There was a time in the not-so-distant past that I admitted there were a couple of people I'd like to run over with my car. Not long after that, I read a post by a preacher (I wish I could remember who) that went something like this: Anyone who can say that he does not love even one person on this earth is basically saying that he does not love God enough to obey His commands. I swallowed hard. In fact, I nearly choked on that one! I had to admit to myself that the sentiment I expressed regarding the two individuals I disliked so deeply was equivalent to murder. I believe they call that "vehicular manslaughter". While I cannot say that I'd like to hug either of those individuals today, my attitude has changed drastically. I realized that I cannot claim to love my God and still wish to cause harm to others. Besides, neither of them have a clue that I felt that way, so really who was I hurting with my own black heart?
Tonight I read chapter two of the book of Hosea. It's a favorite of mine and a couple of years ago Hosea 2:7 brought me to a place of realization about my lack of trust in God. While my heart didn't change in that instant, the realization began a journey to the place in which I find myself now: a place of complete surrender. I read the entire chapter it all culminated in the following verse: "Then I will sow her for Myself in the earth, and I will have mercy on her who had not obtained mercy; then I will say to those who were not My people 'You are My people' and they shall say, 'You are my God!' Throughout the second chapter of this book, Israel is the harlot the writer is referring to. Because Israel denied God and had run off with all sorts of idols and reveled in all sorts of shameful living, God declared that He would take back the abundance He had given to Israel. We read in verse seven, "She will chase her lovers, but not overtake them;Yes she will seek them, but not find them. Then she will say, 'I will go and return to my first husband, for then it was better for me than now.'" Israel did not realize where her wealth and abundance had come from. As a result, God took it all back because Israel had forgotten God.
In verse 14, something wonderful happens. God says,"'Therefore, behold, I will allure her, will bring her into the wilderness and speak comfort to her.... and it shall be, in that day', says the Lord, 'That you will call Me, 'My Husband,' and no longer 'My Master'. I'm no expert, but I know I'd much rather be in the care of a husband than a master. It seems like a much more loving position to be in. God promises "I will betroth you to Me forever." This, after Israel played the harlot; the adulteress. She was greedy, self-serving, and filled with lust. She did not know where her subsistence came from. She was unaware of the protection, the abundance, the joy given by her Husband. Instead, she squandered all she had been given, and ran around on the Provider, as if she were the author of her own existence and the provider of all her selfish gain. Despite her insolence, she is forgiven! Betrothed to God! Promised to Him. In righteousness, justice, lovingkindness, and mercy.
Isn't this a picture of us? Don't we forget who provides for us? Don't we run of chasing after greed? Don't our lusts, in whatever form we prefer them, overtake us, leading us down a long, painful, circuitous path? Not everyone plays the harlot in the literal sense... but haven't we all betrayed Him? With every broken commandment, every half-truth... every time we try to justify our sinful behavior by blaming another for his or her actions... every time we do what we want to do instead of what we know we should do?
Praise God for His infinite Mercy! He sees all that we do, hears all that we say, knows all that we think. The deepest innermost secrets of our heart may as well be written on the walls. Nothing slips past the Almighty God. Yet, despite the fact that we are wretched, selfish, pathetic and dishonest, the Savior promises to cover our nakedness, bestow mercy upon us, and most wonderfully of all, claim us as His own.
After reading that passage, it occurred to me that not only have we all done something like this to someone we care for- whether we have told a lie, or hated in our hearts, or stepped on others to further our own prosperity-- but we have all been on the receiving end, as well. We feel hurt, lonely, sad, abandoned, rejected and ashamed. Jesus did, too. Yet in the midst of that hurt, He gave up His life that we might one day understand God's promise to Israel. He forgave and reclaimed Israel as His own, declaring, "I will say to those who were not My people, "You are My people!"
Shouldn't we do the same?