Love is a difficult word to understand. The World describes love in many different ways and it is depicted in so many ways that it makes it difficult to truly understand what this word “love” means in light of God’s Word. Let’s look at this word’s first appearance in the scriptures:
Genesis 22:2 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.
I don’t think it’s by accident that the first appearance of this word “love” shows up in the one story in the scriptures that depict what the Father will do for all of mankind by offering His Son, as a sacrifice for the redemption of all those who would believe in Him. I believe the scriptures point to “sacrifice” being the highest expression of love. Forgiveness is “sacrifice”, it’s choosing to not take vengeance, not punish, not demand that restitution be paid for a wrong doing. It’s a huge sacrifice. Anyone that has had to forgive knows what I’m talking about.
John 3:16 “For God so loved the world, that He gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
John 15:13 “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”
In the 1st chapter of Genesis we see the first signs of God’s love as an extension to us as mankind.
Genesis 1:27-28 So God created man in His own image, in the image of God created He him; male and female created He them. And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.
Out of everything the Lord created, we are the only thing created in His image, and was blessed, and given dominion over all that He had made.
Genesis 1:29-30 And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat. And to every beast of the earth, and to every fowl of the air, and to every thing that creepeth upon the earth, wherein there is life, I have given every green herb for meat: and it was so.
In the 2nd chapter of Genesis we see the purpose for the creation of mankind.
Genesis 2:15 And the LORD God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it.
Let’s take a closer look at these two words Dress and Keep:
Dress ‛âbad (H5647) in Hebrew and it means: to work, serve, to labour, work, do work, to work for another, serve another by labour, to serve as subjects, to serve (God)to be worked, be tilled (of land), to make oneself a servant, to be worked.
Keep shâmar (H8104) in Hebrew and it means: to keep, guard, observe, give heed,to keep, have charge of, guard, keep watch and ward, protect, save life, watch, be a watchman, to retain, treasure up (in memory), to keep (within bounds), restrain, to observe, celebrate, keep (sabbath or covenant or commands), perform (vow) to preserve, to protect.
THIS is what Adam was given to do by the Lord, with only one command.
Gen 2:16-17 And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.
Now, I feel it’s important to note that the Woman was not yet created when the Lord God gave this command to Adam, for it was given to him alone, and whatever the Woman would comprehend concerning this command of God, would be directly related to her from what Adam had been told by God. This may explain why she got it wrong, even adding to the command when questioned by the Serpent.
Gen 3:2-3 And the woman said unto the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden: But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die.
It wasn’t the fruit itself that was deadly, it was the act of disobedience to the command of God that was given to mankind that would cause death to begin its cycle in the world. That’s probably why she misunderstood and was easily deceived due to ignorance of the matter.
Gen 3:6 And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat.
Now, Adam knew exactly what the Lord God had commanded him concerning the Tree, but allowed his wife to transgress the command of God. The verse says he was with her, so he could have prevented it, but he didn’t. Adam was given dominion over all the living creatures God had made, so he could have protected her from the beguiling of the Serpent. After all he was the one in which the Lord God gave the command to begin with. Remember man’s purpose in the Garden was to serve and protect/dress and keep.
Adam was charged to “keep” the command of God, as well as “keep” the inhabitants safe by “keeping” that command and preserving it. So not only did Adam not obey the command given to him by the Lord God, but he put another in danger because of his lack of reverence for it. This was the first loveless act of mankind, not just the sin of eating, but the allowing of the act of disobedience, knowing full well the consequences. Also I might point out that Adam’s first instinct was not to protect the Woman but rather to make sure the right person was blamed. He could have stepped forward and said, “it was my fault, I allowed her to do it, and I did eat it, knowing what you had told me” but instead Adam said this: Gen 3:12 “The woman whom You gave me, she gave me fruit from the tree, and I ate it.”
We quickly see the sign of God’s love towards us in this verse that follows the fall of mankind.
Genesis 3:21 Unto Adam also and to his wife did the LORD God make coats of skins, and clothed them.
Now sacrifice of any kind had not yet been introduced to us in the scriptures as of yet, but we know that some animal lost its life to provide the coverings or “coats of skins” for the man and his wife. Hence this is where we see the shedding of the blood of animals being used to atone for or cover over the sins of mankind. Animals were created first and mankind created last, but both were created to provide life and protect/preserve life.
Now in the Old Testament there is only one word to describe love and that is ‘ahăbâh in the original Hebrew. ‘Ahăbâh (H160) is the word used for “love” and the word ‘âhab (H157) for the feeling of loving someone or something.
Let’s take a look at a few times this word “love” presents itself to us in the scriptures.
