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The Story of the Faithful

"Save, O LORD, for the godly one is gone; for the faithful have vanished from among the children of man. Everyone utters lies to his neighbor; with flattering lips and a double heart they speak." - Psalm 12:1–2

To take one small step in obedience is to reminded all over again with the curse of a double-heart. No matter how seasoned we are in our walk with Jesus, nobody, not one, is immune to the ravages of doubts, disillusionment, self-condemnation. Sadly, we are a people easily scattered and easily divided. Our emotions are a double-edged sword- they serve us well, until they don't anymore.


There are moments where the space between heaven and earth feels thin, moments when our ears can hear the voice of God and recieve His touch. Moments where He meets us right when we need Him the most. Moments where we promise Him - and ourselves - that we not leave His side, that we will be faithful. Steadfast and constant.


Then we stand up. We rise from our shaky knees and our confronted with the implications of our promises. Somedays we have the strength to truly deny ourselves and follow Christ, and others we find ourselves angry, bitter, and exhausted. Burned out.


Why am I doing this again?


There are days when we remember the answer and days when we don't.


This is the story of every faithful lover of Jesus.


The story of the faithful is filled with chapters where God feels distant, where the heart begins to wander, and love seems to grow cold- which is most beautifully worded in one of my favorite hymns Come Thou Fount where the lyricist says, "Prone to wander, Lord I feel it / Prone to leave the God I love / Here's my heart, O take and seal it / Seal it for thy courts above."


For every tale of one who obediently followed, there is a tale of when they left.


So, dear reader, this probably has you wondering, how can you call someone faithful who constantly has to keep themselves from leaving...or even has left?


The answer is that we cannot even know, nor produce, true faithfulness without tasting and seeing God's own towards us. The prodigal did not know what faithfulness truly was until he felt it in the embrace of his father, a man whose love proved undying despite the fact that he was hugging a runaway. A sinner. The nation of Israel, the chosen people of God, did not know what faithfulness was until they left Him.


We don't know faithfulness until we know what it is to be pursued.


"My people inquire of a piece of wood, and their walking staff gives them oracles. For a spirit of whoredom has led them astray, and they have left their God to play the whore. They sacrifice on the tops of the mountains and burn offerings on the hills, under oak, poplar, and terebinth, because their shade is good. Therefore your daughters play the whore, and your brides commit adultery." - Hosea 4:12–13

You may think me drastic. To compare our feelings of turmoil and doubt to Israel, who took up the practice of sacrifice and burnt offerings to false gods on mountaintops- it doesn't feel quite the same.


But on a soul-deep level, we are the very same. Israel was sick and tired of trying to be different then anyone else. They wanted a king like everyone else. They wanted wealth and visable success like everyone else. And they definitely did not want to take the time to truly love God. So, to counteract the fact that they needed God to a certain extent, but didn't want to know Him, didn't want to love Him, allowed their hearts to split in two, to God's own heartbreak, and deep frustration.


I have a theory that for Israel, their worship of other gods and blocks of wood was less about actually serving those gods than it was about them wanting to distract themselves from God still pursuing them in the peripheral of their vision.


They fought to escape that nagging feeling of God calling them back. So they pounded nails into wood, they burnt sacrifices (some even to God, most likely to heal a bit of their own pride and to make themselves feel better), they fractioned their hearts and gave God the bare minimum.


"For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings." -Hosea 6:6

Its not as hard to sacrifice as it is to love. We can sacrifice through our doubts and frustrations, we can burn offerings when we are burnt out and weary, but we cannot love. We cannot be loved. But in Jesus we see sacrifice as it should be, as well as what faithful love looks like. And it is through Him that the promise in Hosea 2 bears fruit.


"I will shatter bow, sword, and weapons of war in the land and will enable the people to rest securely. I will take you to be my wife forever. I will take you to be my wife in righteousness, justice, love, and compassion. I will take you to be my wife in faithfulness, and you will know that I am the Lord." - Hosea 2:18-20

I have a sneaking suspicion that what He means by "weapons of war" also includes the hammers they used to make their idols, the destroyers of their peace. He is promising that when we are in communion with Him, when we are resting securely in who He is, we are faithful. We are faithful not through our own actions, not through our burnt offerings or sacrifices or anything we could have done. In fact, we are counted faithful in spite of all that.


When we are caught up in the realization that faithfulness is not a thing made, but a thing to be found in the heart of Christ, we are free. We are free from being terrified of moving backwards in the faith. We are free from feeling like we have gone too far from Him this time. We are free from kicking ourselves over the feeling that we've disappointed Him. We are free from feeling like we've had to repent one too many times.


Because He takes the nails we intended to use for our idols and shape into our distractions, and He uses them on Himself instead. His love is confrontational and unavoidable, ceasely chasing and always pursuing, and the cross marks the definitive end of our ability to distract ourselves from Him. Jesus is anything but forgettable.


So for anyone who has been feeling discouraged by their actions lately, who has been feeling a space between what they promise Jesus and what they end up doing, remember that there is a Father at the end of the road, waiting to teach you what faithfulness looks like.


And waiting to teach you that, in His eyes, you already are.

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