Before Israelite's crossed Jordon river to enter the promised land they received a grim warning and the consequences, if they chose to follow another God (Deut 4:25-31). God knew out of his infinite wisdom, one day the nation of Israel will forget the slavery they endured in Egypt and redemption He had provided. As the generation passed on, their memory of their hardship in Egypt faded, and they started aligning themselves with foreign Gods in the land of Canaan. The act of disobedience invoked God’s anger and judgment. But God gave a promise. If the nation of Israel seeks His mercy and chose to return to God at any point in their sinful life, he promised to restore them back. (Deut 4:31)
This promise was reminded by many of old testament stalwarts such as Nehemiah, Samuel, King Hezekiah, Hosea, Amos, and Zechariah when the nation of Israel and Judah went through the lean spiritual patch. They called out the people to return to their God and escape from his judgment.
Our God is a righteous judge, compassionate father, and God of Covenant. When the people of Israelite's continuously sinned against God he gave them to the Assyrian king Shalmaneser in BC 722. The last king of Israelite was Hosea. The kingdom of Israel was completely dismantled, and the people were relocated to the land of Assyria (2 Kings 17:1-6). After their 700 years of stay in the promised land, they were deported as slaves and refuges to unknown foreign land. The land of Judah followed the same fate in BC 605 during Nebuchadnezzar’s conquest. The righteous judge provided his judgment for their continuous disobedience. At the same time, the compassionate God’s heart was aroused when he saw suffering His own people went through. The status of His heart was well documented by prophet Hosea (11:8).
“How can I give you up, Ephraim? How can I hand you over, Israel? How can I treat you like Admah?
How can I make you like Zeboyim? My heart is changed within me; all my compassion is aroused.
This is a beautiful example of God’s immutability and his mobility. God does not change, or in other words, he is immutable in his attribute. Heaven and earth may pass away but his words will never pass away (Mat 24:35). He is unchanging in his promise, law, and covenant. But his heart moves when the people change and ask for forgiveness. His heart changed when he saw people of Nineveh asking for forgiveness. When worst kings in the history of Judah and Israelite such as Manasseh and Ahab asked for forgiveness and humbled their heart, God did changed his heart. But the change in God’s heart in all the above cases originated from a change in men and not from God.
The echo of God’s call to “return to me” resounds many times all through the books of old testament prophets such as Isaiah (44:22), Jeremiah (4:1), Joel (2:12) and Zachariah (1:3). The only way the men can escape God’s judgment is by returning to him and taking shelter under his wings. God is unchanging and righteous in nature and he cannot reverse his judgment unless there is a change in heart from men. Hence God out of his infinite love wooed us to return to him so that our heart will change.
The call he gave through his prophets remains real and open to every one of us. A call to return to him, so that he will return to us.
This is what the LORD Almighty says: ‘Return to me,’ declares the LORD Almighty, ‘and I will return to you,’ says the LORD Almighty. - Zechariah 1:3
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