In the real life version of Draughting Theology, we’ve spent the last five months (minus a break for Lent) studying the three epistles of John. It has been a striking study in the dichotomy of the life of faith in the early Church between the overwhelming awareness of the deep love of God and the struggle (and at times, battle) to figure out the bounds of orthodoxy in this new religion. This back and forth in the letters of John make for some interesting juxtapositions between “love your neighbor” and “the Antichrists.”
Last week, we finally arrived at what Raymond Brown says might be “the most famous saying in the NT,” 1 John 4:8b, “God is love.” As Brown prophesied in his commentary on the Johannine letters, these three words took us down a path of conversation in which we wondered about the nature of God as God has revealed himself in Scripture. The natural tendency seems to be to read the Old Testament as being all about a God of vengeance and the New Testament as being all about “God is love.” Brown has this to say: “This outlook both misunderstands the biblical concept of justice as primarily punitive, and ignores OT passages that make hesed, ‘covenant love and mercy,’ characteristic of God” (p. 550).
This is all still very fresh in my mind as I read the Track 2 Old Testament Lesson for this week and the great prayer of dedication that King Solomon prays over the Temple that he has built for God. In the sight of all Israel, with his arms lifted heavenward, Solomon approaches God with these words, “O Lord, God of Israel, there is no God like you in heaven above or on earth beneath, keeping covenant and steadfast love for your servants who walk before you with all their heart” (1 Kings 8:23).
Solomon is a wise man. His words are spoken with intentionality, and so it is telling that he chooses to highlight the steadfast love of God (hesed) in this great moment of national, personal, and religious pride. The Gospel according to Solomon, about as Old Testament a King as there ever was, is that God’s very nature is love.