Chris and I have done Operation Christmas Child for the past couple years. We fill up a couple shoeboxes and drop them off at the local church. My women’s group did it this past year. Now that we have traveled to a place that these boxes are sent to and seeing how little these people actually have, I am even more motivated to work closely with this organization. The collection of boxes begins pretty early, which is why I am sure a lot of people aren’t thinking about it. FYI: This year’s collection is Nov 17-24.
So remember when I was throwing a tantrum about not being able to go anywhere exciting and serve (How to be a missionary at home)? God quickly opened a door: to Guatemala. I won’t recap the whole trip. My husband did a great job at that already in his blog post, written much more eloquently than I ever could! So, head on over to sharedappetite.com after this! But first, I will reminisce about a couple things that have stuck with me over the past year.
Starts with God calling for Israel to return to Him, an appeal for their repentance to receive His response that was promised in verses 4-8.
“Return, O Israel, to the Lord your God. Your sins have been your downfall!” (v1)Psalm 130:7-8 O Israel, hope in the Lord! For with the Lord there is steadfast love, and with him is plentiful redemption. And he will redeem Israel from all his iniquities.
“When Ephraim spoke, men trembled; he was exalted in Israel. but he became guilty of Baal worship and died.” (v1) The wages of sin was death and the end was at hand.
“Now they sin more and more; they make idols for themselves from their silver, cleverly fashioned images, all them the work of craftsman.” The things they worshipped were manmade. Made by human hands out of things that go away. Nothing compared to the Creator of all things who will never leave or disappear.
“Ephraim feeds on the wind; he pursues the east wind all day” (v1) A symbol of Israel’s futility. Chasing the wind is useless and pointless as was the foreign policy between Israel, Assyria and Egypt.
Verses 2-4 refer to the story of Jacob in Genesis 25-33. “He will punish Jacob according to his ways” (v2). He was a liar, deceiver and thief but he was also a great patriarch of the Old Testament “and repay him according to deeds.”( v2). His name means “he grasps the heel”: “in the womb he grasped his brother’s heel;” (v3) He wrestled with his brother in the womb: “But the two children struggled with each other in her womb.” (Genesis 25:22) and he wrestled with God later in life: “as a man he struggled with God.” (v3) Later in life God renamed Jacob “Israel” which means “he struggles with God.” (Genesis 32:28) “He struggled with the angel and overcame him;” (v4) refers to Genesis 33:24-26: “This left Jacob all alone in the camp, and a man came and wrestled with him until the dawn began to break. When the man saw that he would not win the match, he touched Jacob’s hip and wrenched it out of its socket. Then the man said, “Let me go, for the dawn is breaking!” But Jacob said, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.’”
The chapter starts out with God reminding people (for the 3rd time this book) that He was the one who birthed the nation of Israel and the He was the one who brought them out of Egypt. He goes further with the father-son relationship in verse 3: “It was I who taught Ephraim to walk, taking them by the arms;” Can’t you just picture this beautiful imagery of a father holding his son’s arms as he takes his first steps? But then, in that same verse: “but they did not realize it was I who healed them.” The children forgot who their Healer truly was. “I led them with cords of human kindness, with ties of love; I lifted the yoke from their neck and bent down to feed them.” (v4) This verse sounds like another farming reference. As a farmer leads his work animals with cords, so will the Lord lead His people with cords of kindness and love. The yoke is put on animals so they can do work together. Popularly known in Matthew 11:30: “For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” God takes the work and heaviness off of us alone and carries it WITH us. Here God is saying that he completely removed all of the burden and work from the people and fed them.
“Israel was a spreading vine;” (v1) A vine represents Israel in the New Testament and the Old Testament. Christ applied this to himself: “I am the true vine and my father in the vinedresser.” (John 15:1) “As his fruit increased he built more altars; as his land prospered, he adorned his sacred stones.” (v1) God provided only 1 altar in Jerusalem, so the sinfulness of many altars shows the corruption of the people.
“Their heart is deceitful, and now they must bear their guilt.” (v2) Although the people cried out to God, it was not with a heart of repentance. They dishonored Him with pagan worship and the Lord will get His revenge.
In this chapter, because of their sins, God deprives Israel of worldly enjoyments. “Do not rejoice, O Israel; do not be jubilant like other nations. For you have been unfaithful to your God; you love the wages of a prostitute at every threshing floor.” (v1) The Israelites had been giving their honor and love to false gods and enemies of the Lord. They continually broke the marriage-like covenant with God. “They will not remain in the Lord’s land; Ephraim will return to Egypt and eat unclean food in Assyria.” (v3) God threatens exile to the land that the Israelites were already depending on. And remember in chapter 7, the king of Israel asked the king of Egypt for help to pay the Assyrian king and he refused? And let’s not forget the whole slavery in Egypt during the time of Moses. This isn’t really a place that the Israelites want to return to! Plus, anything is a foreign country is “unclean” and the people would have no temple to become ceremonially clean again.
I admit it: I tend to get jealous over other people’s lives. Not things like cars or houses or material things, more like experiences. They went on a great vacation, look at that fancy restaurant they went to, she did the bike ride from NYC to Montauk, how come I can’t do the Half Ironman upstate like he did (that is a goal of mine!) But, yes, jealousy rears its ugly head more times than I’d like to admit.
Last year I just felt so on fire for God and wanted to do something with it. Here I was just going to work everyday feeling like I was wasting my time and energy. I have a couple friends that are missionaries. One is full time: like she went to school for it. She spends months at a time in 3rd world countries. A couple other friends had traveled to southeast Asia for missions trips and another was leaving for Africa. Why were they getting to do these big opportunities and I was stuck in my car 3 hours a day driving back and forth to this job? It just didn’t seem fair (yes, I realize that I sound like a whiny 3 year not getting her way)
“Israel is swallowed up; now she is among the nations like a worthless thing.” (v8)
In verse 9, the Israelites are compared to a wild donkey wandering alone to Assyria. Donkeys are known for their stubbornness and the people are still looking for Assyrian protection despite God’s warnings. “Ephraim has sold herself to lovers.” (v9) Again, comparing the people to a prostitute selling herself for nothing compared to what the people could have with God.