Five hundred years ago in 1050, a Jewish Cantor wrote a hymn to be sung in the annual Jewish celebration of the Festival of Weeks. Rabbi Meir Ben Isaac Nehorai penned the following:
Could we with ink the ocean fill,
And were the skies of parchment made;
Were every stalk on earth a quill,
And every man a scribe by trade;
To write the love of God above
Would drain the ocean dry;
Nor could the scroll contain the whole,
Though stretched from sky to sky.
You may recognize this as the third stanza to the hymn "The Love of God" written by F.M. Lehman in 1917. However, neither Lehman nor this Rabbi were the original source for these poetic words. A student of the famous Rabbi Hillel (who lived shortly before Jesus) responded to the question, "What have you learned from your teacher?" with: "If all the heavens were parchments, and all the trees quills, and all the seas were ink, it would still be impossible to write down even a part of what I learned from my teacher."
Recognizing God's love as immeasurable, almost inexplicable, and almost unfathomable goes back to the very beginnings of the people of God. This shouldn't surprise us - we are consistently overwhelmed by God's love for us. The psalmist, also referring to the vastness of God's creation, put it this way:
Your faithfulness to the skies.
Your righteousness is like the highest mountains,
Your justice like the great deep.
You, LORD, preserve both people and animals. (Psa 36:5-6 NIV)
If God's love could be quantified (and it can't), all of creation could not contain it. Equally astounding, this love is extended to us without any preconditions. There is no threshold we must cross, no qualification we must earn so we may be the objects of God's love. God loves us.
Such love cannot be ignored. Our first response needs to be one of humility and confession - acknowledging our need for God's love, confessing our sinfulness, and accepting the gift of His grace which provides our salvation and reconciles us to Him.
Our second response is equally important: to view every event in life, every celebration, every stress, every relationship, every experience within the context of God's almost unfathomable, almost inexplicable, overwhelming love. One of the reasons Paul can so confidently state that "all things work together for good" (Rom. 8:28) is because he has absolute assurance that nothing can separate us from God's love (Rom. 8:38-39). Most of us (ok, all of us) struggle from time to time with our sense of inadequacy, intimidation, and fear. John reminded his readers (who were facing ever-increasing persecution) that "Perfect love casts out fear" (1 John 4:18). If God is faithful (and He is) and loves me with such overwhelming love (and He does), then I need to make some adjustments to my perceptions of life around me (and yes, I do!).
Paul himself was overwhelmed by God's love. A confessed murderer, he can barely contain himself as he writes:
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For He chose us in Him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in His sight. In love He predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with His pleasure and will--to the praise of His glorious grace, which He has freely given us in the One He loves. In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God's grace that He lavished on us. (Eph 1:3-8 NIV)
Have a great Monday being loved by God!