The Lord’s Controversy With His People

A few years ago, I read through all the prophets on the order they appear in the Bible, over the course of some months. I had thought the prophets were mostly pronouncements of judgement and doom with a few prophecies of Jesus’ coming mixed in.

But my perspective changed as I saw the heart of God for His people in the prophetic books. Everywhere, He is seeking His lost ones. The judgements were intended to draw them back to His heart, not to drive them away. And there were always the promises of restoration, when Israeal would be returned to their homeland from the land of their captivity.

I was so blessed by these threads of mercy that I eventually compiled some of the verses into a collection, tweaked some phrasing, and added some of my own words to connect them.

I just told a friend last night that I don’t usually write long poems. But is this a poem? I can’t decide. I can only pray that the words will bless you.

I. Cry of the Creator

O mountains, hear my controversy,

and you mighty foundations of the earth,

listen as I plead with the one I love:

Though I have bound together and built the sinews of

strength in your arms,

Yet you imagine mischief against me,

strengthening resolve for sin.

Though I have redeemed you out of the land of servants

you have made your hearts as an adamant stone,

hardened against my words.

You are an empty vine,

bringing forth shrivelled fruit for yourself alone,

and your good deeds are as morning clouds

that melt in the heat of day.

Therefore I have given you cleanness of teeth,

the gift of famine to show you your sin;

I have withheld the rain from your fields,

and given you pestilence.

I said, “Surely you will fear Me,

surely you will receive my instruction,

that you may live and be spared from destruction”—

but you do not listen.

Now turn to Me, my beloved,

turn to me with all your heart and with weeping;

rend your heart, and not your garments.

For I am slow to anger,

gracious and merciful, of great kindness,

and willing to repent of the evil I have done to you.

Sow to yourself in righteousness,

and you will reap in mercy;

break up your fallow ground,

the long-neglected soil of your soul—

for it is time for you to seek Me,

to seek me until I come and rain righteousness upon you.

O, my beloved, what shall I do with you?

What have I done to you?

How have I wearied you?

How have I driven you out of my arms?

Return to me, and I will return to you.

Return, my beloved,

return.

II. Faint Answer

Come, and let us return to the Lord:

For He has torn, and He will heal us;

He has struck us, and He alone will bind us up;

He will turn again and have compassion on us.

Though we have fallen, we shall arise;

Though we have sat long in darkness,

The Lord shall be a Light unto us.

III. Assurance of Mercy

The Lord your God has come into your midst,

And He is mighty. He will save,

He will rejoice over you with heaven’s joy,

He will nestle you down in His love,

And joy over you with singing.

And the Lord your God will save you

In that day of repentance and mercy;

He will lead you forth as the flock of His people,

For you shall be as gems in His crown,

Lifted up and honored in the fruitful land.

For how great is His goodness,

And how great is His beauty!

IV. His Promise

“And you shall be mine,” says the Lord of hosts,

In that day when I make up my jewels.

I will spare you,

And to you that fear My name

Shall the Sun of Righteousness arise

With healing in His wings.”

V. Coda

Then they that feared the Lord

and hoped in His Word

Spoke often to one another.

And the Lord turned His ear toward them;

A book of remembrance was written before Him

For them that feared the Lord

And that thought on His name.

And we will walk in the name of the Lord

forever and ever.

Discombobulated: Portraits of a Lockdown

On Tuesday afternoon we teachers said good bye to our students as usual, and later we said, “See you tomorrow!” to each other. But we didn’t see each other the next day. Nova Scotia has entered a lockdown—two weeks, they say. So school as we knew it has ended for a time. I’m so thankful for how far we’ve been able to come this school term. Hopefully we can even come back to school again for a few days at the end of the term.

On Thursday the teachers all went to school to prepare their students’ books to be picked up and the work continued at home. Here are a few snapshots of that unusual morning.

Scenes:

  • rows of book stacks marked with yellow sticky notes
  • empty desks
  • crayons put back in boxes from the baskets they were in when they were being used
  • open file drawers
  • a bewildered teacher wearing a look of deep thought
  • rows of orange chairs awaiting the morning devotions that never came
  • books and papers strewn across my desk
  • parents arriving to pick up their children’s books for homeschooling
  • yellow, blue, and white paint collected for finishing an art project at home
  • scribbled questions for a Bible story I couldn’t read
  • left-behind socks arranged for parents to look through

Echoes:

  • teachers humming as they bustle about
  • binders clicking open and shut
  • clock ticking
  • footsteps on the stairs
  • jokes and questions thrown back and forth
  • copier clanking busily
  • drawers slamming
  • desk chair creaking
  • teacher discussion on yearbook and class photos
  • papers rustling
  • pens clicking
  • cellphone ringing

Feelings:

  • a dear co-teacher’s hug
  • a comfy desk chair I won’t use for a while
  • conversations with the moms of my students
  • heart-tugs while handing over books
  • lost looks at the irrelevant schedule in my planner
  • excitement that I still get to teach in private because it’s considered essential care for my student
  • afloat in a sea of papers: how to organize thoughts and methods and needs among them all?

The days since have settled into a new routine, and life goes on with its challenges and riches, loaded with the goodness of the Father.

According to my loose schedule, this should have been an inspirational post. So I’ll leave you with a thought that a close friend shared with me recently: “Praise God for the things He is doing in your life.” What inspired me about this was the reminder that God is at work right now, not just in some hazy future. I can praise Him for what He has done so far—as Samuel said in the Bible, “Hitherto has the Lord helped us.” Joy comes as we acknowledge and embrace the work God is doing for us, in us, and through us—today.