Turned Back

As I read in the morning, part of my intent is to “listen” for something that will grab my attention, something that I will then spend a few minutes writing about. Often I will begin my morning reading with the psalmist’s prayer, “Open my eyes that I might see wondrous things in Your word” (Ps. 119:18). Sometimes those wondrous things gently rise to the surface as I work my way through my morning reading plan. Other times, they hit me like a ton of bricks. Sirens go off . . . trumpets blare . . . big arrows start flashing as they point to a verse or passage. Ok, not really. But, sometimes a verse just stands out in a way that I didn’t expect. Brings to remembrance a thought that surprisingly overwhelms me. Such was the case this morning.

I will heal their apostasy; I will love them freely, for My anger has turned from them. (Hosea 14:4 ESV)

Through Hosea’s oracle, Israel has been judged. Those who have “plowed iniquity . . . reaped injustice . . . eaten the fruit of lies” (10:13) where to be cut off. Those who had “grazed” in the land promised them by God had become full and in their fullness “their heart was lifted up” and they forgot the God who had given them the land (13:4-6). And so God would “fall upon them like a bear robbed of her cubs” (13:8) through a ruthless nation that would savage them.

But accompanying the just wrath of God, His great compassion promises a restoration for those who return to Him. For those who seek God’s cleansing . . . for those who desire to walk their talk . . . for those who look no longer to the world for their deliverance . . . for those who say no more, “Our God,” to the work of their hands . . . God says that He will heal their apostasy . . . and love them freely . . . “for My anger has turned from them” (14:1-4).

And that’s the phrase that hit me like a two-by-four on the side of the head . . . “for My anger has turned from them.”

And it occurred to me that the “effect” of anger turned, is not by the “cause” of repentance. Repentance does not pay the price for iniquity. Asking for forgiveness does not settle the accounts for the wages of sin. Returning is possible only because God has satisfied His just and holy wrath through another means.

I’m not studied in the original languages, but my handy-dandy computer lexicon indicates that the word “turned” is literally “to return” or to “to turn back.” Other bible translations render it “turned away” . . . almost like the anger is deflected. But what if the anger really was “returned” or “turned back?” What if the wrath was redirected back to God Himself? What if God has provided the way back through repentance by turning back the penalty of sin on Himself?

And it hits me afresh.  That’s exactly what He did in sending His Son to bear the penalty for my sin. Within the mystery of our Triune God, God the Father poured out the wages of sin for all men upon God the Son. Thus, having turned back on Himself the wrath for all who, by faith, return and repent.

. . . for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by His grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by His blood, to be received by faith. This was to show Gods righteousness, because in His divine forbearance He had passed over former sins.
(Romans 3:23-25 ESV)

God’s promise of healing from apostasy would not be dependent on the depths of Israel’s repentance. His covenant to love freely would not flow based on how flawlessly they returned. He would heal, and He would love, because His anger had been turned back. The blood of Christ being the means of appeasing the wrath of holy God. Redemption’s way made possible by the death of Immanuel, God in flesh.

Wow! What a Savior!

How much fuel is that for the thanksgiving fire? A lot!

To Him be all glory!

 

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