Allow me to introduce you to a story… .a story of ancient Italian origin. I am not the original author of this story. The author is unknown. It is a legendary account written after the death of Saint Francis of Assissi. It is one of many such legendary accounts and it contains both an acknowledgment towards the wisdom of St. Francis and a historically practical proverbial lesson. We can learn something from St. Francis and Elias, his brother in the faith. Here is a retelling, in my own words, of the story of Brother Elias and the Angel….
The silent Franciscan convent was impinged by a rowdy knock. The uninformed traveler besieged the door with his untamed fist. “Our Father” corrected Brother Masseo, “Give only three clear knocks and wait for a brother to reply ‘Our Father’ and then come to let you in.” The traveler asked pardon for his haste and expressed his lengthy journey towards St. Francis with whom he desired to speak…. .a man now abiding in devotions, prayer and the forest. “I will not interrupt him,” said the traveler, “May I speak instead with brother Elias, he full of wisdom?”
Brother Elias pulled a weed. He prayed heated prayers to no one, for who would listen? God? Surely not. The angry soul was venting an anger unjustified and oh how the floral delicacies trembled for fear he should miss a gardener’s beat and pull one of they instead! “Brother Elias, come meet with the traveler.” A grunt over the peony suggested that he would not.
He is eternal. And His love is eternal. It continues beyond judgment and the grave. He continues to love the very people that were both favorably or adversely judged by the righteous laws He set in place. His law and His righteousness are best for creation and His nature sustains creation. His attitude is that He would be cut off from existence, righteousness fulfilled and justification made complete, for the sake of our salvation. Therefore, we must receive this final verdict towards our flesh yet poured out upon Himself. We just receive this eternity - this eternal love. Its sustenance is powerful to resurrect us from the grave and carry us into eternity. If He is eternal and His love is eternal than those who receive are given His life for eternity.
“Love endures all things…” God endures all things.
He persists in the face of adversity. God doesn’t give up. He continues to advance His kingdom in the heavens and earth. He advances it in us against all of our stubbornness and rebellion, in the midst of our sadness and grief, in spite of our scattered and often unreliable affections. We are not always the most desirable vessels to move through, yet, God persists to save in and through us! Bless God for His mercies! He suffers violence against Himself, scorning the shame of its open wounding, remaining quiet concerning the personal blows and establishes His kingdom in and through us. He knows that the very work that He persists to do has eternal ramifications. We depend on His persistence.
He is confident of His own imminent success. He is confident in His own ability to succeed in us. He is confident in His own ability to succeed in all of creation. This causes God to rest. This causes us to rest. He is successful. Hope does not disappoint because God has put a measure of His eternal promise in our spirit. He is letting us know beforehand that He is successful.
“Love believes all things…” God believes all things.
He recognizes that all things are legitimate. Belief suggests legitimacy. That something is real, not a lie. God believes ALL things. He accepts that all things are a form or fashion of reality. Nothing can exist that has not been made. So even a fabrication is part of reality. He believes humanity. The legitimacy of our pain, misery, suffering, foolishness, fears, anger, hate, love, joys, passions, celebrations etc… He does not deny our perspectives or emotions. God connects with our versions of reality in one way or another. He meets with us and broods to bring change or enjoy our faith. God meets with us for real.
“Love rejoices with the truth…” God rejoices with the truth.
He enjoys truth. It is healthy for every part of His creation. Truth, undeniable, penetrating and sometimes confrontational, fashions an occasion for joy. God rejoices with it. God rejoices when His message goes out. He rejoices when His good news is preached. His heart delights in anticipation of its reception and the benefits that it will produce in the hearer and receiver of such good news - the truth. When one is filled with truth, one is filled with this good news. One has encountered that which rearranges the human heart. One has been transformed by the beauty of what is realized about God and His relationship to mankind and all that was formerly believed, all that was a lie speaking to the conscience, is willfully resisted. The truth is given preeminence. Sometimes, however, the truth is also resisted. Sometimes others deny the truth and hate the messenger. God, love, stills delights in its presentation. God and love still continue to carry and confront with truth. It is His love for humanity that propels the message even at great cost. This causes us to continue to allow Him to confront us with truth even though it stirs up our own resistance, however, we daily choose to enjoy the process because we know it produces His beauty in us. We rejoice because it is His love revealed in the presentation of truth to every part of our body and spirit. This causes us to continue to present truth to the earth even when it is resisted, sometimes unto our death, because we know and rejoice in its power to save and produce His beauty in the earth. A lie may relieve anxiety for a moment, but in the end it breeds death, therefore, we opt for temporal suffering so that eternal life can be produced and we enjoy the meditation of the result even before it has come! Where there is truth presented, even when it is temporarily painful, we always have cause to rejoice!
“Love does not rejoice at wrong-doing…” God does not rejoice at wrong-doing.
He hates wrongdoing! Those who rejoice in wrong-doing are expecting the arrival of personal benefit from the tresspass. Wrong-doing will always eventually lead to death and this causes us to intercede at personal cost even though we could benefit personally from wrong-doing instead. It becomes desirable to us that all of the immature and rebellious repent from their wrongdoing rather than falling under judgment. Our intercession causes us to suffer circumstantially in this world. We refuse to manipulate to gain… .to sin to get the advantage. We will not compromise our testimony by allowing the wrongdoing of others to benefit us. We commit ourselves to God and intercede for them. Love compels us to resist personal benefit from earthen exploitations and take no pleasure in their results. We purpose to suffer with Christ who did righteousness, even when the results would not seem favorable, and trust God with the results. We purpose to grieve for sinners and lament the wrong-doing they sow. God grieves wrong-doing and its various exploitations. God grieves the sinner who has chosen to go a crooked way. Where there is love, personal benefits are set aside for the sake of intercession. One loves when one looks not to his or her own needs or wants but lays his or her expectations down for the need, and sometimes the want, of another…. .in this one cannot do wrong but only rejoice in the benefit of the other.
He is not bothered by forgiveness and mercy. It does not annoy Him to set a prisoner free from his or her justifiable imprisonment. Although it is unfair in the light of humanity to forgive the wrongdoer, God enjoys being merciful to the repentant. He does not take it as a personal offense against His holiness. Although He was punished for our sins, He does not resist releasing us from our punishment. It was unfair that Christ was punished yet He delighted in satisfying justice for our sake. This causes us to receive forgiveness. If God who has the right to hold us accountable for our sin chooses not to, why should we hold ourselves guilty? And if we receive forgiveness we also give it. If God who has the right to hold us accountable for our sin chooses not to how can we hold others accountable to us? God has been wronged and shown mercy to the wrongdoer. So we can be wronged and show mercy. In all things, we can fully trust God’s acknowledgment of our life and His willingness to show mercy and do justice for us. We cannot resent any outcome; favorable or unfavorable, deserved or undeserved, temporary or eternal towards the righteous or the wicked. Our faith rests complete in the mercy of a just God.. .He will be both merciful and just in ways far beyond our comprehension. Resentment only exists when we feel that God has not been fair towards us through the persons and circumstances we have known. But who knows of His fairness? Who truly desires God to be fair? I do not believe that we truly want fairness. No, we need mercy. God, though He could demand fairness from us, does not. Neither should we seek it in this life from any source. We are to beseech His mercy and trust His justice for all of mankind. We are to love mercy and do justice in response to a God who does not resent unfairness.
