One of the oldest prayers performed by the Jewish people every morning and evening is the prayer known as the Shema. It says:
The third word up for study from the Shema is the word “LOVE.” Love is a common word in many languages and cultures. The same goes for ancient Hebrew. It is pronounced AHAVAH which basically refers to the affection a person expresses to another. However, it has various depictions because of its broad usage. Let’s go through some of its examples:
Ahavah can sometimes refer to physical affections, especially for the opposite sex. An example of this can be seen in the story of Esther (also called Hadassah). Ahasuerus, the king of Persia, sent out a degree for a royal showdown of all the fine maidens in the kingdom. The lady that pleases Ahasuerus the most, becomes the next queen. Great, isn’t it? Anyway, maidens came and maidens left the king’s presence; until it was Esther’s turn.
The Bible made it known that the king loved Esther above all the maidens, and she became his wife.
However, there are other Hebrew words that can specifically be used for physical desire or sexual affection. Ahavah is much broad. We move on to the next depiction.
(Check out our article on the Name of God)
Ahavah can sometimes be used to depict parental affection towards a child. In the Book of Genesis, God confessed of Abraham’s love for His son, Isaac (Gen 22:2). The love Isaac had for his son Esau is also another use of the word Ahavah.
This same word can be used for brotherly love. One example is the love Jonathan had for his very close friend David. The Bible noted that Jonathan loved (ahavah) David like he loved himself.
Ahavah is not only used for the affection of one person towards another. Groups can also
Ahavah can also describe loyalty between political allies. Hiram, the king of Tyre, loved David. This was because he had good political relations with David. This was the reason Hiram helped when King Solomon sought to build a Temple for Yahweh.
All these and more depict the many sided varieties of this broad Hebrew word, Ahavah. Now, let’s move on to God’s Ahavah (Love).
Israel was told to LOVE their God, how do they do that?
Moses told the people of Israel:
“The LORD did not set His love on you nor choose you because you were more in number than any of the people, for you were the fewest of all peoples, but because the LORD loved you and kept the oath which He swore to your forefathers…”
God did not love the people of Israel because of who they were or what they did, He simply loved them because He loves. Love is His nature. It originates from His character. God is love. That is why He can say He loves with an everlasting love (Jeremiah 31:3). His love has no end because it has no beginning. It simply is.
God’s love is not a necessity or a duty of some kind to His creation. It is a feeling of affection that originates from His being. God experiences love. Throughout the Hebrew Scriptures, God’s love has been compared to a husband’s ahavah for his wife or a parent’s ahavah for the child.
However, God’s ahavah is not just a feeling. It is an action – something He decides to do. So, Moses said to the Israelites:
“Because He loved your fathers, therefore He chose their descendants after them. And He personally brought you from Egypt by His great power,”
Love is not just something God feels or experiences. It is something God does.
Love Your GOD
In the Shema, the Israelites were called to love God. How should they love God? We ought to respond to God’s ahavah by showing ahavah in return. This kind of ahavah is not just in speech, but in ACTION. Deuteronomy 10 says:
“… What doth the LORD required thee, but to FEAR the LORD thy God, to WALK in all His ways, and to LOVE Him, and to SERVE the LORD thy God with all thy heart and with all thy soul, to KEEP the commandments of the LORD, and His Statutes..”
Loving God is in action. All these actions performed, demonstrates or proves your Love for God.
Loving God is also demonstrated in another major way. This love for God is expressed when performed unto others. Loving God and loving other people are simply two sides of the same coin. You express your love to God by loving other humans. This is because humans are made in God’s image. You cannot see God but you can His reflection on every human you meet.
So in the Book of Deuteronomy, we read that:
God defends the fatherless and the widow. He loves the stranger (immigrant) in giving him food and clothing and so you also love the stranger
So like the people of Israel, we are to imitate God’s ahavah by showing ahavah to others. In the case of what we just read, the people of Israel were to express ahavah to God by defending the fatherless and widows, and also feeding and providing clothing and shelter to the immigrant among them. This is the main foundation for the famous quote: Love Your Neighbor As Yourself.
Every single act of love to God and to others is rooted from God’s own ahavah. John puts it this way:
We love because God first loved Us (1 John 4:29).
This is the meaning of Ahavah. Love God and love others. Be agents of God’s ahavah to this world.
You can express your love by sharing this to as many as you can via the various social media channels to give others the opportunity to be blessed.