220. LOVETH ME MORE THAN THESE?

(The Information & Edification Series – Batch 4)

In Deuteronomy 6:5, Moses, communicating to the children of Israel on behalf of God, told them, “And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.”

This was in keeping with what God had commanded them earlier, when he stated:

  • “Thou shalt have no other gods before me…Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third generation of them that hate me: And showing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.”

In Matthew 22:35-36, when a lawyer asked Jesus which of the commandments was the greatest, he made reference to the commandment that had been previously given under the law to the Israelites, to love God with their everything.

The scripture states:

  • “Then one of them, which was a lawyer, asked him a question, tempting him, and saying, Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.  This is the first and great commandment.”

God therefore expected the Israelites, who were in covenant with him, to love him with such fervency, that it consumed all of their heart, their soul, their mind and their might.

In fact, in Deuteronomy 13:1-3, Moses warned the children of Israel that:

  • “If there arise among you a prophet, or a dreamer of dreams, and giveth thee a sign or a wonder, And the sign or the wonder come to pass, whereof he spake unto thee, saying, Let us go after other gods, which thou hast not known, and let us serve them; Thou shalt not hearken unto the words of that prophet, or that dreamer of dreams: for the Lord your God proveth you, to know whether ye love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul. Ye shall WALK AFTER THE LORD YOUR GOD, and FEAR HIM, and KEEP HIS COMMANDMENTS, and OBEY HIS VOICE, and ye shall SERVE HIM, and CLEAVE UNTO HIM.
  • And that prophet, or that dreamer of dreams, shall be put to death; because he hath spoken to turn you away from the Lord your God, which brought you out of the land of Egypt, and redeemed you out of the house of bondage, to thrust thee out of the way which the Lord thy God commanded thee to walk in. So shalt thou put the evil away from the midst of thee.”

Moses did not stop there. He also communicated to the people, that God expected their allegiance to him to trump the loyalty they felt for people even in their filial relationships (family members), love relationships (a spouse) and close friend relationships. Simply put, God expected them to love him more than family, a spouse or a close friend and to therefore, be prepared to not listen to any such person if he or she tried, through whatever means, to turn them away from their God.

Moses told them in verses 6-10:

  • If thy brother, the son of thy mother, or thy son, or thy daughter, or the wife of thy bosom, or thy friend, which is as thine own soul, entice thee secretly, saying, Let us go and serve other gods, which thou hast not known, thou, nor thy fathers; Namely, of the gods of the people which are round about you, nigh unto thee, or far off from thee, from the one end of the earth even unto the other end of the earth; Thou shalt not consent unto him, nor hearken unto him; neither shall thine eye pity him, neither shalt thou spare, neither shalt thou conceal him: But thou shalt surely kill him; thine hand shall be first upon him to put him to death, and afterwards the hand of all the people. And thou shalt stone him with stones, that he die; because he hath sought to thrust thee away from the Lord thy God, which brought thee out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage.”

Such is the intensity of love and devotion that God expected his children to have for him in the Old Testament!

Today, we operate under grace and not the law and while God does not expect those who name the name of Christ and are in covenant with him (Christians) to kill those who try to turn them away from him, he certainly expects us to love him with the same fervour. He certainly expects us to still put him first, to honour him above all else and to separate ourselves (even if it means to ‘kill’ off relationships) from those that try, sometimes subtly, to lead us away from him.

The Lord expects us not to give in or consent to family members (be it a parent or child), a love interest, a spouse or a close friend, when he wants us to go in one direction and they, a next. He expects us not to sell him out or to compromise on our beliefs and standards, so as to appease them because of our close affinity to them but that we would love him MORE than the love we have for these people.

At times, he will allow situations and circumstances to occur so as to test the extent of the love that we say we have for him and whether we are more devoted to those who we love on earth, more than him. This being the case, sadly, many people who have professed to be believers, have failed this test, as they put their children, their loved one or their friends and their interests, above the will of God. They allowed their affection for these people to make them do what God’s Word told them not to do and therefore, to sin, by turning away from his counsel and will.

In the Old Testament though, when Abraham was put to the test, he passed with flying colours. God asked him to kill his only son, the one that he waited to have for many years and finally received in his old age. Yet, as painful as the instruction must have been, Abraham took steps to obey, right up to the last moment. He was about to kill his son as God instructed and only stopped when God stopped him.

