Bible Notes: Love

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Hebrew: Psalm 69:16 Hear me, O LORD; for thy lovingkindness is good: turn unto me according to the multitude of thy tender mercies.

As we have been learning lesson by lesson, the God of Moses, Yahweh (translated “the LORD and sometimes pronounced Jehovah) has divine attributes which are listed in Ex. 34:6 and 7.If one reads Ex. 34:6,7, one finds v. 6 is packed with absolutely good attributes of the LORD. Verse 7 then takes up the problem of sin and atonement in three parts which may be roughly summarized: first the LORD is steadfast in goodness; second, the LORD forgives every manner of error; third, the LORD requires reformation no matter how long it takes. How the perfection of God acts to cause reformation is less easy to reconcile with Love unless one can take the larger view that it is in one’s own best interests to be corrected rather than to go on in sin. We have examined many verses that allude to the Mosaic tradition by using its vocabulary. The tradition was first transmitted in settings where most people do not read, but when key words were often repeated, people would remember the beloved refrain. Some verses we have considered don’t merely quote, but create new statements about the LORD while using the same attributes, allowing the tradition to branch out from its seminal root. The full effect was an oral tradition in which all of these related texts comprise one extensively applied truth about God. Being the attentive heirs of this tradition, Jewish commentators drew the conclusion that the LORD’s chief attribute is compassion, agreeing with the Christian doctrine that God is Love. This Psalm text again uses attributes from Ex. 34:6, choosing the important pair, khesded ve-rachamim–lovingkindness and tender mercies, which became key words in Jewish thought for how God is reflected in humanitarian works. Overall, for a full and true definition of the LORD that is also a very good definition of the Christian concept of Love, Ex. 34:6, 7 is original, ancient, greatly beloved and very influential in Old Testament thought.

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