Have you ever considered what a relentless God we have? I’ve heard him called loving, gracious, and merciful by those who have obeyed him, and bloodthirsty, uncaring, and unjust by those who reject him. We refer to God in many ways, but relentless usually isn’t one of the first terms that come to mind.
I’ve been reading in the Old Testament lately, and it presents a picture of just how relentless God can be. Over and over again he calls his people to be faithful, and usually they are anything but that. In spite of it, God seeks to bring them back. Let me give some examples.
- Moses. God has a plan for Moses that’s eighty years in the making. He’s born in a time and place where his chances of survival aren’t good. Pharoah orders infanticide of all Israelite male newborns. Moses’ mother risks her life to preserve her son’s. In a rich irony, Moses is plucked from the Nile by Pharaoh’s daughter and ends up being raised in Pharaoh’s court. Moses decides to deliver Israel on his own timetable and ends up an exile running from a charge of murder and despised by his own people. Forty years later, God comes looking for him to lead Israel to the Promised Land. God didn’t forget about Moses; he just allowed enough time to pass for Moses to become the leader God wanted.
- The Israelites. God demonstrates tremendous love and patience with them. After witnessing God’s power as slaves during the plagues in Egypt it only took them reaching the Red Sea with Pharaoh and his army in hot pursuit to start complaining. The rest of the Old Testament is the story of Israel’s ongoing rebelliousness and the consequences of their disobedience. And yet, God never gave up on them because he had a plan that was bigger than they were. His love was that of a father and mother for a wayward child.
- Jonah. He was told to go to Assyria and preach repentance to the people. Jonah disagreed with the idea and headed the other way, ending up in the belly of a big fish. God rescued Jonah after he had three days to reconsider his calling. He went to Nineveh, delivered the message, and the people repented. And Jonah got mad. But Jonah was not the only one God was relentlessly pursuing. He even cared about those who were ‘enemies’ of Israel and had a long-range plan in the works.
- Hosea, one of my favorites. God tells him to marry a prostitute by the name of Gomer. She bears three children: a son named Jezreel, a daughter named Lo-ruhamah (‘no compassion’), and another son named Lo-ammi (‘not my people’). Gomer eventually returns to her former life. God tells Hosea to go after Gomer and buy her back. Hosea does and tells her that she is to be faithful to him as he will be to her. It is an object lesson to the kingdom of Israel. God is about to send them into captivity in Assyria because of their spiritual unfaithfulness. He speaks of them as an unfaithful wife and himself as the husband. Chapter 2 of Hosea tells of her unfaithfulness and paints a metaphorical picture of what God is about to do to her. But beginning in verse 14, the text takes on a tenderness when speaking of God’s forgiveness. It says, “Therefore I am going to persuade her, lead her back to the wilderness, and speak tenderly to her.” In verses 19 and 20, God continues: “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 the Lord.” A relentless God doesn’t give up the pursuit of those He loves.
Woven through the Psalms and the prophets is a thread of God’s ultimate plan, fashioned before the beginning of time. It is the promise of a Messiah that will rule over Israel and the nations forever. The leaders of Israel failed to recognize him when he arrived because he wasn’t what they expected. Despite three years’ of Jesus teaching, healing and performing miracles they had him put to death by crucifixion, thinking they had done away with him. They had no idea it was exactly what God had planned. God had provided the way to defeat sin that we couldn’t do on our own.
The Prodigal Son is my favorite parable. It tells of an insolent younger son who demands his inheritance and then proceeds to waste it all on partying and indulging his every desire. Soon the money is gone and he finds himself feeding pigs. Luke tells us, “When he came to himself”. He had hit rock bottom and realized going home was his only option. Ashamed, embarrassed, but no longer arrogant, he starts for home. The Father had been watching for him since he left. When he sees his son, dirty, wretched, and ragged, coming up the road he RUNS to him, embraces him, takes him home, and then the REAL party starts. That is the picture of a relentless God.
I don’t know where you find yourself in life. Maybe you think you’re doing pretty good. Maybe you’re in the middle of some problems. Or maybe your life is such a mess that you think there’s no way God could care about you. The secret is that we’re all the prodigal son, dirty and ragged, living in a pig pen and starving to death. And when we finally ‘come to ourselves’ and humbly turn to God, he welcomes us home with a heavenly party. You may not realize it but he’s relentlessly pursuing you. He loves you and wants you to come home. But if you come he won’t leave you dirty and starving. He’ll clothe you with his Son and feed you from His word until you overflow with His spirit and love.