The Rev. Dr. Robert S. Langworthy, preaching
August 4, 2019
We can disdain God’s love or we can ignore it altogether; but we can never make it go away.
Steadfast in His love, God perseveres in His pursuit of even those of us who have disappointed Him and hurt Him. Even in the face of repeated rebuffs of His gracious overtures inviting us into a friendship with Him, He refuses to bring down upon us a righteous judgment against our indifference, ingratitude or outright rebellion. Instead, He persists in giving us more chances to come to our senses, turn back to Him, and accept His unearned kindness and generosity.
In so doing, God remains ever vulnerable to having His dreams crushed once more and to having His heart broken yet again. With no guarantee of reciprocity, He keeps reaching out to those who turn their backs to Him. While seeking to win over everyone, God is painfully aware He will win over only some. Some will choose to keep their distance from Him as long as they live.
In its original context, God’s message through Hosea was delivered to the northern Israelites who lived 750 years before Jesus began His ministry. They had long been unfaithful to God and had long been descending into the depths of moral and spiritual degeneracy. It tells a lot about a people when over half their rulers gained power by assassinating their predecessors.
Yet, God still doted on them, and still reminisced of times past when, in their infancy as a nation, they had allowed God to bend down and feed them, let Him lead them with cords of kindness, permitted Him to teach them how to walk and to pick them up after they fell and hug them to His cheek.
Yet, after He had nurtured their development, they had decided to follow their own lights and to make their own way independent of the One who kept calling them to Himself.
This prideful stubbornness forced God to resort to the severe mercy of tough love: He let the Assyrians take over their nation and take them away into another “Egypt”, a new land of enslavement and abuse. God permitted that crisis to occur in the hopes that it might move them to reevaluate their choices and rethink how best to serve their self-interest.
In order to do them good, God did them “bad”. But God could not abide the thought of abandoning them to the full consequences of their willfully evil choices. How, God cries out, could I ever give up on you! How could I ever hand you over to reap the full measure of what you have sown! How could I let you suffer the destruction that befell Admah and Zeboiim (wicked cities near Sodom and Gomorrah that shared in their judgment)!
God’s gratuitous compassion trumped His fierce anger. “I am,” God declares, “God and no mortal,” – in other words, I am no imperfect being whose feelings might overwhelm His commitments. Thus, God says, “I will not come in wrath”. Hoping against hope, God chose to leave the door open for their return.
God will persevere in love as long as there is a longshot that we might repent and dare to believe God really is that good – that is, as long as we have not yet hardened our hearts and self-destructed in our foolish sin. He is always there and always available to help us claim our best life.
Dale Hahn gives us a human picture of God’s perseverance in love.
As soon as Dale’s son Cory showed interest in baseball, Dale signed him up for tee ball, took him to games, cheered him on at every at-bat, and coached him in the fundamentals of hitting and fielding. When Cory went to high school, Dale continued to do all that and more. He stood by always to support Cory and help him be His best.
That fatherly dedication paid off. Cory’s senior year at Mater Dei High School in Santa Ana, he received California’s distinguished “Mr. Baseball” award. Cory declined a $300,000 contract from the San Diego Padres so that he could hone his skills at Arizona State on a full athletic scholarship. And just like in his tee ball days, Dale was Cory’s biggest fan and most devoted coach.
But Cory’s future plans shattered during his third game at Arizona State. Sliding head first into second base, Cory broke his neck. Today Cory is a C5 quadriplegic, paralyzed from the chest down, with limited use of his hands and arms. The kid who once led his team to a championship by pitching five perfect innings, making an over-the-shoulder, “circus” catch and hitting a tape-measure home run, now battles to eat a hamburger, wash his hair, and wheel himself to class.
Despite the death of their baseball dreams, Cory’s father still perseveres in being there for his son, cheering him on and helping him become his best. “There were times,” Cory says, “when I would wonder: what’s better, being dead or being like this? But then I look up and see my dad and think, If he can do it, I can do it.”
When after rehabilitation Cory moved back to Arizona State campus to continue his studies, Dale moved into an extended-stay hotel down the street. Dale gets up early every morning and helps Cory get ready for his classes. Each morning brings a little more progress for Cory, like a just-obtained ability to feed himself – after many messy meals of practice with his dad.
The two of them drive to campus in Dale’s truck, where they roll from a parking spot to Cory’s first class. With other students racing past him on skateboards and scooters, Cory just chugs along. “I am so proud of him,” Dale says. “We live for little victories.” “We’re a team,” Cory says.
After lunch, they go to a gym for therapy. Later, Dale might drop Cory off to watch a Sun Devils practice or game. They almost always have dinner together. Then Cory does his homework, watches Sports Center, and chats online with his friends. At 11 Dale returns to Cory’s room to lay him into bed and put the television on a timer. He slips out with a simple: “Good night, buddy.”
When complimented for his fatherly devotion, Dale shrugs and says, “When you’re a dad, you’re a dad forever.” Dale, a true dad, perseveres with love, dedication, sacrifice, and boundless hope.
Dale gives us a picture of God’s stubborn commitment to seek to bless us. Unlike with Dale and Cory, with God there may be an issue whether a person in need of help will, out of pride or fear, refuse to take God up on His offer of help – and there is always the danger that we can disable ourselves from doing so. But God, from His side, never gives up in His persevering love. God never runs out of His caring and concern. But we might run out of time, for we never know how soon it might be too late.
So let us be wise and waste no time in availing of the help of the God who perseveres in seeking us out to bless us! Let us pray.