In God, love and truth go hand in hand. Love without truth is misguided, and truth without love is the cold steel of a sword. Knowing we humans are fragile creatures, God always leads with love.
I hear many people these days saying this is only true of the God of the New Testament, that is, of Jesus the Self-sacrificing One. I disagree. To separate the God of the Old Testament from the God of the New is to set one foot on the path to the ancient Gnostic heresies… but I digress. The point is, God is the same yesterday, today, and forever. Et in saecula saeculorum.
Even knowing this, it comes as a surprise to find in the book of Deuteronomy the Ten Commandments are preceded by God’s declaration of love. (Star Trek fans will also notice that after the Ten Commandments we find in Deut. 5:33 words that could be translated “live long and prosper” – but I digress again.) Listen to what God says in preamble to the Big 10. From Deuteronomy 4, beginning at verse 32:
“Ask now about the former days, long before your time, from the day God created man on the earth; ask from one end of the heavens to the other.
Has anything so great as this ever happened, or has anything like it ever been heard of? Has any other people heard the voice of God speaking out of fire, as you have, and lived? Has any god ever tried to take for himself one nation out of another nation, by testings, by miraculous signs and wonders, by war, by a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, or by great and awesome deeds, like all the things the LORD your God did for you in Egypt before your very eyes?
You were shown these things so that you might know that the LORD is God; besides him there is no other. From heaven he made you hear his voice to discipline you. On earth he showed you his great fire, and you heard his words from out of the fire. Because he loved your forefathers and chose their descendants after them, he brought you out of Egypt by his Presence and his great strength, to drive out before you nations greater and stronger than you and to bring you into their land to give it to you for your inheritance, as it is today.”
These words are still true of God’s people today. He calls people out of every nation, tribe, language, race, and culture to be His own, by miracles and wonders we can’t explain. He builds a path of life through the middle of a culture of death, dissatisfaction, depression, and darkness — a culture where we are outnumbered and viewed as weak — and He prepares a place for us both in this life and in the Promised Land to come. Even when life is difficult we live our days surrounded by love.
God’s law is still good, and it still holds, but God Himself has satisfied it in Jesus. “In God, faith seeks life: life not found in commandments or edicts or penalties but in the promise of mercy — a mercy that is nothing if it is not gracious.” (St. Augustine) The law makes perfect sense when we first trust His love.