Come, let us return to the Lord

IMG_2191?ver2God pictures His relationship to His wayward people in the prophet Hosea’s relationship to his adulterous wife, Gomer. Gomer didn’t just drift away, nor was she seduced unaware. Chapter 2:5-7 says she pursued other lovers. She had children by men other than her husband. She thought they would give her “my bread and my water, my wool and my flax, my oil and my drink” (2:5).

However, God declared, “she did not know that it was I who gave her the grain, the wine, and the oil, and who lavished on her silver and gold, which they used for Baal” (2:8). She not only didn’t acknowledge God, didn’t even thank Him for His gifts, but she used His gifts to worship a false god.

Later God likened Israel as a child whom He loved and taught to walk, yet “they did not know that I healed them” (11:3).

The Bible says God “richly provides us with everything to enjoy.” (1 Timothy 6:17). “He makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust” (Matthew 5:45). “The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything…In him we live and move and have our being” Acts 17:24-28).

God gives us everything we have, even our very breath. Do we acknowledge Him? Thank Him? Or use His gifts in wrong pursuits?

Warren Wiersbe says, “The essence of idolatry is enjoying the gifts but not honoring the Giver” (Be Amazed (Minor Prophets): Restoring an Attitude of Wonder and Worship).

Romans tells us:

For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened (Romans 1:20-21).

The chapter goes on to say that since people persisted in living without acknowledging God,

  • “Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity” (1:24).
  • “For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions” (1:26).
  • “Since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done” (1:28).

Wiersbe says, “One of the greatest judgments God can inflict on any people is to let them have their own way.”

Fortunately, God doesn’t give people up easily. Further in the Acts passage that we looked at earlier, Paul says God  “made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us” (Acts 17:26-27).

Back in Hosea, God disciplines His people and then shares these “I will” promises:

  • I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak tenderly to her” (2:14).
  • I will give her her vineyards and make the Valley of Achor a door of hope” (2:15).
  • For I will remove the names of the Baals from her mouth, and they shall be remembered by name no more” (2:17).
  • I will make for them a covenant on that day” (2:18a)
  • I will abolish the bow, the sword, and war from the land, and I will make you lie down in safety” (2:18b).
  • I will betroth you to me forever. I will betroth you to me in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love and in mercy. I will betroth you to me in faithfulness. And you shall know the Lord” (2:19-20).
  • I will answer” (2:21).
  • I will sow her for myself in the land” (2:22).
  • I will have mercy” (2:23).

God draws us with “cords of kindness, with the bands of love” (Hosea 11:4). He seeks out the lost sheep.

From Wiersbe’s book one more time:

The key word is return (Hos. 3: 5), a word that’s used twenty-two times in Hosea’s prophecy. When Israel repents and returns to the Lord, then the Lord will return to bless Israel (2:7–8). God has returned to His place and left Israel to herself (5:15) until she seeks Him and says, “Come, and let us return to the Lord” (6:1 NKJV).

Sometimes the return we need to make is a simple confession of loss of focus, lack of acknowledgement, thankfulness, or love. Sometimes it’s a full-blown 180-degree change of direction.

That’s the essence of repentance: turning from our way to God’s way (for more on repentance, see here). That happens at salvation, but it also needs to happen throughout our Christian walk. As we learn more of His will and Word, we continually adjust ourselves to them as we walk with Him.

May we return to His gracious love quickly and wholeheartedly.

(Sharing with Inspire Me Monday, Global Blogging, Senior Salon, Hearth and Soul,
Purposeful Faith, Tell His Story, InstaEncouragement, Anchored Abode,
Recharge Wednesday, Worth Beyond Rubies, Share a Link Wednesday,
Let’s Have Coffee, Instant Encouragement, Grace and Truth,
Faith on Fire, Blogger Voices Network)

Thoughts about God’s wrath

I’ve come across various reactions to God’s wrath in the Bible from various quarters and wanted to set down some of my own thoughts about it.

Sometimes people seem to see a dichotomy in the Bible between a seemingly angry God in the Old Testament and the loving, patient, and merciful Jesus of the New. But they are not two different Gods: they are part of the same Trinity. The Bible has much to say about God’s longsuffering, mercy, and lovingkindness even in the Old Testament, and Jesus rebuked the disciples for unbelief, had some pretty harsh words for the Pharisees, overthrew moneychangers in the temple, and Revelation says in the future judgement people will cry out for rocks to fall on them to try to protect themselves from the wrath of the Lamb of God.

God’s wrath shows first of all His justice. Just looking at a few verses about God’s wrath shows that He unleashes it against those who knowingly commit sin or worship false gods. People seem to see only His wrath when He punished the Israelites in the wilderness but forget the longsuffering He showed: He miraculously delivered them out of Egypt in a way only He could have that showed Israelites and Egyptians alike that that He was the one true God and all of their gods were false and helpless (many of the ten plagues had to do with a specific god Egypt worshiped), He miraculously delivered them again when they were caught between the Egyptians and the Red Sea, He miraculously provided food and water for them. They complained at the outset and He did not do anything but deliver them and provide for them. But instead of getting to know Him, to trust that He cared for them and would provide for them, they continued to complain and even wanted to go back to what He had delivered them from. He was patient with their complaining until they got to a place they should have known better.

His wrath also shows His righteousness, holiness, and love. God’s jealousy against false gods is not the same as that of an insecure boyfriend: other gods will lead people to hell. Sin will cause great harm to those who indulge in it and those whom they influence.

His wrath shows the magnitude of sin. The fact that we don’t see people being demonstrably punished in the same way these days does not mean God feels any differently about sin.

But the good news is that though “the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness,” (Romans 1:18), “But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him.” (Romans 5:8-9).

In a chapter of Jesus, Keep Me Near the Cross: Experiencing the Passion and Power of Easter titled “The Most Important Word in the Universe,” Raymond C. Ortlund, Jr., says:

The first thing to say is that the wrath of God is a part of the gospel. It’s the part we tend to ignore. Yet we don’t mind our own anger. There is a lot of anger in us, a lot of righteous indignation. Listen to talk radio. In our culture it’s acceptable to vent our moral fervor at one another…. But the thought of God being angry-well, who does he think he is?

Great question. Who is God? He’s the most balanced personality imaginable. He is normal. His wrath is not an irrational outburst. God’s wrath is worthy of God. It is his morally appropriate, carefully considered, justly intense reaction to our evil demeaning his worth and destroying our own capacity to enjoy him. God cares about that. He is not a passive observer. He’s involved emotionally.

The Bible says, “God is love” (1 John 4:8, 16). It never says, “God is anger.” But it couldn’t say that God is love without his anger, because God’s anger shows how serious his love is.

His wrath is the solemn determination of a doctor cutting away the cancer that’s killing his patient.

In human religions, it’s the worshipper who placates the offended deity with rituals and sacrifices and bribes. But in the gospel, it is God Himself who provides the offering.

He detests our evil with all the intensity of the divine  personality. If you want to know what your sin deserves from God, …Look at the man on the cross — tormented, gasping, bleeding. Take a long, thoughtful look…God was saying something about his perfect emotions toward your sin. He was displaying his wrath.

The God you have offended doesn’t demand your blood; he gives his own in Jesus Christ.

 A longer excerpt, though unfortunately not the whole chapter is here.

There is much more that could be said about this subject, and I’m debating with myself  about whether I should go ahead and post this or wait for more reading and study. But I think I’ll go ahead.

(See also How Tim Keller Made Peace With the Wrath of God).