Love Lost in Translation

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Introduction

Sometimes things can get lost in the translation.

Sometimes love can get lost in translation. Men and women don’t understand each other perfectly, but an even greater problem is that we don’t love each other perfectly. Men have an incredible desire to love someone, and women want to be loved. This is a perfect match made by God. A perfect scenario… or it was… back in the Garden of Eden.

In Chapter 1 of The Story, we saw a glimpse of this perfection, but just a glimpse. It wasn’t long before Sin entered the world and destroyed that picture. Life is like a puzzle that someone spilled a can of pain over. Once it was perfect. Once it was whole. Now, it’s all broken up, and we are constantly trying to put it back together.

Have you ever tried to put a puzzle like this back together? There is a lady at TPR that I see every time I go in and she can’t wait to show me her puzzle. These don’t have spilled paint, but they are still broken, in pieces. She leads me down the long table with all the puzzles they have done in the last month, then, as we reach the end, she shows me a jumble of cardboard. No matter how hard I look, I can’t see the picture. It’s just a mess. But, she doesn’t tell me to try and figure out what the picture should look like. Instead, she shows me the box cover. She shows me a picture of what the puzzle once was, and will be again once it is put together. There is one puzzle that came without a box. No lid-set picture to spell out the puzzling path, no instruction booklet. Instead, the person who donated it took a snapshot of the puzzle when it was whole, left a road map from the past so that the puzzle can be put back together again.

Marriage doesn’t come with an instruction manual. Every one is different, and every one is filled with frustration as we try to put the pieces where they don’t belong, search the jumbled mess of our lives for the right answer to her questions, or what he really wants from me. Love is not automatic or easy, but it starts to make sense as we look at that snapshot of our wedding day, roll through the album from our honeymoon, smile down at pictures of our children.

None of us are perfect. We are all effected by the Sin that entered Creation after The Fall in Chapter 1. But we can keep placing the right pieces as we remind ourselves of what love is supposed to look like. And what is the box cover to this puzzle? God. God started with the edge pieces of lambs-blood on the door posts, and filled in the picture with Jesus, His son.
God’s love is perfect and enduring

Psalm 136, that we are looking at this morning is a picture of that puzzle. It was often sung at the Passover celebration by the Jews so that they could remember, every year, what the picture is supposed to look like. It is a snapshot of love given from God to his people with the puzzle of life. Every verse comes with this great reminder “His faithful love endures forever.”

It outlasts all the problems of life. It transcends the troubles we face every day. It goes on when our life comes to an end. It is who God is. Is it His character. That is how he defines himself.

A lot of things can be lost in translation. Even this concept of God’s love isn’t nearly as powerful in English as Hebrew. Love is so much bigger than flowers and chocolate. It is greater that a sky-scraper sized Valentine’s Day card. It cannot be expressed in words, and even pictures with their 1,000 word poetry cannot even come close. The Hebrew word used here is hesed. It is translated so many different way in the English Bible, because you can’t fit the full expanse of God’s love for us into one word. It speaks of grace, mercy, compassion, faithfulness, loyalty, reliability, confidence, and love. It is the true word for the covenant between God and his people.

We have been following The Promise since Genesis. We have learned that from the seed of Eve would come one to crush the serpent’s head, though his heal is bruised. God promised Abraham that he would make him into a great nation. He reaffirmed the promise to Issac, Jacob, Moses, and now the whole nation of Israel.

The closest we come to understanding this concept is at the wedding vows. We are promising to extent hesed toward our spouse. We are marrying a sinner and promising to give them grace. We know they will fail, but promise to be merciful. We know they will fall, and promise to be compassionate. Sometimes, they might even desire to leave us, or treat us in a way so that we want to leave, but we are promising to be faithful. When times are hard, the grass might look greener in another bed, but we are promising loyalty. They may need someone to hold them up when they are down, and we are promising to be reliable. Despite the many times we may fail them, we are promising to be confident in their love for us. We are making a commitment, a covenant that our faithful love will endure forever.
How can we do that? How many of us fit this bill? We fall. We fail. We sin against the one we love the most. As we walk the line of life together, we need to remind ourselves of this commitment, not as some kind of bondage that we have stuck ourselves in, but with thanksgiving on our lips. We must turn to the one who knows what this love looks like, not just stick pieces in the puzzle where we think they go. Look at the picture of love. This picture of incredible, unending, enduring love.

