This fourth and final week of Advent is all about LOVE.
In Hebrew, ahava means love. But unlike here in the West, Hebrew love isn’t a feeling we fall into. It’s an affection that takes action.
Right in the middle of ahava is hav – the verb that means “to give.” At the center of biblical love is generosity. Love is affection that takes action to provide for and protect someone else.
Go back in time with me to the Ancient Near East…
Before the wedding ceremony, the father of the groom invites the father of the bride over. The two men dig a shallow ditch several yards long. Then, the two of them cut animals in half – usually bulls or rams because of their great value. The carcass halves are laid on either side of the ditch and blood runs down to fill it.
Then, the father of the bride walks between the animal halves, through the bloody ditch, and makes a promise: If my child breaks her marriage vows to your son, do to me what was done to these animals today.
The groom’s father does the same: If my child breaks his marriage vows to your daughter, do to me what was done to these animals today.
This was called “cutting covenant.” LOVE was a serious and everlasting commitment in the ancient world.
In Genesis 15, God invites Abraham to bring his shovel, animals, and knife. A ditch is dug and filled with blood. The sun sets and a “dreadful darkness” comes over Abraham. Then, God, looking something like smoke and fire, passes between the pieces, walking through the blood.
There’s something missing from the cutting of this covenant. Abraham never passes between the pieces.
God is both husband and father of the bride. As husband, he promises to LOVE Abraham’s descendants, to protect and provide for them always. As Father, he stakes his own life on the bride’s faithfulness. God’s solitary walk through the blood is a promise: “If my children are unfaithful, do to me what was done to these animals.”
Generation after generation, God will faithfully LOVE his bride and she will be unfaithful to him again and again.
Until one day, God will walk the earth once more – not as smoke and fire, but as flesh and bone. As the sun sets, a dreadful darkness will come over Jerusalem and his body will be broken like our vows, his blood will be spilled, and God’s promise will be kept.
Because God’s LOVE is a serious and everlasting commitment.
RESPONSE: How has God been faithful to you this year? How loved you well by protecting and providing for you?