Were I a poet, then would my words distil as dew upon parched scrolls of the Nile’s papyrus. Had you made me a story teller, my prose would flow back from Pishon, Gihon, Tigris and Euphrates – delta to the river of the garden of God. If I had the courage of Jacob, dear Lord, I would wrestle with you all night long – for days. It’s but a shame I’m no prophet, for no scroll could contain my jeremiad.
You’ve made me with fairly limited facilities and so I must tread humbly. May I be quick to crave your indulgence. This is not an attempt at boldness, my God; no, not at all. Rather I’m merely tapping into the allowance you gave by the mouth of Isaiah.
“Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord.” 1Isaiah 1:18
Here I am, say I.
I am aware of course that you’re being overly modest. There couldn’t possibly be a level playing field here.’ Let us reason together’! And what might be the starting point? Let’s see:
God: transcendental. Billy: limited. God: infinite. Billy: finite. God…well you get the gist.
Cupid’s got God! Romeo move over.
The invitation to reason together is therefore not meant to suppose I have thought through any proposition you’ve not already considered, upheld or dismissed. But it speaks of a God who, though infinitely wise and omniscient, a God who needs to stoop to behold the things that are in heaven, 2Psalm 113:6 a God who needed to ‘come down’ to be able to see the highest structure the human mind could conceive of, 3Genesis 11:3-4 has enough time and room for the inanity with which Billy Giwa from Ugbekpe-Ekperi might engage him! You are awesome.
That is part reason I love you – only a bit part though. The bigger part is your incomparable capacity to love, and your passionate expression of that love. Through Israel, the first fruit of your love and our window on your world, you revealed a bit of yourself. Some might say much but I’m inclined to go with Moses on this one. 4Deuteronomy 29:29
The bit of yourself that you unabashedly displayed was your generosity and vulnerability as a lover. The pendulum of your affection oscillated between the filial and the courtly. Your turn of expression undoubtedly made you Shakespeare’s muse. Reflections on your season of love lifted Ezekiel into a romantic rhapsody:
“Now when I passed by thee, and looked upon thee, behold thy time was the time of love; and I spread my skirt over thee, and covered thy nakedness: yea, I sware unto thee, and entered into a covenant with thee…and thou became mine…I clothed thee also with broidered work, and shod thee with badgers’ skin, and I girded thee about with fine linen, and I covered thee with silk. I decked thee also with ornaments, and I put bracelets upon thy hands, and a chain on thy neck. And I put a jewel on thy forehead, and earrings in thine ears, and a beautiful crown upon thine head…and thou wast exceeding beautiful…And thy renown went forth among the heathen for thy beauty: for it was perfect through my comeliness, which I had put upon thee, saith the Lord GOD.” 5Ezekiel 16:8:14
I couldn’t help but think: Wow, Cupid’s got God! Romeo move over.
However, the true fix and resting quality of human emotion is too whimsical for a love match with divinity. The rough and tumble of matters of the heart proved too trying for you. Before long your heart bled. Your words find resonance in all that are lovelorn.
“How shall I give thee up, Ephraim? How shall I cast off Israel? …My heart is turned within me, my compassion are kindled together.” 6Hosea 11:8
What had Israel done to leave you in such intense straits?
Where do we start?
Israel was no mere Joe Bloggs. Israel was too big to fail.
Human sacrifice, 7Jeremiah 19:3-5 idolatry in your house, 8Jeremiah 7:30-31 oppression of the poor, 9Amos 2:6-8 high crimes and misdemeanour. 102Samuel 12:1-14 There are others such as a mass rape and murder that makes Sodom and Gomorrah seem like a playground affair by comparison. 11Judges 19:9-30 I have deliberately left out a deuteronomist account of the history of ancient Israel and stuck only to some of those the prophets condemned. As scripture says:
“For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.” 122Peter 1:21
One could see why you were cut up by the foibles of mere flesh and blood. Israel was no mere Joe Bloggs. 13Jeremiah 10:16 In addition to being beloved, she had a huge destiny. She was called to walk in all your ways, be your witness 14Isaiah 43:10 and impact the world for you. 15Isaiah 27:6 The rest of us were to follow their lead in your ways. 16Isaiah 2:2-4 Your ambition to possess the world for yourself needed Israel to be on good behaviour. As we say down here: Israel was too big to fail.
However, as with flesh and blood, Israel didn’t always rise up to that challenge. Fairly often she faltered even before the first hurdle. And when she did, you acted, not as a lover would, but as a parent. You whipped with one hand, but embraced with the other. Restoration always followed after desolation. The umbilical cord, however far it stretched, never snapped.
“Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? yea, they may forget, yet will I not forget thee.” 17Isaiah 49:15
From the courtly to the filial.
The Psalmist said you never kept angry forever. 18Psalm 103:9 You said much the same through Hosea. And why wouldn’t you? Hosea and Isaiah had pretty much the same reading on that one:
“I will not execute the fierceness of mine anger…for I am God, and not man; the Holy One in the midst of thee” 19Hosea 11:9
“For I will not contend for ever, neither will I be always wroth: for the spirit should fail before me, and the souls which I have made.” 20Isaiah 57:16
Put simply, being God constrains you.
