June 18: What Is Love?
Ezra 5:1–6:22; 1 John 3:19–24; Psalm 106:30–48
I find it easy to talk about myself. I like to get to the root of why I act the way I do. Sometimes this is helpful—it helps me nail down where I struggle. But this tendency also reminds me that I’m geared inward.
The danger is that I often filter others through the sieve of my experience. Our culture encourages the mindset that other people ought to make us feel good about ourselves and help us fulfill our dreams. In this mindset, our relationships ultimately become about self-fulfillment.
John squashes this idea. He tells the recipients of his letter, “Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth” (1 John 3:18). He’s not saying we should refrain from expressing love and care through words. But displaying love—putting others’ needs before our own—requires much more of us.
John doesn’t go on to define love. However, he does describe the ultimate example of love: “We have come to know love by this: that he laid down his life on behalf of us, and we ought to lay down our lives on behalf of the brothers” (1 John 3:16). Love is best displayed in the cross, not in poetry and with eloquent words that demonstrate more about ourselves than actual, concrete care for others.
The love displayed on the cross is a reminder that we aren’t meant to lead comfortable, self-focused lives. Jesus’ actions show us that love isn’t merely emotion—it’s sacrifice and self-denial. We live to love both God and others, and that’s best done with actions that serve.
Are you really loving the people around you? How can you love them better?
REBECCA VAN NOORD
- Then Haggai a Prophet, and Zechariah the son of Iddo a Prophet prophesied unto the Jews that were in Judah, and Jerusalem, in the Name of the God of Israel, even unto them. Then Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, and Jeshua the son of Jozadak arose, and began to build the house of God at Jerusalem, and with them were the Prophets of God, even unto them. At the same time came to them Tattenai which was captain beyond the River, and Shethar-Boznai, and their companions, and said thus unto them, Who hath given you commandment to build this house, and to lay teh foundations of these walls? Then said we unto them after this manner, What are the names of the men that build this building? But the eye of their God was upon the Elders of the Jews, that they could not cause them to cease, till the matter came to Darius: and then they could not cause them to cease, till the matter came to Darius: and then they answered by letters thereunto. The copy of the letter, that Tattenai captain beyond the River, and Shethar-Boznai and his companions, Persians, (which were beyond the river) sent unto King Darius. They sent a letter unto him, wherein it was written thus, UNTO DARIUS the king, all peace. Be it known uto the king, that we went into the province of Judea, to the house of the great God, which is built with great stones, and beams are laid in the walls, and this work is wrought speedily, and prospereth in their hands. Then asked we those Elders, and said unto them thus, Who hath given you commandment to build this house, and to lay the foundation of these walls? We asked their names also that we might certify thee, and that we might write the names of the men that were their rulers. But they answered us thus, and said, We are the servants of the God of heaven and earth, and build the house that was built of old and many years ago, which a great king of Israel built, and founded it. But after that our fathers had provoked the God of heaven unto wrath, he gave them over into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babel the Chaldean, and he destroyed his house, and carried the people away captive unto Babel. But in the first year of Cyrus king of Babel, King Cyrus made a decree to build this house of God. And the vessels of gold and silver of the house of God, which Nebuchadnezzar took out of the Temple, that was in Jerusalem, and brought them into the Temple of Babel, those did Cyrus the king take out of the Temple of Babel, and they gave them unto one Sheshbazzar by his name, whom he had made captain. And he said unto him, Take these vessels and go thy way, and put them in the Temple that is in Jerusalem, and let the house of God be built in his place. Then came the same Sheshbazzar and laid the foundation of the house of God, which is in Jerusalem, and since that time even until now, hath it been in building, yet is it not finished. Now therefore if it please the king, let there be search made in the house of the king’s treasures, which is there in Babel, whether a decree hath been made by king Cyrus, to build the house of God in Jerusalem, and let the King send his mind concerning this. Then king Darius gave commandment, and they made search in the library of the treasures, which were there laid up in Babel. And there was found a coffer (in the palace that was in the province of the Medes) a volume, and therein was it thus writen, as a memorial, IN THE FIRST year of King Cyrus, King Cyrus made a decree for the house of God in Jerusalem, Let the house be built, even the place where they offered sacrifices, and let the walls thereof be joined togeher: let the height thereof be threescore cubits, and the breadth thereof threescore cubits, Three orders of great stones, and one order of timber, and let