He is not easily annoyed by or overly sensitive to the attitudes of the peoples of the earth. God does not react because of our disposition. He acts only according to His own person and character. He is not fickle in His dealing with us. He personally makes us conscious of His requirements and the favorable consequences of faith and righteousness or the adverse consequences of sin and disobedience. He binds His actions to His own requirements and administers justice based upon our faith or lack of faith in Christ. It is declared and preached. He teaches us as much as we can handle. He never reacts but acts according to what we know. This moves upon our hearts to act rather than react as much as we are ably conscious. It causes us to remain steadfast in the midst of human opinions and circumstances. It causes us to exercise consideration and rely upon the word of God. His word is not fickle. It does not change. When we believe it, we are not fickle, overly sensitive or easily annoyed by others. We are genuine, honest and sure. Our convictions and attitudes are constant. We respond to the unchangeable God.
“Love does not insist on its own way…” God does not insist on His own way.
He does not worship Himself. All of creation must be reconciled to Him, not because He demands that His own way be elevated for personal satisfaction, but because God has created humanity for mutual relationship with Himself. In the end, God’s own love can sustain His own person. He does not need to demand our attention or affection or cooperation to get what He needs. He is one within Himself, however, He has covenantally bound Himself to seek, honor and enjoy reciprocal relationship with His creations. Although God can sustain His own person and therefore He can sustain all of creation, He seeks humanity to walk in the humility of mutuality that causes us to become equal partners in His purpose. He does not have to depend upon us to accomplish His purpose but rather He desires all of humanity to participate in His purpose to increase our favor and joy. God is good and gives humanity an equal share in the establishment of His goodness. Yes, God even listens to, considers and often implements our strategies and designer ideas to bring about this establishment… .because He has no egotistic need to insist on things being done His own way. Therefore, we no longer think about how others can serve us and our egotism or designer ideas, rather, we consider how we can serve them best by inviting them to share in the glory of God who will also sustain and gives wings and purpose to their bodies and souls. We become flexible and mutual beings in the midst of others. We commit our way to our Creator and enjoy exulting His way and their ideas! In this God is worshipped among us. It is our joy to worship! And in this we experience the mutual expression of His goodness in the earth through which we become equal partners in His glory!
He is not impolite, inconsiderate, or unexpected. He always takes into account our humanity and limitations. He offers us relationship and never forces Himself upon us. He always announces His coming to those who are listening. We are not thrashed and tossed about by a God who enjoys our suffering and confusion. He considers our weakness and incapacity to receive His whole uncompromising being. He comes and invites us little by little, day by day to enjoy Him, thus rebuilding the trust that humanity first had in its God. This causes us to be considerate of our own weakness. We remain under His discipleship, thereby allowing Him to teach us as much or as little about Himself as we are able to handle at that time. We become sober, knowing our limitations and therefore gratefully staying within the boundaries God sets. We also become aware of the weaknesses of those around us. They are just like us and therefore we do not impose too much knowledge of God where it cannot be understood or withhold what should be freely given. We also encourage as many safety precautions as are needed so that the souls of others will not be unnecessarily tempted… even when that means limiting our own freedoms. Rudeness is a product of pride. We are never to dispense or withhold the knowledge of God nor lift His limitations or impose limitations according to our own evaluation. But we are always to allow Him to be the Father to His children through us. He knows them best.
He does not flaunt a superior disgust over our fallen human condition. He is not pre-occupied with his own importance, value, relevance and influence in the universe. He simply knows who He is and acts accordingly. He is aware of His own superior holiness and therefore acts holy. And then He gives us His spirit. Not so that we can feel inferior, but so that we can share His holiness and be like Him. He knows that all of creation is dependent upon Him and therefore He does His part. Rather than determining to constantly remind us of our complete dependency upon Him, He simply does what He should. By this all men are made aware that they depend on Him because humanity cannot do God’s part. Likewise, this causes us to view our relationship with God as the meeting of our own deep need and not as a means by which we can continually be reminded that we do not measure up. Therefore, we persuade others to be reconciled to God. Not so that they can continually be reminded of their inadequacy, but so that their need for the cleansing of their conscience may be met through continual submission to God’s holiness. We persuade others because we know who He is. And now we know who we are because we see Him as He is. And we know who they should be. It is not arrogant to be certain of what is true. But it is arrogant to believe that because we know the truth, we have reached a superiority that others should be dependent upon.
He is not self-promotional. He does not need to be. His works speak of His character. He does not need to advertise what He thinks we should believe about Him by now. He simply bears fruit, does work, lays down His life and gives His goodness away to all manners of people. And then He lets us decide. He is justified in that His deeds are perfect and reveal that His nature is perfect. We are not forced to a position of belief because He says we have to believe Him, but because our own hearts have witnessed that He is true to His word. Therefore, we are condemned by our own knowledge of His person if we disbelieve or we are acquitted by our own testimony of His person if we believe. This reveals to us that it is also our fruits that testify whether or not we are children of God. It is not by our self-advertisement as His child that the world will recognize us as His, but rather, that our works are evidence of what we say we are. We do as He does and let others make a decision. Boasting is excluded.
He is not filled constantly with a craving to possess our personalities to fulfill His own personal lusts. He does not long to own our bodies and our material belongings for the purpose of building an egocentric kingdom or government. Rather He gives of His personality, body and possessions to see us built up and edified. The cry of His heart is that through such sacrificial giving, we would be motivated to sacrifice and give and thereby build a kingdom for His person. Through giving and receiving, without thought for self-gain or reward, we become as He is and experience the freedom of communal oneness where He and I and all of us are shared. Therefore, we could not envy. This is not a religion of “use”, but a relational community of love. When we feel that we are “used”, we must take to gain back what we have lost. Until we are able to take, we will envy what others, or even God, has that we feel we are deprived of. But, personally, if we know that God gives, even at a loss to Himself, we are motivated to give. He always fills the righteous, His own children, with the good things we need. Though we may experience a small loss in the meantime, we wait patiently for His goodness.
