One of the great things about reading Scripture is that you may have read a passage a hundred times previously, but in reading it again, there is a word or a phrase or thought that takes on new meaning.
Just this week in my devotional time I was reading Zephaniah 3:17, “The Lord your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing.”
Not sure what was going on in my own spirit that day, but three words jumped off the page: delight, quiet and rejoice. “He will quiet you with his love.” That really spoke to me. His love takes delight in us, and that settles us, offering a sense of peace.
The underlying message for me was that God loves us just as we are. I love the thought that He takes undeserved delight in us. We do not have to do anything to earn it. It is a gift. Of course that prompts us to respond, but we don’t have to perform in order to receive it. We cannot buy it.
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All of this has caused me to ask an important question: How much of what I do in the name of love for God is because I love Him or because I am trying to buy and earn His love. If it is to earn His affection, then I am wasting my time because that love already exists. This does not mean I should stop trying – but rather do it because of my love for Him and not what I want from Him.
The next question that came to mind has to do with human relationships. How much of what I do in the name of love is actually an expression of love and how much of it is an attempt to buy or earn the love of another person? True love is unconditional and does not expect anything in return.
Yet, honesty forces me to admit that much of what I do is an attempt to earn the love of another person in return. Admitting that does not make my actions wrong, but I should be honest with myself about my true motivation. If our love is truly fashioned and modeled after the love we receive from God, then we should not expect anything in return.
Understanding that fact is the only way we can make sense out of loving our enemies, praying for those who do not have our best interest in mind, and even serving people who do not appreciate us or what we might be doing for them.
God’s love comes to us with no strings attached. It stands on its own feet. Obviously, He should hope that we respond in obedience and love. But even when we don’t, His love does not change. I believe we are capable of offering the same kind of love to others, but it must stand on its own and not be done as a down payment on something in return.
Back to the verse. God takes delight in us and His love quiets us. Why? Because it is a gift. The truth is we are not capable of earning it. And it becomes the example for us in our relationships as well.