Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Day 7 - Grace as Love That Goes Beyond Failure - 30 Days of Grace

We have seen how the concept of grace is closely linked to the word 'hesed', or faithful love, in the Old Testament.  This love was considered to be a strong, committed love and was used in the covenants God made in the Old Testament.  As a covenant love, it was a love that God bound Himself to have for the other party, a love that committed Him to come to their aid, give all that He promised, and keep all the terms of the covenant.  The Law covenant is one many are familiar with in the Old Testament, which includes many laws like the Ten Commandments that the Israelites were to keep as their part in the covenant. God's part was to bless them and have them as His special treasure that He valued (loved) with hesed faithful love.

Yet what would happen if Israel broke their part of the Law Covenant?  What if they failed to keep the Law?  Let's read a passage from Hosea 11 where God speaks to Israel about exactly what happened after He brought them from Egypt and made the Law Covenant with them:

11 “When Israel was a child, I loved him,
    and I called my son out of Egypt.
But the more I called to him,
    the farther he moved from me,
offering sacrifices to the images of Baal
    and burning incense to idols.
I myself taught Israel how to walk,
    leading him along by the hand.
But he doesn’t know or even care
    that it was I who took care of him.
I led Israel along
    with my ropes of kindness and love.
I lifted the yoke from his neck,
    and I myself stooped to feed him.
“But since my people refuse to return to me,
    they will return to Egypt
    and will be forced to serve Assyria.
War will swirl through their cities;
    their enemies will crash through their gates.
They will destroy them,
    trapping them in their own evil plans.
For my people are determined to desert me.
They call me the Most High,
    but they don’t truly honor me.
“Oh, how can I give you up, Israel?
    How can I let you go?
How can I destroy you like Admah
    or demolish you like Zeboiim?
My heart is torn within me,
    and my compassion overflows.
No, I will not unleash my fierce anger.
    I will not completely destroy Israel,
for I am God and not a mere mortal.
    I am the Holy One living among you,
    and I will not come to destroy.
10 For someday the people will follow me.
    I, the Lord, will roar like a lion.
And when I roar,
    my people will return trembling from the west.
11 Like a flock of birds, they will come from Egypt.
    Trembling like doves, they will return from Assyria.
And I will bring them home again,”
    says the Lord.

How is God described in taking the Israelites out of Egypt?  He is described as a Daddy helping a toddler to walk, leading him and caring for him!  What was Israel's action as God treated them so well?  They never seemed to acknowledge God, turned away from Him.  What came upon them?  They went into captivity under their enemy (this is exactly what the Law stipulated if they broke their part of the covenant.)  But how did God react?  Even though He had no obligation to do anything for Israel, even though they broke His covenant and didn't care about Him, He just couldn't turn His back on them!  How did God describe His feelings?  He said His heart is torn within Him and His compassion overflows for these who rebelled against Him and were still estranged from Him at that moment!  So what is His decision, based on these feelings?  He say He will not unleash anger, will not completely destroy them, but will instead bring them back from captivity, bring them home again!

What a wonderful picture of hesed love and how it acts in the midst of broken commitments!  What do we see about hesed here?  It not only binds itself by covenant to keep on loving, blessing and being faithful, but also it is love that goes BEYOND the covenant and keeps on loving, blessing and being faithful even when the covenant is broken!  Since hesed is similar in concept to grace, what does this passage tell us about God's grace?  It tells us that it keeps on coming to us even if we fail!  

Our failures don't stop God's grace!  Our broken promises and commitments to God don't change His love or favor toward us one bit, for His grace is dependent not on us but on Him.  What does this passage say is the reason God's love acts like this in relenting from giving up on people?   The reason is because He is God and not a man!  God's nature is so different than ours that He doesn't return evil for evil!  He doesn't give up on people!  He doesn't respond tit for tat.  He just keeps on loving because that is WHO He is!  He is Love!  He is Grace!  He is unmerited, free favor and favors!  So we learn something important about grace from this passage:  no matter what I do, no matter how far gone I seem to be, His grace will still be there for me, for I can't outsin the grace of God!  Grace is the love of God that goes beyond failure and just keeps on accepting and blessing us! It's a love that just can't stop loving us, can't stop helping us, can't let us go...

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May the amazing grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the extravagant love of God, and the intimate friendship of the Holy Spirit be with all of you. 2 Co. 13:14