Genesis 22:1-2 and 9-12 reads:

  • “And it came to pass after these things, that God did tempt Abraham, and said unto him, Abraham: and he said, Behold, here I am. And he said, Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of…
  • And they came to the place which God had told him of; and Abraham built an altar there, and laid the wood in order, and bound Isaac his son, and laid him on the altar upon the wood. And Abraham stretched forth his hand, and took the knife to slay his son. And the angel of the Lord called unto him out of heaven, and said, Abraham, Abraham: and he said, Here am I. And he said, Lay not thine hand upon the lad, neither do thou any thing unto him: for now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from me.”

Adam did not fare so well. In fact, he failed miserably. Although God had clearly instructed him not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and Adam understood what he had been commanded, he allowed the wife of his bosom, Eve, to turn him away from the Lord and to disobey. 1 Timothy 2:14 tells us that, while Eve had been deceived into eating the forbidden fruit, Adam had not. He therefore knew exactly what he was doing when he chose to honour his wife’s wishes above God’s will.

It seemed that, due to the intensity of his love for Eve, he did exactly what God later told the Israelites not to do in Deuteronomy 13. He allowed the wife of his bosom to entice him to serve another god, which was the god of self, hearkened to her voice (above God’s) and consented to do what she asked him to do, although it was disobedience to God.

Eli the priest also failed in a similar manner. Whereas Adam elevated his love for Eve over his allegiance to God, Eli did so with his children. The Bible describes them as sons of Belial (1 Samuel 2:12), meaning that they were ungodly, irreverent and wicked, yet Eli in his love and affinity towards them, placed them higher up on the pedestal than God, causing God to bring judgment on the entire family.

Although Eli heard of all the evil that his sons were doing and how they were disrespecting the things that pertained to God, he merely spoke to them but did not take steps to stop them. Blinded by his love for them as his flesh and blood sons, he allowed them, through his inaction, to continue on doing as they pleased.

The Word of God states:

  • “Now Eli was very old, and heard all that his sons did unto all Israel; and how they lay with the women that assembled at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation. And he said unto them, Why do ye such things? for I hear of your evil dealings by all this people. Nay, my sons; for it is no good report that I hear: ye make the Lord’s people to transgress. If one man sin against another, the judge shall judge him: but if a man sin against the Lord, who shall intreat for him? Notwithstanding they hearkened not unto the voice of their father, because the Lord would slay them…
  • And there came a man of God unto Eli, and said unto him, Thus saith the Lord, Did I plainly appear unto the house of thy father, when they were in Egypt in Pharaoh’s house? And did I choose him out of all the tribes of Israel to be my priest, to offer upon mine altar, to burn incense, to wear an ephod before me? and did I give unto the house of thy father all the offerings made by fire of the children of Israel? Wherefore kick ye at my sacrifice and at mine offering, which I have commanded in my habitation; and HONOUREST THY SONS ABOVE ME, to make yourselves fat with the chiefest of all the offerings of Israel my people?
  • Wherefore the Lord God of Israel saith, I said indeed that thy house, and the house of thy father, should walk before me for ever: but now the Lord saith, Be it far from me; for them that honour me I will honour, and they that despise me shall be lightly esteemed. Behold, the days come, that I will cut off thine arm, and the arm of thy father’s house, that there shall not be an old man in thine house… And the man of thine, whom I shall not cut off from mine altar, shall be to consume thine eyes, and to grieve thine heart: and all the increase of thine house shall die in the flower of their age. And this shall be a sign unto thee, that shall come upon thy two sons, on Hophni and Phinehas; in one day they shall die both of them. And I will raise me up a faithful priest, that shall do according to that which is in mine heart and in my mind: and I will build him a sure house; and he shall walk before mine anointed for ever.” (1 Samuel 2:22-25,27-35)

These scriptures remind us of how jealous God is for his glory. He has already let us know in his Word, that his glory, he will NOT give to another (Isaiah 42:8) and that means not to a family member, not to a spouse, not to a friend and not to any one or any thing. He expects those who are in covenant with him, to put him first and to elevate no one, not mother, father, son, daughter, wife, husband, friend or a person considered to be of earthly influence, above him. If it means turning our backs on these people in order to serve him, he expects us to do it. If it means going against what they want us to do in any situation and displeasing them, so as to please him, he expects us to do it.

It is always to be the Lord first and everything else after and like Job did when his wife gave him bad advice to turn him away from his Lord, God expects us to not hearken, to not give in, to not consent.

