By : Elder Enoch Ofori Jnr
(Sabbath, 29th October, 2011)
So Dearly Loved to be Forgotten
There is no lover like God. God is Himself love (1 John 4:8). His love is true, gentle, firm, tried, and timeless. The way God loves Zion is the way He loves you! And that love is eternal in duration and pure in character.
You have no idea how deeply God loves you. No matter how hard we try, we can never understand the depth of His love for us; it’s unfathomable. As a measure of how deep God loves His people, just look at how hurt He is when His love is spurned and betrayed by His people (Isa. 1:2-4; Jer. 44:2-6, 21-22).
But the true measure of God’s love is to consider His great love for Zion—originally a fortified hill in Jerusalem which David took from the Jebusites (2 Sam. 5:6-7) but which came to denote all Jerusalem and ultimately God’s beloved people (Ps 125:1, 74:2; Isa. 59:20; Heb. 12:22). In Isaiah 49:14, God reads Zion’s mind with a heavy heart, as she whines, "The LORD hath forsaken me, and my Lord hath forgotten me" (Isa. 49:14) and then replies: "Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? Yea, they may forget, yet will I not forget thee. Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of My hands; thy walls are continually before Me" (vv. 15-16).
So what ails you, what makes you moan in despair, daughter of Zion, as though you have no Redeemer? Your present affliction, be it persecution from ungodly men or a hard time you are going through, is no indication that God has abandoned you. He cannot possibly forget you; He has "engraved you on the palms" of His hands. You are always before Him, and the greatest part of it all is that He doesn’t acknowledge your present predicament but your future glory. Instead of a Jerusalem whose walls are torn and broken down, He sees a Jerusalem whose walls are rebuilt and beautifully restored! That’s how God Almighty sees you; how you feel about yourself or your present sorry state makes no difference to Him.
For Him, the miracle He’s about to perform in your life is a done deal; it stands no chance of failure; it’s a fait accompli! Rather than any further delay, it hastens to bring blessings into your life, even as the evils that plagued you are shown the exit. Hence the LORD comforts Zion: "Thy children (or builders) shall make haste; thy destroyers and they that made thee waste shall go forth of thee" (v. 17).
You are the Centre of His Joy
God’s love for Zion, for you, is everlasting; indeed, as He says in Jer. 31:3, “I have loved thee with an everlasting love".
And why not? Zion is the centre of His joy on earth. He declares in Ps. 48:2: "Beautiful for situation, the joy of the whole earth, is mount Zion, on the sides of the north, the city of the great King".
When the eyes of the LORD roam the earth, you are not among those who grieve His heart with their fornication, idolatry and wickedness (Gen. 6:5-6; Isa. 63:10; Eph. 4:30; Heb. 3:17); you are among those who delight His eyes. You please Him, you love Him and obey Him; you are the focus of His joy on earth. And I assure you His eyes are constantly on you and His ears open to your cry (Ps. 34:15), as the apple of His eye, His very own beloved. To you He makes this promise: "For thus saith the LORD of hosts; After the glory hath He sent me unto the nations which spoiled you: for he that toucheth you toucheth the apple of His eye" (Zech. 2:8).
The benefits of being His loved one only get better. Because the LORD has glorified you, He warns your persecutors who harassed you in the past to keep off or risk incurring His wrath! So let the enemy come, but the battle is the LORD’s. The LORD God residing in you by His Spirit (Eph. 2:22) is your glory (Col. 1:27) and a "wall of fire" around you (Zech. 2:5). He issues a stern warning to the enemies of His people in Ps. 105:14-15: "He allowed no man to do them wrong; yea, He reproved kings for their sakes, saying, Touch not My anointed, and do My prophets no harm".
Thus God tells the enemy, ‘It’s enough, I won’t allow you to victimize My beloved again—My beloved whom you nearly destroyed but I rescued from your destructive devices’. When Satan sought another chance to harm the Jewish nation (Zech. 3:1), after they were restored to their land after 70 years in Babylonian captivity, the LORD rebuked him thus: ‘"The LORD rebuke you, O Satan! The LORD who has chosen Jerusalem rebuke you! Is not this a brand plucked from the fire?" (Zech. 3:2). In other words, do you seek to destroy again what you nearly destroyed with your fire of hatred but for My intervention?
