First love

Today’s readings: Amos 1:1-3:15, Revelation 2:1-17, Psalm 129:1-8, Proverbs 29:19-20

The second and third chapters in Revelation contain pretty scathing challenges and corrections to individual churches that also apply to us today. Some of the churches are found wanting because they tolerate error or sexual immorality, but the one that always gets to me is the church at Ephesus. What was their greatest shortcoming, according to Revelation 2:4?

“But I have this complaint against you. You don’t love me or each other as you did at first!

The English standard version states it this way, “you have abandoned the love you had at first.” What does this mean? It is about that initial desire for closeness, conversation and connection that is found in first love.

This is actually expressed in a slightly different way in Amos 3:2.

2“From among all the families on the earth,
    I have been intimate with you alone.
That is why I must punish you
    for all your sins.”

I don’t remember seeing the phrase, “I have been intimate with you alone,” when I have read Amos in the past, probably because I have not read this version very much before. The New International Version uses the word “chosen” to describe the relationship between God, Israel and Judah, while the English Standard Version uses the word “known.” I don’t know Hebrew, but I remember learning as a giggling teenager that the phrase “And Adam knew Eve his wife” in Genesis 4 refer to their sexual relationship. The English Standard Version translates the same phrase, “Now Adam knew Eve his wife.”

So it seems clear that the word translated as “intimate” or “chosen” or “known” refers to a very close relationship. God was seeking that closeness in the prophecies of Amos and again in the prophecies of John the Apostle in Revelation. So He continues to seek us today. He wants to make a real connection with us. He is deeply personal and yearns to love and be loved, as we do when we are at our best (or at our neediest). Perhaps St. Augustine said it best:

Thou hast made us for thyself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in thee. (Confessions)

We are restless without God and He will not be satisfied with our walk together until He knows that our hearts are fully His.


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