“Then those of you who escape will remember Me among the nations to which they will be carried captive, how I have been hurt by their adulterous hearts which turned away from Me, and by their eyes which played the harlot after their idols; and they will loathe themselves in their own sight for the evils which they have committed, for all their abominations.”
I have often heard the phrase “the heart of God”. Sometimes, the use of that phrase causes me to sit up a little straighter and listen a bit more intently. Sometimes, the use of that phrase causes me to scratch my heart and wonder if the one who used it has any notion about God’s heart at all. This morning’s verse caught my attention for a couple reasons. First, God speaks of hardship causing His people to remember Him. Second, God speaks of what the rebellion of His people does to Him (not something He goes on at length about, that I have seen). Third, God gives a rundown of the things that hurt Him. Last, God states what the outcome will be for those who come to repentance.
Hardship. Life’s difficulties have a way of sending us running for cover. It is all well and good for people to talk a good game, as if they will stand boldly in the face of the winds of change that whip through everyone’s life at times. The truth of the matter is that we all have a breaking point and life and circumstance regularly conspire to bring us to that breaking point. God can sit back and do nothing and the course of this fallen world will cause us grief enough to send almost everyone looking for the comfort that only God can give. Therein lies the problem. We all look, but we do not all find. God is sending Israel into exile and disease and famine and some to death. One would think that God’s people would immediately call out to God when things got tough. I know I have heard preachers say often that trials cause us to cry out to God. But when? Israel was stubborn enough that the trial had to go from bad to worse to worst. If there was another level, it probably would have progressed as far as that. Israel was stubborn (a better example of humanity I cannot imagine). I have seen lives fall to pieces and the people living those lives still refuse to even give God a chance. Our hearts can be so stubborn. But it makes me think of my own life. How far does God have to take things before I turn to Him? If He has to turn the heat all the way up just to get me on my knees, then there is a major issue in my heart that needs resolution. I cannot answer the question right this second, but it does bear thought. What does it take for me to run to God for shelter and comfort?
What rebellion does to God. The words He uses are translated how I have been hurt by their…. The footnotes tell me that it could also be rendered been broken… or broken for Myself their…. The concordance tells me that the verb used could also mean maimed, crippled, wrecked, or crushed. The imagery is one of being wounded by rebellious actions. This is, perhaps, a call out to the multitude of prophecies about the Messiah that tell us He would be wounded for our transgressions. Regardless of whether it is a parallel of those, it is a statement of what happens to the heart of God when any of His people rebel. God states that He is injured by our rebellion. This I need to fix firmly in my mind. I need to tattoo this on the back of my eyelids (to borrow a rather graphic turn of phrase). God’s anger is not the response that He takes the time to make mention of when He reveals His heart. It is His hurt. Yes, my rebellion sparks His anger and yes, He will discipline. As a father, I can understand where He is coming from, to an extent. My daughter rebels regularly (she is two) and her rebellion does not first spark my anger, nor is my anger the feeling that persists. Anger spends rather quickly, but the hurt abides. The knowledge that I tried to warn her not to do something that she did (sometimes repeatedly) and caused herself pain or difficulty or to require discipline hurts me. Why is it, then, that I ascribe to God an abiding anger instead of a wounded heart? It might once have been ignorance. I no longer have that excuse; that crutch to lean on. My rebellion hurts the heart of God; wounds Him in a way that nothing else can. I need to keep this in mind and act accordingly.
What was it that hurt Him. Idolatry. They turned their eyes to idols and their hearts to false gods. It hurts when we are supplanted by an impostor; a cheap imitation of the genuine article. There are so many examples of this in human existence; so many parallels that to go into them all would take pages. Suffice it to say that we are well acquainted with this experience and the resultant pain.
How their repentance will look. God says that they will loathe themselves in their own sight for the evils which they have committed, for all their abominations. It is, perhaps, telling that those who come to repentance do, in fact, find themselves detestable. More than one person of my acquaintance has spoken of the point when they reached this kind of repentance. They, as the saying goes, “hit rock bottom” and realized just how repulsive the whole business was. This is repentance. When I see my trespass in all its filthiness and realize just how soiled I have become from handling it and understand that I cannot get clean without help and that I never wish to be dirtied by that thing again.
Let me make feeling to God for comfort and shelter my first response to difficulties. Let me keep always before my mind the truth that the thing that abides when God has spent His anger is the hurt I have caused Him. Let me remember that the real is always, always superior to the imitation. And let me have eyes to see and ears to hear the truth of how vile my wrongs are so that I may be genuinely repentant.