"Love divine, all loves excelling, Joy of heav'n, to earth come down! Fix in us Thy humble dwelling, All Thy faithful mercies crown. Jesus, Thou art all compassion, Pure, unbounded love Thou art; Visit us with Thy salvation, Enter ev'ry trembling heart.
"Breathe, O breathe Thy loving Spirit, Into ev'ry troubled breast; Let us all in Thee inherit; Let us find Thy promised rest. Take away the love of sinning; Alpha and Omega be; End of faith, as its beginning, Set our hearts at liberty."
"Love divine, all loves excelling." What are those other loves that cannot compare to the love of God? Some loves are vain and sinful—the idolatrous love of wealth, power, popularity, or the many other false gods that compete for our affection. Some loves are simply the pleasures we enjoy and acknowledge as gifts of God, perhaps the love of art, music, or the beauty of creation. Among God's greatest gifts, and surely reflections of His love, are those loves we know well, the love of a husband and wife, the love between parents and children, and the love among fellow believers commanded by God: "Love one another with brotherly affection" (Romans 12:10a).
Yet God's love excels all of these. God Himself points out that His love is greater than a mother's love: "Can a woman forget her nursing child, that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you" (Isaiah 49:15b). Divine love excels all others because "love is from God" and "God is love" (1 John 4:7-8).
While we have a glimpse of God's love reflected in lesser loves, we have seen divine love fully expressed in self-sacrifice. God's love was made known among us when He sent His Son into the world as the atoning sacrifice for our sins. God the Son took on human flesh and laid down His life for us, taking onto Himself the penalty of death that we deserved. The apostle Paul expresses the wonder of this astonishing love: "Perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—but God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:7-8).
Forgiven and renewed by the wondrous love of God in Christ, we pray that the Spirit of God would make our hearts and lives His "humble dwelling." Through the gift of the Spirit, who has created faith in our hearts, we inherit the "promised rest" of eternal life in God's presence. We pray, too, that God remove our "love of sinning" so that, with hearts "at liberty," we seek to reflect God's excellent love in the world. Our loving Savior is for us the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning of faith and the end, the goal, of our faith, the Lord of love in whom we place our trust. The "love divine' who excels all loves, the "joy of heav'n to earth come down," has a Name that we love, and that Name is Jesus.
THE PRAYER: Lord Jesus, set my heart at liberty to reflect Your love in the world. In Your Name. Amen.
This Daily Devotion was written by Dr. Carol Geisler. It is based on the hymn "Love Divine, All Loves Excelling," which is number 700 in the Lutheran Service Book.
1. What is something, aside from some person, that you can say you truly love?
2. How does God excel at loving?
3. Are there things in your life that make loving difficult? What are they?
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