First Love for the Lord's Return

By John Ingalls

"But I have this against you, that you have left your first love. Remember, therefore, from where you have fallen, and repent, and do the first works. And if not, I am coming to you, and will remove your lampstand out of its place unless you repent." (Rev. 2:4-5).

"...God being rich in mercy because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in offenses, has made us alive together with Christ. By grace you are saved." (Eph. 2:4-5).

"For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life." (John 3:16).

"But we do know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose; because whom He foreknew He has also predestinated to be conformed to the image of His Son, so that He should be the firstborn among many brothers." (Rom. 8:28-29).

Every person in this country is very much aware of what occurred on September 11, 2001. Not many, however, realize that on that day GOD VISITED AMERICA. Most consider it an enormous and tragic attack which was perpetrated upon America. That, of course, is true. But behind it all God was visiting this country in judgment, but also in mercy. Many Christians have realized that it was a wake-up call for the people of this country to turn their hearts back to God.

Thank God, many have been awakened. Their hearts have been softened and opened to hear the gospel and turn to the Lord. We who already know the Lord should consider - What is the Lord speaking to us? Does He have something particular to say to us, His people, through this disastrous event? We believe He does. God is seeking to awaken His people that they may return to their first love.

Most Christians realize by the signs of the times and by the sense in their spirit that these are the last days, and the Lord is coming very soon. Do you believe that? Moreover, we know that for His return He needs a Bride prepared. He requires those who have the love of a chaste virgin for Him, a fervent desire, and a longing, watchful expectancy. I believe this is what God wants to speak to His own people in these days.

Our Relationship with the Lord

Our relationship with the Lord is wholly a heart relationship, which means a relationship of love. Hence, when He looks at us, He is looking for our love. This is what He was seeking in the church at Ephesus in Revelation chapter 2. The saints there had many good works and exemplary virtues for which He commended them. Few churches today could compare with them. But He could not be satisfied with that. What He was looking for was their love, and not alone their love, but the measure and quality of it. He could sense what kind of love they had. He said to them, as He says to us, "I know..." He is searching our hearts for love, We cannot disguise anything. He is testing, tasting, and measuring our love. Do we have our first and best love for Him?

In the letters to the seven churches recorded in Revelation 2 and 3, revival is not mentioned once. Yet with multitudes of Christians today, revival is the main concern and subject of prayer. We would all rejoice to see God's people revived. But the word the Lord uses in speaking to the churches is not revival, but "repent"-nine times, These seven churches are representative of us and of all God's people on the earth today. What we, all need is to repent, repent till we have our best love for Him.

What does it mean to repent? To repent means to have a "U-turn." You are going in one direction, and you turn around and go in the other. We need to do that in our heart concerning our love for Him. Many times we must do this, probably every day. To maintain our best love for the Lord is not easy. It is "as easy as falling off a log" for our love to become lukewarm. Unless there is a higher, stronger power at work, our love will decline. I am burdened to share in this article what will help us to recover and maintain our best love for Him.

For every need of ours, including our lack of first love, God has one solution. It is to give us a fresh revelation of Himself and His Son. Hence, in Revelation chapter 1, before addressing the churches, He gives a tremendous, unprecedented vision of Christ. Based upon that revelation, He spoke directly to each of the seven churches and is speaking to us today.

His message to every church refers back to some aspect of His revelation in chapter 1. The apprehension of Christ in that aspect will enable the churches, and us, to overcome. What the church in Ephesus needed, and what we need today, is a fresh revelation of Christ. To recover our first love, we need to see something of Christ that we have never seen before.

We have all seen the Lord Jesus to some extent, or we would probably not be reading this article. The Apostle John had seen the Lord Jesus many times and knew Him as much or more than any of the disciples. He was very familiar with Jesus, leaning on His breast, and referring to himself as the disciple Jesus loved. But when he saw the revelation of Jesus Christ recorded in Revelation 1, he fell at the Lord's feet as dead. He had never seen Him like that, and required the Lord's life-giving touch to raise Him up. I pray that the Lord will reveal Himself to us in a way that is so timely, living, and powerful, that we are brought to an utter end of ourselves, and that resurrection life and power are communicated to us.

What do we need to see? I think that if we are concerned about our first love for Him, we need to see freshly His love for us. We need a fresh revelation of His amazing divine love. We sometimes sing the great hymn: "The love of God is greater far than pen or tongue could ever tell." Try as we may to describe it, we cannot. God in His mercy must reveal His love to us as we have never seen it before.