He has a common passion with our outcry for the salvation of our souls and the deliverance of our bodies from the bondage of sin. Therefore He gives generously according to His unlimited resource all that is necessary for the accomplishment of that salvation. Although His passion burns like a fire, He does not pour out His saving goodness upon us with fierce expectation of return but rather with a favoring, communicable gentleness that constantly reminds us that He wants us to be saved. This passion and generosity causes us to search for subsequent opportunities to share in God’s passion for our own soul as well as the souls of others. It causes us to gratefully receive His generous gift on our behalf as well as give generously from the deposited well-spring of life within us so that others might be saved. And our passion is for our own reconciliation with a God that is not demanding our salvation, but desiring our salvation. So we are passionate to gently reveal that God desires others to be reconciled to Him because He loves them. This is kindness.
He waits a very long time for His will to be performed in and through us without any annoyance on His part. This causes us to wait a very long time for the will of God to be performed in our own body and soul as well as the bodies and souls of others. Where patience is required, we can only hinder God’s will through our impatience…. A felt and expressed annoyance that the expected will of God has not already been accomplished. When we are annoyed, we will not do our part because we have given up on the possibility of the expected. When we are annoyed with others, our impatience renders us incapable of contributing to their personal success. God, in patience, continues to contribute. Patience makes out of each one of us a contributor to the personal success of our companions in life while committing all annoyance to He who has been patient with us.
On a day like any other day, Balaam pronounced a good oracle…. .but Balaam, I assure you, did not love the “the dust of Jacob” (Numbers 22:10).
“How lovely are your tents, O Jacob, your encampments, O Israel! Like palm groves that stretch afar, like gardens beside a river, like aloes that the Lord has planted, like cedar trees beside the water. Waters shall flow from his buckets and his seed shall be in many waters..” Numbers 24:5-7. The poetry slavered over the top of Peor and suffered King Balak’s ears to hear no more. He writhed. Balaam had been hired to curse Israel! And, alas, Balaam was willing yet limited by the One he sought to “put a word in his mouth,” Numbers 23:16.
Balaam was a weak man. He hoped to attain both the honor of kings and gods. His oracles were for hire. Love had nothing to do with it. Israel could live or die for all he cared. Important to Balaam was Balak’s pocket book and the favor of a foreign god. “Must I not take care to speak what the Lord puts in my mouth?” Numbers 23:12. The statement rings with audacity as Balaam searches for an oracle that will garner Balak’s “silver and gold” (24:13) yet dares not offend an all-powerful god to do so. Balaam, less perceptive than his donkey, has learned to play prophetic games. “The oracle of Balaam the son of Beor,” he declares brilliantly, “the oracle of the man whose eye is opened, the oracle of him who hears the words of God, who sees the vision of the Almighty, falling down with his eyes uncovered…” Numbers 24:3-4. And the Almighty bends down and whispers in Balaam’s ear. He utters a true blessing. It funnels through the consciousness of the seer, breezing past bygone convictions and pouring out of his mouth with prophetic powers. Balaam, the weak, speaks the mighty word of the Lord for Israel.
It had nothing to do with love. “God is not a man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind. Has he said, and will he not do it? Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it?….The Lord their God is with them, and the shout of a king is among them…” Numbers 23:19-21. Words so powerful they are sung and proclaimed today on Christian lips. These words were not, from the mouth of their human prophet, spoken with any love or admiration towards Israel. The Almighty’s oracle of love passed over the deceptive lips of a foreign seer for hire. Selah.
“And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing,” 1 Corinthians 13:2. Balaam was nothing. Used by the Almighty. Used and only used. A conduit for one of the most beautiful blessings spoken over Israel in the Hebrew Bible. He could have loved and been loved. Love was so near. Passing through his very conscience. Prophetic powers and the presence of Yahweh did not provoke Balaam to live in the prophecy he spoke. Balaam went home, nothing.
I have been thinking about “love”. Fancy that. Above all, common in its overarching theme. Everywhere one goes, love is spoken of, realized, discarded, sought, fought for and against. Love, love, love. Unsatisfied theologians have spent many a blue moon developing its simple, specific, broad and complex definition. Love, love, love… .what are you? What are you not?
One speck of humanity discloses its goush and mash of melancholy malarky and sentimental revelations and we all go home a little sick to our stomachs while another groping soul espouses the length and breadth of love’s unfathomable intricacies and presses persistent hearts to dig deeper and climb higher. Perhaps one day we will attain “love”. I wonder that something so concretely and constantly spoken of from Genesis to Revelation could be either base or far removed. It must be here, I think, close to the conscience.
Love must be humanly possible. Oh no! one argues, God is love and therefore, in the flesh, we cannot apprehend its qualities! But then, I am confused… .God, so high in the heavens has formed us and by one breath conceived our human hearts and that one breath perpetuates to this very day the human races upon earth. Yet you say that love is no where near our human conscience?
Love, I argue is so very near. It is so near that it does not necessarily require a definition. So near, that it defies the use of definitions to define it. So integral to our conscience is love, that Christ could say “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:39) and expect this to serve as enough Law to produce righteousness in human action. Truly, if I tell you to love this or that person, you know what I mean…
Paul’s ultra-famous “love” passage, known to us as 1 Corinthians 13, serves to stump our revelations of love. Any fantasy that we might caress concerning our own concrete efforts to bring salvation to our neighbor is deemed, just as it is, merely fanciful. We are told to be patient and kind and content and humble and hopeful and forgiving. We are even told to shut our boastful mouths! All of these are fruits of love. Duh. We are told to do all the things we know we ought to do if we mind our conscience. It is neither simple or complex. Neither broad or specific. It is just love - the rendering of right actions towards another speck of humanity like ourselves.
Love, insists Paul, is the purposeful center of our motivations. Everything we do must be out of genuine concern for our fellow humans…. .and I don’t think I have to tell you what that is or what it looks like. You already know. But what I also know is that one may do all the things considered productions of love and yet not possess this purposeful center of love. “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels,” says Paul, this is not a guarantee that I have done so because I love the ears of the hearers. “If I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge,” says Paul, this does not reveal that I use such power to edify those who depend on God’s revelation through me. “If I have all faith, so as to remove mountains,” says Paul, and then I move them and the lame walk and the blind see and they leap with joy, am I a lover of humanity or a peacock reveling in self-glorification?
Yes, love defies our definitions. One would think that healing the lame is a sure sign of great love, yet, it may not be motivated by love at all. We do not even need to be told this. We know. We know love so well that we must justify our choices to withhold it. We must cover our tracks of false motivations when we misuse preconceived fanciful notions. In the end, God knows. He knows what we know. He knows when we are lovers or deceivers with angelic tongues.
What is love? We can’t answer. We just know. And it comes with or without burning sacrifices, mountainous faith and angelic tongues….
