Friday, June 30, 2006
I'm reading Hosea, the story/illustration from thousands of years ago that reveals Your heart, my God.
"When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son..."
I can see you, God, smiling down on a son, feeling love well up in Your heart at this life that has come from yourself, watching it even in its feebleness with joy because of what it is, it's your son, Your own son! -You called his son out of Egypt, rescuing him from suffering, like a father calling his lost son out of a busy crowd.
Then, something happened:
"The more they were called, the more they went away; they kept sacrificing to the Baals and burning offerings to idols..."
What was the matter? Didn't Israel recognize his father? if he did, then why didn't he love You and run to Your side when You called? God is calling: "Israel! come here! -Israel ignores and begins strolling away- "Come here to me! Please come! why won't you come...?" and Israel drifts, father and farther with each call into the crowd and away from his Father, doesn't he hear? Or doesn't he care? With every sacrifice, every animal burned in honor of the non-gods they took one more step away from their real father, and again, and again, and again...
And You remember how things used to be-
"Yet it was I that taught Ephraim how to walk; I took them up by their arms-"
He thinks of the beginnings, when his son was tiny, not even able to walk, how He took those little hands in his and lifted his son to his feet, waiting for his legs to find ground and strengthen, supporting him with every step, hours and hours of time go by, and God is engrossed in every moment, exulting in every new step and holding the arms of his son to keep him from crumpling to the ground, encouraging and slowly pushing him to step out more and more...
"But they did not know that I healed them."
Oh, God, your son didn't realise, they were sick, about to die, they were infirm, unable, crippled, sore. You were the one who picked him up and held him, you were the one who drove out the sickness, who strengthened them and nursed them to health. Why? Couldn't they remember?
"I led them with cords of humane kindness, with the bands of love, and I became to them as one who eases the yoke on their jaws"
You led them out of their sickness, your kindness and love for them wrapped them to you, would not allow you to leave their side and kept them with you, with them you walked, leading them from their slavery and oppression. You gave them relief, the kind of relief an animal would get when for the first time in its life, the heavy harness and yoke were taken off, the muzzle taken off of its mouth, and someone so much greater and bigger and more beautiful with sparkling compassionate eyes stoops down to one knee and with a smile, holds out two cupped hands full of good food, the kind they'd never had before, the kind of food that makes you strong and full and satisfied - it tastes good too! That kind of thing you don't forget. You can't forget someone who loved you that much...can you?
"They shall not return to Egypt, but Assyria shall be their king, because they have refused to return to me."
No, you would never send them back to the horror you saved them from, that would be too cruel. You instead allow them to be taken by what they are already so taken with, Assyria, the chic, foreign ways. They would not come back, so they must go somewhere. You are kind, you wouldn't see them go back, you provided something just as painful, but less horrifying.
"The sword shall rage against their cities, consume the bars of their gates, and devour them because of their own counsels."
Because of their own counsels, not because of your desire. You were simply letting happen to them what would naturally follow from their own choices. You let them face without protection their own consequences. And it would be dreadful.
"How can I give you up...? How can I hand you over...? My heart recoils inside me, my compassion grows warm and tender."
That's the kind of God you are. Your heart can't bear to turn away your own, even when it's necessary you flinch and turn back in horror at the thought. You can punish, but you won't desert those you've chosen! "when we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot disown Himself." That's who You are, and I love You for it!
"I will not execute my burning anger...for I am God, and not a man, the Holy one in your midst-and I will not come in wrath"
Why do we always complain about your alleged cruelty, God? Why do men ask those questions? You see that we are the cruel ones, given to wrath and destruction, taking out our tempers on those we say we love. You're not like that, you're different. You're compassionate.
"They shall go after YHWH, he will roar like a lion; when He roars, his children shall come trembling from the west; like birds from egypt, like doves from assyria, and I will return them to their homes, declares YHWH."
You'll show us enough of your power and potential to punish that we'll come back to you. Come out of the places that we fell back into slavery in, our Egypts, our Assyrias, all the things that have taken us willingly captive - you shock us with your power enough to wake us up, like the prodigal son coming to his senses, and going back to his Father, and without any further punishment, you return them to the places you've made for them.
You are merciful, God, and loving towards all you've made. I trust that your heart is no different towards individuals a it is towards nations. Thank you for your love and dedication to us!