This chapter tears your heart out. God is weaping for His child that he has raised but keeps turning from him to the evils of the world. As a mother my heart goes out to Him!
I am experiencing a small measure of what this is talking about. When I call to my 4 year old and he high tails it in the other direction because he is in an active rebllion phase I can put a picture to his words here. This is the childish rebellion that we experience in our hearts as well. What Israel wanted instead of the love of God was their own way. They didn’t want to stop playing at the playground of their lives, even though Godd knows it’s better for them if they rest. We too often do this, foolishly insisting on our own way.
How can I give you up?!
The cry of God’s heart in this chapter is truly heart breaking though. How do you give the child that you love and have nurtured, the child you cherish as flesh of your flesh, over to their own trechery? We are prone to see this as a giving up, and admission of failure. But this is anything but that. It’s mostly like the moment that my son hopes that he can fly. He believes it with all his heart and won’t listen to my cautions that jumping from the back of the chair will result in a fall. While I want to catch him to shelter him from the bump at the bottom, if I do that I will not be helping him at all. The hard fall is what is going to teach him the best to respect his own limitations.
God wants to shelter these rebellious people from their own foolishness, but He is choosing the better way of letting them fall and afterward be ready to believe Him more.
How can I give you up, O Ephraim?
How can I hand you over, O Israel?
How can I make you like Admah?
How can I treat you like Zeboiim?
My heart recoils within me;
my compassion grows warm and tender. v. 8
He admits that they deserve His righteous anger for their sin. They deserve the outpouring of His wrath. Yet, He will hold back. They will be taken away as a concequesnce of their desition, but they will not be destroyed.
The million dollar question
This is the first time we can really feel in this book the amount of emotion God is feeling in this. We can rationalize to a certain degree what His chioces are and how He is feeling throguh the rest of the book through our minds. This one starts to get out ahead of us a bit. How can God feel regret for a situation that He is fully in control of? There is never a moment, or a choice in this life, that God is not handling for His glory. So, why doesn’t He just fix this? It’s obvious right here that He is very broken up about the situation.
This is the question, right? The million dollar one. Why doesn’t God just make us all do the right thing and live for His glory in the perfect kind of way?
Bottom line, He is most glorified by our struggle. We don’t like this idea because we want things (especially God) to fit into our ideas of perfection that we have outlined in our own minds. Where does the judgement of God fit in a world that He made, we have to come back to the fact that we cannot understand this another way. God has made the world, it has been broken, we live in a world soaked in the evil that brokenness brings, Christ has come to free us from that brokenness and bring us into a place that our hearts are more than ready for. We do not know what goodness is without evil. We cannot know the depth of God’s sacrificial love without sacrifice.
Poetry in motion
Yet it was I who taught Ephraim to walk;
I took them up by their arms,
but they did not know that I healed them.
I led them with cords of kindness,
with the bands of love,
and I became to them as one who eases the yoke on their jaws,
and I bent down to them and fed them. v. 3-4
God is the gracious God of the entire scriptures, still in this moment of impending judgement. The people do not care that they have destroyed themselves. His heart id broken for the relationship they have had fromt he beginning and they are leaving in their foolishness. His patience and loving kindness reaches out to them again. Even as they near the end of their warnings here.
The last of this chapter gives us a hint as to God plan for the exile of Israel.
They shall go after the Lord;
he will roar like a lion;
when he roars,
his children shall come trembling from the west; they shall come trembling like birds from Egypt,
and like doves from the land of Assyria,
and I will return them to their homes, declares the Lord. v. 10-11
They will know the greatness of God and come treambling back to His presence when He calls them. He will return them to their homes in their land, and He will return us to our homes of humbled hearts.
Taking a moment to reflect on the text of this chapter will give us a couple take away points.
- Don’t be childish in your belief. God has more that He is working out in you than you can even imagine!
- Be childlike in your belief. Remember the God is the one who is taking you by the hand and wants you to trust in Him through every trial that comes your way. He didn’t hand Israel this trial of war and strife because he was angry at them. He handed them thier struggle so they would remember to turn to Him. they diddn’t and ran to idols instead and the weight of their sin was coming upon them as the ones they put their trust in were about to swallow them up.
This chapter more than any of the others points us clearly back tot he weight of their choices in turnign to Assyria, and how what they had done prompted the later events. When we train our hearts to not trust God, then the rest of our life will be trial and strife. The choices we make don’t begin in peace, and won’t end up there either.
Lets let this chapter be a helpful reminder of the grace God gives us every day, the mercies that are new every morning, and the satisfaction that can come from God alone. When we are done with this struggle now, or the one that comes next, will we be able to say we know better how to trust God, or ourselves? Hope in God!