Going Back to God
Marriage can be tough. We surely need not look much further than divorce statistics to know that. Even before the advent of no-fault divorce and a culture in which the dissolution of marriage is no big deal, husbands and wives struggled. Relational strife inevitably comes with the territory of bringing two sinners together in a close covenant.
We like to talk about the three special words, I love you, which can sustain spouses. But three other words might be even more important during times of distress: I am sorry. Of course, they are meaningless if uttered in a flippant, trite, or angry way; but sincere apology and earnest, tenderhearted forgiveness (Ephesians 4:32) can really sustain a marriage: I am sorry. I messed up. Would you please forgive me? Let’s try this again.
I love you. Let’s go forward together. A marriage necessarily involves a constant series of new beginnings, of reparations, of restorations. And when a marriage fails, it’s often because the husband or the wife has refused to make the return to the other. (Sometimes, of course, for justifiable reasons, the Lord permitted the end of a marriage, as in the case of adultery, and 1 Corinthians 7 speaks the departure of an unbelieving spouse.)
This need for return applies not only to our relationship with our spouse but also to our relationship with God too. We often fail Him and make mistakes that bring dishonor to His name. We turn from Him in rebellion, disobey His word, and seek to chart our own destiny. And so, as in marriage, we must commit to returning to Him—though, in this case, we are always and ever the ones who stray.
James instructs us very directly to “draw near to God” (James 4:8). This was the Lord’s call through Zechariah too: “Return to me, says the LORD of hosts.” In both passages, the result is essentially the same, and it is wonderful: “He will draw near to you”; “I will return to you.” If we hope to enjoy the presence of our great God and to know His blessing, then we must make sure that we are repenting of sin and returning to the Lord, constantly going back to Him, telling Him that we are sorry and we need His forgiveness, and recommitting to going forward together with Him.
In our failures, we may think that God wants nothing to do with us—that He’s disgusted and angry. But the truth is that He is just waiting for us to come to Him, that He might once again draw close to us. God never refuses to allow us to return. So today, in which areas of your life do you need to return to God and say, I am sorry. Know that as you do that, He is delighted to receive you and to assure you once more, I love you.
A Plea to Return to the Lord
1Return, O Israel, to the Lord your God,
for you have stumbled because of your iniquity.
2Take with you words
and return to the Lord;
say to him,
“Take away all iniquity;
accept what is good,
and we will pay with bulls
the vows1 of our lips.
3Assyria shall not save us;
we will not ride on horses;
and we will say no more, ‘Our God,’
to the work of our hands.
In you the orphan finds mercy.”
4I will heal their apostasy;
I will love them freely,
for my anger has turned from them.
5I will be like the dew to Israel;
he shall blossom like the lily;
he shall take root like the trees of Lebanon;
6his shoots shall spread out;
his beauty shall be like the olive,
and his fragrance like Lebanon.
7They shall return and dwell beneath my2 shadow;
they shall flourish like the grain;
they shall blossom like the vine;
their fame shall be like the wine of Lebanon.
8O Ephraim, what have I to do with idols?
It is I who answer and look after you.3
I am like an evergreen cypress;
from me comes your fruit.
9Whoever is wise, let him understand these things;
whoever is discerning, let him know them;
for the ways of the Lord are right,
and the upright walk in them,
but transgressors stumble in them.
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