Behind everything in this universe is the love of God. Many today will tell you we were not created, but that we evolved from some kind of slime. We know this as a lie from the evil one. This wonderful body of ours, so complex and indescribably marvelous, had a great mind with infinite wisdom and skill behind it. But, thank God, there was more behind it than that. Behind our creation is a great heart, a great love.

At the center of the universe there's a great love, and that is the reason for everything. The love of God is the motive and explanation of creation. The whole creation issued from the love of God, for all things were made for man, and God has set His love upon man. We were created because of God's love, not just His mind but His love. Moreover, all Scripture is based upon the love of God. That should be evident to any God-lover and seeker. The love of God is revealed throughout the whole of the inspired Word, in His words, His actions, and even in His wrath.

What does it mean that God loves us? It means that we were created for the heart of God. We are so desirable to Him. He longs for us and yearns over us. He wants to have us for Himself. He must have us. Because of His love, He has purposed an unspeakably wonderful destiny for man. May the Lord show us more of the purpose of His love.

The Bible speaks of this great purpose. It says that God predestined us to be conformed to the image of His Son (Rom. 8:29). Think of it! Consider that you and I, in life and nature and expression, will be just like Jesus Christ. The Bible tells us so. We need a deep impression, a kind of amazement. It is stunning, knowing ourselves, that we would be like Him. In His love He has decided to do that, and He is able to do that. He is in fact doing it.

Sometimes we are called upon to meet a brother or sister in Christ arriving at the airport. We have never met or seen that one and hope that we will be able to pick him or her out among so many arriving passengers. It is not difficult. We only need to look for someone who resembles Jesus. That's the right one. I have experienced this a number of times. They may lack a perfect resemblance, but something of Jesus is there. One day, however, we will match Him perfectly. Inwardly we will be the same in life and character. Outwardly we will also be the same: He will have a body of glory, and we will have one too. This is the purpose and the story of His love.

A Manifold Relationship of Love

Hebrews 2:11 tells us that both Christ and we have the same source-"We are all of one." For this cause, "He is not ashamed to call them brothers." When the Lord was resurrected He told Mary, "Go to My brothers..." We are His brothers, a very intimate relationship of life and love.

Furthermore, Psalm 45:7 together with Hebrews 1:9 says, "God has anointed You with the oil of gladness above Your companions." So we are, or should be, His companions. The Lord greatly desires companions, especially in these last days. Our being His brothers speaks of our likeness to Him in sharing the same life and nature. Our being His companions denotes our common interests and goal, just as partners in business. He is making us His companions, constituting us with His interests. How marvelous that we could be His companions in His universal and eternal enterprise!

The Lord is also seeking and making us His friends. He said to His disciples, "No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his lord is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things which I have heard from My Father, I have made known to you." (John 15:15). God is looking for friends. Many times we have sung the hymn, "What a Friend we have in Jesus!" Indeed, He is a wonderful Friend! It is very precious to have Him as our Friend. But now God wants us for His friend. Perhaps He would feel, if not sing, What a friend I have in George! Or, in Mary! He called Abraham "My friend" (Isa. 41:8).

God created man that He might find true friendship in man. He hoped that Adam and Eve would be His friends, but the evil one snatched them away from God. God was greatly disappointed. But later, through His wonderful work, He found friends. A friend is one who knows your heart. A good friend can even tell what you are feeling and thinking. He loves you and knows you.

To be a friend of God means that we know what is in His heart, what His will is, what He wants to do. He doesn't have to tell us. God wants us to know Him like that. He is seeking friends; He wants to have a "race" of friends, full of spiritual intelligence.

But there is something more - He wants us to be His bride. A bride speaks of the fullest intimacy of love. God wants us to be the bride of His Son - not only His brothers, not only His companions, not only His friends, but even His bride, the highest point of our relationship in love. A bride includes all the previous relationships. Think of it! What kind of love we need for that! These are surely days for the Bride to be prepared with her first and best love.

Four Examples of First Love

There are four men in the Old Testament who were great examples of first love. They had a deep love relationship with the Lord and proved it in various ways, showing us four aspects of first love. By looking at them we can see what first love consists of and how it is expressed.

1. Abraham

After the Lord lost man through the Fall, He looked for someone else who would love Him. He found Abraham, one whom He could call His friend (2 Chron. 20:7). J. N.Darby has a footnote which says that "Abraham Thy friend" can also be translated "Abraham who loved Thee."

