“You of this generation, consider the word of the LORD:
“Have I been a desert to Israel
or a land of great darkness?
Why do my people say, ‘We are free to roam;
we will come to you no more’?” — Jeremiah 2:31
In Hebrew, the word for love is ahava, which comes from the root word, hav, “to give.” In Judaism, to love is to give. Giving to others forms the connection that enables us to love one another. Join us this month, as we offer a devotional series exploring the Jewish perspective on love.
I know a mother in Israel who has been blessed with many children. Each of her children has grown up to be more wonderful than the next. Following in the footsteps of their parents, they are shining examples of God’s love and live their lives committed to His Word.
Except for one child — Shlomo, who didn’t follow in the path of his parents. As his mother slowly discovered, Shlomo had no interest in his Bible classes and would often skip school. It became clear that he had decided not to keep the traditional Jewish laws and no longer observed the main aspects such as keeping the Sabbath day. The boy began hanging out with a bad group of friends, spending time in bars, and leading a less than desirable lifestyle.
Obviously his parents were devastated. Jewish people often refer to such children as “having gone off the path.” But Shlomo’s parents refused to let the relationship go. As his mother told me, “He doesn’t need our food, he doesn’t need our money, there is nothing we can give him – except for our love.” So, they give him their unconditional love and prayed he will find his way.
Our relationship with God is much the same. No matter what we do or how far we stray, we will always have His unconditional love. God is always just one prayer away.
In the book of Jeremiah, we read about how Israel had strayed. The prophet painfully described the strained relationship between God and His children. Yet God said to them: “You of this generation, consider the word of the LORD: ‘Have I been a desert to Israel or a land of great darkness?'”
The Jewish sages explain that God brought up the desert in order to remind Israel that while God brought their ancestors through the desert, they didn’t experience the harsh conditions. The prophet continued: “Why do my people say, ‘We are free to roam; we will come to you no more'”?
The Jewish understanding of this portion of the verse is that God asked why the people concluded that they were separated from Him and that He would come no more to them. God reassured them — and us — that nothing can come between us – it is always possible to return.
I want to encourage us all to remember God’s message of unconditional love. Moreover, let’s spread the message to others who might feel distant, hopeless, and lost. When there is nothing else left to give, we can always give love and remind others that God does the same.