Sunday, August 6, 2017

waitin' by the door

The Word for today:
Hosea 4:1-5:14
mark this: Hosea 4:1/CEV
Israel, listen as the LORD accuses everyone in the land! No one is faithful or loyal or truly cares about God.
Yesterday we looked at the concept of a personal relationship with God. In order to help us understand what that means, we observed what a personal relationship means from God's point of view.
Today, we're going to look at what faith means--from my dog's point of view…
He waits for me all day. When I come home from work, he's at the door, so I guess he's been there all day. "Waiting" is biblical shorthand for faith:
They who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint. (Isaiah 40:31)
He fears me. Let me put it this way: he fears my displeasure. Whenever he knows that I am unhappy with him, he puts his head down, disappointed with himself. That's how he confesses his sins. So I go over and hold his head up and tell him I've put it behind me, and that he should too:
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9)
He puts us first, ahead of himself. When a stranger appears at the door and my dog senses something amiss, he would hurl himself through the door, if he could, to chase any perceived threat away. He is irrationally protective of me and mine (reminiscent of a certain Lion I know) and will place himself in harm's way for our sake (reminiscent of a certain Lamb I know.)--
For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel's will save it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? (Mark 8:35-36)
He loves us. When we go away and cannot take him with us, he goes on a hunger strike until we return. When we pick him up at the kennel, he looks shrunken by sadness.
You shall love the LORD with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. (Mark 12:30)
It would not occur to him to run away. We're his world; where would he run to?--
At this point many of his disciples turned away and deserted him. Then Jesus turned to the Twelve and asked, "Are you going to leave, too?" Simon Peter replied, "Lord, to whom would we go? You alone have the words that give eternal life." (John 6:66-68)
He's faithful. Every summer night when the sun begins to go down, I retreat to my little garage. It's like a grown-up's version of a tree fort. My dog knows, by the slant of the sun, when I'm going to make my way out, and stands right by the back door so I'll remember to take him with me. I poke around at the workbench as he pokes his nose in every nook. Nothing ever gets done as we look for the stars and the fireflies. When they come out, we go in.
He's faithful. The faithfulness of a dog is a far better illustration of biblical faith than what we call "faith" today. For us--for me--faith is often a kind of thought process. But it would grieve me if ever I were to find out that my dog was inside, on the couch, "believing" in me as I watched for the stars, alone.
I think the misunderstanding might stem from the syntax. Idiomatically, we say we "have faith" or "we believe." But we never say that a dog "has faith." Our dogs, we say, "are faithful."
That's the difference! Biblical faith is far better described by the way we use the word "faithful" than by the way we use the word "faith." Biblical faith is not some sort of nodding intellectual assent, but it's breath and life itself. It's the frame upon which we build each day. It's not just "food for thought."   It's real food:
"My food," said Jesus, "is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work." (John 4:34)
During the time of Hosea, Israel saw themselves as a people of faith. But it was all form and ceremony. They went through the ceremony, they had the ritual, and they knew the vocabulary. But that's all it really amounted to:
Israel, listen as the LORD accuses everyone in the land! No one is faithful or loyal or truly cares about God. (Hosea 4:1)
They knew the lingo. They went through the motions. But they weren't faithful, like a Lion, like a Lamb, or even like a certain dog I know.

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