The Motive for Loving God

When I was a child, I used to look forward to the evenings when my Aunt Angie would come to have dinner with us while my Uncle Bill was at his Kiwanis meeting. Why? Because she usually brought me a gift! But when I grew up, that changed; I liked visiting with her simply because I enjoyed her personality and her vibrant heart. I think this pictures, in a small way, what Bernard of Clairvaux is getting at in the following excerpt.

The motive for loving God is God Himself… He is such that a love to Him is a natural due… Our love is prepared and rewarded by His. He loves us first, out if His great tenderness; then we are bound to repay Him with love; and we are permitted to cherish exultant hopes in Him…

He has no better gift than Himself. He gives Himself as prize and reward; He is the refreshment of the holy soul, the ransom of those in captivity.

– Bernard of Clairvaux, from On Loving God
(as quoted in 90 Days With The Christian Classics)

Bernard’s comments lead me to ask myself this: do I really love God, or do I just love what He gives me? To put it another way, do I appreciate His gifts merely because of what I get out of them, or because they show me His heart? Gratitude is vital, but a “grown-up” relationship with God also includes loving Him for who He is and valuing Him because He is valuable in and of Himself.

On this Valentine’s Day, may we see God Himself as our prize and reward, as Bernard did!

 I said to the Lord, "You are my Master!
      Every good thing I have comes from you."
...Lord, you alone are my inheritance, my cup of blessing.
      You guard all that is mine.
The land you have given me is a pleasant land.
      What a wonderful inheritance!
- Psalm 16:2, 5-6 (NLT)

The Essential Food of the Soul

Righteousness is the natural and essential food of the soul, which can no more be satisfied by earthly treasures than the hunger of the body can be satisfied by air. If you should see a starving man standing with mouth open to the wind, inhaling drafts of air as if in hope of gratifying his hunger, you would think him lunatic. But it is no less foolish to imagine that the soul can be satisfied with worldly things which only inflate it without feeding it.

– Bernard of Clairvaux, from On Loving God
(as quoted in 90 Days With The Christian Classics)

This quote brought to mind a whole host of verses dealing with finding our satisfaction in God. I’ll just let a few of them speak for themselves:

John 4:31- 34 (NIV)
Meanwhile his disciples urged him, "Rabbi, eat something."
But he said to them, "I have food to eat that you know nothing about."
Then his disciples said to each other, "Could someone have brought him food?"
"My food," said Jesus, "is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work."

Psalm 63:1-5 (NIV)
O God, you are my God,
    earnestly I seek you;
    my soul thirsts for you,
    my body longs for you,
    in a dry and weary land
    where there is no water.
I have seen you in the sanctuary
    and beheld your power and your glory.
Because your love is better than life,
    my lips will glorify you.
I will praise you as long as I live,
    and in your name I will lift up my hands.
My soul will be satisfied as with the richest of foods;
    with singing lips my mouth will praise you.

John 6:35 (NIV)
Then Jesus declared, "I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty."

Psalm 34:8-10 (NIV)
Taste and see that the LORD is good;
    blessed is the man who takes refuge in him.
Fear the LORD, you his saints,
    for those who fear him lack nothing.
The lions may grow weak and hungry,
    but those who seek the LORD lack no good thing.

Psalm 1:1-3 (NIV)
Blessed is the man
    who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked
    or stand in the way of sinners
    or sit in the seat of mockers.
But his delight is in the law of the LORD,
    and on his law he meditates day and night.
He is like a tree planted by streams of water,
    which yields its fruit in season
    and whose leaf does not wither.
    Whatever he does prospers.

Matthew 5:6 (NIV)
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
      for they will be filled.

O Sacred Head, Now Wounded

This hymn has a simple tune set to hauntingly beautiful harmony by my favorite classical composer, Johann Sebastian Bach. I’ve seen several versions of the words, and I’m not sure which is the most authentic, so I’ll post them as I learned them. Their message of deep devotion to Christ in response to His sacrifice never fails to touch my heart.

O sacred Head, now wounded, with grief and shame weighed down,
Now scornfully surrounded with thorns, Thine only crown;
How art Thou pale with anguish, with sore abuse and scorn!
How doth Thy visage languish that once was bright as morn!

What Thou, my Lord, hast suffered, was all for sinners? gain;
Mine, mine was the transgression, but Thine the deadly pain.
Lo, here I fall, my Savior! ?Tis I deserve Thy place;
Look on me with Thy favor, vouchsafe to me Thy grace.

What language shall I borrow to thank Thee, dearest friend,
For this Thy dying sorrow, Thy pity without end?
O make me Thine forever, and should I fainting be,
Lord, let me never, never outlive my love to Thee.

– At­trib­ut­ed to Ber­nard of Clair­vaux, 1153; trans­lat­ed from La­tin to Eng­lish James W. Al­ex­and­er, 1830.

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