Return to the Lord
From the beginning, men and women have shown a great ability for avoiding responsibility. When the Lord called to Adam in Eden to hold him accountable for the first sin, Adam’s response was not to accept responsibility but to blame the “woman whom you gave to be with me” (Genesis 3:12). Eve responded similarly: “The serpent deceived me” (v 13). And so the trend continues to this day. We recognize that we have problems and do not walk with God the way we are designed to. But our instinct is to find reasons to explain away our error.
Is your spouse difficult? Is your church unexciting? Is your job or home life too stressful? No matter what the excuse might be, we’re often slow to recognize that when we feel out of touch with God, the cause primarily lies within and that there is no legitimate excuse for our sin.
This is the point the prophet Hosea made to the people of Israel. They found themselves far from God, and the reason should not have been difficult to discern: “You have stumbled because of your iniquity.” It was their sin that was causing them to stumble—nothing and no one else.
God’s people had been called to live in a way that was noticeably distinct from the surrounding nations, but they had not lived up to their calling. Instead, it could be said that “Ephraim [God’s people] mixes himself with the peoples” around them (Hosea 7:8). The holiness of God’s people was partial. The Lord described them in that same verse as “a cake not turned”—their holiness was like a cake with an entire side uncooked—one that looked good but was inedible. Why were they so half-hearted? Because their love for God was not faithful but superficial, “like a morning cloud, like the dew that goes early away” (6:4).
Do you see yourself in these descriptions? Is your life indistinct from the unbelieving world? Do you like to keep areas of your life to yourself rather than give all your life to God? Do you regularly resolve to love and obey God, but never turn resolution into reality? If you do, what is the road to recovery? It can only be the road of return. The Lord God extended His compassionate hand to these wayward people and invited them back: “Return, O Israel, to the LORD your God.” If they would just turn from their sins and come back to Him, they would experience spiritual and relational restoration.
If you have been walking waywardly, estranged from God, perhaps you can identify with the prodigal son from Luke 15. What did he do when he realized how badly wrong things had gone? He came to his senses, he accepted full responsibility, and he returned to his father. And the response of that father is the response of God to any of His wandering children if we return, without excuses and asking for forgiveness: an eager reunion, abundant blessing, and restored fellowship with the God whose love never evaporates.
The Parable of the Prodigal Son
11And he said, “There was a man who had two sons. 12And the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of property that is coming to me.’ And he divided his property between them. 13Not many days later, the younger son gathered all he had and took a journey into a far country, and there he squandered his property in reckless living. 14And when he had spent everything, a severe famine arose in that country, and he began to be in need. 15So he went and hired himself out to2 one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed pigs. 16And he was longing to be fed with the pods that the pigs ate, and no one gave him anything.
17“But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father's hired servants have more than enough bread, but I perish here with hunger! 18I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. 19I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants.”’ 20And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. 21And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’3 22But the father said to his servants,4 ‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. 23And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. 24For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate.
25“Now his older son was in the field, and as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing. 26And he called one of the servants and asked what these things meant. 27And he said to him, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fattened calf, because he has received him back safe and sound.’ 28But he was angry and refused to go in. His father came out and entreated him, 29but he answered his father, ‘Look, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command, yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might celebrate with my friends. 30But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him!’ 31And he said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. 32It was fitting to celebrate and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.’”
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