Although she was the wife of his bosom, Job replied to her foolish counsel which was that he should curse God and die, due to the extent of his sufferings with a sharp rebuke, telling her, “Thou speakest as one of the foolish women speaketh. What? shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil?” The Bible continues that, “In all this did not Job sin with his lips.”(Job 2:10).

We must love God so much, that we are prepared to rebuke even those closest to us, where need be, in love, so as to defend God’s honour.

In John 21:15, after Peter had denied knowing the Lord because he had loved his life more than Christ but then repented, when Jesus, who had then been killed but rose from the dead appeared to him and the other disciples the third time, he asked him a very important question. I believe he asked this question, as the strength of Peter’s future ministry would depend on him getting his mindset right. The Lord wanted complete, wholehearted, one hundred percent devotion, as he rightly deserved and not even self was allowed to get in the way. He wanted Peter to love him more than any thing and any one, even his own life. He was to love him with all his heart and all his soul and all his might, even if it meant a life of suffering and selflessness and sacrifice and even death.

In John 21:15-17, after the risen Jesus and his disciples had eaten fish and bread, it states:

  • “So when they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me MORE than these? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my lambs. He saith to him again the second time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my sheep.He saith unto him the third time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, Lovest thou me? And he said unto him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee. Jesus saith unto him, Feed my sheep.”

What Jesus required of Peter is what he also requires of every Christian today. He expects us to love him with such intensity and to be on such fire for him, that the value of our own lives and self-interest and comfort, fade in comparison. He wants a people that will put him first, no matter what and that will not allow anyone, not husband, wife, children, friends or persons of earthly influence, to turn our affections away from him and his will for our lives.

This may mean making some tough decisions, hurting the people closest to us and even incurring their wrath, contempt or ridicule. As we seek to obey God, people, sometimes those closest to us, will at times not be pleased with the decisions we make but we must make them anyway. Irrespective of the fallout, whether it be at a filial level, a love relationship level, a friendly level or otherwise, we must be prepared to obey God. We must be prepared to block out even the voices of our loved ones, close friends and acquaintances, when what they are saying goes against the Word of God, God’s will for our lives and what he wants us to do. For, it is more important to obey God than man (Acts 5:29).

In Matthew 10:37-38, Jesus stated:

  • “He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me.”

I myself have had to face at least one situation like this in the past, where I had to choose whether to do what family wanted me to do or what the Lord wanted me to do. While it was not easy going against my dad’s will, I knew I had to, as I had to do what I knew God wanted me to do, irrespective of the consequences.

In retrospect, I demonstrated to my family in that situation (which brought glory to God), that God was more important to me than my allegiance to them and even my own self-comfort. I did this by not hearkening to what my dad thought I should do in my situation or taking the easy way out but hearkening only to God and doing what he wanted me to do.

I was employed at a particular place and drawing a large salary but I was not at peace. For, God wanted me out of that place which was steeped in idolatry (and which was trying to get me to compromise my beliefs by presenting work tasks that, while it fell within my portfolio, required me to do evil in the sight of God because of the type of place where I worked) and to be separated unto him. As a result, for weeks and maybe even months, he kept impressing it upon my heart through sermons, as I read his Word and whenever I heard his Word.

Having considered all the ramifications and praying about it and knowing for SURE that God wanted me to leave, I told my parents that when the one year contract ended, which was soon, I would not be renewing, as the Lord did not want me working there. This was to the natural man, a scary thing to do, as I had no idea what the future held for me or where I would make a living, as jobs were already scarce and I had had much difficulty with certain places of employment in the past. I was therefore a bit weary, as I wanted nothing more than to just settle down in a job like normal people did and not keep facing these turbulences. Nonetheless, irrespective of my past, I knew in my heart, having heard God’s voice through his Word and feeling a strange and unshakable heaviness within for months at that place, that he wanted me to leave and so, I purposed in my heart that I would obey, even if it meant that I would be unemployed again and ridiculed by people again and scoffed at again.

My dad however, looking at the situation through natural lens only, instructed that I stay until I got another job. He was scared at the possibility of me being out of employment for a prolonged period again, so I understood. However, I was mindful that, as a Christian, the Word of God tells us that we walk by faith and not by sight. We are therefore not to make decisions that go against the will of God, just so that we continue to collect a pay check. Under no circumstances did God tell me that I should wait until another job came along but to get out, even if I had no job to go to.

