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
I have been preaching the Word of God since 1985. It was all quite by default. I really had no plans to preach through the Summer of 85. On the contrary, my plan was to take summer courses, work full time, and spend most of the summer watching our three sons enjoy their first summer vacation from school in Pennsylvania. But a classmate of mine, who had an opportunity to be part of our college’s choral group that toured during the summer, gave me his Sunday preaching spot at Starlite Campground outside of Brickerville, PA. So, on top of all the other things I planned on doing during the summer, I added sermon prep and delivery to the list. And as they say, the rest is history.
I only bring this up because as a preacher, on any given Monday morning, sitting at the desk, I often wonder if anyone is really listening, is anyone really getting what I am saying. Maybe after 35 years of preaching and teaching God’s Word it’s not for me to answer that question. And by every Tuesday morning I let it go and realize that, if I have done my best, I must leave the results up to God.
Now that I am in a semi-retired mode of ministry, I do much more pew sitting than pulpit preaching. I am not complaining, because I really enjoy not being in the pulpit every Sunday. So, if not preaching Sunday mornings, what am I doing? Well, I am doing what I hope you are doing, I am listening to pastor’s message. Now, you need to know most preachers don’t make good pew sitters. Sometimes we fidget like a two-year-old waiting for playtime, at my age it is more like naptime. Yet this past Sunday, the Holy Spirit spoke clearly to me as the pastor reiterated his theme, “Great Love In The Midst Of Great Sin.”
Being a Christian for just over 45 years I thought I had a good handle on God’s love, biblically, theologically, and practically. I have never doubted His love for me nor questioned the extent of His love. But there have been times I have viewed the extent of God’s love more through the eyes of academia than through God’s personal involvement. That personal involvement must be viewed through His action of “stooping.” Our God has always been and will ever be a stooping God. It is not just the fact that He stooped down to our level to come to earth in the form of a man to deal with man’s sin and rebellion through the cross of Christ, it is the fact that He has not stopped stooping down to deal with His children who continue to sin and act in rebellion to Him.
As we read Hosea 11:3-4 we see the extent of God’s love through the eyes of a loving, caring father. We all know it is easy to love the child that is compliant, obedient, and acquiescent. Who doesn’t love a child with those character traits? But for those of us who live in the real parenting world, children are messy, sometimes as messy as the bedroom they sleep in. And God’s children are no different. Hosea points out that despite the fact that God multiplied the people of Israel and had shown His great power in bringing them into the land of Canaan, they abandoned Him and worshipped manmade images (11:2). So it is, God dealt with His children’s messiness and lovingly disciplined them in order for them to come back freely to Him.
WHAT HAPPENS WHEN WE COME BACK—Returning, making a U-turn, Repenting, changing in the opposite direction you are heading in, is probably the greatest action any of God’s children can take and I believe God delights in it. As a matter of fact, I see God as a parent (verses 3 and 4) stooping down to teach His toddler how to walk with Him all over again. Think of it in these terms. You have been in rebellion against God for most of your Christian life. You walked away from the Lord and now you realize what you have missed out on, all the blessings of being in His will and His fellowship. When that reality hits home you return and repent from your sins. What does God do? He stoops down takes the yoke of sin off your neck, and feeds you by His hand and if that isn’t enough, verse 3 tells us that He teaches you how to walk with Him at your side… all over again.
GOD STOOPING TO AN ALL NEW HIGH—We need to be careful here because we may think that Hosea 11:3-4 only applies to those who have had a long tenure of rebellion against God. But this is where the rest of us who may have the idea we don’t need this tender figure of a parent or the loving and patient master relieving the burden of the yoke. The fact is, we need this same loving God who stoops down each day to a new high in order to train us to walk with Him every day and to relieve our burden of sin, which is always rebellion against Him.
IT MATTERS LITTLE TO GOD WHETHER HIS CHILDREN REBEL FOR A DAY OR FOR DECADES. Time doesn’t matter to God because He is above time, He is transcendent, He made time for us not Him, He is eternal. But our rebellion, whether a millisecond or a millennium is still the greatest offense to God and has to be dealt with. How does God want to deal with His children? The same way He dealt with Israel, drawing them “with gentle cords, with band of love” taking “the yoke from their neck”… stooping to feed them.
In theological terms we call this the condescension of God, where God condescended in coming down to earth taking the form of a man in order to die for us in our place for our sins. But God has stooped to an all new high when we see the fact that every day when we are in rebellion against Him, He stoops down like the Father God that He is, each and every time we repent, wanting nothing more than to draw us in with gentle cords, with bands of love, taking the yoke of our sin off our neck and to feed us with His presence. And He doesn’t just do it once but He is willing to do it every single day of our life in Him until we are with Him in glory. That’s A God Who Stoops To A New High! This is “great love in the midst of great sin.” God is still stooping to an all new high—He is still stooping down to you and me, Oh what love, what grace divine!
This is Pastor Pat FROM BEHIND THE PEN wishing you Joy in Jesus!