God is Good (vs. 1)

1 Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good!
His faithful love endures forever.

Give thanks is not a command. It is not like your mother telling you to say thank you for the gift you got from that person you really don’t like. It’s not like a forced apology to a sibling when they are clearly in the wrong! The full meaning is lost in translation with these two simple words. This is a confession, an acknowledgement of God’s worthiness of your thanks. It is not a “thank you” because life is so amazing right now, but a “thank you” that you are good! It is a reminder of who God is and how he has been with us.

Because we need a reminder. You can’t just look at the box lid of your puzzle once and know exactly how the pieces go together. With every couple steps along the road of life, we must look again to the picture and see how we are doing, especially when the pieces stop fitting right.

Satan likes to trick us. He tricked Adam and Eve into thinking that God wasn’t really as loving as he said he was, tricked Abraham into thinking that God couldn’t make good on his promises, tricked Joseph’s brothers into thinking that maybe their father would love them more if they got rid of the dreamer, tricked Moses into thinking that God couldn’t work through his lazy tongue in Egypt. He tricks your wife into thinking that maybe you are having an affair, tricks your husband into thinking that you don’t really love him any more, tricks your kids into thinking they can provide for their own needs better than you ever could. He tempts the teenage mother with the promise of a better life in another man’s bed. He pushes drugs into the mouths of the depressed, slips overworking into the equation of our hopelessness.

We need to be reminded often of God’s goodness, because we are constantly told that he doesn’t love us, that his love isn’t faithful, or enduring. “If God is so good, why is He letting you suffer like this? If your wife is so loving, why does she treat you that way? If your husband really loved you, he wouldn’t talk about you like that!” This is not new.

“Stand firm against him, and be strong in your faith. Remember that your family of believers all over the world is going through the same kind of suffering you are.” – 1 Peter 5:9

Satan hasn’t changed his tactics. Each one of us needs a reminder of the goodness of God. The trick is to acknowledge what he has done for us in the past. And it is no different in our human relationships. Valentine’s Day shouldn’t be a celebration of ritualistic chocolate squandering. It is an opportunity to reflect on the picture God has given us of marriage, to remember our vows.

He is the God of gods

Not only is this God of love good, but he is above all other gods and lords.
2 Give thanks to the God of gods.
His faithful love endures forever.
3 Give thanks to the Lord of lords.
His faithful love endures forever.

In the story of Moses we looked at last week, we saw this very statement confirmed. He is greater than all the Egyptian gods and stronger than the slave-masters. His predetermined purpose for His people will be carried out without any glitch or delay. Nothing can stop The Promise.

You may think, “that’s good for the Israelites back then, but what about me?”

Romans 8:35-39
35 Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? 36 (As the Scriptures say, “For your sake we are killed every day; we are being slaughtered like sheep.”) 37 No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us.
38 And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. 39 No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Nothing can separate us! He is greater than all of that! But still… we face calamity. We face troubles. Even though we may know that God’s love transcends all of this, conceptually, how do we get the knowledge from our heads to our hearts? When your husband says he has to work late what allows you to believe him? When your wife says, “I’m frustrated because I love you, and I want you to think before you do something stupid!” How can you trust that she really does care? When your teenage daughter screams hate at you, then hours later comes out from behind that slammed door and asks if she can help make supper… which side of the coin are you to believe? How can we trust in someone’s love when they don’t always express it the way they should? Remembering the past enables us to love in the present, despite the suffering embedded in our situation.

Remembering the Past enables us to love in the present.

Creation

There is nothing more glorious than remembering when you first met. There is no moment more cherished than when that piece of God’s masterpiece walked into the room and you thought, “Hallelujah!” What an amazing God that we serve to create someone like her, or someone like him!

If you know anything about art, you know that artists put their heart and soul into their work. Sweat drops onto the canvas, tears soak the manuscript. If you have ever created something, you know what I’m talking about. As a writer I spend a lot of time inside the heads of the characters in my story. I feel what they feel, wonder what they think, enjoy what they love. God, in his creation is not different. The Creation was the greatest act of love. It was God’s desire to have someone to love, and for someone to love him. It was his desire for us that caused him to paint the colours in the sunrise and smooth out the cracks in our skin. Read how the Psalmist puts it in vs. 4-9.