While I wanted to obey my dad therefore, I knew that his advice was not what God wanted me to do, so I could not. For, God had already clearly told me to leave. To obey my dad would mean that I would be disobeying God and God expected me to choose. Who was I going to obey, HIM or my dad?

Thankfully, I made the right choice. I chose to obey God and although my dad was very displeased and made it known for months and months thereafter, I shed many a tear but I was at peace. To my mind, the alternative was unthinkable. I shudder to think what the outcome would have been, had I blocked out the voice of God, stayed at that job, obeyed my earthly dad and continued to collect a large salary. My bank book would have been quite thick by now but I would have been out of the will and favour of God and for me, that is the most scary place to be.

People don’t really understand but I am so pathetically weak, that Jesus is my lifeline. How could I turn my back on my lifeline?

I knew in my heart that I did the right thing and that God was pleased that I chose him above my family, turned away from their counsel (although they meant well) and did what HE had directed me to do. In return, although I was out of a salary for many, many months thereafter and to this day (two years later), am not sure what the Lord will do in relation to my career issues, he gave me a wonderful peace that passed all understanding and he has been providing for me out of savings that he allowed me to have from a previous job that he caused the salary to retroactively double for.

He has therefore kept me afloat all of those months, I have been content and I am still relying on his succouring strength for each day.

People, including some family members, think I am foolish, I know. Yet, having obeyed my God and chosen to cling to Him over all else, my future (which remains unknown to me) is in HIS hands and so I can rest in that.

If Jesus were to ask me the same question that he asked Peter, “…lovest thou me more than these?”, meaning job security, a life of comfort, a position of influence and affluence, avoiding people’s ridicule, contempt, not shaking the boat and pleasing my family, I can honestly say, (although admittedly, I am tired of the many upheavals I have had in my life and career thus far), yes Lord, I love you more than these.

(Written on 1st March, 2022)

ADDENDUM

When God demands first place in our lives and that we love him more than we love every body else and every thing else, he is not being unreasonable. He deserves wholehearted devotion and our complete allegiance.

After all, think about it: He created us, brought us into this world and gave us his breath, free of charge. We continue to breathe it to this day, although it does not belong to us and rent free. He has also kept us from our mother’s womb to date, safe from danger, although we are so fragile and there are so many opportunities out there daily, for us to perish. We are in the land of the living all of these years solely because God has preserved us and watched over us.

As if that was not enough, he has given us the light of redemption, making it possible, through the sacrifice of his son who willingly offered his life on the cross, suffered and shed his blood as an atonement for us, so that we could be delivered from sin and its penalty. He has gone further by also promising those who simply believe his testimony of his Son Jesus (that he rose from the dead) and confess his Lordship with their mouths, that he will give them access to heaven and eternal life, when this life is over. He does not charge for salvation (although it is priceless and the richest person in the world would not have enough to pay based on its value) but God offers it freely. He also did not leave us in these times without access to his Word, the Bible, to let us know what transpired in the past, understand what is happening now and have insight into what will happen in the future.

All of God’s actions reveal a loving Lord of whom we are not worthy and that he deserves to be our number one. Nobody else has ever or will ever do so much for us in our lifetime or love us half as much, not family, friend or spouse.

Having done and still doing so much for us (including sending the rain and causing the sun to shine so that we, through plants and animals can continue to thrive on earth), all that he asks of us in return is that we love him and love him more than everything else and everybody else, even our own selves.

(Addendum written on 01st March, 2022)

Dear Reader, if you found the above Article to be interesting, informative, edifying or beneficial, you may also be interested in reading the following:

  • Note 37 – ‘When God Calls Us To Separate Ourselves’
  • Note 190 – ‘Offering Strange Fire Unto The Lord’
  • Note 196 – ‘The Lord Is Jealous For His Glory’
  • Note 200 – ‘No Turning Back, No Turning Back’
  • Note 201 – ‘Holding Fast To Your Beliefs, Standards And Boundaries’
  • Note 214 – ‘I Would Thou Wert Cold Or Hot’
  • Note 218 – ‘The Rightness Of Separation’

Additionally, under the ‘MARRIED Daughters’ page:

  • Note 2 – ‘The Danger Of Worshipping Your Spouse’

Also, under the ‘BROKEN Daughters’ page:

  • Note 10 – ‘How God Wants Us To Treat With Our Idols’

Under the ‘COURTING OR ENGAGED Daughters’ page:

  • Note 27 – ‘Why I Want To Praise Jesus Alone On My Wedding Day’

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