Let me ask you, if your toddler grandchild came up to you and grabbed your hand, asking you to come play with him, would you have done otherwise? Especially since we were not sure how much he would remember us—we live over 2 hours away and only see them every 3 or 4 months—how in the world would I ever turn away from something that caused me such great joy?
God felt that way about His children. Notice these verses this morning:
…Thus says the LORD, Israel is my firstborn son (Exod 4:22).
…You have seen how the LORD your God carried you, as a man carries his son… (Deut 1:31).
He found him in a desert land, and in the howling waste of the wilderness; he encircled him, he cared for him, he kept him as the apple of his eye. Like an eagle that stirs up its nest, that flutters over its young, spreading out its wings, catching them, bearing them on its pinions, the LORD alone guided him…(Deut 32:10-12).
When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son. The more they were called, the more they went away; they kept sacrificing to the Baals and burning offerings to idols. Yet it was I who taught Ephraim to walk; I took them up by their arms, but they did not know that I healed them. I led them with cords of kindness, with the bands of love, and I became to them as one who eases the yoke on their jaws, and I bent down to them and fed them (Hos 11:1-4).
In that last passage we see just how much God loved His people. Even when they had scorned him, disobeyed him, betrayed him, and forsaken him for idols, it hurt him to do what he had to do to punish them. But punish them he did.
We call God our Father today, and he loves us every bit as much as he loved them. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” (Rom 8:14-15).
But just as those people had to show their love by their obedience, so do we. What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; as God said, “I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Therefore go out from their midst, and be separate from them, says the Lord, and touch no unclean thing; then I will welcome you, and I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to me, says the Lord Almighty” (2Cor 6:16-18).
Did you notice the condition in that promise? Just as this Grandma was thrilled to have that tiny hand in hers, to have that little child want to be with her, God wants that from us too. But we must understand the conditions a whole lot better than those faithless children of old did. As long as things went well, they had no place in their lives for him. What kind of place does he have in ours?
God walks in the door every day of our lives. How will we greet him? Or do we even care if he came?
As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” And if you call on him as Father who judges impartially according to each one's deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile, knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot (1Pet 1:14-19).