Only man and woman were created to give and receive love in a intimate way. None of the other things created were given the ability to have sex face to face. Through the process of procreation, all human beings are blessed with the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual ability to give and receive love.
Man's incredible potential under God's love and grace was proclaimed by David, king of Israel, who was a man after God's own heart.
"O LORD our Lord, how excellent is Your name in all the earth! You have set Your glory above the heavens! . . . When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, 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 care for him? For You have made him a little lower than God and have crowned him with glory and honor. You made him to have dominion over the works of Your hands; You have put all things under his feet: O LORD, our Lord, how excellent is Your name in all the earth!" (Psalm 8:1, 3-6, 9).
Adam and Eve, the progenitors of all mankind, were created in the image and likeness of Almighty God, with the potential to become like Him in every way. This awesome potential is the HIGHEST BLESSING and expression of His LOVE and GRACE that he can bestow upon the work of His hands!
Noah finds favor
In the midst of a sinful society only one man remained faithful to God and found grace in His sight.
"But Noah found grace in the eyes of the LORD. These are the generations of Noah. Noah was a righteous man and perfect in his generations, for Noah walked with God." (Genesis 6:8-9).
By recording that Noah walked with God, the Scriptures make it clear that he was humbly and meekly obeying him. Here is a profound Scriptural truth: grace can never be imputed without obedience and repentance. Noah found grace because he willingly loved God, walked with him, served and obeyed him. Noah also taught others about his way. The New Testament records that Noah was a "preacher of righteousness" (2Peter 2:5). He extended His favor to Noah because Noah loved righteousness and willingly obeyed his commandments.
Abraham finds favor
Abraham, called by God as an act of grace, was commanded to obey him.
"And the LORD said to Abram, 'Get out of your country, and from your kindred, and from your father’s house into a land that I will show you.. And I will make of you a great nation. And I will bless you and make your name great. And you shall be a blessing. And I will bless those that bless you and curse the one who curses you. And in you shall all families of the earth be blessed.'" (Genesis 12:1-3).
Again, God was graciously reaching down to give a blessing to a human being who was willing to love and obey Him. Because he loved him and walked with him, Abraham was called God's friend.
"And the scripture was fulfilled which says, 'Now Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him for righteousness'; and he was called a friend of God." (James 2:23).
The apostle Paul makes it clear that Abraham received God's grace through his faith (Romans 4:3-5). Paul describes Abraham's justification by grace as "the righteousness of faith" (verses 5-8, 13, 16). Did the state of grace under which Abraham lived mean that he was not required to keep the commandments? Of course not! Grace never gives anyone license or permission to ignore or reject the commandments and to commit sin -- which is the transgression of the law (1John 3:4). Both the Old Testament and the New Testament teach us that we cannot live under the grace of God if we continue to live in sin! It was as true for Abraham as it is for us! In the book of Genesis, God said of Abraham,
"For I know him, that he will command his children and his house after him, and they shall keep the way of the LORD, to do justice and judgment, that the LORD may bring upon Abraham that which He has spoken of him.'" (Genesis 18:19).
Because of this intimate relationship he had confidence in Abraham. He knew him. That is what grace is all about! God's favor toward the "father of the faithful" is a model for Christians today.
"And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise." (Galatians 3:29).
God's favor toward Israel
For many, many years ministers and teachers have led the Christian-professing world to believe that a stern, implacable God gave Israel harsh, restrictive laws that were a burden and a curse. Your Bible reveals the opposite! Moses told the children of Israel something special about our Father's laws.
"And the LORD commanded us to do all these statutes - to fear the LORD our God for our good always so that He might preserve us alive, as it is today. And it shall be righteousness for us if we observe to do all these commandments before the LORD our God as He has commanded us.'" (Deuteronomy 6:24-25).
God revealed Himself as a God of love and mercy in the covenant that He established with Israel.
"The LORD did not set His love upon you nor choose you because you were more in number than any people, for you were the fewest of all people. But because the LORD loved you and because He would keep the oath which He had sworn to your fathers, the LORD has brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you out of the house of bondage from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt. Therefore, know that the LORD your God, He is God, the faithful God Who keeps covenant and mercy with them that love Him and keep His commandments, to a thousand generations." (Deuteronomy 7:7-9).
These are indeed wonderful promises of his blessings! If Israel had kept God's covenant and obeyed Him, he would have blessed them above all nations. Throughout the Old Testament God manifested His favor and mercy toward the children of Israel. They were in turn to love Him, to keep His commandments and to walk in His ways.
Can the WORST sinner repent?
The most notorious of the kings of either the Northern kingdom of Israel or Judah was Ahab. He ruled the Northern kingdom from 874 to 853 B.C. when Elijah walked the earth. One day the prophet Elijah was sent on a special mission to pronounce God's judgment of imminent death against King Ahab and his wicked wife Jezebel for their grievous sins.
"And you shall speak to him, saying, ‘Thus says the LORD, Have you killed and also taken possession?' And you shall speak to him saying, ‘Thus says the LORD, In the place where the dogs licked the blood of Naboth, dogs shall lick your blood, even yours.' " (1Kings 21:19).
