Photo credit to http://7-themes.com
“And let us know, eagerly strive to know the LORD…” Hosea 6:3
How many people really take time to read the prophets or the Old Testament? I just wonder. Paul told Timothy, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.” Let’s note a couple things before we begin here.
Introductory point number 1: this is not a “man” thing. The word used for man here is “anthropos.” That’s about all humans. So if you are human, this is about you and me. In other words, all Scripture is designed for the growth and good of every human. If you are human, Scripture is for you.
And now on to introductory point number 2: all Scripture is profitable. The Greek for that phrase is “pass graphs theopneustos kai ophelimos.” Translated in the Greek order it says, “Every writing God-breathed and profitable.” This graphe when used in Scripture always means “inspired writings” and if we checked it out, we would see that it refers namely to, drum roll here, the writings of the Old Testament! Think about it, even Jesus quoted Old Testament Scripture. And Paul used the Old Testament to point his brethren to Christ! This is good stuff and necessary stuff for learning about God and Christ and what life as His child ought to look like. It’s not just helpful. It’s about what our service ought to resemble. It’s profitable because it leads us to God if taken in the guidance of His direction and not our own.
So here we are, reading the words of a prophet telling about coming judgment on Israel and Judah because of their unrepentant hearts and lives and attitudes. And I’m saying that this is for us today? I’m saying that every one of us humans can glean something for today from this warning in the past? Yes. Absolutely. Undeniably. Necessarily.
I am so glad that we have a God that cares so much that He will use whatever it takes to draw us back to Him. I am also so glad that You are not a sissy God and You do not pamper to our whims. I am glad that You are strong enough to save. I am glad that You are to be feared above all gods. I am glad that You don’t just tell us not to sweat the little stuff, but You tell us the same about the big and terrible stuff because You have it all under control. The problem is when I’m not under Your control in the midst of that stuff.
And that’s what happened with Israel and Judah and that’s what can happen with me or any other of us human beings. You were pronouncing judgment and warning of what was to come but You were also inviting Israel and Judah to avoid the judgment and come back to You. “Come, and let us return unto the LORD: for He has torn, and He will heal us; He has smitten, and He will bind us up. After two days will He revive us: in the third day He will raise us up, and we shall live in His sight.”
I looked at some of these Hebrew words yesterday. That word torn or taraph is pretty rough. It’s scary. It’s like a lion coming and plucking me to pieces and devouring me. It’s ravenous and rending and tearing. Not a friendly picture. That’s an awfully scary picture of You, God. And then there’s that word smitten or nakah about striking and wounding or killing or punishing or murder and slaughter. Can You be scary like that? Yes. Yes. Yes.
It’s so profitable to read this and think about this and remember this. The God who created everything out of nothing by no effort but the effort of Your will and voice, is a scary God.
You are a God to be feared. 1 Chronicles 16:25 reminds us “For great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised: He also is to be feared above all gods.” Psalm 76:7 reminds us, “You, even You, are to be feared: and who may stand in Your sight when once You are angry?” The next verse continues, “You did cause judgment to be heard from heaven; the earth feared, and was still…” In the same chapter we are warned, “Vow, and pay unto the LORD your God: let all that be round about Him bring presents unto Him that ought to be feared.” In another Psalm, “God is greatly to be feared in the assembly of the saints, and to be had in reverence of all them that are about Him.” And “For the LORD is great, and greatly to be praised: He is to be feared above all gods.” Wait. We already heard that. But maybe we need to hear it again because it’s so important to get and understand and live out in our lives, I mean, if we want life at all.
I think of a conversation in C.S. Lewis’ The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe between Lucy and the beavers about Aslan the Lion. “Lucy: Is he…safe? Mr. Beaver: Safe? Don’t you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you? Of course he isn’t safe…but…he’s GOOD…He’s the King.” Why would a good king devour and destroy? For the good of His kingdom and the good of His people. So that His kingdom would be good for all of His children and not just some. So that He can care for all of His children. Yes, the King would be brutal to anything and anyone that would harm those under his care. And the truth about this King and only this King is that only He can heal the torn and bind up the smitten. If the White Witch would turn to His care, she would receive it. But the choice is hers. She can defy and receive His judgment against one who would not run into His arms, or she can return and let Him be the King He already is and love and care for her.
If we rebel, we suffer the consequences of that rebellion. It’s our choice. But if we repent, and return, He will revive us. Even should we have been dead to You and Your ways, You have the power to raise us up from the dead so that we can live for real. Living in Your sight doesn’t just mean where You can see us. It means living in Your presence. Having this fierce and fearful King standing guard over us and advocating for us and loving us. See, perfect love in Him casts out all fear. You don’t stop being a fearful God, but Your fearfulness becomes our delight because no longer is that fierceness directed at us as we attempt to damage Your kingdom, but that fierceness is now directed for us and against our foes.
It makes me think of some of my favorite words from Scripture as shared from the Complete Jewish Bible, “For You have been a refuge for the poor, a refuge for the needy in distress, a shelter from the storm, shade from the heat…”See! This is our God! We waited for Him to save us. This is ADONAI; we put our hope in Him. We are full of joy, so glad He saved us!” (Isaiah 25) But we can’t be healed or bound up or revived or raised up if we won’t return. It’s only in the returning and following that we will actually come to know, really know You Lord. And in the true knowing, we are nourished. Only in You is there profit for us. Like Paul said, “For me to live is Christ and to die is gain.”
Jonathan Edwards told us what a scary place it was to be in the hands of an angry God. But I’m telling You what a dangerously safe place to willingly put Yourself into the hands of this fierce and lovingly loyal God. Here is One who is faithful and merciful beyond compare. He owes us nothing, yet He sacrifices His Son on the cross for your sins and mine that we might escape His wrath and instead become His and shine forth His glory throughout this earth He created. We were not created to shine our own lights. We were created to shine with the fierceness of His love. He’s still not a safe God but I will be forever safe in His hands. And honestly, my life in You Lord, won’t be safe either, at least not on this earth. But I will be forever safe in You, for You have me. And I am FEARFULLY and WONDERFULLY made. Does my soul know that? Do I live like that. Because if I did, then I would live my life with the same fearless abandonment as You Jesus, or as that fellow human Paul, or Mary, or Esther…
What if we remembered what kind of God You really are? What if we left off with this idea of false safety and this little safe god and started remembering and honoring You for the God You really are? What if I really understood that You are fearful and that in You I have nothing to fear? What if I lived like that? Would I be afraid to reach out to hurting and empty people? Would I be afraid of losing my life or leaving my family or being ridiculed or being persecuted? Would first world problems really matter so much? Would I step out of my comfort zone? Would I detest being comfortable while others aren’t? Would I care enough to show it by my giving and my going? What would my life look like if I really understood the power and awe and fearfulness of You and realized that all of that was behind me, under me, all around me, and in me compelling me to share You with the world? What if this is what humanity was created for, to get that and to live it out by returning to You and living in You and being blessed in You by knowing You and sharing that knowledge? What if we were created to subdue the world with the the love and knowledge and fear of You that leads to abundant life for all? I would strive for that, no matter what it takes. And I will.