Saturday, August 4, 2012

Powerful and Gentle Love

I taught Ephraim to walk, taking them by their arms; but they did not know that I healed them.  I drew them with gentle cords, with bands of love, and I was to them as those who take the yoke from their neck. I stooped and fed them.” – Hosea 11:3-4

Go back to those two verses and read them again.  Notice the love in God’s words. God has treated Ephraim, the rebellious tribe of Israel as a Father would treat a cherished child.  He taught him to walk, taking hold of their hands and steadying them.  Ephraim didn’t know that God healed him, just as we don’t give God credit for all He does for us.  But God didn’t stop caring for Him when He didn’t get gratitude.  He drew them with “gentle cords, with bands of love”, which refers to a practice of tying a string to the child’s hands to lead them as they walk so as they still have support while they’re trying to walk.  It was sort of the training wheels of learning to walk.  God took the “yoke from their neck” and lead them out of Egypt to free them from slavery.  All of that, but the most incredible statement was “I stooped and fed them.”

Imagine that.  The God that rules AL, created ALL, deserves ALL worship, ALL love, ALL glory,  and ALL that we could offer Him - He stoops down from His place of dignity and respect to feed them.  He became a servant to them.  To think that God’s love would be so overwhelming for someone that turned from Him!  To fully understand it, you have to see what God was feeling.  You have to understand what Ephraim was guilty of, and how God just never gave up on loving him. 

Ephraim turned from how he was raised.  Israel was a religious nation, seeped in traditions and laws and taught from generation to generation to seek God, to know God is Holy, to know God is almighty.  But Ephraim turned away from God and to idol worship and pagan gods.  That’s a rejection of God’s love and care, as a child turning from a parent. 

Feel what God felt for a moment.  Think about if your child were to turn against you.  They choose another parent to be their parent instead of you.  They rejected your love, your care, your way of life, your dress code, your values, your ways, your name.  Everything about you has become something they desire NOT to be.  And this goes on for years and years.  How does that feel?  Do you walk away?  Do you just give up?  The answer lies in Hosea 11 with what God says about Ephraim. 

“How can I give you up, Ephraim?
How can I hand you over, Israel?
How can I make you like Admah?
How can I set you like Zeboiim?
My heart churns within Me;
My sympathy is stirred.
I will not execute the fierceness of My anger;
I will not again destroy Ephraim.
For I am God, and not man,
The Holy One in your midst;
And I will not come with terror.” – Hosea 11:8-9

Is that not beautiful?  Well, maybe you just need a different perspective to see how beautiful it is.  Let’s try the perspective God gave to me when I read it:

YOU are Ephraim.

YOU were cared for since you were born.

YOU were healed and blessed and never gave God credit for it. 

YOU have disappointed God. 

YOU have turned from God’s word and His will.

YOU have turned away from what He wants in your life. 

YOU have chased after your own dreams and worshipped them. 

YOU have given no thought to God’s desires.

YOU have neglected His Word and His knowledge and looked for other answers. 

YOU have forgotten all that He has done for you.

Now go back and read where He said “How can I destroy you?  How can I give you up?  My heart churns within me!  My sympathy is stirred up! I won’t come at you with anger!  I won’t destroy you!  I will not come and scare you with my power!” 

It amazes me how powerful God is, and yet how completely gentle He is.  He can push ocean waves gently to the shore and out again, or He can create a tsunami.  He can blow gentle breezes, or tornado force winds.  He can gently turn the earth, or He can shake it in a destructive earthquake.  He can sent gentle rain or raging floods.  But I am most amazed at how he can turn off all His anger and wrath and destructive capabilities simply because His heart is filled with love. How powerful that love must be!  How completely bottomless His love is!

The next time you feel like a failure, you feel like you have disappointed God to the point that you just can’t go back to church, you can’t face the “religious” people, you can’t ask for forgiveness one more time…just remember God’s love for Ephraim, and know He loves all His children with that same love.

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