I drew them with cords of a man, with bands of love: and I was to them as they that take off the yoke on their jaws…
It is God who speaks of the humanity of His treatment of us. When a man would influence, he must begin by loving. Few can resist that spell. I need not tell any one how mighty, how almighty, in a man's being is the force of love. There are not two definitions of love, though it has many modifications. The symptoms common to all loving are delight in presence, impatience of absence, eagerness for reciprocity, intolerance of coldness, joy in exchange of thought, sympathy in each change of circumstance; delight in the opportunity of benefiting, and corroding grief in the prohibition of intercourse. We have claimed for hope — we have claimed even for fear — a place in the Gospel. Can it be needful to do the same for love? Yet there may be some comparative, if not positive, disparagement of this grace. I have heard men speak slightingly of Gospel love. They judge it better, on the whole, for the character of Christ's Gospel, that in its central' innermost shrine the Deity of deities should be rather obedience than love. Thus, in improving Christ's Gospel, they spoilt, marred, ruined it.
I. THE GOSPEL IS A REVELATION OF LOVE. Herein lies its power, the secret of its strength. It reveals the love of God. That God loves virtue, and will compensate and make up for the sufferings of the good, is a tenet which needs not a revelation. But that God loves all men, even the sinner, is that quite right? Must there not be something here not altogether sound in doctrine, because not altogether conducive to morality and good? The Gospel risks this perversion. It refers us to Christ. Did Christ's example, did Christ's life, encourage or favour sin? There is, in the immeasurable love of God, room for all His creatures. There is a yearning of soul over the scattered, dispersed, erring, and straying race. He loves, therefore He pleads. The whole secret of the drawing lies in the spontaneity of the love. Tell a man, — "Seek God, and He will be found of you," — and you waste words. Tell him — "God loves you as you are. God has come after you, with far-reaching endeavour." He will find there is strength in that which will not, cannot, be resisted.
II. THERE IS AN INVITATION OF LOVE. There is something always pathetic, to the unsophisticated ear, in the petition of love. The outcries of barren, thirsting affection waste themselves oftentimes upon the desert. And yet there was a love for them, would they but have had it, a love better than of son or daughter, better than of wife or husband, a love indestructible, satisfying, eternal. It is permitted to you to love God. Ought not that to be joy enough and privilege enough for any man? God makes it religion to do the thing which will make us happy; and therefore He turns the invitation into the injunction of love, and bids the fallen self-ruined creature just love and be happy — just love and be saved.
III. THERE IS A COMMUNICATION, OR TRANSMISSION, OF LOVE. He who has been loved, and therefore loves, is bidden by that love of God to love his brother also; and then, in that transmission, that handing on of the love, the whole of the Gospel — its precept as its comfort — is in deed and in truth perfected. Little, indeed, do they know of the power of the Gospel who think either that obedience will replace the love of God, or duty be a substitute for the love of man. Christ teaches us that both towards God and towards man love goes first and duty follows after. Not, indeed, that we are idly to wait for the feeling, and excuse the not doing on the plea of not loving. There is such a thing as worshipping because I desire to love. So there is such a thing as doing good to my brother, if so be I may love him; a setting myself to every office of patient and self-denying charity, if by any means it may at last become not a labour but a love to me. But how can we love the unlovely? Surely whosoever sees with the eye of Christ, can discern, if he will look for it, on the most tarnished, debased, defaced coin of humanity, that Divine image and superscription in which God created, and for the sake of which Christ thought it no waste to redeem. This is love's place in Christ's Gospel. Love revealed, love reciprocated, then love handed on.
(C. J. Vaughan, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: I drew them with cords of a man, with bands of love: and I was to them as they that take off the yoke on their jaws, and I laid meat unto them.