The western mind has been shaped by the idea that “God is love.” Ask believers and non-believers alike, and they will use this generic term to describe a specific truth that the apostle John shared in 1 John 4.
But as we read much of the Bible, we run smack dab into the question, “Is God really loving?”
The Exodus story is one that is really difficult to read with a vivid imagination without this question coming up at least a time or two. It’s full of difficulty, plagues, death, and despair all seemingly organized and inspired by God.
It’s God who initiates the plagues. It’s God who hardens Pharaoh’s heart (Exodus 10:27). It’s God who goes throughout Egypt at midnight when the firstborn sons of Pharoah, the people, the slaves, and even the firstborn livestock die (Exodus 11:5).
Where do you and I find love in this?
If we aren’t careful, it’s easy to look at this story and see God through the lens of anger and retribution. But there is a key verse in our reading that sheds light on where God’s love can be found.
But against all the Israelites, whether people or animals, not even a dog will snarl, so that you may know that the Lord makes a distinction between Egypt and Israel. —Exodus 11:7
You see, God swore by oath to protect, love, and forgive the Israelites. His love was being worked out actively as He used extreme measures to remove His covenant people from captivity and harm.
On the other hand, Pharaoh and the people of Egypt served false gods and held God’s covenant people in captivity. In His love, God was enacting perfect judgment.
In the difficulty of these passages, we see God’s perfect love being displayed. His perfect protection for those in relationship with Him and His perfect judgment, showing those in opposition to Him that a life of disobedience and dishonor to Him is futile.
And the same holds true today. That’s why David calls on the mercy of God, “Purify me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow” (Psalm 51:7).
The same mercy that God showed the Israelites as they marked their doorposts with hyssop and the blood of the lamb was the same mercy that David was calling out for in his sin.
And it’s the same mercy we receive when we call on the blood of the Lamb; the perfect Lamb of God, “who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29).
God’s love is shown in His covering and protection for those willing to be marked and covered by the blood. And His perfect judgment for those walking in disobedience and dishonor.
May we be those calling on and daily living under the blood of Jesus Christ.