Daily Update #232

HOSEA 14,   PSALM 81: 6-10, 13, 16,   MARK 12:28-34

Many parents will relate to conversations beginning with “if you…
“if you eat too many sweets you will be sick”
“if you persist in riding your bike that way you will fall off and hurt yourself”
“if you drive recklessly you will find yourself in trouble with the police.”
etc. etc.
 A wise and loving parent puts boundaries around a child’s life and warns them what is likely to happen if they transgress.    Correction follows disobedience and progresses to stronger, more painful forms, if ignored.  
As children grow up, hopefully they learn self-discipline and become mature.  
God is a God of relationship who wants the best for His children.   In the days of Moses God gave His people the Ten Commandments (Ex. 20).   It made His people special.   No other nation had this sort of agreement with God – it was their privilege.    It was like a marriage covenant with responsibilities on both sides.     If God’s people obeyed the terms of the Covenant they would receive great blessings.  If not there would be pain.
At the time when Hosea and his contemporaries were speaking to the people – the marriage covenant between God and Israel had sadly gone very wrong.  God remained faithful on His side, but the Israelite nation was behaving, not as a loving wife, but as a prostitute.    Permissiveness, sexual laxity, alcohol consumption etc. had all left their mark.  The people adopted the ways of the surrounding nations and worshipped their gods instead of bowing to God Almighty.         
 A Holy God cannot allow His sinful children to go uncorrected and He allowed them to experience food and water shortages, crops that were diseased, plagues, storms, lightning strikes and earthquake.   Again and again God warned them of the consequences of their behaviour, but they did not listen.

If we entertain ideas that God doesn’t mind what we do, reading this may come as a shock     He is grieved by sin.   God corrects His people in order to set them back on the right path.  He wants a Holy Bride.
Hosea chapter 14 is worth reading through several times very slowly.   God does not want His people to go through pain.   It is His last appeal to them.   He longs for them to return to Him.     It is beautiful in the way God expresses His deep love.    There is still time for them to repent of their waywardness and receive His blessings.

“Return, O Israel, to the Lord your God.
Your sins have been your downfall!
Take words with you and return to the Lord.
Say to Him
“Forgive all our sins and receive us graciously, that we may offer the fruit of our lips.
Assyria cannot save us;
we will not mount war-horses.
We will never again say ‘Our gods’ to what our own hands have made,
for in you the fatherless find compassion.”

I will heal their waywardness and love them freely,
for my anger has turned away from them.
I will be like the dew to Israel;
he will blossom like a lily.
Like a cedar of Lebanon he will send down his roots;
his young shoots will grow.
His splendour will be like an olive tree,
his fragrance like a cedar of Lebanon.
Men will dwell again in his shade.
He will flourish like the corn.
He will blossom like a vine,
and his fame will be like the wine from Lebanon.

O Ephraim, what more have I to do with idols?
I will answer him and care for him.
I am like a green pine tree;
your fruitfulness comes from me.”
Who is wise? He will realise these things.
Who is discerning?  He will understand them.
The ways of the Lord are right;
the righteous walk in them, but the rebellious stumble in them.”

 God always relates to His people in love.  At times His love is tender and at times it has to be tough.    Sadly, the Israelites still did not listen to His warnings and invitation.    They rejected the relationship and failed to repent of their sin.   
Ten years later the Assyrians came and took them into captivity.
Since Adam and Eve sinned at the beginning of time human beings have tried to live independently from God and worship something else instead. The sins of the Israelites have a very modern ring to them.    Many parents grieve over situations their children get themselves into and God grieves over some of the situations we get into. 
Some people think that God is a killjoy, but because He is our Creator His plan is for us to live dependently on Him and in obedience to His Commands.     Any other way leads to death.    Because we have free-will following the ways of the secular world may seem exiting at the time, but there are always consequences to our choices.     
MARK 12:28-34
The legally-minded scribe wanted to know which God’s most important Commands were.     Jesus reduced it to just two ways that we can please God… “To love God with all one’s heart, soul, mind and strength and one’s neighbour as oneself”.     
That is enough challenge to last a lifetime….. a whole of life commitment, with God at the centre and reaching out to other people in love.   Only Jesus ever succeeded fully in this.    Soon after saying this He went to the cross – proving both.  
Relating to God means that we have a very high calling.   Often we fail.     Sometimes we have to learn lessons the hard way.     When we do, God’s grace and forgiveness are sufficient to set us back on the right pathway, as long we walk hand in hand with Him all the way.   

“Dear Lord and Father of mankind,
Forgive our foolish ways:
Reclothe us in our rightful mind;
In purer lives thy service find,
In deeper reverence, praise.”
J.G. Whittier, 1807-92