the expenses be given of the king’s house. And also let them render the vessels of the house of God (of gold and silver, which Nebuchadnezzar took out of the Temple, which was in Jerusalem, and brought unto Babel) and let go unto the Temple that is in Jerusalem to his place, and put them in the house of God. Therefore Tattenai captain beyond the river, and Shethar-Bosnai, (and their companions Apharsecai, which are beyond the River) be ye far from thence. Suffer ye the work of this house of God, that the captain of the Jews and the Elders of these Jews and the Elders of the Jews may build up this house of God in his place. For I have given a commandment what e shall do to the Elders of these Jews, for the building of this house of God, that of the revenues of the King, which is of the tribute beyond the River, there be incontinently expenses given unto these men that they cease not. And that which they shall have need of, let it be given unto them day by day, whether it be young bullocks, or rams, or lambs for the burnt offerings of the God of heavevn, wheat, salt, wine, and oil, according to the appointment of the Priests that are in Jerusalem, that there be nofault. That they may have to offer sweet odors unto the God of heaven, and pray for the king’s life, and for his sons. And I have made a decree, that whosoever shall alter this sentence, the wood shall be pulled down from his house, and shall be set up, and he shall be hanged thereon, and his house shall be made a dunghill for this. And the God that hath caused his Name to dwell there, destroy all kings and people that put to hteir hand to alter and to destroy this house of God, which is in Jerusalem. I Darius had sent, so they did speedily. So the elders of the Jews built, and they prospered by the prophesying of Haggai the Prophet, and Zechariah the son of Iddo, and they built and finished it, by the appointment of God of Israel, and by the commandment of Cyrus and Darius, and Artaxerxes king of Persia. And this house was finished the third day of the month Adar, which was the sixth year of the reign of King Darius. And the children of Israel, the Priests, and the Levites, and the residue of the children of Israel, according to the number of the tribes of Israel. And they set the Priests in their order, and the Levites in their courses over the service of God in Jerusalem, as it is written in the book of Moses. And the children of the captivity kept the Passover on the fourteenth day of the first month. (For the Priests and the Levites were purified altogether) and they killed the Passover for all the children of the captivity, and for their brethren the Priests, and for themselves. So the children of Israel which were come again out of captivity, and all such as had separated themselves unto them, from teh filthiness of teh Heathen of the land to seek the Lord God of Israel, did eat, And they kept the feast of unleavened bread seven days with joy: for the Lord had made them glad, and turned the heart of the king of Assyria unto them, to encourage them in the work of the house of God, even the God of Israel. Ezra 5:1–6:22
- For thereby we know that we are of the truth, and shall before him assure our hearts. For if our hearts condemn us, God is greater than our heart, and knoweth all things. Beloved, if our heart condemn us not, then have we boldness toward God. And whatsoever we ask, we receive of him, because we keep his commandments, and do those things which are pleasing in his sight. This is then his commandment, that we believe in his Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, as he gave commandment. For he that keepeth his commandments, dwelleth in him, and he in him: and hereby we know that he abideth in us, even by that Spirit which he hath given us. 1 John 3:19–24
- But Phinehas stood up, and executed judgment, and the plague was stayed. And it was imputed unto him for righteousness from generation to generation forever. They angered him also at the waters of Meribah, so that Moses was punished for their sakes, Because they vexed his Spirit, so that he spake unadvisedly with his lips. Neither destroyed they the people, as the Lord had commanded them, But were mingled among the heathen, and learned their works, And served their idols, which were their ruin. Yea, they offered their sons, and their daughters unto devils, And shed innocent blood, even the lbood of their sons, and of their daughters whom they offered unto the idols of Canaan, and the land was defiled with blood. Thus were they stained with their own works, and went a whoring with their own inventions. Therefore was the wrath of the Lord kindled against his people, and he abhorred his own inheritance. And he gave them into the hand of the heathen: and they that hated them were lords over them. Their enemies also oppressed them, but they provoked him by their counsels: therefore they were brought down by their iniquity. Yet he saw when they were in affliction, and he heard their cry. And he remembered his covenant toward them, and repented according to the multitude of his mercies, And gave them favor in the sight of all them that led them captives. Save us, O Lord our God, and gather us from among the heathen, that we may praise thine holy Name, and glory in thy praise. Blessed be the Lord God of Israel forever even and let all the people say, So be it. Praise ye the Lord. Psalm 106:30–48