For the week of March 24, 2007 / 5 Nisan 5767
Torah: Vayikra / Leviticus 1:1 - 5:26
Haftarah: Isaiah 43:21 - 44:23
I Have Redeemed You
I have swept away your offenses like a cloud, your sins like the morning mist. Return to me, for I have redeemed you. (Isaiah 44:22)
I was very struck recently by the personal story of Charlene Cothran, the publisher of Venus Magazine (http://www.venusmagazine.org/cover_story.html - Note: I don't know if this is a permanent link.) Cothran writes of her decision to leave her long-time unbiblical lifestyle. If I understand her correctly it appears that throughout much of her life she had an awareness of God and his Truth, yet had decided to go her own way. Her recent turn to the Messiah was a reckoning with what in her heart she already knew.
When God began to tug at her heart, she was already well aware of who he was and of his mercy toward her. The day came when she knew that she had to return to him or risk being lost forever. Thankfully she cooperated with God and is now willing to serve him in helping others discover him too.
Cothran is an example of many, many people, who have a godly heritage, but who have purposely ignored that heritage in favor of going their own way. While there are those in the world who know little to nothing about the God of the Bible, there are also countless others, like Cothran, for whom the true God has played a significant part in their lives. Many of these people have encountered God either personally or within their families. I don't fully understand how someone who has been exposed to the reality of God could drift as far away as Cothran had, but the fact is many have.
It is to these people that, I believe, we can apply the words of the prophet Isaiah that I quoted at the start:
Isaiah's original audience was the people of Israel of his day. Israel had what is referred to as a covenant relationship with God. By virtue of God's promises to the forefathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; their deliverance from bondage in Egypt; and God's word to them at Mt. Sinai, God obligated himself to them as a nation. His obligations included the Land of Israel, their continual existence as a people, and various relational aspects between himself and them. The full benefits of God's commitment toward them depended on their faithfulness to God.
If and when the people neglected God, they were in danger of losing his benefits. But no matter how persistently rebellious they would become, his commitment to them provided them with the ongoing opportunity to return to him. This is what God, through Isaiah, sought to remind them of. He had already provided the means of their restoration for them. It was then up to them to respond by returning to him.
While non-Jews, like Cothran, cannot make a claim on God in exactly the same way as the people of Israel can, this principle still applies to cases such as hers. While I don't know Cothran personally, I suspect that she comes from a family that at some point committed themselves to the God of Israel through the Messiah. Perhaps Cothran herself had made such a commitment. When a person or a community comes into a true relationship with God, God takes them at their word. Should such people then renege on their commitment, God doesn't immediately turn his back on them. Instead he says to them:
To neglect God for too long, just as Cothran understood, may place the person beyond God's help forever. When that point is reached is not something we may readily know.
What God still longs for the Jewish people, if you are like Cothran, he also longs for you. He has already done everything necessary for you to return to him. Please don't wait any longer.
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