Devotional by Susan Pratt | Song by Braden Dressel & Stephen Witt
In the book of Hosea, we find pages and pages of God’s anger towards Israel for being unfaithful, calling the nation a prostitute again and again. He spends the whole book expressing that anger until chapter 11, verse 8 and 9, “My heart is changed within me; all my compassion is aroused. I will not carry out my fierce anger, nor will I turn and devastate Ephraim. For I am God and not man—the Holy One among you. I will not come in wrath.”
There are two things I want to point out about this: 1) God’s use of the word prostitute. 2) His declaration that He will not pour out His wrath, because He is not man.
God chose the word prostitute. He could have used the word cheater like someone would in a game. He could have used the word rebel like a parent would to a child, or a leader would to a follower. He could have used the word traitor like a government would to its citizen. However, He used the word prostitute like a husband would to a wife. This tells us how He felt towards Israel: pure love. In the end, He chose mercy. He always felt this way towards His people, even before he sent Christ.
In order to understand God’s love, we use what we know: the people around us. This is very helpful, but it has its limits; God, after all, is not man. His love is not conditional like ours. When people disappoint us, or hurt us, or betray us, we have a tendency to lose trust. When we find someone difficult to be around, we avoid them. When someone has hurt us deeply enough, we cut ties completely. All of these reactions are with good reason; some relationships are unhealthy. However, God does not react to us in this way. Love is not an action God does, nor a decision God makes, nor a feeling God feels. God is love (1 John 4:8).
For many of us, the closest thing to His love is that of our parents. Often we imagine God like a supernatural father who is closely watching our behavior—even our thoughts—and only approves of us when we are acting the way He wants. However, Romans 5:9 says that we are justified by Christ’s blood (not by our works) and saved from God’s wrath. Verse 11 says we have been given reconciliation. God is not waiting for us to apologize, nor is He waiting for us to fail so He can punish us. Forgiveness happened at the cross, and God’s wrath was swallowed up in Christ’s death. He doesn’t even condemn us (Rom 8:1).
If we’ve been disobedient, we can feel a distance. However, this distance is an illusion. God said, “I will never leave you, nor forsake you.” (Deut. 31:6). Nothing separates us from the love of God (Rom. 8:39), and Christ lives in us, (Gal 2:20). Therefore, there is never a time when God is far away, nor a time when He doesn’t love us. God is omnipresent. There is nowhere we can go and be away from His presence (Psalm 139). Feelings have nothing to do with God’s presence. They have only to do with our awareness of Him. He is always with us.
Faith is knowing He is with you, whether you feel Him or not. It is knowing He loves you no matter what you’ve done.
The best way to understand God’s love is to substitute the word “love” for “God” in the following passage: “God is patient, God is kind. He does not envy, He does not boast, He is not proud. He does not dishonor others, He is not self-seeking, He is not easily angered, He keeps no record of wrongs. God does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. He always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. God’s love never fails…” (1Cor. 13:4-8a NIV)
“… I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge–that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” (Eph. 3:16-19 NIV)
(Verse1) I know You see me God, I know that You’re here | You never left, You’re by my side, You’re holding every tear | When in the darkest night, You comfort my soul | safest place is in Your heart, You’ll never let me go
(PreChorus/Bridge) I know that You see everything | Your love is stronger than my pain
(Chorus) The love of God is a jealous love | The love of God is a deep, deep flood | The love of God defeated my sin | You said my name and made me whole again
(Verse2) I know you’re with me God Even when I can’t feel | Your arms are here, you’re holding me | You’re singing to me still | And in the hardest times I know You won’t fail | My God the God of faithfulness, Your love has prevailed