We have already discussed the very first time this word “love” makes its way on the scene, and that’s in the story of Abraham and Isaac, where the Lord God is commanding Abraham to sacrifice someone that he “loves” in obedience to the command of God.
The second occurrence of this word “love” is in Genesis 24:67 “ And Isaac brought her into his mother Sarah’s tent, and took Rebekah, and she became his wife; and he loved her: and Isaac was comforted after his mother’s death.”
This is the first occurrence of “love” we see being represented from a man to a woman.
The second occurrence of this word “love” shows something very telling.
Gen 25:28 And Isaac loved Esau, because he did eat of his venison: but Rebekah loved Jacob.
*Notice that Rebekah “loved” Jacob not for any benefit of her own, but Isaac loved Esau because of the meat he provided for him. Love from God is not about what someone provides for you, but rather what you are willing to sacrifice for this “love”.
The next 3 times this word “love” is used in the Bible is to describe the affection that Isaac had for venison, mere meat for his belly.
Philippians 3:19 in the New Testament speaks concerning this “Their end is destruction; their god is their stomach; their glory is in their shame. They are focused on earthly things.”
Gen 27:4 And make me savoury meat, such as I love, and bring it to me, that I may eat; that my soul may bless thee before I die.
Gen 27:9 Go now to the flock, and fetch me from thence two good kids of the goats; and I will make them savoury meat for thy father, such as he loveth:
Gen 27:14 And he went, and fetched, and brought them to his mother: and his mother made savoury meat, such as his father loved.
Now Isaac clearly loved his son Esau in which the Lord states later on in the scriptures that He Himself hated, and Isaac loved Esau because of the venison he provided him.
Romans 9:10-13 Rebecca’s children were conceived by one man, our father Isaac. Yet before the twins were born or had done anything good or bad, in order that God’s plan of election might stand, not by works but by Him who calls, she was told, “The older will serve the younger.” So it is written: “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.”
We see this trait of loving food for the belly in the actions of Isaac’s first born Esau when he willingly sells his birthright to feed his appetite.
Genesis 25:30 He said to Jacob, “Let me eat some of that red stew, for I am famished.” (That is why he was also called Edom.)
Genesis 25:32 “Look,” said Esau, “I am about to die, so what good is a birthright to me?”
*Esau didn’t care about the ramifications of denying his birthright upon his generations that followed, he only cared about what he needed in that moment and nothing more.
I think it’s of importance to point out that twins being born to Isaac after the Lord God had told Abraham that it would be through Isaac that his seed would be reckoned (Gen 21:12) was quite divine and purposeful. The first born would represent the favored of man, and the younger would represent the favored of God. We see this played out over and over again throughout the scriptures. Cain was the firstborn and Abel the youngest. Ishmael was the firstborn and Isaac the youngest. Esau the firstborn and Jacob the youngest, Reuben the firstborn and Joseph the youngest. As Jesus Himself says in the New Testament in Matthew 20:16 “So the last shall be first, and the first last: for many be called, but few chosen.” The children of Israel are the firstborn children of God and the Gentiles the last. There is divine purpose in all of this.
Matthew 19:30 But many who are first will be last, and the last will be first.
Mark 10:31 But many who are first will be last, and the last will be first.”
Luke 13:30 And indeed, some who are last will be first, and some who are first will be last.”
Let’s get back to the order of scriptures in which this word love was introduced to us.
The very next time this word “love” is used after the 3 times it’s used to describe Isaac and his affection for venison, it turns back to the “love” of a man for a woman, but this time it included the sacrifice of self for that “love” in the form of “serving for”.
Gen 29:18 And Jacob loved Rachel; and said, I will serve thee seven years for Rachel thy younger daughter.
*We know by the following verses that Jacob loved Rachel in such a way that he was willing to double the time of service for her to 14 years.
Now let’s move forward into the New Testament and see what it has to say about this phenomenon called “love”.
In the New Testament the original Greek makes it much easier to identify which love is from God and which love describes the affection for the things of this world.
God’s love is agapē (G26) the extension of that love is agapaō (G25) and the affection for the things of this world is phileō (G5368) which is derived from the word philos (G5384) which means “friend”. Like James 4:4 says “a friend of the world is an enemy of God”
The first time we see this word “Love” appear in the New Testament is in Matthew 5:43-46
Mat 5:43 Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy.
Mat 5:44 But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;
Mat 5:45 That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.
Mat 5:46 For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same?
Now as we can see right off, it takes sacrifice of self to be able to love our enemies, those that curse us and despitefully use us, and persecute us. It takes dying to our ego and dying to the desire to see them punished for wrongdoing against us.
