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(Part 96)


March 28, 2014

Today’s readings:
Hosea 14:2-10
Psalm 81:6-17
Mark 12:28-34

What is the way forward for us? Jesus himself taught us. The way forward is to live the first of all the commandments. “Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is Lord alone! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.” (Mk 12:29-30). Then together with love for neighbor (Mk 12:31a), these sum up the whole law and the prophets. These encapsulate the fullness of the Christian life. “There is no other commandment greater than these.” (Mk 12:31b).

The scribe responded favorably and “answered with understanding” (Mk 12:34a). Then Jesus told him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” (Mk 12:34b). But how about us? “Who is wise enough to understand these things? Who is intelligent enough to know them?” (Hos 14:10a). It should not be hard to understand. It should be rather simple. “Straight are the paths of the Lord, the just walk in them, but sinners stumble in them.” (Hos 14:10b). The way is clear, the path is open, the direction is straightforward. But there are those who stumble due to sin. “You have stumbled because of your iniquity.” (Hos 14:2b).

Who are the sinners? Who are those who stumble? What iniquities are there?

  • There is the sin of apostasy (Hos 14:5), a turning away from God and the faith that we live. Jesus tells us that the Lord our God is Lord alone. “There shall be no foreign god among you; you shall not bow down to an alien god.” (Ps 81:10). Today there are a lot of false religions and cults. And today there are the gods of materialism, consumerism, secular humanism, hedonism, and the many other isms that take us away from God.
  • There is hardness of heart that refuses to listen or submit fully to God. “But my people did not listen to my words; Israel would not submit to me.” (Ps 81:12). God has not failed to make clear the way we are to go. But many still go their own way. Many still live lives in contradiction to God’s commands. Many still follow their own agenda, priorities and desires, often not aligned with God’s plan for them. Many have not fully turned their lives over to God, for God to do with as He wills.
  • There is dependence on human strength rather than on God. This is always a fatal sin. “Assyria will not save us, nor will we mount horses” (Hos 14:4a). We rely on human strength and human wisdom. We depend on human resources. We look to human ways and alliances. Inevitably we fail.

The result of such iniquities? “So I thrust them away to the hardness of their heart” (Ps 81:13a). God does not force us. If we insist and persist, then there is a point when God leaves us to our own devices. “Let them walk in their own machinations.” (Ps 81:13b). This is not a lack of love or caring. Rather, it is precisely all about God’s love. We just need to learn the hard way. When we fail and end up miserable, then perhaps we would return to God.

Indeed, God wants us back. “O that my people would listen to me, that Israel would walk in my ways” (Ps 81:14). You can sense the ardent desire in God’s heart to have His people return to Him, and once again walk in His ways. So God invites us back. “Return, Israel, to the Lord, your God” (Hos 14:2a).

Now when we do return, then we are greatly blessed.

  • We will be brought back to the one true faith. “I will heal their apostasy” (Hos 14:5a).
  • We will be restored to the love of God. “I will love them freely” (Hos 14:5b).
  • We will no longer be the object of God’s anger. “For my anger is turned away from them.” (Hos 14:5c).
  • We are reconciled to God. We once again are God’s friends.
  • We will be set on a strong foundation in God. “He will strike root like the Lebanon cedar, and his shoots will go forth.” (Hos 14:6b-7a).
  • We will experience the Lord’s provision. “Again they will live in his shade; they will raise grain.” (Hos 14:8a). Such provision will be bountiful. “But Israel I will feed with the finest wheat, I will satisfy them with honey from the rock.” (Ps 81:17).
  • We will blossom. “I will be like the dew for Israel; he will blossom like the lily” (Hos 14:6a). We willlead productive lives.
  • We will reflect the splendor and manifest the fragrance of a life in God. “His splendor will be like the olive tree and his fragrance like Lebanon cedar.” (Hos 14:7b). We will be the salt of the earth.
  • The fruit of our lives will be manifest to all. “From me fruit will be found in you!” (Hos 14:9d). We will be light to the world.
  • We will be victorious over our enemies. “In a moment I would humble their foes, and turn back my hand against their oppressors.” (Ps 81:15). We can overcome the flesh, the world and the devil. We will be effective warriors expanding the Kingdom of God on earth.
  • Our renown will be all over the land. “They will blossom like the vine, and his renown will be like the wine of Lebanon.” (Hos 14:8b). We can effectively do a worldwide work of evangelization.

The way forward is clear. We are to love, honor, respect and obey the one true God. We are to walk in His ways. We are to serve Him alone. And we are to know that only in Him is the fullness of blessings. “I am the Lord your God, who brought you up from the land of Egypt. Open wide your mouth that I may fill it.” (Ps 81:11).

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