When Elijah went to Ahab and pronounced his judgment, Ahab said,
"And Ahab said to Elijah, 'Have you found me, O my enemy?' And he answered, 'I have found you because you have sold yourself to work evil in the sight of the LORD. 'Behold, I will bring evil upon you and will utterly sweep you away, and will cut off from Ahab him who pisses against the wall, both bond and free in Israel. And I will make your house like the house of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, and like the house of Baasha the son of Ahijah, for the provocation with which you have provoked Me to anger, and made Israel to sin.’
"And the LORD also spoke of Jezebel saying, 'The dogs shall eat Jezebel by the wall of Jezreel.' He who dies of Ahab in the city, the dogs shall eat. And he who dies in the field, the birds of the air shall eat.'
"But there was none like Ahab, who sold himself to work wickedness in the sight of the LORD, whom Jezebel his wife stirred up. And he did very abominably in following idols, according to all that the Amorites did, whom the LORD cast out before the children of Israel." (verses 20-26).
While it is true that God's judgment is always sure and never fails, it is also true that he desires and watches for repentance. Although Ahab was one of the most vile, wicked sinners in all the history of the kings of Israel, he did not take the warning to him lightly.
"Then it came to pass when Ahab heard these words, he tore his clothes and put sackcloth upon his flesh, and fasted, and lay in sackcloth and walked softly." (verse 27).
What a repentance! Because Ahab humbled himself God delayed the execution of His judgment.
"And the word of the LORD came to Elijah the Tishbite, saying, 'Do you see how Ahab humbles himself before Me? Because he humbles himself before Me, I will not bring the evil in his days. But in his son's days I will bring the evil upon his house.'" (verses 28-29).
Mercy for Nineveh
While God dealt particularly with Israel and Judah as His chosen people, the Old Testament shows that he also honored the repentance of Gentiles who humbled themselves before Him. The book of Jonah gives an account of his judgment against the Assyrians and of their repentance upon hearing his warning through Jonah. Seeing their repentance, he deferred the execution of His judgment.
"And the people of Nineveh believed God. And they proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them even to the least of them, For word came to the king of Nineveh, and he arose from his throne. And he laid aside his robe from him, and covered himself with sackcloth, and sat in ashes. And he caused it to be proclaimed and published through Nineveh by the decree of the king and his great ones, saying, 'Do not let man or beast, herd or flock taste anything; do not let them feed, nor drink water. But let man and animal be covered with sackcloth, and cry mightily to God. And let them each one turn from his evil way, and from the violence that is in their hands. Who knows? God may repent, and He may have pity and turn away from His fierce anger, so that we do not perish.'"
"And God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way. And God repented of the evil that He had said He would do to them, and He did not do it." (Jonah 3:5-10).
Yes, the Lord of the Old Testament, Who later became Jesus Christ of the New Testament, was a God of mercy and loving kindness. He extended grace and forgiveness to all those who repented, whether Israelite, Jew or Gentile. This account in the book of Jonah is most significant because it shows that he has always required all nations - not only Israel and Judah - to keep His commandments. His character NEVER changes!
Wisdom and Favor
What does the book of Proverbs reveal about the grace of God? The book of Proverbs is designed to show us how to receive his blessings and grace in our daily lives. When we learn to live his way, we receive His grace and favor in all that we set our hands to do.
The book of Proverbs gives us understanding of his grace under the Old Covenant as well as insight into the grace that He offers under the New Covenant. Contrary to the teaching of pseudo-Christian theologians, the laws and commandments of God are not contrary to grace! Rather, they are essential to receiving his grace and favor, just as the book of Proverbs reveals. The book of Proverbs make it clear that he extends His grace to those who demonstrate their faith and love toward Him by wholeheartedly keeping His commandments.
"My son, do not forget my law, but let your heart keep my commandments; For they shall add length of days, and long life, and peace, to you. Do not let mercy and truth forsake you; bind them around your neck; write them upon the tablet of your heart; And so you shall find favor and good understanding in the sight of God and man. Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and lean not to your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths." (Proverbs 3:1-6).
These verses in the book of Proverbs show that God wants us to respond to Him with loving obedience that is based on faith and complete trust in His grace. Here in the Old Testament is a foreshadow of the New Testament teachings of his grace unto eternal salvation through faith in Jesus Christ.
Love of sinners
Although only a few were called to receive eternal salvation in Old Testament times, the truth of Scripture is that God did deal graciously with all those who sought Him with their whole hearts and beings! As for those who rejected Him and refused to keep His commandments, upon them came his wrath and just judgment! But even then, his hand was always held out in mercy, whenever sinners would repent and turn to Him.
The prophet Ezekiel recorded God's plea to Israel:
"Cast away from you all your transgressions by which you have transgressed; and make you a new heart and a new spirit; for why will you die, O house of Israel? For I have no delight in the death of him who dies,' says the Lord GOD. 'Therefore turn yourselves and live.'" (Ezekiel 18:31-32).
Throughout the Old Testament, as well as the New Testament, God reveals that what He really desires from mankind is repentance and loving obedience!
"Seek the LORD while He may be found; call upon Him while He is near. Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; and let him return to the LORD, and He will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon." (Isaiah 55:6-7).
This prophecy in the book of Isaiah was undoubtedly used in New Testament times when the apostles preached repentance, grace and eternal salvation.
From Genesis to the book of Revelation, the message of Scripture to sinners is to SEEK GOD and to REPENT OF SIN, and his gracious mercy will be poured out upon each one! He will reach out with His goodness, blessing, mercy and favor to each repentant man and woman.