A Climb Free post – a deeper look at truths that can change our view of our God, ourselves, and the way in which we can live effectively in this world. (This is a continuation of the exploration of our God’s “hesed” love, His covenant love for us.)
What is to be our response to this “hesed” love of our God, this covenant love He lavishes upon us? It is only right that we respond to Him with a reciprocal love. Our God speaks to this through the prophet in Hosea 6:1-6 “Come, let us return to the Lord. For He has torn us, but He will heal us; He has wounded us, but He will bandage us. “He will revive us after two days; He will raise us up on the third day, that we may live before Him. “So let us know, let us press on to know the Lord. His going forth is as certain as the dawn; and He will come to us like the rain, like the spring rain watering the earth. What shall I do with you, O Ephraim? What shall I do with you, O Judah? For your loyalty is like a morning cloud and like the dew which goes away early. Therefore, I have hewn them in pieces by the prophets; I have slain them by the words of My mouth; and the judgments on you are like the light that goes forth. For I delight in loyalty rather than sacrifice, and in the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.”
Israel had wandered far from their God. Time and again they would begin to worship the false gods of the people they failed to displace when they took over the land. The trouble started with choosing to make their enemies their servants instead of kicking them out completely. They then began to intermingle with them, pursuing their own self-interests and ignoring their God. This selfish disobedience would repeat many times. The Israelites tried to live a religious life that served their own self-interests. They failed to realize that whatever is selfish cannot lead to love, and selfish people cannot comprehend true love.
And so this word from God through Hosea. “Come let us return to the Lord, for He will heal us.” Here the prophet is relying on the covenant love of God to still be pursuing them, and he is confident that if they will return to their God, His love for them will lead to healing.
He continues: “So let us know, let us press on to know the Lord.” The prophet is pleading not simply for a behavior change, but for a change in the relationship they have with their God. The Hebrew term here, “to know,” is a term of intimacy, not factual knowledge. The plea is for a deep, intimate relationship with Him which would prevent them from returning to their folly. We cannot love deeply one whom we do not know deeply. We must pursue our God earnestly if we are to love Him. This idea of knowing our God intimately has been the topic in recent posts on the Adventure Blog.
Then the Lord speaks about them: “…your loyalty is like a morning cloud and like the dew which goes away early.” “Loyalty” here, from the Hebrew word transliterated “hesed,” is the word we have been studying in the last few “Climb Free” posts. The Lord is laying down the expectation that His children will love Him as He loves them, with a loyal, covenant love that is steadfast and pursuing. He contrasts that covenant love with the commitment they displayed toward Him, which was shallow, selfish, fleeting, and opportunistic.
The message from God is clear. “For I delight in loyalty,” a covenant love in return for His covenant love for us, “rather than sacrifice,” meaning loveless, perfunctory religious observance. Apparently, the Israelites believed that if they offered the sacrifices and religious observances, they were “in” with their God. “If we just give to God the rituals He laid out in the law, we can then go along with the locals and keep God happy.” They were totally ignoring the First (and greatest) Commandment from Deuteronomy 6, to love their God with all of their heart, soul, and strength. There is no love in the kind of selfishness and false religiosity they exhibited toward their God. Their actions clearly pointed out the vital truth that whoever is selfish cannot love, and cannot really comprehend true love.
This kind of thinking still shows up to promote whatever is the religiosity of the day instead of true love for our God. How easily we think that if we just give our God enough of the religious stuff He wants, He will be okay with that. We can then get on with living our own lives the way we want. We forget that the reason for which we were created was to live out of a self-sacrificing, all-consuming covenant love for our God. Our God is saying to us what He said to Israel: “For I delight in loyalty,” covenant love in return for His covenant love for us, “rather than sacrifice,” religious observances and rote ritualism. Our God desires from each of us a covenant love toward Himself that is relentless in the pursuit of intimacy and communion, unfailing in its focus upon Him daily. He desires from us a steadfast love that bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. A love that never fails.
Here is important news for us: we are not capable of this love for our God on our own. You cannot love your God or anyone else with this covenant love, apart from the work of the Holy Spirit in you. Listen to how Paul talks about this in Romans 5:3-5 “And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; 4 and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; 5 and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.”
Our ability to love our God with this great covenant love is completely dependent upon the work of God the Holy Spirit in us. We simply cannot, with our own ability to love, begin to love our God with this great, steadfast, relentless love. We in our humanness do not have that capacity. It is a work of our God, by His grace and His love for us, that He puts this love for Himself within us. Only by this work of His Holy Spirit can we begin to realize the fullness of our calling in Him.
The next “Climb Free” post will explore this Great Commandment, and the love we are to have for our God