I'm a planner.
And I love it when all goes as planned. But how often does that happen? I mean, let's get real... life gets in the way, and interruptions happen. Just take laundry, for instance. Unless I want to keep hitting the button to 'refresh' the load in the dryer so I can fold the warm clothes later, I'm going to have to stop what I'm doing when that buzzer goes off. I'm going to have to take orders from an appliance and interrupt the plan I made that day.
Even if my plan includes laundry.
I still get irritated when it keeps me from the flow of finishing something more important I started on my to-do list. So I typically use it as an excuse later if I don't accomplish all that's on my list. Because, I'll be honest, I'm not always as focused as I should be.
But God is determined.
And He has a plan for the whole world, as it says in our verse today. Wow! That blows my mind. I mean, I can barely plan my day for just me... and get it all done. But here is God, who has had a plan for the whole world for all of eternity. And He is DETERMINED to accomplish it. And no one can thwart Him.
Because He has a purpose.
And God's purpose's are good toward us. And no matter what people on earth do... no matter what evil they conjure or how far they wander from God, He will still accomplish His purpose. Because He is MIGHTY.
Here, let's consider what Luke wrote in the book of Acts...
You spoke by the Holy Spirit through the mouth of your servant, our father David:
“‘Why do the nations rage
and the peoples plot in vain?
The kings of the earth rise up
and the rulers band together
against the Lord
and against his anointed one.
Indeed Herod and Pontius Pilate met together with the Gentiles and the people of Israel in this city to conspire against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed.
They did what your power and will had decided beforehand should happen.
Acts 4:25-28 NIV
The hand of God is powerful.
God's going to accomplish His good purposes toward us, no matter what. And He can use even the most wrong-hearted people to finish His to-do list. To Him, they're probably just like that annoying laundry buzzer. His hand is mighty... so He stops to fold, no big deal. God will get His way. He will finish. And His purpose and plan is good.
Won't you trust Him today?
No matter what is going on in the news? No matter what you think of this leader or that social pressure? God is still sitting securely on His throne. He's not ruffled or upset by what He sees. Nothing's 'news' to Him. He can work all things for good with His capable hand.
And His hand is over you today.
God does not desire for us to be alone.
Nor does He want us to get lost in a crowd, always longing for companionship to keep us happy. Rather He longs that we keep balance in all things; knowing that people cannot help us solve our problems... but He can.
Even when we get to reasoning, planning, and manipulating... when we try to wiggle and squirm, thinking our way out of things, we are still relying on a person to solve our problem. But God always has a better way. He tells us that we need to stop trusting in 'mere humans,' knowing that we don't have the eternal perspective He does.
The prophet Jeremiah also writes...
This is what the Lord says:
Cursed is the one who trusts in man,
who draws strength from mere flesh
and whose heart turns away from the Lord.
That person will be like a bush in the wastelands;
they will not see prosperity when it comes.
They will dwell in the parched places of the desert,
in a salt land where no one lives.
But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord,
whose confidence is in him.
They will be like a tree planted by the water
that sends out its roots by the stream.
It does not fear when heat comes;
its leaves are always green.
It has no worries in a year of drought
and never fails to bear fruit.
Jeremiah 17:5-8 NIV
And the Psalmist agrees...
Do not put your trust in princes,
in human beings, who cannot save.
When their spirit departs, they return to the ground;
on that very day their plans come to nothing.
Blessed are those whose help is the God of Jacob,
whose hope is in the Lord their God.
He is the Maker of heaven and earth,
the sea, and everything in them...
he remains faithful forever.
Psalm 146:3-6 NIV
There is not much I could add to this.
For then we would be relying on a person.
I will simply trust in the Lord.
His words are better than any I could write.
And He is faithful in all things.
You're sitting in the courtroom...
There is no jury.
Only the Judge.
A great cloud of witnesses.
And the Judge speaks...
"Come now, let us settle the matter." And we are fine with that. We are ready to get this over with. To hear the judgement and get on with our lives. The suspense is killing us... literally.
The accuser points his finger at us...
"It's all your fault.."
"You're so stupid."
