DAILY DEVOTION - MAY 18
Listen to excerpts from today's daily devotion on this video.
This Daily Devotion is from A Living Hope, by Sarah Viggiano Wright, published by Bible Study Media, and made available to us through Presbyterian Women.
“Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.”
1 Peter 2:10
Do you have a friend or loved one you care very much about who regularly and consistently breaks your heart?
Some of us may not have friends like this because our society encourages us to push disloyal people out of our lives. But it’s likely that everyone has had at least one encounter with a person who was less than noble. Maybe it was a dishonest roommate, a disgruntled neighbor, or a double- crossing coworker. Perhaps you were injured by someone who ought to have been good, faithful, and true to you—a cold father, a preoccupied mother, a wayward child, or an unfaithful spouse. Many of us have experienced deep aches at the hands of those closest to us—people who were supposed to be there for us, but who weren’t.
The prophet Hosea understands this level of betrayal. He was a prophet whose life was a microcosm, a small picture, of what God was then experiencing in his relationship with Israel. In the first three chapters of Hosea, the prophet marries a woman named Gomer who is unfaithful to him. They bear a son together, but afterwards she bears two more children (a daughter and son) speculated to be the offspring of adulterous encounters. God names Gomer’s second child “No Mercy” and Gomer’s third child “Not My People.”
Sounds like a soap opera or telenovela, right?
Sadly, this tragic story is true. It’s the real-life account of Israel’s and our unfaithfulness to God. It’s about the adultery we commit when we have any other god but God, when we love anything or anyone more than we do him. As God’s people, we are called to love him wholeheartedly and unequivocally. When we fail to do so, we are like flagrant philanderers, committing figurative adultery against our One True Love. We cheat and denounce the very One who ransomed us, took us into his home, provided for us, and made us his family.
God understood this kind of betrayal long before Hosea’s time. In the garden of Eden, after he made creation good and gave it to humans to tend, the very man and woman who bore his image believed the serpent’s lies over God’s truth. They betrayed their Creator.
God also knows what it’s like to have his people grow cold. God delivered Israel out of Egypt and made a covenant with them; he asked them to be holy and set apart from other nations of the world. However, Israel was continually lured away from their King to the worship of idols made with their own hands. God met with them in a tent, made water come from rocks, wrote down his guidance, and even gave them a human king they demanded—and still his people were not wholly satisfied. In their unfaithfulness, they became captives again when the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar sought to extend his empire by conquering Jerusalem (see 2 Kings 24 and 25). God again delivered his people! They praised God and were faithful for a time. But not for long. They strayed again and again and again.
God understands deep grief because the people he chose, preserved, blessed, established, and set apart repeatedly broke their covenant with him, abandoned their role as kingly priests, and stopped living as his special possession.
The infidelity of Hosea’s wife, Gomer, was very much out in the open. She is quoted as saying, “I will go after my lovers [who give me what I want and shower me with gifts]” (Hosea 2:5). But, when Gomer was out in the wilderness and exposed, none of her lovers came to her aid, nor did any of the gifts they’d given her bring comfort. It just makes your heart sink!
Sadly, God’s people are all too much like Gomer. We forget how loving our Husband is. We don’t see the ways he has provided for us. And we forget that he’s put his name on us, has claimed us, and is wholly faithful to us. We imagine what life would be like apart from him, thinking the grass is greener somewhere else.
Whether we want to admit it or not, our infidelity is very much out in the open as well. People around us can tell if we’re spending too much time on our phones or in the gym, if we’re focused on our beauty, ignoring our loved ones, or consuming to a level of gluttony. They know if we are obsessively preoccupied, if our interest is feigned, or if our efforts are half-hearted. Most importantly, God sees it all; it would be an act of justice for him to dismiss us—to divorce us, so to speak.
But just as God commanded Hosea to go after his faithless wife, so God intentionally extends mercy to us out of his faithfulness:
And the LORD said to me, "Go again, love a woman who is loved by another man and is an adulteress, even as the LORD loves the children of Israel, though they turn to other gods and love [other rituals]... Afterward the children of Israel shall return and seek the LORD their God, and David their king, and they shall come in fear to the LORD and to his goodness in the latter days.”
Hosea 3:1, 5
Say to your brothers, “You are my people,” and to your sisters, “You have received mercy.”
Peter knows that the conclusion of Hosea’s story and the conclusion of our story is the same—we did not deserve mercy and yet we received mercy. We were once “not his people,” but now, God says, “You are my people.”