Fear not, child of Zion, the Holy One of Israel, who has chosen you, won’t allow the devil to touch you again; your ‘warfare’ is over (Isa. 40:2). From now on consider it a thing of the past that the enemy has power over your health, or over your finances, your family or any aspect of your life. God is in control now, and He assures you in Joel 2:25-27:
"I will restore to you the years that the locust hath eaten, the cankerworm, and the caterpillar, and the palmerworm, My great army which I sent among you.
"And ye shall eat in plenty, and be satisfied, and praise the name of the LORD your God, that hath dealt wondrously with you: and My people shall never be ashamed.
"And ye shall know that I am in the midst of Israel, and that I am the LORD your God, and none else: and My people shall never be ashamed".
"I am Married to you"
The LORD means every word of His promise to Zion because the relationship goes way beyond mere fondness for her; He looks upon Zion as His wife. God told the backsliding people of Judah: "Turn, O backsliding children, saith the LORD; for I am married unto you" (Jer. 3:14).
And the LORD is an able Husband, an all-powerful husband who delivers on His every promise and responsibility. He reaffirms His undying love and commitment to our welfare in Isa. 54:
"Fear not", He assures us, "for thou shalt not be ashamed: neither be thou confounded; for thou shalt not be put to shame: for thou shalt forget the shame of thy youth, and shalt not remember the reproach of thy widowhood any more.
"For thy Maker is thine husband; the LORD of hosts is His name; and thy Redeemer the Holy One of Israel; The God of the whole earth shall He be called.
"For the LORD hath called thee as a woman forsaken and grieved in spirit, and a wife of youth, when thou wast refused, saith thy God.
"For a small moment have I forsaken thee; but with great mercies will I gather thee.
"In a little wrath I hid My face from thee for a moment; but with everlasting kindness will I have mercy on thee, saith the LORD thy Redeemer" (vv. 4-8).
Zion’s Husband does not shoot his mouth off. The shame of your youth (bondage in Egypt) and the humiliation of your national widowhood (captivity in Babylon) will be erased from your memory forever. And the reason is simple: your Husband is “the God of the whole earth”; He’s no powerless braggart! He has the power and resources to do as He pleases. And now, it pleases Him to lavish His love on you in a way you have never known. To you a rejected, forlorn, grieving woman He demonstrates His love with "great mercies" and with "everlasting kindness".
Who except the Almighty God can compensate us in this manner, making us forget all the troubles we ever went through because He showers us with "everlasting kindness”?
Even where it had required the death of His Son to give full meaning to His "everlasting kindness" towards us, the price was not too high to pay due to His great love for us. Rom. 5:8 tells us: "But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us" (NASU). That is how deep His love goes.
But remember His love flies on the wings of "everlasting kindness", and this clearly implies that His love is not finished with us yet, no, not in this life! What we have so far enjoyed from the generosity of His love—healing us by His stripes, protecting us from the evil plots and temptations of the enemy and getting us back on our feet when we stumble—are only a foretaste of the immeasurable kindness His love has in store for us; the best of His largesse is yet to come! This is the truth the Apostle Paul impresses on us in Ephesians chapter two. After recalling our past state of spiritual death because of our sins and worldly living as puppets of "the prince of the power of the air", he declares elatedly:
"But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which He loved us,
"even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ–by grace you have been saved–
"and raised us up with Him and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,
"so that in the coming ages He might show the immeasurable riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus" (Eph. 2:4-7 ESV).
From spiritual death to spiritual elevation with Christ in heaven and He’s not finished yet! For the ultimate purpose of His "great love" for us, stemming from the fact that He’s "rich in mercy", is to show us for all time to come "the infinite riches of His grace in kindness towards us in Christ Jesus"! Certainly, "Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love Him" (1 Cor. 2:9).
God’s love for us is so exceedingly great and unfathomable that we can never fully appreciate it until in the world to come—until we find ourselves walking the golden streets of heaven, clothed with immortality and crowned with inexpressible glory as kings and priests of God.
What love compares with God’s love for Zion which His Church, His bride and His wife? No love comes close. As Christ Himself put it, "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends" (John 15:13).
God’s love for us expressed through Christ is of the highest order and of the purest kind—so pristine and so immaculate it’s indefinable in human terms! If so, is it asking too much if all He expects of us is to love Him in return by keeping His commandment (1 John 5:3)? His love obligates us to live for Him:
"For the love of Christ compels us, having concluded this: that if One died for all, then all died; and He died for all, so that they who live should live no longer for themselves, but for the One who died for them and rose again" (2 Cor. 5:14-15 EMTV).
