WEEK 7: But the greatest of these is love
1 Cor 13:13 “Right now three things remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love.” (ISV)
I really treasure this verse. It’s a sweeping statement – a ceremonial ending to the ‘Hall of Love’. Even more so, the last sentence, ‘…the greatest of these is love.’ To me, this is a victory lap for love! Love wins – it is the strongest, most everlasting, ever remaining! Does this make you adore love? It does for me!
If love is all that, then why is it that we only see love pop up its ‘head’ every now and then? Why aren’t all people loving…?
One Sunday morning, I happened to walk in as the morning service began its broadcast on the radio. I was holding my two-week-old son, so my wife could freshen up after a long night of periodic feeds, and as I went to sit on the couch in my lounge, the service had just started. The minister was preaching from Psalm 73, a song of Asaph. It is a Psalm where Asaph laments the prosperity of the wicked. He even, in verse 11, doubts if God knows about the wicked peoples’ violence and arrogance. In verse 13, Asaph loses hope and says, “I kept my heart pure for nothing.” He struggles in verse 16 to understand but admits that it’s too difficult for him.
In verse 17 there is a turning point, where Asaph enters the “sanctuaries of God” and finds understanding. He comes to realise that the wicked won’t prevail…God sets them in slippery places, destines them for desolation; they disappear like a dream when you wake up. In verses 21 and 22 Asaph realises his mistake in being bitter and reacting prematurely on what he saw in the world around him. Wow! What a realisation, all birthed from becoming quiet in the sanctuary of God’s presence!
It is so beautiful how Asaph – in verses 23 to 28 (ISV) – praises God from a place of knowing in his heart that he is always with God and God holds his right hand (vs 23); God guides him with His wise advice (vs 24); God is his everything and he desires no earthly thing (vs 25); God is his strength and portion forever (vs 26). The climax is in verse 28 where Asaph proclaims how good it is for him that God is near. He announces that “the Lord God is my refuge”, and in a prophetic way declares that he will be able to tell about all God’s good deeds.
In a sense I think Asaph’s story is each of ours – we tend to lose our grip on faith sometimes, and then we ask why all people aren’t loving? Why is the world so broken and wicked around us? Asaph did the same. The change in his heart came when Asaph was reminded by the Holy Spirit of who God is – our Shepherd, our Guide, our wise Advisor, our Strength and Portion, our Everything! What an amazing God we serve!
The minister (on the radio) reminded his audience that we don’t live in a world of puppets, where God pulls our strings and so controls our actions. God created humans with the ability and autonomy to make their own decisions. If people follow their own wicked ways and choose against what is good, the consequences testify of a world we see around us every day – broken, destructive, wicked, lost. What are we to do then? Asaph gives us the answer in verse 17 – we should seek the sanctuary of the Lord. As the author of Hebrews reminds us: “He will never leave us or abandon us’ (Hebrews 13: 5 ISV). He will herd us, guide us, advise us, strengthen us. Wow, that is a promise to hold on to!
So, let us not be discouraged by what we see around us, or become fearful. God is love (1 John 4: 8, ISV) and He will never forsake us. Let us keep faith that ‘Love’ will endure. He is our Strength, our Portion, our Sanctuary. Let us follow God’s advice in Psalm 46:10 to “be still and know that I am God.”
When last did you become quiet and enter the sanctuary of God’s presence?