The remainder of all the mentions of this word “love” in its active form, from us or for us in the New Testament is used only to describe the “love” we are to have for one another, and for God. I’m sure we’re all acquainted with the “love” chapter of the New Testament, 1st Corinthians 13, but have you ever noticed that there is nothing mentioned about feeling a feeling? “Love perseveres patiently, it’s kind, love envies not (is not jealous), love is not boasting in oneself, its not prideful, it does not act unbecomingly, it seeks not for its own, its not easily spurred to anger, it doesn’t hold to account wrong doing, it doesn’t rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices in the Truth. It protects all things, believes all things, hopes all things and endures all things.”
This sounds to me like a lot of sacrifice, doesn’t it to you? It definitely doesn’t come from a feeling. It’s described here in 1 Cor 13 in detail as an outward expression of service and protection.
Mat 19:19 Honour thy father and thy mother: and, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
Mat 22:37-40 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. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.
Mark 12:30-31 And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment. And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these.
Luke 6:27-28 But I say unto you which hear, Love your enemies, do good to them which hate you, Bless them that curse you, and pray for them which despitefully use you.
Luke 6:32-36 For if ye love them which love you, what thank have ye? for sinners also love those that love them. And if ye do good to them which do good to you, what thank have ye? for sinners also do even the same. And if ye lend to them of whom ye hope to receive, what thank have ye? for sinners also lend to sinners, to receive as much again. But love ye your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the children of the Highest: for he is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil. Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful.
John 3:16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
John 3:35 The Father loveth the Son, and hath given all things into his hand.
John 8:42 Jesus said unto them, If God were your Father, ye would love me: for I proceeded forth and came from God; neither came I of myself, but he sent me.
John 10:17-18 Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it again. No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received of my Father.
John 13:34 A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.
John 14:15-16 If ye love me, keep my commandments. And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you forever;
John 14:21 He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him.
John 15:9 As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love. If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love.
John 15:12 This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you.
1 John 2:15 Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.
Now I want to draw your attention to a very important passage of scripture that not many get the full impact of because of how it’s translated into English. It’s John 21:15-17 It’s Jesus and His interaction with Peter about his love for Him. If you read it in the original Greek you will see a much deeper conversation taking place. Remember how I showed you the difference in the words agapaō and phileō? Well. let’s take a look at this verse in light of this information.
John 21:15 So when they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest (agapaō) thou me more than these? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love (phileō) thee. He saith unto him, Feed my lambs.
John 21:16 He saith to him again the second time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest (agapaō) thou me? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love (phileō) thee. He saith unto him, Feed my sheep.
John 21:17 He saith unto him the third time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest (phileō) thou me? Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, Lovest (phileō) thou me? And he said unto him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love (phileō) thee. Jesus saith unto him, Feed my sheep.
Even the word “feed” is two different words used in these commands to Peter. The first command to “feed my lambs” is feed in the sense of actually hand feeding, boskō G1006, and the second command to Peter to “feed my sheep” is the word poimainō G4165 which means: to tend a flock, keep sheep, to rule, govern, to nourish and protect.
There’s that word “keep” again, like we discussed in the first part of this article. The third time the Lord commands Peter to “Feed My Sheep” He uses the word boskō again which means to actually “feed” them. Although Peter couldn’t answer the Lord Jesus with the same type of “love” He had asked him about, the answer or remedy for the question from Jesus was some form of Serving or Protecting His lambs and sheep. THIS is how we show our “love” for God and for one another.
It appears that this goes in line with the purpose of mankind being placed in the Garden to begin with. To Serve, and Protect or rather Dress and Keep.
Everyone serves in one way or another, and the motives for why we serve are different. Some serve to receive wages, or some other personal gain, and some serve out of duty or compassion. Keeping or rather protecting comes from a deeper commitment. Keeping has more to do with protection, the willingness to put yourself in harm’s way so as to guard another. Jesus is the perfect example of The Good Shepherd.
John 10:11-13 “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep. The hired hand is not the shepherd, and the sheep are not his own. When he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf pounces on them and scatters the flock.The man runs away because he is a hired servant and is unconcerned for the sheep”
The hired hand is a paid servant and does not care about the well being of the sheep. It takes much more than just serving to extend the “love” of God, it takes serving as well as protecting. The keeping aspect of our service proves that our service is truly unto God and motivated by His love.
What I have come to understand through reading the history of this word “love” in the Word of God is this. Sacrifice is the highest expression of love we can extend to one another. Jesus truly said it best when He said “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.” John 15:13
Gal 5:13 For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another.
2Cor 12:15 And I will very gladly spend and be spent for you; though the more abundantly I love you, the less I be loved.
I pray this article has not overwhelmed you with information but has rather spurred you to a greater understanding of the Love of God.
God Bless! Be Free and Set Free!