Sometimes God gently whispers. Sometimes God boldly shouts.
As I’ve talked about before, we have a couple of semi-feral cats. They are indoor/outdoor creatures that can often be found either curled up on the couch or roaming the neighborhood looking for trouble. When evening comes and I suspect the latter, I go out in my front yard, whistle and shake their food bowl, calling them home. More often than not they come running home looking to fill their bellies.
In your experience, what’s the most effective way to get somebody’s (or something’s) attention? What’s the most effective way for somebody to get YOUR attention. Is it the carrot or the stick? In reality, it depends. It depends on the situation, on our ears and attention, on how dire the circumstances and how stubborn our hearts. When one of my cats puts her nose near my food, I don’t use a gentle whisper but a sharp vocal pop. When our daughter Emily was walking too close to the edge of Triple Falls, it was a loud and seemingly harsh correction. When I was in college and trying to “win the heart” of Amy I brought her flowers and wrote her love letters. I didn’t sent Emily flowers to get her to away from the edge of a waterfall and I didn’t loudly instruct Amy to love me (I’m thinking that wouldn’t work very well).
Over endless generations the Lord has done the same. The book of Hosea gives us great insight into this, using both parent/child and husband/wife relationships, more specifically talking about loving a wayward, abused and heart-hurting woman.
Look at these two ways the Lord calls us, The Wild:
Hosea 11:10 They shall go after the LORD; he will roar like a lion; when he roars, his children shall come trembling from the west
Hosea 2:14 Therefore, behold, I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak tenderly to her.
Sometimes Jesus turned tables, sometimes he held children.
How do these sync with you? How has God beckoned you to his side, into intimacy?
What I think God really wants us to understand is not to confuse the mode with the message. His message has always been and will always be a proposal and call to deep relationship. His message will always be a calling for our good and His glory; a calling to life and love. This is the coupled message of the cross. The cross is a violent shout against sin, fear and death; and a gentle, soft and alluring whisper of the extent of His love for us and how much he was willing to sacrifice to bring us home.
Psalm 119 is one of those tough ones that has caused me angst. It’s the longest chapter in the Bible (176 verses) and, in almost every verse, talks about the greatness and God’s Rules (laws, precepts, ways etc)…AND how much the Psalmist loves and delights in them.
I gotta admit, that’s usually not me. But then I realized and remembered something about God’s Law. The point of the Gospel isn’t about my behaving properly (though that is an outcome) but that goodness, the Law itself, has been fulfilled already in ther person of Jesus. He not only kept them all on our behalf but the beauty of the Law (love, fidelity, honesty etc) describes and defines Him. And this utterly changes the way I read Psalm 119. So when we hear about the Psalmist’s love of God’s rules, we can read that as as love for Jesus, which makes us appreciate the kind and protective measures of his rules; not a means to confine us as much as point us to Jesus.
Here’s some examples:
Psalm 119:31 I cling to your testimonies (“to Jesus”), O LORD; let me not be put to shame!
Psalm 119:36 Incline my heart to your testimonies (“to Jesus”), and not to selfish gain.
Psalm 119:37 Turn my eyes from looking at worthless things; and give me life in your ways (“Jesus”).
Psalm 119:41 Let your steadfast love come to me, O LORD, your salvation according to your promise (“Jesus”).
Psalm 119:46 I will also speak of your testimonies (“Jesus”) before kings and shall not be put to shame,
Psalm 119:47 for I find my delight in your commandments (“Jesus”), which I love.
Psalm 119:50 This is my comfort in my affliction, that your promise (“Jesus”) gives me life.
Just to be clear, this certainly doesn’t mean that God’s moral code and guidelines are null and void. Quite the opposite. As Paul talks about in Romans, the Law reveals our inability to be pure and our need for Jesus, driving us to humble repentance and reliance upon him. And once in him, the law reveals what it looks like to live as children of a Good Father rather than little feral orphans that live only for themselves.
To differing degrees we have all struggled with the fear of “What if this never gets better?”
A Persistent sin
A Persistent pain
This is the human condition, our own personal muddy rivers that pour out from the spiritual Dead Sea. Creation, including each of us personally, are broken, leaving us hungry for and dependent on a cure, wondering if there really is one.
