (10:12; 11:1, 22; 19:9), to do them (11:22; 19:9), to heed them or his voice (11:13; 30:16), to serve him (10:12; 11:1, 13). It is, in brief, a love defined by and pledged in the covenant—a covenantal love." —Levenson, p. 7
This Is Also Clearly Shown in Leviticus.
Lev 19:18b is a summary statement about the AFFECT: "but you shall love your neighbor as yourself." And, passages such as Lev 19:9-18a demonstrate the very practical ACTIONS that God had in mind:
9 "When you reap the harvest of your land, you are not to reap to the very edge of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest.
10 You must not strip your vineyard bare or gather its fallen grapes. Leave them for the poor and the foreign resident; I am the LORD your God.
11 "You must not steal. You must not act deceptively or lie to one another.
12 You must not swear falsely by My name, profaning the name of your God; I am the LORD.
13 "You must not oppress your neighbor or rob them. The wages due a hired hand must not remain with you until morning.
14 You must not curse the deaf or put a stumbling block in front of the blind, but you are to fear your God; I am the LORD.
15 "You must not act unjustly when rendering a judgment. Do not be partial to the poor or give preference to the rich; judge your neighbor fairly.
16 You must not go about spreading slander among your people; you must not jeopardize your neighbor's life; I am the LORD.
17 "You must not hate your brother in your heart. Rebuke your neighbor directly, and you will not incur guilt because of them.
18 Do not take revenge or bear a grudge against members of your community…
This Is Clearly Shown in the Main Characteristics of God in Exodus
The main characteristics of God, as the one who initiated a covenant love relationship with His people, are found in Exodus 34:6-7b: "The LORD passed by before him and proclaimed: "The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, and abounding in loyal love and faithfulness, keeping loyal love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin." This early self-revelation of God is precisely why 1 John 4:8 says: "The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love."
Yeshua, the Characteristics of God, & the Two Greatest Commandments
Yeshua enfleshed the very loving characteristics of God as revealed in Exodus 34, and emphasized the love expressed in Deut 6:5 and Lev 19:18b as the very heart of Torah:
"Teacher, which commandment in the Torah is the greatest?" Yeshua said to him, "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your person, and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. The second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' All the Law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.'" — Matthew 22:36-40
Loving God is Also Loving What God Loves
Psalm 33:5 "He loves righteousness and justice; the earth is full of the LORD's unfailing love (hesed)"; Cf. Psa 37:28; 45:7
Psalm 119:97 "Oh how I love Your Torah! It is my meditation all day long." The latest research shows that the word 'Torah' most likely comes from a three letter root ירה that was used in the sense of stretching out one's hand or finger to point out a route. In the Tanakh, then, we can think of Torah as pointing out the way of the LORD. It might best be understood as the 'instruction' and 'directive' of the LORD.
Loving God is also Hating What God Hates
Psalm 97:10 "You who love the Lord, hate evil! He protects the lives of His godly ones; He rescues them from the hand of the wicked." Cf. Psa 145:20
Loving God Manifests Itself in Loving Others
1 John 2:4-11 The one who says, "I have come to know Him," without keeping His commands, is a liar, and the truth is not in this one.
5 But whoever keeps His word, truly in this one the love of God is perfected. This is how we know we are in Him:
6 the one who says they are abiding in Him should walk just as He walked.
7 Dear friends, I am not writing you a new command, but an old command that you have had from the beginning. The old command is the message you have heard.
8 Yet I am writing you a new command, which is true in Him and in you, because the darkness is passing away and the true light is already shining.
9 The one who says they are in the light but hates their brother is in the darkness until now.v 10 The one who loves their brother remains in the light, and there is no cause for stumbling in them.
11 But the one who hates their brother is in the darkness, walks in the darkness, and doesn't know where they are going, because the darkness has blinded their eyes.
1 John 4:7-21 Beloved ones, let us love one another, because love is from God, and everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. The person who does not love does not know God, because God is love. By this the love of God is revealed among us: that God has sent his unique, one-of-a-kind Son into the world so that we may live through Him. In this is love: not that we have loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, if God so loved us, then we also ought to love one another. No one has seen God at any time. If we love one another, God abides in us, and His love is perfected in us. By this we know that we are abiding in God and He in us: in that He has given us of His Ruach. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent the Son to be the Savior of the world. If anyone professes that Yeshua is the Son of God, God abides in them and them in God. And we have come to know and to believe/trust the love that God has in us. God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in them. By this love is perfected with us, so that we may have confidence in the day of judgment; because just as Yeshua is, so also are we in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears punishment has not been perfected in love. We love because he loved us first. If anyone says "I love God" and yet hates their fellow brother or sister in Messiah, they are a liar, because the one who does not love their fellow brother or sister in Messiah, whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen. And the commandment we have from him is this: that the one who loves God should love his fellow brother or sister in Messiah also."
Love is the Greatest Abiding Action, Present & Future; Love Never Ends!
1 Cor 13:13 "So now faith(fulness), hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love." 1 Cor 13:8a "Love never ends!"
Love is the First Listed Fruit of the Ruach
But the fruit of the Ruach is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such things there is no law." (Gal 5:22-23)
Final Question: "Got love?"
Henri Louis Goulet