Boy, if I was ever going to be misunderstood, this is the article. So hang in there and see what the Holy Spirit will show you...
Overwhelmingly we find the word “love” used to express how the psalmist loves God’s word; His laws; His house/temple; His precepts; His salvation; His commandments. When used like this it is clear that by “love” the psalmist is expressing his preference for God’s ways above all other ways and above all other gods and nations. The psalmist is exulting God above all others.
There are two notable exceptions where the David declares “I love you...”
I love You, O LORD, my strength. (Psalm 18:1)
I love the LORD, because He hears my voice and my supplications. (Psalm 116:1)
In both cases the verse is not completed but that the reason for loving God is attributed to some awesome attribute of God. So again, it is an exultation of God.
When a man makes his wedding vowels to his wife he might declare something like, “I take you to be my wife, forsaking all others...” This declaration shows to all present that he has chosen this woman and exulted her above all other women in his eyes by taking her as his wife.
In Mark 12:29-31 Jesus was asked what the greatest commandment was. His response was...
Jesus answered, “The foremost is, ‘Hear, O Israel! The LORD our God is one LORD; and you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is this, ‘ You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”
This declaration of the greatest command is in other Gospels but the first part about “the LORD is one” is only in Mark though it’s a common declaration. It sounds like the declaration of “the LORD is one” and “love the LORD...” are two statements, but clearly Jesus sees them as the one commandment. Then I saw it. This is about loving the LORD with an undivided heart, not a gushy heart.
Do you recall how...
No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth. (Luke 16:13)
Recall how in Mark 12:30, love was to be with the four facets of your being, your heart, your soul, your mind and your strength. The word “all” I take to mean as above all , exalting God with no rival. Not in the sense of excluding any other love since the next verse in Mark 12:31 commands love for your neighbour. Here is what scripture says about an undivided heart...
Teach me Your way, O LORD ; I will walk in Your truth; Unite my heart to fear Your name. (Psalm 86:11)
In Deuteronomy 6:5 we are commanded to love God with all of our being. We have already looked at this scripture in Mark 12:30. But in Deuteronomy it goes on and commands us not to steal or covet your neighbour’s donkey. We sing a lot about loving God and if you read on you will see that the profession of our love for Him is a little presumptuous at times. But I’m really confident about not coveting my neighbour’s donkey! Why don’t we get more songs about that? Why don’t we sing about our obedience to other commands?
Look, if it’s commanded then anything less than perfect and complete love is sin. Does anybody want to put their hands up for having such a perfect love? Then why go round professing it to God, who alone can search a man’s heart. Oh dear, I hope such professions do not sound like hypocrisy, because Jesus hated that! I find that the safest ground is to sing about the great things God has done. As He is exulted His presence is manifest, and it melts my heart and no words need be spoken.
I’m going to talk about the expression of our love in the next few sections so brace yourself!
I’ve been in the Vineyard movement for over a decade. They have sought to develop what they feel is an intimate style of worship and at times I have been really blessed by it. But it’s my opinion that real intimacy starts when you and your wife go home from the party. That’s when you go to your room and close the door. But doesn’t Matthew 6:6 tell us that when we want to have private (intimate) time with the Lord – to go to your room and close the door.
It’s my opinion that Vineyard worship was initially blessed by the Holy Spirit not because it was intimate but because it was unpretentious. It was a group of people desperate for the Lord and humbly delighting in His presence. This lead to intimacy but the focus must be humility and exultation of, and delight in God.
If you read the book of Job then perhaps you will, like me, find some of the long speeches about God and sin and everything, rather flowery and in places hard to figure out what they are really saying. But when I get to Psalms it’s not so bad. Some bits get a bit flowery, for example, Psalm 6:6 , but this is a description of the psalmist’s great despair.
In other places, exotic word pictures are put together to try and express the greatness of God. The Hebrew language is quite simple, not with the range of adjectives and constructs that English posses. So the word images convey the meaning and, praise God, as a result the translations are not dependant on subtle language constructs but easily translated pictures.
The trouble is we get used to this flower talk and think that is OK to use it to express our great love of God. The psalmist tends to use it to express the greatness of God’s love. Big difference!
Be careful what you profess if you want the Spirit of Truth to inhabit your praises. Of course we get carried away in joy and say things that are not scripturally perfect. You have to get to the place where you do know and even want to tell Him that you love Him. He’s big enough to enjoy our spontaneous enthusiasm, but don’t make it routine to profess anything great about ourselves.
At one stage a popular song declared how we would “sing un-ending songs to him” and one or two songs later we would all stop. Or, we would “dance 10,000 miles for Him”. The next capital city is 500 miles that way – off you go! Don’t profess anything great about yourself except your great need for Him and your thankfulness that He met this need on the Cross!
Don’t feel you have to tell God how much you love Him. He knows the reality. Now you need discernment to apply the following but just be reminded for now how easily we deceive ourselves and how God cuts right through it...
Remember the prayer of Pharisee and tax collector in Luke 18:10. One professed his greatness and the other declared his need of God’s mercy. Who went home right with God? Perhaps this will knock your confidence. A lot of teaching is designed to prop up your confidence or should I say faith. Usually that is good, but leave a little room for reverent fear of God.
“Now, Israel, what does the LORDyour God require from you, but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all His ways and love Him, and to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to keep the LORD’S commandments and His statutes which I am commanding you today for your good?” (Deuteronomy 10:12-13)
(Yes, I know that is Old Testament and under the New Covenant, we walk boldly into the throne room. So if that denies any chance of “reverent fear” and the “awe of God”, in your philosophy, then I guess that is great for you. Perhaps the Holy Spirit has other mechanisms that keeps you humble. Thankfulness is one.)
Perhaps you are a worship leader or a song writer and in a moment of passion and inspiration you pen or sing words that don’t meet my presumed standards. It’s OK. God sees what is in your heart, not the perfection of its expression. I’ve heard songs inspired by the Holy Spirit that came out of people desperate for God and they are not perfect. That’s just it – we are not perfect but God hears the heart cry.
Some of these songs may even capture the heart of a nation at that time. But a later generation of worshippers who have not (yet) come through hard testing can sing the same words but without the same heart. So before singing a song, as you would before communion (1 Corinthians 11:28), examine your heart in relation to what you might be professing and out of reverent fear, be still and silent, which is a greatly under-valued exultation of God (Psalm 46:10, Isaiah 30:15).
Once my Pastor issued a rebuke to our congregation. There was a lot of follow-up and counselling required. Then he quietly said to me, “the ones who did not need it took it to heart and the ones who did need it, dismissed it”.