His Continued Lovingkindness
What then? There follows the second half of the statement - "Therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee" or "therefore have I continued lovingkindness unto thee." 'I have born with you all this time because I love you; anything could have happened to you, but I have not let it, I have shown you infinite longsuffering and patience, and earnest solicitude for your eternal well being: because I love you, I have kept you alive, and have brought you to this time and to this place; I have not let you go.' Oh, that this might come home to us! We may, all unconsciously be hearing this message now simply because of this infinite love of God which has been preserving us unto this hour to let us know it. You may think it is quite fortuitous that you are hearing it - just one of the chance happenings of life; but if you know the truth it is this infinite love of God which has held you to this time in relation to the infinite purposes of that love to let you know it. There is nothing casual about it, there is sovereign love here. "Because I have so loved, because, self-sufficient as I am, I cannot do without you" - oh, mystery of Divine love! - "because I so much wanted you I created you, and now at this moment I am drawing you." We cannot take that in, but that is the teaching of the Word of God.
We started these messages by pointing out that behind the universe, behind the mind, the reason, the plan, the design, there is a heart. The universe exists as an answer to that heart. Today that heart in its love is bleeding. It has suffered a great deal of disappointment, deprivation; it has been robbed of its object - the wife has been unfaithful. But the Lord comes out in the presence of it all and says, "I love you and I still love you; My love is an everlasting love: therefore I have kept, I have preserved, and I have brought you to this very hour and I am telling you now that this is the position; there is no breach of love on My part.
Love Persisting Though Spurned
But Israel went into a great deal of suffering and distress because they did not respond to that love of God thus expressed, and it looked very much as though the everlasting love was lasting no longer. But not so, it ha never changed. You see, love has sometimes to change its form of expression, although in itself it does not change, and so we have another side to the revelation of God's ways with wayward and willful man. Suffering, affliction and adversity to individuals and to nations and to the world is not because of a contradiction of the statement that God so loved the world. It is the only way in which that love stands any chance of getting a response of the kind God wants. God does not want that kind of love that is not love at all because it gets everything that it wants to satiate its own lusts. That is not love. This love of God must make us like itself, it must be after its own kind.
And so, strangely enough, many have come to find the love of God through the dark way of suffering - to discover that God was not their enemy but their friend, when they thought that he was pursuing with the object of destroying them. But I am not going to follow that out just now.
I want to be content now with making that great declaration with which we started, doing the little I can to try to bring it home to you - who it is that says it, what it is that he says, the people to whom He says it, with the assurance that, so far as He is concerned, He will never take another attitude but love, even if it is disappointed love and we ourselves should lose all that that love meant for us. To lose that and to know it would be our hell of hells. There could be no deeper hell than to discover all that was meant for you by infinite love, and to realize that by your own folly and your own stubbornness it has gone beyond your reach forever. What more of a hell can you imagine than that? I think that is the only kind of hell we need contemplate, whatever may be the full truth about it. For any one to wake up and have to say, "Oh, what might have been if only, if only I had done so and so! If only I had taken the opportunity! It is too late now!" - that is agony of soul, that is misery, that is despair. You see, it is the effect of love, Divine love's immense purposes, and we discover that it is now all impossible because we have foolishly rejected, refused, repudiated, gone our own way, stubbornly said No! to the Divine love. That is the dark side of this, but I am not going on to the dark side now. Listen again, whoever you may be. If you know yourself only a little you must be amazed at this statement, but if it does not come to you as the most wonderful thing that ever was or could be, there is something grievously the matter with you; that such a One should say to such as we, "I have loved thee, with an everlasting love." May God Himself bring that home to us with something of its implication, something of its meaning and value, its glory, its wonder. If He should graciously do that, we shall be worshipers for the rest of our lives; thee will be something about us that is in the nature of awe and wonder and we shall go softly. The realization of it will smite all our pride to the dust. There is no room for pride here. This will remove all those horrible things - pride, avarice, covetousness, self-interest, worldly ambition - and we shall be very humble, very grateful people, full of a great longing somehow to requite that love, somehow to win for that One His rights. This has been the motive and passion of many who have given themselves in the far places of the earth in a daily suffering for their Lord's sake. Love - a little return for this so great love wherewith He loved us.
(continued with # 13 - "Love: The Supreme Test of the Church")