Whatever instructed your disposition at any given time, it was clear that nothing could permanently separate you from the object of your affection – not even sin! When it became painfully clear that the sinaitic covenant required of Israel standards too high for flesh and blood, you promised to tear up the old rule book and start afresh:
“Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel….I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people…for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.” 21Jeremiah 31:31-33
And why would you take upon yourself the burden of perfecting your relationship with Israel? Love. It could only ever be for love, that being the reason you gave earlier in that prophecy.
“Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee.” 22Jeremiah 31:3
None of this is to imply you were soft. There was also tough love. From the golden calf to Baal-peor, Israel felt the wound of a friend; but it was always affliction with purpose: 23Psalm 39:11
“You only have I known of all the families of the earth: therefore I will punish you for all your iniquities. 24Amos 3:2 …I will not make a full end of thee: but I will correct thee in measure, and will not leave thee altogether unpunished…” 25Jeremiah 30:11
Even on the back of a thorough hide-whopping, Jeremiah still acknowledged your magnanimous disposition:
“It is of the LORD’S mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness.” 26Lamentations 3:22-23
Your mercifulness was not reserved for Israel alone. Despite your blistering visitation upon ancient Egypt, you nonetheless looked forward to the day when Egypt would know you as Israel did. 27Isaiah 19:25 When you sent Jonah to correct Nineveh, you had consideration even for the cattle in that land. 28Jonah 4:11
My Lord God, I’ve gone to considerable length to say why I love you. We do not say God loves. No! We say God is love, for to put it any other way would most certainly fall short. All but one book of the bible ultimately say that in their different ways. All but the book of Revelation.
In that book you bear little resemblance to the old you. You’re distant – frightening even. 29Revelation 20:11 Regal – more interested in being worshipped than being adored. You seem to have lost the poetic edge, the emotional connection and a lover’s touch. It’s all very stern up there: thunders, lightening, fire, brimstone, monsters, curses, judgement, blood and gore. There are indications in that book that suggest that you are going back on your word.
As I quoted above you said you wouldn’t be angry forever, 30Jeremiah 3:12 but Revelation says you will punish the unrepentant forever! As I mentioned earlier, we are beholden to you because your mercy does not fail, in fact, it is renewed daily. 31Lamentations 3:23 If so, what room is there for you to keep a record of the wrong we daily commit? 32Revelation 20:12-15
When Christ rose, love conquered, for he did it all for love.
And you have sent us ministers to tell us that you loved us so much you died for us. However if we did not reciprocate your love we would burn forever. It troubles me that you’re not bothered that there is not a Moses among these. 33Exodus 32:31-32 It’s clear why you said there were no ministers like him.
Many sign up to a relationship with you for fear of roasting for all eternity. Others for the joy your blinged-up kingdom promises. Not many are in you for love. You might say I’m a wee-bit judgemental and arrogant to presume to know why people look forward to eternity in paradise. I fail to understand how any who knows the meaning of love could look forward to a day when an infinitely greater proportion of humanity 341Kings 8:46 are committed to a furnace forever! And for good measure, I struggle to appreciate that you would want such people around you.
If I may be bold – I might as well, having come this far – to seek a double portion of the anointing on Moses 35Numbers 14:15-16 and Abraham 36Genesis 18:25 then I would appeal to you to re-consider this hell and eternal damnation business. It’s just not you. It’s almost as though someone went to bed and had a rather nasty dream, then hung it all on you!
When we remember the supreme sacrifice of Christ Jesus and his resurrection, we’re encouraged to contemplate the redeeming power of love over every imaginable evil. If you had left his soul in hell, then would evil have triumphed. But when he rose, love conquered, for he did it all for love.
We’re told he didn’t do it with any ethnic, racial, cultural or religious bias. It’s written that he did it for the whole world. 371 John 2:2 It would be a colossal disservice to that enterprise were a single soul to perish in hell. He was after all the sort of shepherd who would leave behind 99 perfectly well behaved children in search of the single wayward son. 38Matthew 18:12-14
In your promise of a new covenant, you said you would take on the challenge of perfecting us for yourself, in your own words you said:
“And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them.” 39Ezekiel 36:27
It’s not about us struggling to be perfect. It’s about you doing what you said you would do. Should it be said that the omnipotent Almighty is not able to do as he promised? Would you out of anger violate your sacred word? Did you not say:
“My covenant will I not break, nor alter the thing that is gone out of my lips.” 40Psalm 89:34
Your son, prophet, psalmist and king, David wrote that you magnify your word above all your names. 41Psalm 138:2 Should it be said that your word did not count much in the face of righteous indignation?
Re-consider this hell and eternal damnation business. It’s so not you.
You told Moses you will have mercy on whom you’ll have mercy – that is, you could exercise a prerogative of mercy, should you wish. As we know mercy is not earned, it is by grace, and it triumphs over judgement. 42James 2:13
I appeal to you to apply divine pressure upon our hearts to turn us to you 43Exodus 7:3; Psalm 105:25 I implore you to cause hell to freeze over and possess for your inheritance, the entire human race. I beg you to remember who you are – Love, for love bears all things, love endures all things. 441 Corinthians 13:7 All I wish is that you remain God and no less.
References [ + ]
|37.||↑||1 John 2:2|
|43.||↑||Exodus 7:3; Psalm 105:25|
|44.||↑||1 Corinthians 13:7|