God used the prophet Hosea to communicate to his people that he loved them and desired a restored relationship with them. How? In a most unlikely way. God commanded Hosea to marry an unfaithful woman named Gomer. As soon as Hosea and his wife’s children were born, she prostituted herself and, in time, became enslaved. In response to God’s command, Hosea then redeemed his wife from slavery and restored her to the family. God intended this demonstration of unconditional love to symbolize his own love for the people of Israel.
God treated his people with mercy and compassion even though they rejected him and his will for them time and again. But though God was angered by the unfaithfulness of his people he never rejected them completely. Neither did he condone their sin by extending unqualified mercy. He allowed the Israelites to suffer the consequences of their disobedience. After this, however, he promised to restore them when they repented.
While the story of Hosea’s gracious love for Gomer is the story of God’s love for the wayward Israelites, it’s also the story of God’s love for you. You, too, choose the way of disobedience that leads inevitably toward suffering and exile. But as God did with Israel, he often uses the pain of exile to bring you to your senses and lead you back to him. Then, through God’s unfailing love, you can be restored and enjoy an intimate relationship with him.
The prophet Malachi brought a message of hope to a nation that knew repeated failure. After being restored to their homeland, the Jews had forgotten the one who had delivered them. We often make the same kind of mistake. As soon as we overcome our pressing problems, we forget the one who delivered us from them’God. Without a continued relationship with God, our hope of sustaining spiritual growth is slim at best. You and I need to keep our eyes on God, the source and means for our continued spiritual growth.
God’s love to the people of Jerusalem and to us cannot be explained. God knows the depth of your sin; he knows how weak you are; yet he still loves you. There is nothing that you can do to lose this love that you never deserved in the first place. God’s love has the power to heal all the broken places in your life. Your failures, setbacks, and defenses cannot stop God from wanting to heal you. This fact should give you hope, no matter how terrible your failures in the past. He already knows about the anger, betrayal, addiction, lies’you’re not going to surprise him. But it’s time you confess and seek his will for your life.
Are you willing to turn to him for healing and forgiveness? He was patient with the people of Israel for hundreds of years, in spite of their sin. In his grace, God patiently waits for you as well.
Did you know that service is a way of saying thanks to God? You can never truly pay back the overwhelming love and support your parents may have shown you. But you can pass the love on to your children. In the same way, you can never repay God for granting you life in Christ and for blessing you, but you can pass his love onto others in practical ways.
One of the great barriers to service, however, is pride. Pride causes men to scoff at the thought of putting others first. Pride teaches you to calculate how every action will further your own reputation or advance you toward your goals. Pride makes you keep careful record of who is next in line for something good.
The apostle Paul had much to say to us about sacrifice. Chapter twelve of the book of Romans portrays several specific areas in which you can be a living sacrifice and serve God in the world. As a living sacrifice, you surrender using your gifts solely for your own advancement. You seek to bless others instead and sacrifice your time and resources for their benefit. In the process, your life will be shaped into the image of greatest man who ever lived: Jesus Christ. Where do you sense God calling you to serve? Let your motivation for service flow from a heart that’s thankful to God for the grace he’s shown you.