"He will Rejoice over Thee with Joy"
Much as we should rejoice in God’s love as an expression of our appreciation for His loving us, we must know that we can never outdo Him in the joy He derives from loving us. He’s head over heels in love with us and has absolutely no reservations about it. He says in Ps 132:
"The LORD has chosen Zion; He has desired it for His habitation: ‘This is My resting place forever; here I will dwell, for I have desired it’" (vv. 13-14).
The reason, again, is that He finds Zion more lovable than anything else. Ps. 87:2 says, "The LORD loveth the gates of Zion more than all the dwellings of Jacob". What the scripture is telling us is that while the LORD loves all the dwelling-places of Jacob, He loves Zion best. This is the place in Jacob where His truths are taught, where the voices of His people ring out in His praise and honour; it’s where He’s worshipped and adored! And He basks in the praises of His people: " But Thou art holy, O Thou that inhabitest the praises of Israel" (Ps. 22:3). The Modern King James Version (MKJV) renders it,
"But You are holy, enthroned on the praises of Israel" (so ESV, LITV and ISV).
No wonder, "glorious things" are spoken of Zion (Ps. 87:3), for when the LORD sits on His throne drinking in the praises of His people "glorious things" are sure to take place, performed by He "who alone doeth great wonders" (Ps. 136:4). Indeed, as King David says in Ps 16:11, in His "Presence is fullness of joy and at His right hand are pleasures forevermore".
So keep your fingers crossed, sing in joyful expectancy of the bounties of His love; the All-powerful God of creation, your Husband, has come to rest in you, His love:
"Sing, O daughter of Zion; shout, O Israel; be glad and rejoice with all the heart, O daughter of Jerusalem.
"The LORD hath taken away thy judgments, He hath cast out thine enemy: the king of Israel, even the LORD, is in the midst of thee: thou shalt not see evil any more.
"In that day it shall be said to Jerusalem, Fear thou not: and to Zion, Let not thine hands be slack.
"The LORD thy God in the midst of thee is mighty; He will save, He will rejoice over thee with joy; He will rest in His love, He will joy over thee with singing.
"I will gather them that are sorrowful for the solemn assembly, who are of thee, to whom the reproach of it was a burden.
"Behold, at that time I will undo all that afflict thee: and I will save her that halteth, and gather her that was driven out; and I will get them praise and fame in every land where they have been put to shame.
"At that time will I bring you again, even in the time that I gather you: for I will make you a name and a praise among all people of the earth, when I turn back your captivity before your eyes, saith the LORD" (Zeph. 3:14-20).
The LORD brings you restoration, renewal, joy and glory just because He’s rapturously in love with you. The least you can do is to love Him back with all your heart and with all your being (Mark 12:30). Remember, "He first loved you" (1 John 4:19), and that love is kind, pure, glorious and eternal.
You are fixed in Yahweh’s love; you are a fixture in His affections. He has vowed never to forsake nor leave you (Heb. 13:5). Let that assurance fill your heart with joy and imbue you with hope and confidence. Trust in His love at all times. Fear no evil or devil. In “the valley of the shadow of death” His loving hand shall caress you with comfort (Ps 23:4). He will bear you in His hands as He bore the Israelites on eagles’ wings and save you from every calamity (Ex. 19:4). When you pass through the waters, He will be with you, and you will not be drowned; when you walk through fire you will not be burned, and the flame will not so much as scorch your skin (Isa. 43:2)! He has redeemed you by His love (v. 1).
Because Yah, your Husband, watches over you around the clock (Ps 121:3-4), your “sleep shall be sweet”, for you shall not be “afraid of sudden fear”. So don’t assume that you will be caught up in the destruction of the wicked “when it comes” (as it surely will). “For the LORD shall be thy confidence (the One to trust to keep you safe), and shall keep thy foot from being taken” (He will keep you from harm indeed) (Prov. 3:24-26).
You abide under the canopy of His love (Ps 91). What a demonstration of practical, altruistic, living love! You are the best loved person in the whole universe—loved by the Greatest Lover of all! The Almighty has loved you with an “everlasting love” with such ardour that the heavenly city He has prepared for you, His bride, has been named in your honour—Zion, the New Jerusalem (Rev. 14:1; 21:2, 9-14). He has come to rest in His love. Who could ever love so tenderly, and so deeply for all time? You can never adequately requite His love except to luxuriate in it, and serve and thank Him always for the ineffable riches of His Love. Halleluiah!