"You can't do anything right."
"Why do you even try?"
"You're going to be alone forever."
"It'll never work"
But the Judge redirects your attention. He's willing to make a trade, an offer, an exchange...
Though your sins are like scarlet,
They shall be as white as snow;
Though they are red like crimson,
They shall be as wool.
Isaiah 1:18 NIV
How can this be? You look down at your clothing. The stains are so deep. The color has soaked into every fiber. It is dried and stained. What does He mean? How can this be possible? You've worn this for so long, you're not sure anything else will even fit. How can you take this garment off and wear another?
Maybe the accuser is right.
But what if he's not. All the Judge is offering is free for the taking. And in His eyes you see the sincere look, a pleading with you as if this plan is so much better. But you're scared because you've never known anything free to be good.
Then the Judge offers more.
If you are willing and obedient,
You shall eat the good of the land;
But if you refuse and rebel,
You shall be devoured by the sword
Isaiah 1:19-20 NIV
It's a trade.
God says, give Me your old heart that refuses and rebels. Trust me with it. And I will help you. I will give you a heart willing and obedient to follow after Me. And you will be blessed with a life of goodness.
He is not a Judge who desires to slam the gavel down. Who wishes to punish and condemn. All have a choice. All get to decide. He is not a God who demands His own way. He offers freedom in this life and blessings beyond our wildest imagination.
The choice is yours.
If I were to ask you to bring your dog or cat to church on Sunday, you'd probably look at me sideways. Especially if you knew we were going to stand in a line and wait for the pastor to say some special words over it, then we were going to offer it as a sacrifice for the sins we committed that week. YIKES!
Thank God for grace... literally!
I mean, if Jesus had never paid the price for our sins, that's what we'd still have to do to stay in right relationship with God. Which is why today's verse is so significant.
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.
Hosea 14:2 NIV
Now for us, it doesn't seem odd to pray words to God. But for the people of Hosea's day, to only 'take words' to God, would mean coming empty handed... without the required sacrifice or payment required by the law. So I bet they were wondering, 'How could God forgive me?'
But oftentimes what we do repeatedly, becomes routine. And as such it can lose it's meaning. God saw that these people brought their sacrifices but they continued in the same sins. They didn't fully turn their hearts toward Him during the in-between times. So the sacrifices meant nothing to them. They were just like 'box-checking' church goers. As if somehow that was going to make God happy.
But God is going to be God, no matter whether we show up to church or not... no matter whether these people sacrificed or not. You see, the system of sacrifice was never set up for God to grow. It was never designed so that He would change, or fulfill His purpose. The sacrifice was intended for the people to realize their sin and how it was actually hurting them. But God saw that the system of sacrifice wasn't working.
All God really wants is our hearts.
So He told them to forget the animal... leave it at home and just bring sincere words. Instead of a burnt offering for your sins... bring Me a burning and humble heart. And instead of morning and evening offering of thanksgiving... bring Me a perpetual heart of praise.
So let us renew our hearts in prayer
considering the attitude of our heart.
It takes focus to set our mind on Him,
practice to stay in the moment,
and dedication to make it a habit.
But what a change this sacrifice makes
when the Lord brings blessings of peace.
Blessed is the one
whose transgressions are forgiven,
whose sins are covered.
Blessed is the one
whose sin the Lord does not count against them
and in whose spirit is no deceit.
Psalm 32:1-2 NIV
I've never liked studying history much.
But for some reason, anytime I see a movie, documentary, or article on slavery in the colonies or the Holocaust, it's like I have to know more.
That may sound like a strange admission, but for some reason I am drawn to those two atrocities and I've never been able to articulate why... until today.
You see, my bible reading took me to the book of Hosea. And it was there that I had one of those "Aha," moments.
If you don't know much about Hosea, he was a prophet whom how God told to marry a prostitute. Strange, I know. But God had a purpose. He was trying to give the people of Israel a vivid picture of how they looked to Him.
Well this woman became Hosea's wife. They had three children, and then she left him and returned to her former life. And what I was reading today was right about that point. And God told Hosea to go find his wife...
