This Is How We Know What Love Is: Jesus Christ Laid Down His Life For Us

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DANIEL 11:2-35 | I JOHN 3:7-24 | PSALM 122:1-9 | PROVERBS 29:1 

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Daniel lived some 600 years before the birth of Christ, and as a young boy of perhaps 13 or 14 was taken into captivity by the kings of modern-day Iraq and Iran. 

He showed extraordinary resolve in conducting himself in an exemplary manner in all matters, earned the respect and favor of the kings, became a high-ranking official in the kingdom, and above all, never feared to stay true to himself.  That meant never being ashamed of his beliefs, even if it meant certain death.  Daniel was open to being an instrument for God’s greater plan, and in this, he was open to receiving dreams, visions, and prophecies.  But most of all, he was a prayer-warrior.

But it is not by virtue of his circumspect living that Daniel makes a case for the redemption of his people, the Jews.  It never works like that, you see.  He appeals instead to the mercies of  God.  He also goes a step further and appeals to the “covenant of love” promised by God. 

Daniel’s prayer from the passage from yesterday’s reading goes like this:   “Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love with those who love him and keep his commandments, 5 we have sinned and done wrong. We have been wicked and have rebelled; we have turned away from your commands and laws. 6 We have not listened to your servants the prophets, who spoke in your name to our kings, our princes and our ancestors, and to all the people of the land.

Daniel is invoking the original nature of the covenant or promise that God had made with the children of Israel. 

Before they thought it was too simplistic to simply love and be loved.  Before they scorned him and built idols of worship.  Before they began to become disgruntled and began to clamor for something more tangible.  Which is when God said, “alright, I’ll give you a set of laws”, and made Moses the recipient of them via the Ten Commandments. 

But of course, the people couldn’t keep the Law…

But God gave the people what they had wanted if only to prove that it wasn’t what they really wanted after all.  The Law would never set them free.  It couldn’t, because no one could keep either the letter of the law, nor even the spirit of the law. 

And so, we’re back to square one!

Which brings us to the crux of the matter as far as the plight of the people of Israel was concerned — which was then theirs, and is ours today.  It goes something like this: 

I need to save myself.  I want to do it by virtue of my goodness.  I have asked that the perfect law be applied to me.  And I have failed by its standards.  I need deliverance.  God, will you save me?

And so, coming back to this place and time in history, Daniel serves as a conduit to the plan of deliverance that God begins to roll out. Through visions and dreams that seem as bizarre as they seem far-fetched, God begins to reveal the plan of deliverance, which is to culminate in the coming of the Messiah. 

But it is too early and far too complex for Daniel to comprehend the scope and nature of this grand design.  And so, as he ponders the meanings of these visions and dreams, he begins to do what he does best:  he begins to pray.  And he appeals to the mercies of God, and to the “covenant of love” that God has made between his people and Himself. 

Today, three thousand years later, that is exactly the same kind of covenant that God offers to make with each one of us through his Son Jesus Christ.  No animal sacrifices necessary, no painstaking penances needed.  And certainly no pilgrimages in order.

What about that is difficult to comprehend, gentle reader?

Turning next to our reading in the first book of John, we find John offering more exhortations to love one another.  He says: 

16 This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. 17 If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? 18 Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.

And if all this wasn’t clear enough, John decides to say it yet one more time: 

23 And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us. 24 The one who keeps God’s commands lives in him, and he in them. And this is how we know that he lives in us: We know it by the Spirit he gave us.

Turning next to our reading of the Psalms, we find in this psalm, a prayer by David for Jerusalem.  Not unlike Daniel’s prayer for the city of Jerusalem and her people, David also says:

6 Pray for the peace of Jerusalem:
   “May those who love you be secure.
7 May there be peace within your walls
   and security within your citadels.”
8 For the sake of my family and friends,
   I will say, “Peace be within you.”
9 For the sake of the house of the LORD our God,
   I will seek your prosperity.

Finally, one verse from the book of Proverbs, in which Solomon, wise king of Israel, offers some food for thought:

1 Whoever remains stiff-necked after many rebukes
   will suddenly be destroyed—without remedy.

May God bless the reading and reflection of His Word.  Amen.

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