The agonizing twenty-second bray disputed his incessant kick. Gaudy grey-haired stubbornness planted its footed faith on the rocky ground. Mindless beast! The sun-baked little seer fumed and ranted, kicked and abused his vehicle. Ee-e-e-yo-o-ore! in another twenty second bellow and he was hurled into the vineyard wall. “Ooo-a-a-aw!” His left side winced under the weight of the beast; a foot pinned between it and the wall. His right foot struck up behind the asses ear. Profanities and hysterical hollers reverberated a vocal canal at least a mile ahead of the quirky scene. The beast straightened and moved on.
A few hundred feet… .Thunk! The party of two descended suddenly unto the dry earth. The obedient animal could go no further. The blood shot eyes of the seer squinted at his dumb companion in disbelief. “Fool! Fool! Fool!” He picked up his ousted body and took hold of a viney branch proceeding to whip her. The ass hurled bewildered eyes at her master, “What have I done to you, that you have struck me these three times?” (Numbers 22:22-28)
My finger tips hover over the alphabetized ivory MacIntosh keys and I consider my powers. Words are spelled and positioned to beguile the interested reader. Songs, plays, articles, speeches and books are all written. Messages are manufactured and presented in powerful words. As my fingertips hover I realize that this power is not my greatest gift. To study, learn and apply; to overwhelm audiences with artistry and recall God’s story for another generation… .a great gift, but not the greatest. We are more then conduits.
From the mouths of asses and kings, from the pens of peddlers and prophets, words have addressed, assessed and rearranged our very hearts. It is both wonderful and fearful. God has granted humanity to share and re-share His thoughts in vocals and pages. Yet, although such an honor, these thoughts are also written in His starry heavens and can be spoken by the dumbest creature among us. He is able to conduct His message through any inanimate thing.
I consider, my great gift in this life is not to be His conduit. Prophet, priest or king; painter, politician, or literary poet; preacher, healer or demon-chaser…. .or perhaps just an ordinary ass. Every mouth is capable of proclaiming His message. Every hand capable of recalling His works in written words. Every anointed conduit may drive a disease or contaminated spirit away, however… .this is not our glory nor our eternal guarantee. Asses will not inherit the kingdom…
We have the guarantee that rests in His covenantal word, not ours. Though I speak and write with these tongues, I rejoice, not that I am His conduit, but that He is my witness to what has been eternally written by His hand. “…Do not rejoice… .that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven,” Luke 10:20.
“The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and those in authority over them are called benefactors. But not so with you.” Luke 22:25.
When Yahweh presented Himself as a potential Lord of Israel, He came on a knee extending a gift that was equal to respecting their human condition. Does that bother you?
I will make your descendants as numerous as the sands that shift and shake within the vibrant and volatile breezes of the desert. You, Abram, will be great. (Genesis 15).
A matter of custom was obeyed. A sacrifice made. A security, a treaty, a covenant. A statement of mutual exchange. Binding. On both sides. Neither party, not even Yahweh, could retract His part…. .and His part was the greater… .Abraham’s responsibility, so small.
Binding. The Son of God comes bound. Bound by His own word to fulfill His own part. He would serve our need with His life’s blood. “Rather, let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as one who serves,” Luke 22:26.
The ba’al, the lord, on the other hand, comes with a contract so that you might sign your life away… .not that you might be mutually blessed. A list of duties appears scattered across the page…. .they are arbitrary and confusing and discovered after you have worn out your soul with shouts. The contract states that you must “humble” yourself, with all its formalities, and give and give and give and give…. .all sorts of carnality. Your jealousies, your pride, your passions, your dreams, your destinies may all faithfully underly as motivations. No one need know. You must simply come to the festival, the sacrifice and the worship of the lord. Lord, Lord. Lord, Lord.
…All of Ba’als prophets cut themselves to get the answers (1 Kings 18:26-29)….
For who is the greater, one who reclines at the table or one who serves? Is it not the one who reclines at table?” Luke 22:27.
The great “Lord” reclines. You are watchful. You watch his face. Is he happy? Have you pleased him? He is Lord, Lord! He is high! He is lifted! All sorts of possibilities, multiple manipulations are available to engage and minister to his unrelenting desires. Did I not obtain for you the desires of Your heart? “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?” Matthew 7:22. Lord, Lord, Ba’al, Ba’al, did we not make your name great?
Whom do we stand before? The Lord at our feet gently washing? Or do we prefer the high and mighty Ba’al, Ba’al? For Ba’al, Ba’al we prophesy to get a hand out, we cast out demons to make our… .O, I mean, his… .name great. We do mighty works to get a harvest of mighty works to make our famous and economical gardens grow. We do to get.“Depart from me you workers of lawlessness,” Matthew 7:23. The Ba’als do not construct legal contracts of mutual benefits. They woo our carnality with religious games and dishonest gain.
The Son of God came bound. He was called upon to serve a just and personal cause of mutuality - one that He did not have to honor except by the very demand of His own righteousness. Lord, Lord did His part. A just, clear, merciful contract. Have we come the same?
How have we come to this Lord, Lord, Jesus?
“But I am among you as one who serves,” Luke 22:27.
Have we come like He?
Yahweh made an honest contract with Abraham. Each one knew their part. He is not a Ba’al. He cannot be manipulated… .even by prophesy, driven out demons and mighty works of healing. Even these things do not provoke Him to walk outside the lines of contract… .of covenant. Be a servant. Be mutual. Do your part. That is all. There is nothing more beautiful, I believe, than honest service for the benefit of another whether or not you get anything in return. Are you wanting something back for your miracles, your good deeds? Than He is only your Ba’al, Ba’al.
A gift equal to our stature… .His own body and blood….
The husbandry of God is founded in its entirety upon the presentation of Himself in humility before us because it is equal to the very quality with which He has made us. Berakah. Although we were alienated, although degraded by our interlude with the ba’als, Jesus made a statement about our humanity that would transform us for eternity: Your Life is worth My Life.
He came with no personal demands; no degrading lordship conjuring shame. He was a Husband who laid His life down. He came imploring, bending, bowing, begging and dying. This vassal of the Most High honored our high position, presenting us with the gift of Himself as an eternal statement of our value in reciprocal hope of our faith. A servant came to intercept servants on severely equal terms. The Son of God was bowing before us. Pleading. Imploring. Supplicating with His berakah… .His blessing.
Piety? Do I detect religious piety? An arm of protest, a flash of indignant color, a preposterous glare, a “humble” proclamation of one’s lowly humanity and a “righteous” indication of the god’s superiority? “No” cries the pious, “You shall never wash my feet,” John 13:8. “Jesus answered him, ‘If I do not wash you, you have no share in me’.” There is no humility in the disciple; no righteousness when assuming states of inferiority and superiority. Berekah. Reciprocity. Life of Life. Love for Love. Great exchanges of mutuality. Two people washing feet… .Who is the greatest among them? I do not know. No one knows. No one can tell. It can not be observed. There are just two people washing.