The Lord said to me, “Go, show your love to your wife again, though she is loved by another man and is an adulteress. Love her as the Lord loves the Israelites, though they turn to other gods and love the sacred raisin cakes.” Hosea 3:1
This is just so amazing to me.
God chose His words carefully when He said, "go show your love." He didn't tell Hosea to, "go get her and judge her." He didn't tell him to, "drag her back and make her obey."
But what would you want to do if you were Hosea? I mean, short of NOT going? If it were me, I'd want to just bring her back quietly and ignore her. I'm not big on conflict, so I'd really take my time on this one. But if I was able to 'show her' my love, you can bet that I'd also get around to showing it off in front of others. Like, let me just post a pic of us for everyone to see how great I am for overlooking your cheating. But that's not what Hosea did.
Which then makes me wonder what the wife is thinking. I mean, really. Here is this man you left to go back to prostitution. And he is paying for you... buying you back, even though he's legally your husband.
Obviously she struggled to see herself as a free woman. She had to be filled with doubt, constantly attacked with thoughts of unworthiness from years of being enslaved to prostitution. Think of all the lies running through her head. It's no wonder she returned to her old life.
And as much as I hate to admit it, that's the picture of my life too. I constantly feel like I have to earn my way to a perfect life. All my striving, grasping, begging for attention, likes and followers... when God has already paid the ultimate price and we are free to walk away from everything we chain ourselves to.
There are no rules that bind us.
Only the ones we keep locked up in our minds. They are the ones that own us. The lies that say we aren't enough. The religion that screams we must do more to earn God's love and attention.
So look how God chooses to free us...
“Therefore I am now going to allure her;
I will lead her into the wilderness
and speak tenderly to her.
There I will give her back her vineyards,
and will make the Valley of Achor a door of hope.
There she will respond as in the days of her youth,
as in the day she came up out of Egypt."
Hosea 2:15 NIV
In order for God to get our attention, He will often get us away from the noise and chaos of what's distracting us. And He'll take us to the wilderness. For me, it's the dry, empty place I've been cursing and complaining about? You too?
But we need to know that it's intentional. It's for our own good! Because it's there that He wants to 'speak tenderly' to us. How BEAUTIFUL is that?
And in that place, He's planning to GIVE to us... to fill us with what we need. But we must be still and listen. We can't continue to run our mouths with complaint or we'll never hear Him. (I'm talking to me as well, by the way!)
Oh how God's ways are unlike anything of this world.
And finally there is this.
And it's this, which God struck my heart today...
“In that day,” declares the Lord,
“you will call me ‘my husband’;
you will no longer call me ‘my master.’
I will remove the names of the Baals from her lips;
no longer will their names be invoked."
Hosea 2:16-17 NIV
This was my lesson... the NEW thing that enlightened. For some reason, God moved me to search the meaning of the word Baal. It means owner. Look how this is in stark contrast to what God wants us to call Him... husband.
He doesn't want us bowing down to Him out of fear, like a slave. That's what it's like when we (and I mean me) worship the things of this world. They keep us oppressed and in bondage, never satisfying.
If you're a slave to a master, you pray because you have to.
If you're a bride to a husband, you talk to Him because you want to.
If you're a slave to a master, you read the rule book to know what not to do.
If you're a bride to a husband, you read the Bible to know Him more.
If you're a slave to a master, you work to avoid punishment.
If you're a bride to a husband, you serve to show Him your love.
If you're a slave to a master, you are owned... in bondage.
If you're a bride to a husband, you are chosen... in freedom.
Oh how God has freed my soul.
Oh how God has lifted my spirit.
Now I see why I've always been so fascinated by the history of slavery and oppression. Could it be, because I keep running back to my old life? Could it be, because I am daily in need of deliverance?
Won't you let Him free you today?
Put it to the test.
Next time you're challenged or concerned about rules or religion, or you find yourself judging other's actions, ask yourself, "Is this causing me to be slave to a master, or bride to a husband?"
The Lord said...
I will betroth you to me forever;
I will betroth you in righteousness and justice,
in love and compassion.
Hosea 2:18 NIV
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