Thursday, March 03, 2016

Return to the Lord

By Colleen O’Sullivan

Thus says the Lord: Return, O Israel, to the Lord, your God; you have collapsed through your guilt…I will heal their defection, says the Lord, I will love them freely; for my wrath is turned away from them. Take with you words, and return to the Lord; Say to him, “Forgive all iniquity, and receive what is good, that we may render as offerings the bullocks from our stalls. Assyria will not save us, nor shall we have horses to mount; We shall say no more, “Our god,” to the work of our hands; for in you the orphan finds compassion.” I will heal their defection, says the Lord, I will love them freely; for my wrath is turned away from them. (Hosea 14:2-5)

One of the scribes came to Jesus and asked him, “Which is the first of all the commandments?” Jesus replied, “The first is this: Hear, O Israel! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.” (Mark 12:28-30)

If only my people would hear me, and Israel walk in my ways, I would feed them with the best of wheat, and with honey from the rock I would fill them. (Psalm 81:14, 17)

Musings of a fellow citizen of the Northern Kingdom in Hosea’s day:
I wonder what other people think about this guy Hosea. I’ve heard him speak, but I don’t know about him. He calls himself a prophet of the Lord, but what kind of man of God marries a woman who betrays his trust again and again? Maybe he just didn’t know her character before he consented to be betrothed. Living with someone like that must have affected him deeply, because he sure spends a great deal of time talking about our unfaithfulness. It scares me when he starts talking about how angry our God is.

On the other hand, my brother says we ought to listen to him. He thinks this prophet is only telling it like it is. He tells me to remember the stories our parents and grandparents told us, the stories passed down through the generations. Our God freed us when we were nobodies, slaves in Egypt. God led our ancestors through the desert, guiding them with a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. God made sure no one starved, scattering manna upon the earth when there was little else to eat. God gave Moses a set of commandments for his people to follow. God was leading the people to a wonderful land that the Lord promised would be ours. Then the stories turn darker, because instead of being grateful, our ancestors complained bitterly about all kinds of things. They even built a golden calf and bowed down before it! From the beginning, God has called us sons and daughters and loved us, but I guess we haven’t showed much love in return.

Even when I look around today, there are people worshiping all manner of foreign gods that have nothing to do with our God. Instead of relying on God to be our strength, some people even whisper that we ought to throw in our lot with the Assyrians. They’ll keep us prosperous and strong. I guess if I were the God of Israel, I’d be angry and discouraged, too. How can we ever turn things around? I wonder about that every day.

Then the other day Hosea came back through our town. I don’t know what had happened to change him, but his message was completely different! He spoke of mercy. He said that if we will only come to God with a contrite spirit, asking for forgiveness, God will heal us and shower his love upon us. The prophet sounded more like a poet, saying our God will then be like dew for Israel, will bloom like the lily, and will put down roots like a Lebanon cedar. We will live and prosper in the shade provided by God. I felt hope filling my heart. I can only pray that others will be willing to repent and to ask God to forgive our sins.

The more things change, the more they stay the same. Ingratitude towards God still abounds. Once we’ve forgotten that all good gifts, everything we have, even our very existence, come from God, it’s all too easy to begin to look to other gods with longing. Lent is a time to come to the Lord in prayer, asking for forgiveness for our straying and seeking help in giving up the false gods that have taken root in our hearts.

Many chapters in the book of the prophet Hosea detail God’s anger, but the predominant message is that God loves us and is merciful and forgiving when we are filled with sorrow for our sins. God always desires our return.

No comments: