For God so loved the world that he gave his only son, that who ever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life
Let us pray:
Hide me behind your cross, Lord Jesus. Articulate the Father’s heart through my voice and let the Holy Spirit breathe new life to us, opening our ears to hear the message of God. Amen
She only knew how to do one thing to earn money. It is the world’s oldest profession. The one that involves the desire for another that can parade as love, but is really lust. She knew nothing else and was able to tell herself that it was empowering.
He came and took her from that. He loved her, despite what she had once done.
She went back to it.
He came and got her.
She went back to it.
He came and got her.
And in the end, she realized that his love was not about what she did, but about who she was to him.
And she stopped running.
It sounds like a nice Hollywood story. But it is more aligned with this story of prophetic action, moments in Scripture when God asks a prophet to speak truth to power in the midst of doing something unexpected.
Hosea is asked to marry a woman who is, in the words of the Bible, ‘promiscuous’.
It is meant to be a picture of who we are before we accept the love God has for us and turn our backs on the sin that chains us to our own desires.
We live for ourselves.
And then God says, “I love you. You are my beloved. Come away from those chains. Leave that hurt. Surrender that pain. Give it to me.”
We think we leave it.
And then we go back to it, because we cannot believe that the God who made us can love us enough to actually forgive our past. We cling to our shame and our guilt as though they were badges of honor, ready to clip our arms back in the shackles that hold us captive to distress and despair.
We live for ourselves, staying in the mud that God would have us leave.
And then God says, “I love you. You are my beloved.”
This is what the Israelites did over and over
This is what every person in the world does, over and over.
Many times we convince ourselves that we are better off in the mud, that what we do when we live for ourselves makes us free. Keeps us uninhibited. Turns us loose from some wrath being who would strike us dead with the slightest misstep.
And God says “I AM. I love. I love you. You are my beloved. I came for you. I run after you. I will not stop.”
And we think we don’t we deserve the kind of abundant life God wants to offer. We think that following Jesus ties us to rules and don’ts that hold us captive. We think we are missing something others have when we surrender to God.
And then God says “You don’t deserve it, but I offer it anyway. It’s called grace. It’s called love. It is what I have for you – boundless love. You are my beloved.”
And when the day comes, when we finally relinquish our chains and follow Jesus, we find that the freedom we thought we had was simply slavery to desires we had no control over. And the wrath-filled being who would end us doesn’t exist, is in fact an imaginary being made from the expectations of who God is, but it is NOT in fact, who God is. We find freedom in the ability to forgive our enemies, to love our neighbors, to pray for those who persecute us. To be kind and gentle and peaceable and patient. There is freedom in knowing that nothing is bigger than the God who loves.
Over and over God says “I am love. I love you. You are my beloved” And when we finally believe it, when we finally embrace it, we find that the truth of what that love looks like, not only from God’s side but from our experiences and opportunities to give it away is even bigger and more magnificent that we could have expected.
We can read Hosea and the stories of the children of Israel and all the wanderings and unfaithfulness and shake our heads and cluck our tongues, but the truth is we are all just as prone to wander, just as likely to be unfaithful – it is only in our obedience, in our following that we can see our own foolish similarity to those who wandered so far. When we do, when we recognize our own limitations, when we let go of our need to be in control and our need to do our own thing, to rule ourselves then we stop running. We stop going back to the faithlessness. Instead, we cling to the One who gave himself for us, and finally we can hear God speak, can hear God say “welcome home, you are my beloved”
As we have been doing every week in this series, I will remind you of what it looks like to say that the love of God is found in every page of Scripture. Follow along on your sheets and whenever I point at you say whatever is bolded on your page:
What does it mean to say God loves?
God loved us enough to create us, to form us from the dust.
God loved us enough to let us fail, to let us choose our own way over God’s – to let us chain ourselves to sin and defeat and heartbreak and sorrow and death.
God loved us enough to provide a rescue, a way back: through wanderers, murderers, adulterers, defaulters, promise-breakers, foreigners, strangers, and lovers.
God loved us enough to show us mothers, judges, kings, and prophets who loved and spoke for God and kept reminding us of the promise of redemption
God loved us enough to show us how evil and wrong continually mess things up and how obedience to God fosters holiness and bestows blessing
God loved us enough to send us Jesus, the only begotten Son of God, to preach and live peace, grace, hope, joy, and love.
God loved us enough to see Jesus rejected, to see him die, to see him buried.
God loved us enough to raise Jesus from the dead and send the Holy Spirit to remind us of all we have in him and empower us to live like Jesus.
God loves us enough to want us to live like Jesus – an abundant life infused with all the fruit of the Spirit, redeemed, free, loved.
God loves us enough to still let us choose our own destiny.
God loves us enough to promise the hope of forever, of resurrection from the dead, and final judgement.
God loved us enough, God loves us enough, God will always love us enough.
For God so loved the world…
God loves you.
God wants you to know it. God wants you to live in it.
God wants you to be able to love others because you know you are loved.
God’s love is expressed to us every week, most tangibly, as we gather at this table: The Son who died and yet lives, gave everything so we could know the depth of God’s love.
So, Come. Drink the wine. Eat the bread. Know you ARE loved.
God loves you. Go, love the world with him.