What is the nature of this washing? This is not the washing of renewal. Not of new birth or baptism. This is not the cleansing from past lifestyles of sin. This is not a swirling bathtub, a deep pool. This is not immersion. This is only my feet set in tepid water experiencing a consistent love song. My feet. Who dares to wash feet?! Sore, reeking, begrimed. Who dares even to touch them? They are not the soul of me. They are not the essence of chosen places. They are the extension that has walked in and out and back and forth to places desirable and undesirable and they have gathered the shards and grains of wanted and unwanted things. My feet tell the story of my labor. And there He kneels honoring me… .honoring the day’s worth of my labor. “…all your breakers and waves have gone over me,” Psalm 42:7. Blessing my humanity. “…and at night his song is with me,” Psalm 42: 8. Imploring my heart to return to the sight and sound of all these spousal benefits. “…who forgives… .who heals… .who redeems… .who crowns… .who satisfies,” Psalm 103:3-5.
You are home my love. Bring your heart home my love, He implores. How can I enjoy you until today’s past has been lathered away? I will bless you back into our communion…. .Life for Life. Love for Love. I supplicate you with the blessing of My servitude.
It is uncommon to find ourselves kneeling. O, perhaps we will do it in church where the tradition of humble appearance is eulogized. But it is uncommon to find our self kneeling. Stepping lower, it is all the more uncommon to find our self kneeling as a humble response to recognition of a companion’s.. .or an enemy’s… .intrinsic value and exaltation. Traditionally, the act of lowering can be passed off as an act of doing what Jesus would do. It is acted out of imitation and sometimes devoid of thoughtfulness or recognition. With Hosea as our broken example and with Christ as our perfect Teacher, the act of lowering self is not revealed as an act of imitation or piety… .it is an act of berakah…
“But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all,” Mark 10:43-44.
Matthew 20:20-28. A protective mother is worried about this son and that son’s position in the Davidic kingdom that will come with Yahweh’s power and overthrow the arm of Rome. May they sit on your right and your left? These two are good sons and faithful followers. Zealous for righteousness and kneeling at every appointed time of prayer. It is not for me to say, says He, those places go to whomever my Father chooses. Pause. Do you want to be great in the coming kingdom? He asks, certainly you may! Become a slave to the welfare of everyone else. Exalt all others above your self. Irony floats about the room. If any of these followers want to be great, they have already forfeit the heart of a servant. If they want to be great, they cannot serve. They must forget greatness….
…And remember the eyes that they look up and into. Someone else got their feet dirty today. Someone else, walking through the lively streets of humanity, needs all signs of animosity removed. The servant listens to the aches and pains of swollen feet and bruised emotions. He settles Himself in for a long evening of lament. He talks a little. Every word and act is intentionally restorative. “Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain,” Isaiah 40:4. He is washing… .hearts.
The young woman tells Him of her mother and father… .her abandonment… .her hatred of Yahweh… .her choice to sin… .her enslaving prostitution. Now she feels sickly and unsightly. The servant, her spouse, swirls the filthy bowl of salt water with the towel. He lifts and wrings and releases a torrent of blackened ocean. There is a tempest of jealousy brewing within. Woo, says wisdom, woo… The servant applies the clothe and listens until she finishes the battle cry of her anger and grief.
The servant whispers his wooing in tones and melody. With variations of agony, soft jealousy and desire. The heart of the woman blushes, the valley is elated by an inclination that this hard soul is still loved… .by a spouse. The servant implores, Here am I, have me. Berakah. I am your gift. I am your faithful servant. The mountains become uncomfortable. Who could insist on exaltation, on greed or vengeance in the midst of this? She breaths. Choices…. .Gomer has choices.
It is the story of the servant and the sinner. One and the same, I suppose. Servants were once sinners who became servants to seek and serve sinners. Hmmm… Berakah. The very essence of blessing is to offer oneself as a gift in recognition of the intrinsic value and worth of the one you kneel before. No false piety here. It is to listen and speak like a spouse seeking relational salvation. Sinners turning their hearts around to implore on bended knee like faithful spouses, serving the welfare of all who recline at the table… .even those who would betray us…
He twisted the folded towel into a small firm knot. The water puckered in warm salty ripples around his fingers. He parted the waters and resurrected a sopping grey clothe. He pulled and wrung, it did not wring itself. The servant lifted a left foot and cleared away a full days grime from its sweaty, stinky flesh. Callouses were softened. Miniscule sharp shards of rock removed. All things painful and unbecoming. The servant and the clothe dispelled the animosity of another day.
Berakah. The bowl was shuffled noisily to the next house-guest. Servants always hope for small dinner parties….
Berakah. A gift. A young woman observed from the far corner of the room. She was tastefully ornamented and paraded a costly slice of Tyrian purple about her waste - the remnant testimony of more foolish days. She was known to favor raisin cakes.
Berakah. A gift. On bended knee. The servant looked up. Smiled. Awkward, and he was enjoying it. The woman across the room smiled. She was enjoying this too. A twisted swoosh expelled discolored liquid from the clothe and expediated the arrival of a fresh bowl.
Berakah. A gift. On bended knee. Of equal value. The servant immersed both hands. Clean again, but only for a while. He wadded the clothe and then spread it over another foot. So many guests today. Lives. People. The youth shuddered as the clothe and hand swam over his right arch. Ticklish. James shifted his shoulder and slouched. Lower. So awkward. The woman who favored raisin cakes concealed her humorous thoughts.
Berakah. A gift. On bended knee. Of equal value. To the life of the receiver. The next man widened and winced his expression. A tear? He blew out cool humility. The water was poured, still mostly clean, over both feet. They were lifted over and then into the bowl. All the way in. All the way. The whole thing. Maybe the water should just be poured all over his dirtied humanity. Maybe he was so filthy it should all be cleaned!
No, said the servant, this is enough. He scrubbed mud from the left inside ankle. He had taken a bath, correct? Yes. Then he was clean. Just removing the animosity of another day walking through lively streets of humanity.
But this was unacceptable, insisted the man. The servant was confused. He looked around the room at the puzzled faces. Household servants clean dinner guests feet everyday! “…even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many,” Matthew 20:28. Like a husband…. He looked up at the tawny fisherman, “If I do not wash you, you have no share in me,” John 13:8.
If I do not bow on my knees and offer you my life as a gift of equal value to your own, we are not one… .Berakah… .take the gift. The woman who favored raisin cakes watched with her eyes. The fisherman’s eyes moved across the offering. He wondered. What was this gift? He did not really know.
“Do you understand what I have done for you?” John 13:12.
The Ashteroth alter plumed with purple clouds of incense to carry the human senses into ecstasy. A robust and brightly painted Gomer sprawled beneath the sacred tree stemming up from dark soil and praying for fertile miracles. Baal, Baal! Lord, Lord! Possessor, Possessor! Dominate and detailed in its husbandry. The baals of Canaan wanted all forms of sensuous lust to encourage the fertility of earthen dust. Ashteroth spread her vanities to the east wind.. .Baal, Baal!
