Making the first move…

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Malachi 3:7 (God said to the people) Ever since the days of your ancestors you have turned aside from my statutes and have not kept them. Return to me, and I will return to you, says the LORD of hosts.

Malachi brings to a close our reading of the prophets of the Old Testament. Starting tomorrow, January 1, we will start over at Genesis. The verse above is a sort of synopsis of the corpus of prophetic writings. Over and over God’s people turned aside from the statutes and ordinances and laws of God. As their unfaithfulness grew over time God’s protection and provision for them diminished, which seemed to only hasten the divide between God and the people.

What I find interesting about this invitation is its transactional nature. God is telling the people that reconciliation is possible. God has not forgotten the people, nor completely abandoned them. If they “return to me (God)” by honoring his statutes once again, he will return to them. But here’s the catch.

It is up to the people to make the first move.

The truth is the people never really did, at least not in a sustained way. They would return to God for a time, but then walk away once again. Over and over this is a central theme of the Old Testament, which I can absolutely relate to. There are seasons when I will make particular effort to lean into my relationship with the Lord, but it doesn’t seem to last the way I’d like. I get distracted. I get busy. I lose hope from time to time as I experience adversity in life.

What I appreciate about Jesus (among many other things) is that in Jesus it was God who made the first move, not people. 

If our salvation were dependent on human initiative we would end up, well, like the people in the Old Testament. Defeated. Lost. In the birth of Jesus, our heavenly Father demonstrated a willingness to go to any lengths to reconcile with his sons and daughters. You and me. On this last day of the year I’m particularly grateful that the Lord has never given up on me. Thank you Lord. Amen.

 

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