Its 4am and I can’t sleep. I have a hymn on my brain, thats worked its way into my head on repeat. A bit like that radio jingle, written in the darkest depths on earth, composed on a cursed keyboard, designed to inflict torture on all whom hear it and eat away at their very soul like a worm. You know the one about windows 0800ABERDEEN or something like that. However this hymn is much more welcomed in my head.
I first heard the hymn this week and what struck me was the first impression I got. It wasn’t that it was well composed, or that it had a lovely tune. But that that it was well written, it described what I have read in the bible. I almost wanted to say aloud “Yes! That’s what the bible has told me!” and for me that’s what makes a good worship song. Not romantic lyrics, not great poetry, not even a tune that you can hit all the high notes in, though all these things are important. But when a song makes me think about the truth I have read of God.
The hymn begins with these words:
“The love of God is greater far
Than tongue or pen can ever tell.
It goes beyond the highest star
And reaches to the lowest hell.
The guilty pair, bowed down with care,
God gave His Son to win;
His erring child He reconciled
And pardoned from his sin.”
My daughters just turned one and for the most part her Mum and her Dad (and perhaps the Dog) are her whole world. There are friends that pop in and out from time to time but for the most part they don’t stick in the memory so well. I can see her starting to understand what I say to her more and more, particularly the word “No” and “Don’t you dare eat that!” albeit understanding and ignoring. But I try to tell her I love her, and I try to tell her how much, and I find myself holding out my arms as wide as they will go and I point outwards and I say “I love you thiiiiiiiiiiis much!” and I strain the “I” until I cough and need a drink. The truth is I love her much more than that, in fact arm spans is an incredibly poor and unfit measure of a fathers love for his daughter. But it’s what she understands, and her little face smiles, perhaps because daddy looks silly, but I like to think some of what I’m trying to communicate goes in.
The bible tells me the love of God is steadfast and without end, and His mercy is new every morning (Lam 3:22-23), that His love endures forever (Psalm 136:26). It’s says the love of God for you does not have an end, it does not begin at one of his fingers and end at the other. He is not saying “thiiiiiiiiis much” for a short time, he’s not even saying it for a long time, he just doesn’t stop saying it.
When I look at my daughter I’m reminded that most of the time when your just a kid you think you comprehended just how much Mum and Dad care, but a fair few years down the line you get kids of your own and all of a sudden you realise what is meant by parental love. You get this deep ache in your chest that you just can’t express and you wish this tiny little blob could understand what you feel for her, but all she can do is hiccup and burp and smile and you just settle for the fact she’s happy, all the while this love is burning in your chest and you finally feel the limits of human language. It think there’s a reason why God calls himself our Father, there is a reason he describes his love as a parents. It helps us grasp the inadequacy of language to describe it.
But that’s as far as my analogy can go. See the bible tells me that in His love for us God forsook the love of a parent, He sent his only Son to die that we might be restored to Him. This is where a parent’s love becomes so much more inadequate a description. By dying that we may live, and sending his only Son to die for our Sins, the space between Gods finger tips and the length of that breath going “thiiiiiiis much” stops hurting our heads and just never enters our heads in the first place. Now that I’m older I think I can comprehend the love of a Father, but no. I can comprehend the love of an earthly fleshy human Father. What I can’t comprehend is the love of my heavenly Father for me, for you. All I can do is hiccup, and burp, and smile and enjoy what little of it I can understand.
The hymn goes on to say:
“Could we with ink the ocean fill,
And were the skies of parchment made;
Were every stalk on earth a quill,
And every man a scribe by trade;
To write the love of God above
Would drain the ocean dry;
Nor could the scroll contain the whole,
Though stretched from sky to sky.”
For me these words summarise quite well what I see written from the first pages of the bible to the last. That God loves me, and that Gods love for me has no end, its steadfast. I guess the point of this devotional is a simple one, it’s not some deep profound unfolding of the scripture, not that it ever could be, but it’s that God loves you. You may be sat their thinking, “Is that all I read all this for?” And all I could say is, Yes! God has written us 1189s chapters in the bible telling us how much he loves us, and we come away from it learning that His love goes even further than we can be told. In 2 Thessalonians 3:5 Paul prays “May the Lord direct your hearts to the love of God and to the steadfastness of Christ.” I think its important sometimes to pause, pray and meditate on His word. To remove the love of God from clinical dry academic thought; remove it from airy fairy romantic gestures, stop and ask God to redirect our hearts to his love. Compare it to the greatest love we ourselves have ever felt and say to ourselves “The love of God is greater far”.