Possessor or Lord. The term “baal” was a title, an appendage to a name, a designation that one entity or being resided and lorded over another. Was Gomer to be lorded? To be dominated? To be used? Here lay the carcasses of humanity. Both male and female lingering in an odd state of ecstasy that rendered them defiled and used, controlled by the senses… .lorded over by dominate deities of earthen soil. These deities pronounced themselves keepers of mankind’s ability to survive and mankind’s ability to survive therefore depended upon their slavery to adulterous senses….
Hosea hesitated on the open highway. His limbs shook. His heart pounded in his ears. Sweat poured underneath his well trimmed beard; it puddled between his fingers in valleys and stuck to the short black hairs of his shins. The taupe linen cloak enshrouded his figure and face. No one, he hoped, would recognize the eyes peering over the gauzy froth he mounded around his forehead and mouth. No one, he hoped.
“And in that day, declares the Lord, you will call me ‘My husband,’ and no longer will you call me ‘My Baal’,” Hosea 2:16.
The husband shook as he drew nearer the mound of smoldering incense. Incessantly, he fumbled the package of small cakes tucked beneath his right arm. The pace slowed. The air swooned. The arid breeze waved six inches before his vision. It murmured. Muttered. He moved backward to the floating chant of natural highs. Hosea let his feet drop and drove his heels into the road to keep balance. He winced hard to force tear flow to his reddening eyes. She was lulling beneath the Ashtoreth; sweetly almost like an ignorant child.
The raisin cakes were her favorite. The very same delicacy enjoyed at festivals of the baals. A funny thought to bring her these. Proof, I suppose, that everything bad is good for you in some way. Or, perhaps I should say, everything enjoyable can be degraded. He made the cakes with prayer. I mean, Hosea kneaded and pressed and shaped and baked the little cakes with mouthfuls of blessing prayers pouring out of his bothered rendezvous with Divine pathos. The prayers went up, the cakes went in and Hosea went searching for one he loved. Gifts for Gomer and fifteen silver shekels and nine bushels of barley for the baalish priest hiding around the corner… .the price for a prostitute.
And Hosea said to the woman under the tree, after he had conspicuously paid the prostitute wage, “You must dwell as mine for many days. You shall not play the whore, or belong to another man; so will I also be to you,” Hosea 3:3.
Like a dweller “so will I also be to you”. Like one bought at a price “so will I also be to you”. Like one belonging to another - to you - “so will I also be to you”. Like I am yours as you are mine “so will I also be to you”. Like a husband….
Purchased. Paid for. Just a prostitute. A slave to this religiously sensual pattern of sin. Purchased. Paid for. Just like the prostitute she was. A funny thought that when paying it he said “so will I also be to you”. Purchased. Paid for. Like a… No, not like a prostitute. Like a Lover. A Husband. This was not baalish. Not a reckless, feverish, manipulative, controlling possession. “…so will I also be to you” like one purchased with love. With pathos and compassion, dwell with me, prays the prophet. He paid the wages for a prostitute and offered the remainder of himself for a wife. He was like a Husband.
“Ephraim has hired lovers,” Hosea 9:9. Ephraim paid wages to consume a regular source of edification. Impersonal exchange yet wrought with human emotion and ecstatic elements. They got what they felt they needed at the time. But who was fit to bless? Who could love a neighbor? And who, save Hosea, had truly invested that which is required to attain vital resources of relationship? Who was fit to be a lover towards God and mankind?
A friend of mine expressed it so well. I caught her thought in the middle of a long conversation. She said, “I used to read the Bible only to get personally edified.” Give it a moment to sink in. Most of us would find nothing wrong with this. She was floundering, however, on the brink of her own obvious lack. She was struck with the deficiency in her past approach to Christiandom. All that represented Christianity, it’s sacred text and sacred buildings, had been a continual source of personal edification. The Church had been her passionate helper, preaching the co-dependent necessity of this edification. The edifice and the text sacredly exist solely for the purpose of personal edification. Somehow the thrust of faith is to suck as much edification from the Divine as possible.
I fear someone will accuse me of suggesting we do not need the Scriptures or communal fellowship. I assure you that I am saying quite the opposite. I am not questioning whether or not they are needed but what we perceive they are needed for. Have they become our hired lovers? Naturally they are an integral part of spiritual health. Edification in Scriptural passage and communal fellowship is a blessed necessity for survival. We need sustaining life from the Divine. Yet, I ask, is edification defined as my own mouth sucking in resource? Is this edification? I suck and slurp and strain and consume some more? This is mature edification defined… .truly?
God, please speak to me! Bless me! Give me… .give me, give me?
So, I asked my friend, after she had made the profound observation that seeking out her Scriptures to receive personal edification was not the great call of Christianity, I asked her this: How would your husband feel if he walked into this home each day and you responded by exclaiming, begging and pleading, “O, please speak to me! Give me a word today! Bless me! Show me your powers!”? You have perhaps perceived my point. This does not seem to be the proper approach to building a marriage of mutual care, respect and joys.
I have pondered this marital, Biblical and spiritual catastrophe for some time. Christianity has become a source of personal edification… .and edification only. My God and His prophet of pathos stand in our Valleys of Trouble and rend their hearts. We have not inquired much after their heart breaking cause. What do they want from us?
Speak to me! Give me a word! Bless me! Show me Your powers! “To me they cry. My God, we - Israel - know you,” Hosea 7:2.
Israel and I are liars at best in my soliloquies of love. We do not know Him nor do we love Him! We have not studied Him enough to do so. I have not looked deeply into those beautiful eyes, have not held those hands and purposely engaged the cause of this heart. I have not drown myself in the Divine pathos. To feel what He feels. See what He sees. Suffer what He suffers. I have not given this life for His life.
I am altered by my own understanding. I do know how to love, I simply have not done it. If I were honest and looked into the eyes of my God or my spouse, I know that I ought to study so that I can bless. To study and to bless.Can you find a deeper relational call than this? I cannot. It appears that my life-long mission is to study the heart of my God so that, informed, I will know how to bless it. This edification of mutual respect, satisfaction and joys is so much less about my straining to consume a necessary resource… .it is about my becoming resourceful in my blessing. I become a studier. I am edified, not from my undisciplined consumption, but by my purposeful study. And I use that edification to bless God and neighbor.