4 Give thanks to him who alone does mighty miracles.
His faithful love endures forever.
5 Give thanks to him who made the heavens so skillfully.
His faithful love endures forever.
6 Give thanks to him who placed the earth among the waters.
His faithful love endures forever.
7 Give thanks to him who made the heavenly lights—
His faithful love endures forever.
8 the sun to rule the day,
His faithful love endures forever.
9 and the moon and stars to rule the night.
His faithful love endures forever.

When the storms come, sometimes we storm out. The rafters shake as we slap the door. Snow cringes beneath the weight of our frustration as we walk, blowing off steam from warm breath into the frigid morning air. Our anger dissipates as we walk, God’s therapy surrounding us—soothing us. Perhaps it is the twitter of a bird or sun glistening off the blanket of white, maybe the wind whistling a melody between the snow-touched arms of a tree, or a squirrel twirling up the stalks with grace, perhaps the clean, crisp air, but something about this Creation finds its way into your heart. The tune of those strings turns from discordant noise to an orchestra of praise.

“Thank you, God, for the beautiful world you created for me. Thank you for walking with me through the trees. Thank you for your love.” Looking back, the storm in your house a mile away does not seem so difficult to face.
God’s greatest act of love was his creation. His desire to be with us is over-whelming.

For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what had been made. – Romans 1:20

God not only reminds us of his love through His Creation, but all of the great things that he has done for us since that time. The Israelites were caught in an intense time of suffering. It was a time of questioning God’s love. A time of frustration, anger, sorrow, when the Serpent whispered in their ears, “Does God really love you any more? He has abandoned you in Egypt.” And even after their great escape into the wilderness, the Snake does not lose hope nor change tactics. “Look,” he says. “Now God has abandoned you in the desert. Has he not sent you here to die? There is no food or water. What kind of love is that?” Sometimes remembering those love-at-first-sight moments is not enough, and so the Isrealites sing this song every year to remind them not only of God’s desire for them at creation, but the love he showed through his mighty acts.

Exodus

10 Give thanks to him who killed the firstborn of Egypt.
His faithful love endures forever.
11 He brought Israel out of Egypt.
His faithful love endures forever.
12 He acted with a strong hand and powerful arm.
His faithful love endures forever.
13 Give thanks to him who parted the Red Sea.
His faithful love endures forever.
14 He led Israel safely through,
His faithful love endures forever.
15 but he hurled Pharaoh and his army into the Red Sea.
His faithful love endures forever.
16 Give thanks to him who led his people through the wilderness.
His faithful love endures forever.
17 Give thanks to him who struck down mighty kings.
His faithful love endures forever.

It is important for us to know Scripture (including the OT) so well that we respond to trials and other situations in our lives with biblical language and thought patterns. The Bible is not some lifeless history book. Here, God shows his love to his people, and they look back on these incredible miracles and praise him for his love that didn’t end after he created them. It didn’t end once they went on their first date, or after a month of marriage. This is a love that is faithful, enduring, lasts forever!

A reminder of God’s goodness through these stories is not just for the Jews at Passover, but for all of us today. Sometimes we can wonder why certain stories are in the Bible. We can read them and not see how they apply to us. Sometimes, things get lost in translation. But here, we don’t have to wonder. 1 Corinthians 10:6-11 tells us why it is important to remember these stories, and what we can learn from them.

These things happened as a warning to us, so that we would not crave evil things as they did, or worship idols as some of them did. As the Scriptures say, “The people celebrated with feasting and drinking, and they indulged in pagan revelry.” And we must not engage in sexual immorality as some of them did, causing 23,000 of them to die in one day.
9 Nor should we put Christ to the test, as some of them did and then died from snakebites. And don’t grumble as some of them did, and then were destroyed by the angel of death. These things happened to them as examples for us. They were written down to warn us who live at the end of the age.

These stories were written for our instruction, so that we won’t be like the Israelites. So that we won’t grumble when the skies are grey or curse God when the storms come. So that we won’t try to put the puzzle together without looking at the picture God has given us. So that we will stop trying to love each other through our own efforts, but through Christ’s strength.

