It’s been a long day. I’m waiting to meet grandboy #8, and I’m wondering why I’m willing to fight the reconstruction around the building and hospital food and this hard chair, simply to meet a little fella who won’t recognize me or me, him, who can’t squeal like his older brother, “Ma’am’s here!”, who’s helpless and needy and will cry his way in and out of our arms, who’s unknown by all of us, including his parents.

But I’m waiting with bated breath for his safe arrival and the news of his good health. I’m waiting to hold him, to smell his baby breath, to feel his soft skin, to begin to know a little of this little person I already love. I wouldn’t miss his birth for anything on earth.

Why do I already love him like this?

No idea. I guess, just because.

Hosea 10-14

There’s a lot in these chapters about God’s judgment, but there’s just as much about his love. Really more, if I count the verses. He’s the mama bear robbed of her cubs who rips Israel apart, and the doting dad who taught Israel to walk, holding out his arms as he toddles along, Ho 11:3, 13:7-8, MSG.

God will charge in and roar at them like a lion, let coyotes make a meal of them and crows pick their bones, and he’ll not bear to think of leaving them alone. Just the thought of it makes “my insides churn in protest,” he says, Ho 11:8-10, 13:7-8, MSG.

God’s the tornado that tears out of the desert to devastate them, leaving ruin and wreckage, gutting their cities, and he’s the One who bends down to feed them, who took care of them in the wilderness when they had nothing and in the promised land when they had everything and promptly forgot him, Ho 11:5, 13:4-6, 15, MSG.

God’s not too proud to beg for them to return to him; three times he cries out to them, “O, Israel, come back! Return to your God! You’re down, but you’re not out. Prepare your confession and come back to God.” He even gives them the words to use when they head home. And he promises to heal their waywardness and love them lavishly, making a fresh start with them all over again, Ho 14:1-4, MSG.

All these hopeful, bolstering words come just after ones about Israel’s people being killed, their babies smashed on the rocks, the pregnant women ripped apart, Ho 13:16. An enemy will do the dirty work, and God won’t rescue them, Am 9:4, MSG.

Yikes.

Is God bi-polar, judging one minute and loving the next? It’s not the first time I’ve wondered. But God is not bipolar, because even his judgment is loving. He says it’s designed to bring his wandering children back to him.

God’s the spoiler–letting his kids know how everything will turn out when the credits roll, reminding them of his love, even in the discipline he’s bringing. He goes to great lengths to get their attention, letting them in on the consequences they’ll have for the sins they’re choosing and how completely he’ll love them when they finally come back to him, Ho 11.

There’s nothing he won’t stoop to, to shake them from their God-substitutes, and there’s nothing too wondrous to give them once they walk in the kitchen. The chance to repent is always on the table, beckoning them to find their best home in him, Ho 14:8, MSG.

Planting and thriving are the images Hosea piles up to describe it–they’ll burst into bloom like a crocus in spring, become a forest of oaks with deep roots, splendid like a towering Sequoia, fragrant like a grove of cedar, Ho 14:4-6, MSG.

Their neighbors will benefit, too, and they’ll talk about God’s people and spread their fame, because Israel will be done with their idols and will find everything they need in their One True God, Ho 14:7-8.

But why exactly? The old question still nags me. Why does God bother with people who keep wandering off and getting lost, who could care less if he’s with them or not, whose lewd acts never slow down, let alone stop? (For a quick rundown of their wickedness, see Hosea 4:1-3, all of Chapter 10, and 13:1-3.)

As if God is anticipating my question, he’s already answering, “And why? Because I am God and not a human. I’m the Holy One and I’m here–in your very midst,” Ho 11:9, MSG.

God bothers with rebellious people because he wants them to enjoy him in their midst, even within them. And he’s not waiting around for them to figure out who he is or what he wants from them. He tells them directly through his prophets, through the Scriptures, through worship at the temple, through their history with him–a whole lotta words that say the exact same thing, “I take no pleasure in the death of anyone! Repent and live!” Ez 18:32; Ho 12:9-11, 13:4-6.

God doesn’t ego trip. He doesn’t need the accolades of men and women, telling him how great he is. But he didn’t make the universe and the people in it to ignore or to torture them. He made it to have a love relationship. It’s not for his benefit that he tells them who he is—that he’s a holy God, not a human, who lives right where they live, Ho 11:9. It’s for theirs.

And it’s for ours.

Knowing that God-is-God (and I’m not) is hugely relieving. It takes the pressure off. It lets me be weak and needy, asking him for help and depending on his giving. It keeps me from feeling the weight of the world on my shoulders–or just the weight of my own world. This is what it means to be fully human: to trust that God-is-God and I-am-not, so I get to relax and rest, work and play. Knowing God-is-God is essential for living my best life, God’s way.

God is both our mama bear and our daddy dear. He keeps coming after his children because he loves us. He wants what’s best for us, and he knows how critical it is for us to know him in order to have it. It would be cruel for him to let us wander off without a fight: there’s no real life apart from the God who created us, Ho 14:8, Co 3:3-4.

So he’ll do whatever it takes to turn us willingly to himself. He doesn’t mind waiting, but he doesn’t twiddle his thumbs, either. He actively seeks us through disaster and disease, devastation and death to wise us up and set us straight and on the road with him. Hosea says it best in the last verse of his book:

“If you want to live well, make sure you understand all of this.
If you know what’s good for you, you’ll learn this inside and out.
God’s paths get you where you want to go.
Right-living people walk them easily;
wrong-living people are always tripping and stumbling,”
Ho 14:9, MSG.

But I’m still curious. Why does God bother with the trippers and stumblers, those of us who know the right thing and keep choosing badly? Why doesn’t he push us right off the path? Why does he keep forgiving and welcoming us, giving us more do-overs and fresh starts than we can add up?

Jesus says he didn’t come to call the righteous but sinners to repent, Lk 5:32. I guess that’s the best answer I’m gonna get. But why did Jesus come for sinners? It’s the same question all over again, only dressed up in different clothes.

Paul said God is love, and this is what love does: It gives. It forgives. It doesn’t quit, 1 Co 13. Jesus came for sinners because he loves us like this. It’ll never makes sense, but it always makes me worship.

God loves us just because he does.

Bryan, Sadie, and baby Abraham at 2:54 am.

Hosea 10-14 is selected for today in The One Year Bible.

For a recent, personal story of recognizing that God is God, see “Breaking Free” on http://onetruelove.blog.

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