The God of grace
Nahum 1: He recognizes and welcomes anyone looking for help.
Even as the prophet prepares to deliver his sermon of condemnation on the mighty nation of Assyria he can’t help but rejoice in the grace and mercy of God. This same God who declares his judgment on those who reject his claim on their lives has nothing but good news for those who turn to him for help. In fact, the Lord is drawn to such people. I love the fact that even in these portions of the Old Testament that appear to be focused on God as Judge of the World that there are these beautiful word pictures of him as the God of Grace. Nahum declares that “no matter how desperate the trouble” that God is more than willing to “recognize and welcome” all who come to him. In an uncertain world I need such a Savior. I’m reminded in this passage that I don’t have to come to God and convince him that I’m worthy of his help in my life. Instead, I see that he stands ready to extend his mercy to me. In the parable of the prodigal son, the returning son expects to have to make concessions, to take a lowly role if he wants to, once again, have a place in the Father’s household. Instead, the Father runs to him, embraces him, and immediately begins celebrating his return. Hundreds of years before Jesus ever tells this story, Nahum understands this about God, declaring, “He recognizes and welcomes anyone looking for help.”
Take Away: The Lord stands ready to extend his mercy to us.
God’s telling the truth to lost people
Jeremiah 3: I’m committed in love to you.
The sins of Judah and Israel are described in graphic terms. Their idol worship has a sexual component and the Lord uses that imagery to speak of their betrayal of him in terms of adultery. He’s loved them and been faithful to them but they’ve betrayed that love and degraded themselves in the most lewd ways. If this were a husband and wife relationship no one would question the husband’s right to kick her out. It isn’t that way though. In spite of their unfaithfulness God calls out to them saying he’s committed to love them and that all they have to do is admit their sin and return to him. The imagery changes to that of a parent speaking to a rebellious child as the Lord says, “Come back wandering children.” Before Jesus ever tells the story of the prodigal son Jeremiah pictures for us a loving God reaching out to those who’ve rejected him, wounding his heart. On one hand, it’s foolish to presume upon the mercy of God, thinking, “When I’m good and ready I’ll return to him.” On the other hand, it’s an insult to him to say, “I’ve sinned in such a terrible way that he won’t take me back.” God says he’s “committed in love to” us. He promises that if I repent and return he’ll welcome me back. To doubt that is to think that God doesn’t tell the truth.
Take Away: God is the God of Second Chances.
The journey home begins with this first step
Isaiah 50: It’s your sins that put you here, your wrongs that got you shipped out.
The Lord tells Israel that he didn’t “divorce” them and he didn’t just kick them out. They’re where they are because of their intentional rejection of him. Even when he reached out to them, they ignored him. The disaster didn’t come because he changed the rules or backed out of his promises to them. It’s their doing. Because of that, the road back, as it does for the prodigal son, starts with their coming to their senses and acknowledging their sin. There’s hope here, because there is, indeed, a way back; the possibility of restoration even after sin. It starts with admitting, “I’m a sinner.” If I think I’ll return to God on my terms I’m only fooling myself. In this passage the Lord proclaims, “I’m as powerful as ever.” Things don’t have to stay the same because God has the power to make things right. It’s a long road home for these who’ve been exiled to distant lands and that road starts with their repentance. That’s true for them, it’s true for the prodigal, and it’s true for me when my sins have separated me from God.
Take Away: Things don’t have to stay the same because he Lord has the power to make things right.