where a parent has said ’Enough!’ Out of anger and hardness of heart, children, usually teenagers or young adults, have been abandoned and left with no possibility of coming home and asking for forgiveness. As Jesus’ story of the prodigal son reminds us, God is ever waiting and watching for his children to return to him. He’s God, not a mortal like us with the weaknesses of pride or an over developed sense of our own importance or a warped sense of what is right. God is like a parent, but he is the Holy One standing in the midst of his people and in our midst saying: How can I ever give you up?
We mustn’t allow our experience of being parented or of being a parent to be used a model for the way God will parent us. We see God addressing the entire Northern Kingdom as a single, personal entity who deserves his anger, but God chooses not to act upon it. National guilt and judgement, betrayal and estrangement are interrupted by a passionate intervention driven by love. The Holy One with power, glory and awesomeness is at work among his rebellious people, disclosing to them his innermost feelings, pledging his compassion despite their disloyalty. And, God defines his otherness, his divine uniqueness, not in terms of power, wisdom or sovereignty, but in terms of love; constant, sure and steadfast.
So the very thought of abandoning the people God has lived amongst, to an extinction like that of the cities of the plain, stirs God to strong revulsion. But how does that fit in with what in fact transpired? For the Northern Kingdom, in this passage called Ephraim or Israel, fell in 722 and was deported to Assyria. One answer could be that she was given, after this prophecy, yet another chance to repent. More probably, the answer lies in the remnant, who threw their lot in with Judah (the Southern Kingdom) and whose descendants returned with them to be part of the continuing Israel that meets us in the New Testament as the parent stock of the church. The next paragraph seems to bear this out.
The Distant Future: Home from ’Egypt’ (vv 10-11)
The story which began by recalling the deliverance of a ’son’ from Egypt now returns to the theme that the Lord’s children will be delivered from bondage in the future. But only a chastened people ’trembling …trembling’ will come home at last when God leaps into action with a mighty roar. Thus the story comes to its end; out of Egypt, back into ’Egypt’ because of rebellion; then out of ’Egypt’ as God returns them to their homes because of His compassion.
Yet we know that for each of us, the story doesn’t end there. God has given his people and all the peoples of the world, another chance to honour their creator and loving father, in the sending of his Son. Jesus, in his incarnation (coming amongst us in human form) incorporated all that Israel was meant to be. ’Out of Egypt I have called my son’ says God, so that his purposes might be fulfilled: the Israelites to live by God’s rule and be a blessing
Peter Junor
October 24, 2007
Love your illustration Di! Personal experience I wonder? I note you have researched in Derek Kidner & quoted from him - probably a good idea to cite the source of your quotation. Thanks a lot for this, & for your hard work & thoughtful reflection.