A Wayward Child

There are many examples of how we relate to God all throughout scripture. Perhaps you’ve heard of these common ones:

  • God is the potter, we are the clay– Jeremiah 18 speaks of this, where God continually works to shape and mold us. Through a relationship with God, God makes us new and forms us into a beautiful creation.
  • God is the shepherd, we are sheep– Most famously we read about this in Psalm 23. God is the one who protects and guides us. We are like sheep–truly unintelligent and helpless animals!–in God’s kingdom.
  • We are friends with God– In John 15, Jesus speaks intimately about how God truly desires to know us, just like a best friend. The good news is that we have a better friend than we could ever ask for with God!
  • God is a vine, we are the branches– Elsewhere in John 15, Jesus told us that if we abide in God, that is like we are connected to the broader “plant” where we derive our life and existence through the true vine.

I mention these metaphors because it is helpful for us to have illustrations for our faith. Instead of simply saying “obey and follow me” God gives us a broader, deeper picture for how we can pursue this divine relationship.

Hosea famously used a metaphor of marriage to speak about our relationship with God. Just as Gomer was unfaithful to Hosea, we too are unfaithful to God (our partner, so to speak).

I didn’t have enough time on Sunday, but the marriage metaphor doesn’t end there. As the book of Hosea progresses, God actually switches up the metaphor. Instead of being bogged down in the heartbreak of marriage infidelity, God begins to speak through Hosea about how Israel is like a wayward child. This personally gives me a message of hope, since children can be molded and shaped into righteous living. Consider these insightful verses from chapter 11:

“When Israel was a child, I loved him,
and out of Egypt I called my son.
But the more they were called,
the more they went away from me.
They sacrificed to the Baals
and they burned incense to images.
It was I who taught Ephraim to walk,
taking them by the arms;
but they did not realize
it was I who healed them.
I led them with cords of human kindness,
with ties of love.
To them I was like one who lifts
a little child to the cheek,
and I bent down to feed them.

God gives us such a wonderful, hopeful metaphor. What we truly need, in light of Hosea, is the guidance of our heavenly parent.

Recently I attended a group meeting with the prison ministry at Tucker. It was early on a Saturday, (so I was feeling rather drowsy), but I was quickly blessed when several inmates shared testimonies to the group.

One man in his 50s talked about a blessing he recently received. He had been wrapped up in a life of crime, which soon landed him in the Tucker Unit. He never really provided a good example for his daughter and grandchild, and she unfortunately became addicted to heroin. After coming to prison, this man discovered the love of Christ. Despite being discouraged at his family turmoil, he continued to pray for his wayward child.

On Saturday, he shared with us the wonderful news that his daughter had finally completed rehab, was staying sober, and planned to visit him in a couple of Saturdays with his grandchild. After 15 years of brokenness, things finally were made new through the power of God’s love.

You might feel like you are a wayward child in God’s family. Remember that God will neither leave nor forsake you. We like to run off on our own, but God’s love is stronger if we would only embrace it.

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