The edifice and the text, the Divine revelation and human community of faith are less my source of survival… .a hired lover I run to for my fill of words, blessing and power. They have become my opportunity to see and perceive, to study and be altered by obtained knowledge, to engage causes, like-mindedness, lament and suffering. To be a blessing onto because I have truly come to know. Divinity is a place I go to look into the matter of His heart and seek out a way to honor, bless and keep it. Holy Matrimony has led me through these solemn vows… .Selah…
“And now I ask you, dear lady…” dear Gomer, dear Israel, dear Christian.. “-not as though I were writing you a new commandment, but the one we have had from the beginning - that we may love one another. And this is love, that we walk according to his commandments; this is the commandment, just as you have heard from the beginning, so that you should walk in it,” 2 John 5-6. Study. Study the Divine heart, ponder its ways, apply them as a blessing returned to the Divine heart. Study your neighbor, ponder their ways, apply your knowledge of God and mankind to your purposeful act of blessing…. .for the edification and salvation of their souls. Study to bless. Love out of a studied commandment.
“Ephraim mixes himself with the peoples. Ephraim is a cake not turned. Strangers devour his strength, and he knows it not; gray hairs are sprinkled upon him, and he knows it not. The pride of Israel testifies to his face, yet they do not return to the Lord their God, nor seek him, for all of this,” Hosea 7:8-10.
Hosea speaks in the metaphorical terms of an agricultural farmer and a baker (Hosea 7) and perhaps this is what he was. A man who tilled soil and turned bread in the oven. Perhaps there were olive groves or wheat fields. Maybe barley? Sunkissed grapes may have lined his fields in viney rows awaiting removal by patient hands to lay out their ripeness underneath the governor of the afternoon sky until parched and dried, sweetened and shriveled and tucked into well kneaded dough prepared for the heat of an oven. There, this delectable commodity rose into a raisin cake. Buyers did not always enjoy Hosea’s bakery labors but toted them off to feed the fires of the baals (Hosea 3:1). And the fires of their consumption…
Hosea comprehended the heat of Israelite passions in the cultic spheres of influence. They were mesmerized and carried off. “Ephraim is like a dove, silly and without sense, calling to Egypt, going to Assyria…” Hosea 7:11.
Wait, cries the prophet, Yahweh has good counsel; Yahweh has good sense! And then he watches the cake bake only half way… .the senseless dove squawk and flap about. Israel is only partly able. Only partly wise. Israel desperately needs tending…
A wise farmer tills his soil and inspects his produce. A good baker watches and turns his cake. The human heart needs tending. And Yahweh is sufficiently attentive. Moreso than we usually perceive. “…that the members may have the same care for one another,” 1 Corinthians 12:25.
I have pulled this half verse out of its context in 1 Corinthians and planted it in Hosea. Something strikes me as absolutely necessary about this. God has invested the full power of attentiveness in the hearts of His people so that mutual care will exist among them. The cake is baked on both sides. Good counsel and good sense are shed abroad in our communal hearts. Indulge my thought for a moment…
Equity florishes in Divinity’s Constitution. The human situation will never express its fullness. We will never reach, on social, national or global levels, the degree of equity that God personally entertains. In His world, the captives are freed from their unjust captivity, the poor are well fed and the lame always leap. Yahweh is fully attentive. He runs His own fingers through the soil and lingers over the produce to inspect with His own perceptive eyes. He passes by the oven at regular intervals and carefully turns the cake; it is evenly baked. God is attentive.
Yet, the “same care” is quoted within the context of “members” and “one another”. This senseless dove known as Us is supposed to manifest Divinities watchful eye and careful hand. We are to be attentive. And attentive so that the cake is not half baked. We are to pay attention to His thoughts on communal equity.
Perhaps the term equity only inspires our capitalistic culture to think in terms of dollars and cents, therefore, I will use some other words: mutuality, equality and respect. I will put a couple together to create the phrase “mutual respect”. And we will end with this word construction. While God was attentively pursuing the proper balance of Israelite society; while He was watching over it with faith and patience to be certain that none gathered more commodity than they needed and none suffered any lack, Israel was individualistically looking to puff up their side of the cake. A silly dove sought his or her own direction. Ephraim (another title for Israel) was thrown to the East Wind in all directions seeking security and advancement. There was no concern for mutual care or respect. There was no equity. God and man suffered with lack of mutual concern for the others welfare.
But there was equity between Yahweh and His prophet of pathos. These two fellowshipped within the other’s cause… .they painfully lingered in mutual care and sympathy…
God, teach us to be equally attentive…
“For they sow the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind. The standing grain has no head; it shall yield no flour; if it were to yield, strangers would devour it. Israel is swallowed up; already they are among the nations as a useless vessel. For they have gone up to Assyria, a wild donkey wandering alone…” Hosea 3:7-9.
I am the Pretty Girl. My features are often coveted. My figure studied by many a female compared it to their own. I am the Smart Girl. I boast the Dean’s List with a 4-point grade average at University level. My teachers and professors take delight in reading my papers and correcting my work. I am the Talented Girl. My vocals are good enough to sweeten the atmosphere; my eyes capable of capturing pictorial moments with camera, pencil and paint; my fingers rhythmic enough to persuade the guitar and tambourine; and, my mind sharp enough to design poetry, song, narrative and blog. I am absolutely astonished at the degree to which these magnificent attributes have caused me so much grief; not because of the numerous possibilities they encourage, but, because of the relational inversion they create. I find that I have many suitors but few lovers….
Educational halls, shopping malls, extended family get-togethers and corporate church gatherings. In each place I am singled out and responded to, for the most part, as a result of these distinctions. I receive flattery on the hinge of jealousy. Truly, I meet with few hearts. My quality investments are hoped for, my personal world is not. This little place in the heart where I live is often ignored, unshared. Though I am aptly courted, I deeply lament the loss of a lover’s fellowship. What is one commodity to do?
Follow my metaphor and comparisons…
The human race, I fear, has become an iconic welfare people. We live and breathe on the useful resources of our neighbors. Each person, partially gifted with some attributes to offer, exists as a means of securing our welfare, our survival.We worship the necessity and embellishment they bring. They are our demi-gods for as long as those resources exist. It’s no small thing that we depend on neighborly resources. It’s a larger affair, however, that our neighbors can be reduced to commodities themselves. I am one of these commodities; appraised and valued commercially. I am an icon and super hero for as long as I can produce profitable beauty, intelligence and talent. So are You. Keep following my comparisons…
Super heros or demi-gods, whichever term you prefer, are loved for what their abilities can bestow, however, they are often hated for having abilities that the average individual does not have. A love-hate relationship exists of dependency and jealousy. Sacrifices and teasing - anything to secure a means of personal welfare; anything to get what the demi-god has got. But since they are commodities, necessary sources alone, no real interest in their welfare. Keep following…
Hosea’s personal plight is strewn dramatically and half-hazardly across our conscience. He is begging us to hear. Although, truly, I don’t think he is entirely concerned with our listening. Hosea has tapped pathos… .God’s pathos. He watches God give His heart away. No, he felt God give His heart away to Israel. He felt it as he gave his heart to a women who took it for all it was worth… .as a commodity. God gave His attributes. They, Israel loved them… .and left Him. Follow…
I have met with this beautiful Creator who loved Israel. His eyes, they say, are like “a flame of fire” (Revelation 1:14), casting their perceptual gaze in every possible direction (Ezekiel 10:12). What deeply spiritual and future things could be perceived through them? I have met He, the Wise One of Universes. His wisdom enthrones a sovereign realm of order that lavishes our flourishing galaxy with bountiful structure (Proverbs 3:19-20). What organizational strategies might we extract from His creatively written instructions in the sky and in the sand? I have met with His mighty powers. My talents pale in comparison. He sets His finger over the waters and they split (Exodus 14). His verbal vibrations topple walls (Joshua 6). How might we contain this powerful expression and set it loose, under our control, to manipulate its benefits?
