The nation of Israel had a period in their history where they had turned their back on their God and chased after the gods of the surrounding nations. It’s a bit confusing because their God had rescued them from slavery, gave them a land that flowed with milk and honey, loved, prospered, and protected them. Why would anyone turn their back on a God who had granted them so much favor?
The clue lies in their calling. Israel from its foundations, when God had called their patriarch Abraham (Genesis 12 and 15), down to when God had established them as a nation through Moses (Exodus 19 and 20), understood their purpose, the reason they were chosen was that they were to be a light to the nations, that through them all nations would be blessed and come to know their God.
To frame another way: They were chosen for the rest of the world. Their prosperity, their blessing wasn’t just for them, it was to flow through them to others. They were supposed to live for others.
Chasing after the gods of other nations was a mask and an excuse they used to live self-centered lives, it was a way of setting themselves up to be their own gods.
This is why the natural progression of their idolatry would lead to oppression of the weak, injustice would rule the land, the orphans and the widows would not be taken care of, the foreigners would be taken advantage of.
When we keep this in mind, we’ll find that the harsh verses found in the Old Testament, specially in the section known as the Prophets become less about a tyrant God needing anger management classes, and more a God lamenting a lover’s betrayal.
Soon enough, Israel’s wishes would backfire on them. The nations of the gods they had been chasing conquered and enslaved them. In some sense, they felt the weight of the unbearable burden we bear when we set up our own desires to be our gods.
Yet, despite the betrayal, God doesn’t give up.
God still chooses to rescue, still chooses to love.
This part of the narrative of the scriptures reveal to us that “God is more passionate than we are, not less. God can be more hurt than we are, not less. And that God loves more than we do, not less”. –P. Yancey
1) Have you ever been in a relationship (marriage, dating, family, friendship) wherein you gave so much of yourself to the other person only to have them betray you in the end? How did you feel? Or maybe it was you who did the betraying. What do you think the act of betrayal did to the person who gave themselves to you?
2) What do you think are the Jewish scriptures trying to tell us about what God is like when he is described as one who had been betrayed by a spouse and a lover?
3) Our core human desires such as the need for intimacy, community, purpose and progress are not in itself evil. On the contrary, it locates God as their source, author, and furthermore, their provider. (Genesis1) Oftentimes, however, these desires can subtly overtake us. Other than a desire for God, what are the things you desire most in life? What do you think are the negative impacts of chasing these desires at all cost, especially the impact on your inner peace and your relationships with others?
4) What does that make you feel about God when he chooses not to stay angry at those who have betrayed him?