Undoubtedly, for Abraham to be God's friend means that he loved Him. Abraham especially speaks to us of faith, for he is called the "father of those who believe"(Rom. 4:11). Faith and love always go together; they are two sisters who cannot be separated. Without faith, you cannot have love; and without love, you cannot have faith.

Abraham was a great example of faith and was one who had a profound love relationship with God. Over a period of time he learned to depend on the Lord and trust in Him, until near the end of his life his faith and his love were perfected. This occurred at his offering up of Isaac, when he entered right into the heart of God.

God called Abraham with a tremendous purpose, saying that in him all the nations of the earth would be blessed (Gen. 12:3). He has a very great purpose for you and me also, and according to that purpose He called us. This is what Romans 8:28 tells us, "We know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose." This verse qualifies those for whom all things work together for good - it is for those who love God and who are called according to His purpose.

Now we must ask two questions: What is the "good" that all things are working together for? And, what is the "purpose" to which we are called? The next verse answers both questions: "Because those whom He foreknew, He also predestinated to be conformed to the image of His Son" (Rom. 8:29). To be conformed to Christ is the greatest "good," and that is His wonderful "purpose."

For God to accomplish that purpose He needs to do "all things." He must put us into all sorts of circumstances and environments, surrounding us with certain kinds of persons, giving us a very particular wife or husband, especially suited children, and just the right neighbors. Then He will use all these things to work together for good. The problem for us is that many times these circumstances are very trying, causing us to suffer in many ways. We wonder at times how we can ever manage and survive. Sometimes we suffer from our health, other times from our car, frequently from our spouse or our children. I know some brothers and sisters who have grieved over their children and shed many tears. God arranges all these things, not because He likes to see us suffer - not at all. But so that we will learn to trust and depend only on Him.

God promised to give Abraham a son, and Abraham waited many childless years. No heir was in sight. Then, his wife had a suggestion (Like Eve, Sarah was very good at making suggestions). She submitted that perhaps God wanted them to help a little, and advised that Abraham take the handmaid to conceive. But God wants us to depend on Himself alone and wait. This is faith.

In America we have written on all our coins and bills, "In God We Trust," offending many who have tried in vain to have it effaced. The devil does not want us to trust in God. May God write these words more deeply on our heart, so that no matter what comes we will still trust in Him. Remember Job. He suffered probably more than you or I will ever have to suffer. Yet he said, "Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him" (Job 13:15). Samuel Rutherford, a dear brother who suffered in the 1600's, said, "Though He slay me ten thousand times, yet will I trust Him." This is faith, and this is love. Brother Rutherford loved the Lord so deeply that his faith was greatly expanded.

If we trust in God at all times, it is easy to love Him. If we are short in faith, we are short in love. When we lack faith, we are anxious and are not free to love Him. In faith we are at peace and convert the energy used for worrying into loving. This was Abraham's lesson. He was helped to learn it well. May God help us! Faith is a great companion and servant of first love.

Abraham grew in faith and love until one day God said to him, "Take your son, your only son, Isaac, whom you love, and go to a place that I will show you. Offer him up there as a burnt offering to Me!" Can you think of anything more testing than that? "And Abraham rose up early in the morning." He did not hesitate. With the obedience of faith and the willingness of love, he took his beloved son and went to the place to offer him up. Taking his knife to slay him, God prevented him, saying, "Do not slay him. Now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld ... your only son, from Me" (Gen. 22:1-12).

God proved by this how great was Abraham's faith and love. This was surely what the New Testament calls first love. Abraham entered into the depths of God's heart, the One who in love gave His Beloved Son and did not halt His death. Hebrews 11 tells us Abraham believed that God would raise his son from the dead, foreshadowing what God did to Christ. This is Abraham's example of first love.

Let us follow all the way in our father Abraham's steps. God is wanting to bring us, as He did Abraham, to a place that we have not seen, where spiritually we have never been before. May God bring our faith and love to completion as he did Abraham's.

2. David

Now, we will see David's first love for the Lord. The aspect revealed in him is crucial and indispensable. God said concerning David, "I have found David, a man according to My heart, who will do all My will" (Acts 13:22). David knew God's heart and did His will; David knew God's love. When the love of God fills us, God's will is done. In other words, the love of God flowing out from us is the will of God. David was such a person.

