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Come, let us return to the Lord
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Why did God take him from us? Why can't the doctors figure out what is wrong with me? Why didn't I get that opportunity I was so ready for? Why do I sometimes hurt ...inside? Do you understand the answer to all those questions? Do you know why bad stuff happens?

Now, I suppose we could brush all that away and say, "Don't worry about it, it will all be OK," which it will. We should and could jump right to God's promises which we never want to forget. But maybe there is something we can learn in heartache, maybe we today can learn the same lesson God strove to teach the Israelites through this - that sometimes God takes us through the depths in order to bring us to the heights. So let's say with the Israelites, "Come, Let us return to the Lord."

They needed a return. They had been so unfaithful to God that God told his prophet Hosea to take a prostitute for a wife to give them a picture of it. And he told Hosea to be faithful to that cheater wife and lavish love and gifts on her as a visual aid for the people of God's treatment of them. Then he also told Hosea to warn the people of the destruction coming if they didn't return and then once that destruction came, to remind them that this is what happens when the Lord gets put on the back burner. And all that happened.

So what does that matter to us? Well, if you've ever gotten too busy for God and you schedule your time with him based on what's left instead of giving him what's first, if your giving to God has ever been dictated by how much you have left after getting what you want - God is sending a Hosea to you.

Come, let us return to the Lord... but not like those Israelites. They figured they could return with a few outward actions, a few sacrifices, a few trips to church, some extra offerings, and God should be pleased - right? "Wrong," God says.

And we have to watch for that same thing. All too often, we look at our relationship with God on the basis of what we do. Too many people out there (even some Christians) see Christianity as a system of rules Christians have to keep in order to please God. Christians have to sacrifice, they think, to gain God's approval. That couldn't be farther from the truth.

That's exactly what God makes clear in verse 6: "I desire mercy, not sacrifice." God doesn't need our offerings. He doesn't want our "sacrifices." He wants our hearts and everything that flows from them. And he gets our mercy, our love, only when we see his. To see that, we look no farther than the one who stepped in and took all the curses we had coming in verse 5 of our text. Jesus, the one who came "not to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many," took our place at the harsh end of God's wrath.

He loved us enough to give his life so that we can live. Paul writes, "God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." He had mercy on us. He loves us. That's why we love. That's why we do what we do. That's what it means to "return to the Lord" - just get back to loving him, being in his presence, singing his praises. So, to borrow a phrase again from our text, "Come, let us return to the Lord."

Pastor Jonathan Scharf

Abiding Grace

Lutheran Church