This is the house in which the whole book of Jeremiah resides. Jeremiah is the longest book in the Bible and covers the exile of God’s people to Babylon, with the promise of eventual restoration. A brief outline of Jeremiah is also a brief outline of The Gospel itself. This post will be a bit longer than normal, but it will be dense with Gospel-Truth and hope. The outline is this:
Our First Marriage
Forsaken & Divorced
Curing the Incurable
Our First Marriage
Jeremiah 2:2a “Go and proclaim in the hearing of Jerusalem, Thus says the LORD, “I remember the devotion of your youth, your love as a bride…
From creation God has designed us to be His; to be loved, cared for, satisfied, with him and one another. He has made us His Bride and brought us to himself.
However….we wanted “more”
Forsaken & Divorced
Jeremiah 3:8 She saw that for all the adulteries of that faithless one, Israel, I had sent her away with a decree of divorce.
This conviction is shockingly humiliating. We the Bride of Christ have run off with other lovers and have become incurably diseased (forgive the mixed metaphors). We have “forsaken” the very One that has given us our very being and he has justly sent us off with a certificate of divorce, leaving us alone, broke, loveless and hopeless.
Jeremiah 2:13 …for my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water.
Also seen in Jeremiah 16:11, we are all culpable in looking for our love, our hope, our life, our joy, our being, our identity in other things, even good things. We all perpetually look to things in this world, the opinion of others, success and accolades, financial security, fleshly pleasures, personal victory, arrogant righteousness….
To put it much more bluntly and accurately, Jeremiah spells it out in gruesome detail:
Jeremiah 3:1b You have played the whore with many lovers…
And in light of this treachery, Jeremiah 30 paints a terrible and hopeless diagnosis and prognosis:
Jeremiah 30:12-14 “For thus says the LORD: Your hurt is incurable, and your wound is grievous. 13 There is none to uphold your cause, no medicine for your wound, no healing for you. 14 All your lovers have forgotten you; they care nothing for you;
What horrifying news to hear: “we are incurable.” And we have nobody to blame but ourselves.
And then the doctor comes back into the tear-filled room.
“Actually, though you are incurable, let me tell you about an ‘alternative medicine.'”
Jeremiah 30:17 For I will restore health to you, and your wounds I will heal, declares the LORD,
Sit in this miracle for a moment. As we own the incurable state of our whole hearts, the truth and offer of a cure is outrageous, even unbelievable. The truth that we’ve gone so far and have been struck with such a fatal virus, to then be pursued and given a miracle cure. And it comes in a shocking form: the Son of God Himself.
Jeremiah perpetually points to a new covenant, a new promise, a new hope…a “Righteous Branch” that will come out of the dead stump of humanity:
Jeremiah 33:15 In those days and at that time I will cause a Righteous Branch to spring up for David, and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land.
The Father himself has brought forth life in and through his Son Jesus, bringing us hope and life, healing our unhealable disease. But the only way to accomplish this was the put our disease onto and into the Son. He had to be the “death eater” into whom our virus would be transferred. This is why on the cross Jesus proclaimed a terrible truth…that the Father, because he is perfectly just, had to replay his Son what we have paid unto him: forsaking…
Matthew 27:46b “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
And in so doing, our sin of forsaking has been owned and paid. The fatal virus of sin, fear and death has been transferred over to Jesus, which makes us well.
But it’s even better than that
Jeremiah 30:18 “Thus says the LORD: Behold, I will restore the fortunes of the tents of Jacob
It’s not “enough” to simply be healthy because all of our resources have been lost. We would still be destitute. Healthy, but destitute.
And so God restores our strength, our gifts, our hope, our security. He makes us healthy, then he makes us instrumental in his hands. We are now priests of the Living God, living stones, empowered by the Spirit Himself.
But it’s even better than that!
Jeremiah 30:22 And you shall be my people, and I will be your God.”
It’s great, but not enough, to be made well.
It’s great, but not enough, to be powerful and instrumental in the Father’s hands.
We are actually RE-MARRIED. He doesn’t just bring us back as healthy servants. He brings us back as His Bride. He re-commits to us with a perfect, eternal, unending, steadfast and faithful love. He has run after us in the wilderness, picked us up and brought us back home to together be with him forever. He is our Great Groom and we are His Bride.
Yes, in this life we give into the lure of other “lovers.” And we keep coming back to our wedding vows because our marriage is made secure by HIS vows over us, that He will never leave nor forsake us.