Undoubtedly, David began early as a young man to love the Lord. When he was out with the sheep, he looked up into the heavens and said, "When I see Your heavens...the moon and the stars which You have ordained, what is man that You are mindful of him, and the son of man that you visit him?" I believe that at that time David felt deeply in his heart, "Lord, I love You! With all my heart I love You!"

From the beginning of David's public life, we see how much he loved the Lord. The strength of his faith and love is emphatically manifested in his conflict with Goliath. Such a person as David could bring forth Christ, so that the Lord would call Himself the Son of David.

What is the main feature of first love for which David stands? We saw that Abraham stood for faith bringing forth first love. It is clear, I believe, that David represents first love for God as evidenced in his love for God's house. David longed from early life to provide a dwelling for the Lord. At that time the ark of God, the symbolic embodiment of the Lord Himself, was wandering without a home for years. Saul, the ruling monarch of the people's choice, cared little for it. Passing victoriously through a forced exile among the Philistines, the ark was left to languish in Abinadab's house for twenty years (1 Sam. 7:1-2). David could not forget it.

David knew God's heart so well that immediately upon becoming king, he did three things. The first was with bold determination and faith to capture Jerusalem, where Mount Zion was located. Zion is the symbolic place where God is King and reigns in His kingdom. That was where God's house should be built. This, incidentally, is very meaningful to us; without the kingdom of God in our lives, we cannot have the house of God.

Soon after this, David took a second great step. He went after the ark, found it, and brought it back to Jerusalem, learning precious lessons in the process. No one else had done that or even thought of it. David loved the ark; he desired it to be with him in Zion, and he wanted to build a house for it. That means he wanted a house for the Lord.

Thirdly, David had said, in Psalm 18: 1, "I love You, 0 Lord," and in Psalm 26:8, "O Lord, I have loved the habitation of Your house, the place where Your glory dwells." Again, "One thing have I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after, that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord..." (Psa. 27:4). It seems that the house was not yet built, but in spirit he was already there; his heart was there.

The Bible tells us that David suffered many afflictions for the house of God. He fought many wars to rid the land of God's enemies and secure a peaceful situation for God's house to be built. From his manifold victories in battle, he took the spoil and put it aside for God's house (1 Chron. 22:14). His heart was set on that, and through long years of warfare he made provision for it. He not only suffered affliction for God's house, but was filled with affection for God's house. He said, "I have set my affection on the house of my God" (1 Chron. 29:3).

It must have been a heavy blow to David to be informed that he could not build the house of God, his life-long dream, but that his son Solomon would build it (1 Chron. 28:3,6). A smaller man with lesser love would have bid good-bye to the project and leave the whole thing to others, perhaps with a sneer, "All right, let's see what they can do!" Not David. Perhaps he had to get over a hurdle in secret - we don't know.

What we do know is that David with all his heart prepared abundantly for the building of the temple before his death (1 Chron. 22:5). If he couldn't build it himself, he would make every possible preparation for it. This was his third great act.

He poured out from his treasures unbelievable sums, gathered all the precious materials required for building, appointed all the personnel in detail and wisdom, and even arranged for the service of praise in the temple to be carried on incessantly. Nothing was overlooked, and nothing neglected. David's love for the Lord meant that he loved the house of God with heart, soul, mind, and strength. This was the end and the climax of David's life for the Lord. It was a brilliant display of his best and first love. David did not fade away; he went out in a true blaze of glory (1 Chron. 28 and 29).

A love for the house of God is a most significant aspect of first love. We need a deep appreciation and concern for God's house. We should all be clear that this does not refer to a mere physical building, as in the Old Testament. The house of God is the church of the living God (1 Tim. 3:15). The Bible tells us that we are that house (Heb. 3:6), God's spiritual house (1 Pet. 2:5). David, even in his time, was concerned not just for some external building. He saw beyond that. In his heart he longed for the real and the true. Do we love God's house? How much do we love God's house? The greatest thing that God is doing on the earth today is to build His house.

There are some Christians who say they would never meet with any group of believers. They intend to love the Lord by themselves. Some cannot get along with anybody, so they decide that they will be Christians and go it alone. We can definitely conclude that these will never attain first love. It is impossible. We need one another. We need to be built together into a habitation of God in the Spirit (Eph. 2:22). "The whole Body being joined together...builds itself up in love" (Eph. 4:16). Only in this kind of situation can we have and keep our best love.