How might we make use of this Beautiful One, Almighty Artistic One… .this Powerful God of innumerable attributes? If He comes into the room could we subdue Him? Train Him? Unleash Him? Might we wink and saunter, flatter and court Him correctly until the most profitable benefits have been amply extracted?
Gomer glides into the room and acknowledges the family alter. Yahweh sits on a shelf amongst the household gods. He is full of blessings. Far beyond my own, His attributes are vast. I believe I, a neighbor, sit upon that shelf as well. I, an unseen personal soul, have been dipped in gold and sought for my giftings. Pathos. Perhaps a neighbor has gilded You as well. Pathos.Do you feel God’s pain?
I invite you to read all of Ezekiel, chapter 8. When it came to pass that God no longer poured out His blessing on a rebellious Israel who loved the super qualities of any deity, the whoring nation left Him and sought any available god with beauty, brains and talent. “And there engraved on the wall all around (Yahweh’s temple), was every form of creeping things and loathsome beasts, and all the idols of the house of Israel,” Ezekiel 8:10. If Yahweh cannot be summoned to play His part, we will seek another, they think…. .one of these gods will work for us. Israel sought protection, posterity and material prosperity. They consumed wherever the attributes and goods could be found. Often, in our longings, dreams and desires, the Creator is a shelved demi-god. Useful. Maybe. One of many. “Loved” and left.
I don’t believe that we purposely seek God or neighbor exclusively for their goods all of the time. And, much of the time when we do it, I venture, we don’t even know that we are doing it. I will remind us, nevertheless, one personal soul to another, that neither the Almighty Artistic One nor His creation are merely goods to consume. Take a listen to Hosea who cries from the heart… .his goods are taken and dispersed to other suitors and he is left alone. Take a listen to God and this prophet of pathos who occupy religious shelves. I don’t want to flatter and court God for what He has to offer… .I don’t want to be flattered and falsely courted for what I have to offer…. .and neither do you…
Let not my forerunning list of personal attributes suggest any egotism or attempt to illicit self pity. Life presents us with many opportunities to engage pathos with both God and man.. .and I have found Him here seeking to be more than an impersonal commodity to humanity…
In Hosea’s day, the ruthless Assyrian nation was an ominous threat in the Near East and, by Yahweh’s instigation, its eyes were soon cast towards degraded Israel. Israel had been a “whore” and rejected God’s steadfast love. Their silly games seeking immediate satisfaction through manipulation of the baals… .cult worship, prostitution and a slew of impersonal human atrocities that swiftly perverted fellow Israelite lives… .had drawn their affections away from a God who abided patiently in love….
God has a habit of being slow. Have you ever noticed this? The thing you ask for lingers on a distant horizon and shows up nearly too late. The restoration you seek comes in bits and pieces; connected like a jigsaw puzzle with thought and precision. Your expectations are not presented neatly arranged in a gift basket on one fine day, but, they are expertly laid one layer at a time... .a long time. Babies are knit together in the womb. Marriages are reconciled over the entire course of their together life. Houses, family visits, anticipated vacations, flower beds… .all these good things require a dollar saved over and over, a seed planted and watered and watered, mile after mile passing under the tires. Nothing good comes too quickly.
…even God. Usually, He has not shown up yesterday. His heart is rooted in the building block of Today based on the faithfulness of Yesterday’s promise and a hope for Tomorrow. God comes to us in layers, over years, with thought and precision. He reconciles a relationship and builds a house. God patiently loves us forevermore.
Like a marriage, all of our marital expectations cannot be met in one day with God. His marital promises are true, yet, they come with the mutual relating and reconciling of two very diverse partners. Hosea, our prophet of current topic, was married. This basic human institution suggested the necessary presence of both faith and patience.Faith: the acknowledgment that what is hoped for in experience will come with persistence and commitment. Patience: the long-suffering devotion that waits an interminable length to experience that hope. These are my own definitions forged by my personal need to be faithful and patient.
No doubt these also defined Hosea’s need. Marriage to a prostitute surely dimmed hope, yet, according to Hosea’s own prophetic writings, hope must stay alive, provoked by the heart of Yahweh to once again delight in His people and see them delight. The faith and patience of Yahweh, expressed with real suffering, refused to douse possibilities of reconciliation and conjugal joys. God still hoped, therefore, He was faithful to His bride and waited patiently….
“Therefore, behold, I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak tenderly to her. And there I will give her her vineyards and make the Valley of Achor (trouble) a door of hope,” Hosea 2:14.
Not only was He faithful, but, His faithfulness would be the initiator of her restoration. He did not reject she who rejected but put Himself out as her Helper, her Spouse. He would go into her deep valleys of many, many mistakes and would be her faithful, patient Healer… .Restorer… .Savior. Only a strong heart can pledge faithfulness to a flighty spouse and promise the renewal of deep affections. Only a strong commitment can itself insist on being the source of that spouses restoration. The thwarted Yahweh promised to be Israel’s eternal source of hope. I dare say, we have much to learn from Yahweh in terms of Faith and Patience.
“The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient with you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance,” 2 Peter 3:9.
The computer desk is finished and my iMac is out of the box! Which means, of course, that I may resume writing this blog. My lifestyle has changed a bit. My responsibilities have enlarged (in a very good way). Not only will I be taking college classes, but, I will also be doing the usual housework, feeding the family and... .drum role... .writing for a college publication! For this reason I have determined to lessen my workload by writing only 2 blogs per week. I hope, however, that this will mean richer, more educated and edited writing on my part. Many blessings to you and... .enjoy! Kim
It appears that you will read little from me in the month of February. My iMac (with my writings on it) still sits in a box. Stay with me! I will write soon! In the meantime, set your heart and mind on the faithfulness of a good God who has revealed Himself in history out of His loving-kindness towards us. God you pursue me... .you pursue us.... .I am amazed. You have shown Yourself even to those who did not look for You! Abundance and blessing to You, God of history....
My apologies to anyone who reads! My family and I have moved into a new home. The last 2 weeks have been very eventful. I intend to begin posting again in about a week. Still lots of organizing to do! Thank you for your patience!