It is tempting to sleep these hot afternoon hours away. The dogs succumb without thought or care. The whir of the air conditioning unit and the clank of the dishwasher lull me into that state between awake and dreaming, the place where Tinkerbell lives and loves (according to Hook, a most excellent movie). Maybe I will curl up and let the furballs jostle for space at my feet, but for now there are things to be done. Words to be written.
Kate tells us to write about: loyal.
I’ve been slowly working my way through Zephaniah (you can read all about that here) and am completely fascinated by every aspect of this short prophetic book. Many would say it’s a hard read. Nobody wants to dwell on judgment and destruction and chaos. We want to learn about the “good things” in the Bible. Like Jesus and blessings and joy.
We don’t think that justice is the mark of a faithful God.
A loyal God.
Our expectations of the Divine are decidedly strange. It takes a whole lot of that renewing the mind stuff (Romans 12:2) to even begin to understand that punishment or discipline or whatever you want to call it is a sign of God’s great love. Involvement, care, consequences – these are not marks of a disinterested or hateful deity. They open our ears to His frustrated cry, ringing through the heavens. They clear our vision to see what is real and true.
God disciplines because He is loyal. God lets us experience the natural outcome of our foolish choices because He is faithful. He began a work and He will finish it (Philippians 1:6). It’s not going to be puppies and rainbows and candy because that’s not the material we give Him to work with. Oh, how we complain that if God were truly loving, He would make our lives easier!
I often think that He answers, “If you truly loved me, you wouldn’t be in that mess in the first place. But guess what? I know you’ve got tunnel vision and that you’re a mess, so I’m going to take this thing and spin solid gold out of it.”
And He does. Look at Hosea 2:14-23 –
“Therefore, behold, I will allure her,
Will bring her into the wilderness,
And speak comfort to her.
I will give her her vineyards from there,
And the Valley of Achor as a door of hope;
She shall sing there,
As in the days of her youth,
As in the day when she came up from the land of Egypt.
“And it shall be, in that day,”
Says the LOrd,
“That you will call Me ‘My Husband,’
And no longer call Me ‘My Master,’
For I will take from her mouth the names of the Baals,
And they shall be remembered by their name no more.
In that day I will make a covenant for them
With the beasts of the field,
With the birds of the air,
And with the creeping things of the ground.
Bow and sword of battle I will shatter from the earth,
To make them lie down safely.
“I will betroth you to Me forever;
Yes, I will betroth you to Me
In righteousness and justice,
In lovingkindness and mercy;
I will betroth you to Me in faithfulness,
And you shall know the Lord.
“It shall come to pass in that day
That I will answer,” says the Lord;
“I will answer the heavens,
And they shall answer the earth.
The earth shall answer
With new wine,
And with oil;
They shall answer Jezreel.
Then I will sow her for Myself in the earth,
And I will have mercy on her who had not obtained mercy;
Then I will say to those who were not My people,
‘You are My people!’
And they shall say, ‘You are my God!’”
My time runs short and I can’t get into the context of this passage, so please go and study yourself. Just know for now that this wooing, it came after harshness. After God sends punishment their way. Really, I think the trouble is part of the wooing, for if God is completely loving, then no action of His can be unloving. It’s as if there comes a time when He knows He must shake us violently in order for us to finally, at last, bend our knees and fall before Him.
The Father sometimes has to spank us, His children, but the pain is always followed by words of grace and love. Somehow, in a way we can’t understand, righteousness and peace coexist in perfect harmony within His essence.
It’s like demolition. No remodel can be done without first destroying that which currently stands. So God is both the sledgehammer and the interior designer.
The combination makes Him perfectly loyal.