David is an excellent example of this. We all need to give ourselves to the building up of God's house where we are. We need to be committed to God's people in a practical way and love Him together. This is first love. Abraham was a friend of God, and David was a partner of God to carry out His will on the earth. God intended that Zion should be taken, that the ark should be brought back, and that His house should be built. David knew God's heart, he had spiritual intelligence regarding God's will, and was in partnership with Him to execute it.

3. Daniel

Daniel is another great example of first love. Three times in the book of Daniel he is a called a "man greatly beloved" (Dan. 9:23; 10:11,19). Some of the angels called him that. Standing with God for His will, the angels beheld and considered Daniel, and they all loved him. They loved him because he loved God so much and was so deeply concerned for God's will and testimony. Daniel was a true companion of the Lord. You remember that Daniel had three companions. They were all companions together of the Lord.

They, with many of God's people, were in Babylon, in exile, under God's judgment. The people were full of idolatry, sunk in their evil and sins. God was forced to judge them so that He might renew His mercies to them. The temple had been destroyed, and all the holy things carried away to Babylon. That was surely a time when God needed companions, and He had them in Daniel and his companions.

The fact that Daniel had companions indicates that this is not a one-man matter. There is room for all of us to be His companions. Today, just as when God's people were in captivity, God has great need of companions. Let not anyone think that doesn't mean you. That means exactly you and me!

What is the feature of first love that Daniel especially represents to us? To answer that question, let me tell you briefly about Daniel's early life. He was born during the reign of the last good king, Josiah, born in a noble family or the royal family (Dan. 1:3-4). At that time, at the command of Josiah, the high priest Hilkiah was going through the temple to clear out all the evil things had been placed there. He was doing a big housecleaning. Do you know what he found in God's house? He found the book of the law, the Bible (2 Chron. 34:14). To those who had been without God's Word for many years, it was an amazing discovery. He sent it to King Josiah, saying, "I have found the book of God!"

They all began to read God's Word and were greatly shocked, realizing that God was going to Judge His people, bringing all the curses of His Word upon them. They were very serious with God; Josiah repented greatly before God and humbled himself.

It was during that time that Daniel was growing up as a boy, possibly a teenager. Since he was of the noble or the royal family, who through Josiah came under the influence of God's Word and had access to it, we believe that he was deeply affected by it and became familiar with it. This explains his consecration before God with his three companions after arriving in Babylon (Dan. 1:8). Later we learn that in captivity, he had his personal copy of God's Word and studied it diligently to learn God's will and purpose for His people (Dan. 9:2).

Many of us are familiar with Psalm 119, and how it speaks in detail of the appreciation of God's Word in its manifold applications to the life of a godly man in evil surroundings. Every verse except two of this longest chapter in the Bible alludes to God's Word in some aspect. It is clear that whoever wrote it was deeply absorbed in God's Word and brought everything in his life under its influence. Its author is not identified, causing many to speculate concerning it. Many have attributed it to David, others to Ezra. It is true, however, that the life of no other Old Testament character so nearly matches its contents as that of Daniel's. I personally believe that it came from him. Read the life of Daniel, and then study Psalm 119 in the light of Daniel's character and experiences. You cannot but be impressed.

I refer to this Psalm in the light of Daniel's life to point out what I believe to be the outstanding feature of Daniel's love for the Lord. It is his love for God's Word and for communications from God concerning His people. This is what filled his mind and heart from beginning to end. Yes, he loved God and His purpose, and he loved God's people profoundly, but he loved them all in the light of God's will and purpose as revealed in His Word. He was in touch with the living God, receiving visions and dreams from God, possessing unexcelled wisdom and understanding in these communications. This was entirely due to his profound respect and submission to God's written and spoken Word. This is an indispensable aspect of first love. First love will cause us to love God's house like David, and to love God's Word like Daniel.

It is due to Daniel's first love as highlighted in his love for God's Word that we have an unveiling of all the kingdoms of the world, of so many prophecies concerning the last days, and of the bringing in the everlasting kingdom of Christ. God needed such a one as Daniel in order to manifest His wisdom in raising up and overruling all earthly powers for the accomplishment of His purpose. This has afforded great inspiration and encouragement to God's suffering people through the ages. Daniel was filled with divine intelligence through his love for God's Word.

