June 30 – July 7
Hope you all had a wonderful holiday celebrating our sacred freedom. As Christians and as Americans, we know that courage and freedom go hand in hand. One does not exist without the other. Freedom is never free. It comes at great cost. So, we take a day every year to remember the soldiers who continue to keep America free. As Christians, we cannot think about our nation’s freedom without also thinking of our greater personal freedom from oppression. We must acknowledge authentic freedom was purchased with the Blood of our Christ Jesus. For if the Son sets you free, you are free indeed. All God asks for this great Gift is for us to acknowledge and remember that He is the Giver of the Gift. Frequently, this week, we saw the admonition to return to the Lord. We saw the foretelling of the Gift and prophesy of His return. We walked through more evil kings’ reigns and finally found an upright king, Hezekiah, who called Judah back into God’s holy presence. Just about the time I was exhausted from all the stories of sinning and returning, and sinning again, I finally got it that that this is how God must feel with us, as we fall, again and again, but never too far out of reach of His sure and catching grasp. And I pause to give thanks.
For the vilest among us, the vilest in us
Isaiah 9:6-7 –”For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this.” On the heels of a despicable reign, the announcement of the Savior was given to King Ahaz—bad old Ahaz. The Christ King was revealed first to a wicked sinner. For the Ahazes in the world He indeed came to save. For the Ahaz in each of us, Christ came. “For to us…,” the Savior comes to make right a fallen world, to make whole a shattered life. May His peace reign in our world and in our hearts.
Be careful, little heart, what you pray
Isaiah 13:6 –”Wail, for the day of the Lord is near; it will come like destruction from the Almighty.” I often say, “Come quickly, Lord Jesus” when things seem so horrible here in this world. I see no other way to set things right and know it will require the Prince of Peace to accomplish this. However, I pray in haste. It is not the Lord’s desire that any should perish, but be brought to repentance. (2 Peter 3:9) It isn’t wrong to desire the new heaven and earth promised to us where justice and peace prevail, but we must not lose sight as to what it will look like on that terrible Day of the Lord, where God will rightly judge sin and death. Maybe a better prayer would be “Lord, in your mercy, bring us back to You, make us turn from our sin and prepare our hearts to be found ready on that Day.”God won’t keep us from eternal death if we so choose, but He is patiently waiting with His heart set against it. What Grace. What Love. And that is why Jesus has not returned yet for the final judgment.
In Good Times and Bad
Hosea 13:6 –”When I fed them, they were satisfied. When they were satisfied, they became proud; then they forgot me.” Unfortunately, this is my two-sentence autobiography. When things are good, I tend to gloss over my time with God, say a few light prayers and call it a day. But in my hours of need, I am face to the floor. A few years ago, I was going through one of the worst struggles I have faced, but I wouldn’t have traded the time for anything for the closeness I felt with God through that season. God knows our weaknesses and He knows how to get our attention. Our goal in this life is not comfort or ease, but to be transformed to be more like Him. Transformation rarely involves comfort. I believe He loves us too much to see us rot in our pride when things go so well that we think we don’t need God. He loves us too much to see us stagnate and become selfish children seeking self gratification. He may let us have a break for a little while, but I don’t think any of us would want to stay there. As someone once told me, “If things are too easy for you, you should seriously assess your relationship with God. You should be asking “Why isn’t He growing you?” Fair enough. May our faith be strengthened in good times and bad.
The Call to Return to the Lord
Hosea 6:1-3 –”Come, let us return to the Lord. He has torn us to pieces but he will heal us; he has injured us, but he will bind up our wounds. After two days he will revive us; on the third day he will restore us that we may live in his presence. Let us acknowledge the Lord; let us press on to acknowledge him. As surely as the sun rises, he will appear; he will come to us like the winter rains, like the spring rains that water the earth.”
Hosea 10:12 –”Sow for yourselves righteousness, reap the fruit of unfailing love, and break up your unplowed ground; for it is time to seek the Lord, until he comes and showers righteousness on you.”
Hosea 6:6 – “For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings.”
Hosea 12:6 –”But you must return to your God; maintain love and justice, and wait for your God always.”
2 Chronicles 30:9 – King Hezekiah calls the people of Judah to return to the Lord: “for the Lord your God is gracious and compassionate. He will not turn his face from you if you return to him.”
There are wonderful promises and practical instruction among these verses on how to return to God. We must break up the unplowed ground of our hearts that have been hardened and dried out from a lack of love. We need the generous showers of God’s unfailing love to pour back into our hearts and soften them to be able to be merciful and maintain love and justice. The Lord tells us He will come as surely as the sun rises. He won’t turn his face away. In Hosea 14, He reminds us it is never too late to return to our First Love. He is waiting. In Eugene Peterson’s The Message, the wording is “You’re down, but you’re not out.” God certainly could have rejected us for the stories of our lives of falling away again and again. He could have said, “That’s it. No more. Get out of my sight.” But He doesn’t. He says, “You’re not so far out of My Will that you can’t return. You’ve fallen, but you are not out!”
Hosea 14:1 (The Message) –”O Israel, come back! Return to your God! You’re down but you’re not out.”
Hosea 11:4 –”I led them with cords of human kindness, with ties of love; I lifted the yoke from their neck and bent down to feed them.” Our Burden Bearer lifts the heavy hand of life off of our necks and binds us in His loving-kindness. Tenderly, He stoops down from His Heaven, and lovingly feeds us like a mama bird feeds her helpless babies. Lord Jesus, tie us to You with love.
May the Lord bless you abundantly. See you next week on our journey from Cover to Cover with Bev and friends reading the Bible chronologically.
The Last Word:
Isaiah 7:9 “If you don’t stand firm in your faith, you will not stand at all.”