“How can I thank God when the storm comes?” Remember his love. “How can I love my spouse when they are yelling at me?” Remember their love. In these verses the people aren’t thanking God for what he is doing for them right now. They are thanking him for desiring them in the first place and walking with them in the past. Our praise is always a response to what God has already done and with faithful hope in what he will do. The Israelites offered themselves to God as they remembered his love for them.

When we don’t feel loved, we must remember love. We must not only love when we feel loved, but also when we are shunned, rejected, spat upon. Why? Because we all make mistakes. Love is a choice to be gracious to another sinner just like you. It is a hesed commitment between one sinner and another. “For richer and poorer, in sickness and in health, til death do us part.” Not, “Til I don’t feel loved by you anymore.” Remembering the past enables us to love in the present, despite the suffering embedded in our situation.

23 He remembered us in our weakness.
His faithful love endures forever.
24 He saved us from our enemies.
His faithful love endures forever.
25 He gives food to every living thing.
His faithful love endures forever.
26 Give thanks to the God of heaven.
His faithful love endures forever.

The history of Israel is a picture of our spiritual history. Once we were lost, but he remembered us in our weakness. Once we were enslaved, but he saved us from our great Enemy, Satan. It can’t be put any better than Ephesians 2:1-5.

Once you were dead because of your disobedience and your many sins. 2 You used to live in sin, just like the rest of the world, obeying the devil—the commander of the powers in the unseen world. He is the spirit at work in the hearts of those who refuse to obey God. 3 All of us used to live that way, following the passionate desires and inclinations of our sinful nature. By our very nature we were subject to God’s anger, just like everyone else.
4 But God is so rich in mercy, and he loved us so much, 5 that even though we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead.

God found us, he desired us, and loved us. The word in vs. 4 translated “mercy” has the same weight as “faithful love” in Psalm 136. Hesed. Commitment. Grace. Mercy. Compassion. Faithfulness. This is how much God loves us, and we can hold onto this truth in tough times as we remember his past desire for us and previous mighty acts of hesed.
God only wants one thing, and only ever has: to be in relationship with us. He appeared as I AM to Moses and his people saying, “I used to be just some powerful God in the sky to you. I used to be distant, but I want to be personal. I want to be present. I want to walk with you. I want to love you. I want you.” That doesn’t mean the Israelites didn’t have trials, doesn’t mean they didn’t suffer, but God continually reminded them of his love for them.

Conclusion

We need to remember the love we have for each other, especially in tough times. Valentine’s Day is not a celebration of flowers and chocolate, but of love. Enduring love. Faithful compassion. Unending Mercy. Hesed. How can we love like this? By looking at the road map. By looking at the box-cover of this puzzle we call love.

“We love each other because he loved us first.” (1 John 4:19)

But we forget. We don’t naturally know what love is supposed to look like. We are bombarded by messages of shame, shown imperfect love on TV. So we must remind ourselves of God’s love for us, and our love for each other. This truth was so important to King David that he appointed singers whose job it was to repeat at the entrance to the temple, “give thanks to YWHW, because His faithful love is everlasting.(1 Cron. 16:41)” Later, Solomon does the same thing, (2 Cron. 5:13) hires people to remind the whole nation of God’s continual love for them.

Next week we are going to look at how God seeks to come down and be with his people. We are going to see the foundations of this great nation he walks through life with, the great expression of his love to make them different, unique, special in his sight… but before we get there, let’s remember his love.

Can’t love you wife perfectly? Can’t love your husband? Don’t know how to best love your kids? What about that difficult neighbour? Look to God. He holds the picture of what the puzzle of life should look like. Let’s stop blindly shoving pieces in where they don’t belong. God has given us a road map of what love looks like, and it shows up in the stories in the Bible. It shows up in his desperate desire to be with his people, have a relationship with us. Let’s love each other like that. Against all odds, show compassion. Against all sins, show grace. Against all separation, show loyalty. Against all unfaithful desires, be faithful. Against all weakness, be reliable. Let us love each other based on the picture of Christ’s love for us. He didn’t hold anything back. He gave up everything he had to be with us, to serve us. He gave his life. Let us love like that.

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