One of the great issues of Daniel's absorption in God's Word was his prayer. A love for God Himself in His Word, will always lead to prayer with a spiritual understanding for God's people. See how he prayed in Daniel 9. He prayed consistently, persistently, and unashamedly three times a day with his windows open toward Jerusalem (Dan. 6:10), willing to suffer death rather than terminate his prayers. He was truly a man of prayer.

This is another prominent feature of first love. The Word of God and prayer have sustained God's people and wrought God's will for centuries. This is needed more than ever at the end, not novel methods or "success" programs.

4. Joseph

We turn back now in the Old Testament to pick up Joseph, the great grandson of Abraham. Because of the aspect of first love for which he stands, it seems good that he should come last. Joseph's whole life from beginning to end was bound up with his brothers, and it is clear that his first love for His Lord was highlighted in his wonderful and distinctive love for his brothers. He truly loved them with the love of God.

We see him first at seventeen years of age feeding the flock with his brothers and bringing an evil report concerning them to his father, who loved Joseph more than all his children. His brothers hated Joseph and envied him, and Joseph's dream about his brothers bowing down to him caused them to hate him all the more. As opportunity presented itself, they conspired to kill him and would have done so, had he not been rescued by his brother Reuben. Failing in that, they resolved at Judah's advice to sell him into Egypt. This they did bringing great grief to their father, who believed their wicked report of his death by wild beasts.

The Lord marvelously blessed Joseph in Egypt. He feared God, overcame fierce temptation, lived blamelessly, and conducted himself wisely in every way. Little is said regarding his inner life, but it is clear that his relationship with God was rooted in love and honor. God bestowed upon him great wisdom, as upon Daniel, in the interpretation of dreams. Joseph was near to the heart of God. Even Pharaoh gave testimony concerning him that he was "a man in whom the Spirit of God is" (Gen. 41:38), and made him the top ruler in the land.

In great overruling wisdom and sovereignty God wrought in heaven and earth to bring Joseph's brothers from Canaan to Egypt to bow down before him, fulfilling his dreams. They did not recognize him, but he knew them and inquired wisely of them concerning his father and youngest brother left behind. With equal wisdom he spoke roughly to them, charging them as spies coming to search out the land, and then putting them in custody for three days to think about it. Was that brotherly love? It was a rare but much needed expression of brotherly love, as we shall see.

Their conscience began to work, and upon being released, they spoke in Joseph's presence concerning their guilt in mistreating him some fifteen years previously. They did not know that he understood them, there being an interpreter between them. At this point Joseph did something that revealed his true character - he turned aside and wept. He had a very soft, forgiving heart. He truly loved them, but desired that they would repent before God and be restored inwardly. This is brotherly love. Six times in his dealings with his brothers, we read that he wept. He was full of feeling and compassion for them; yet in holiness and righteousness he loved them in God and for God. Oh, that we might learn of him!

Soon after this, when Joseph had taken further steps with them, the brothers said, "What is this that God has done with us?" They began to think of God and attribute circumstances to him. They had not done this before.

At Joseph's insistence they brought his beloved brother Benjamin down to Egypt with them, and Joseph hastened and entered into his chamber to weep. He would keep Benjamin with him in Egypt and let the others return. Knowing that this would break their father's (Jacob) heart, Judah eventually stood up and said, "God has found out the iniquity of your servants." And then Judah earnestly requested that he be allowed to take Benjamin's place in Egypt to spare his father the suffering that would bring him to the grave. Judah, you remember, was the very one who advised his brothers to sell their brother Joseph into Egypt (Gen. 37:26).

At this point Joseph could not refrain himself and made himself known to his brothers (Gen. 45:1-15). Their full repentance and restoration had been secured, especially on the part of Judah. Their hearts were humbled, full of regret for their sin against Joseph, full of concern for their father, whom they had also sinned against in their lie concerning Joseph.

Joseph was now released to manifest his forgiveness and affection for them, weeping upon them all. He said, "You meant evil against me; but God meant it for good...to save much people alive" (Gen. 50:20-21). He comforted them and spoke kindly to them. And so we have the greatest illustration in the Old Testament of brotherly love, the strongest proof of our first and best love for the Lord (John 13:34-35; 1 John 4:20-21).

May the Lord gain this love, this first love, in our hearts for the preparation of His Bride and His soon return. May our love be full of faith in the midst of all our sufferings, like Abraham; full of affection and pouring out for God's house, like David; full of love for God's written and spoken Word, like Daniel; and full of love for all our brothers in righteousness and holiness, like Joseph. Amen!

And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart" (Jer. 29:13, NASB)