Out Of Office Reply

Scripture

14 Therefore, I am going to persuade her, lead her to the wilderness, and speak tenderly to her. 15 There I will give her vineyards back to her and make the Valley of Achor into a gateway of hope. There she will respond as [she did] in the days of her youth, as in the day she came out of the land of Egypt. 16 In that day- the Lord’s declaration- you will call [Me]: My husband, and no longer call Me: My Baal. 17 For I will remove the names of the Baals from her mouth; they will no longer be remembered by their names. 18 On that day I will make a covenant for them with the wild animals, the birds of the sky, and the creatures that crawl on the ground. I will shatter bow, sword, and weapons of war in the land and will enable the people to rest securely. 19 I will take you to be My wife forever. I will take you to be My wife in righteousness, justice, love, and compassion. 20 I will take you to be My wife in faithfulness, and you will know the Lord. 21 On that day I will respond- the Lord’s declaration. I will respond to the sky, and it will respond to the earth. 22 The earth will to the grain, the new wine, and the oil, and they will respond to Jezreel. 23 I will sow her in the land for Myself, and I will have compassion on No Compassion; I will say to Not My People: You are My people, and he will say: [You are] My God.  –Hosea 2:14-23

Observation

We no longer respond to Gods call.  We have left His commands far behind.  We have flirted and slept our way into multiple messes.  We have broken our covenant with God a long time ago.  We know we deserve a response of judgment and wouldn’t be surprised if God never speaks to us again.  Instead we get a response that can only be described as the scandal of grace.  Instead of abandoning us in the Valley of Achor, the valley of trouble, He kicks open the Door of Hope and invites us back to relationship with Him!  How can this be?  He knows exactly how dirty we are and yet wants to be close again?  So, with a jaded heart, a world weary soul, and innocence lost, how will we respond to His invitation to intimacy and covenant?  Will we keep walking into the shadows or will we run into the light?

Application

During the summer months I get a lot of “Out of Office” replies.  This automated reply usually informs me that someone is on vacation and reminds me that I am not.  I do appreciate these replies because at least I know I’m not being ignored.  Have you ever sent a text to a friend and received no response?  Have you ever left a voicemail and never received a call back?  Have you ever taken the time to write an email only to never get a response?  Have you ever shared your heart with your spouse or child only to have no response back or worse, to find out they weren’t even paying attention to you?  As more time passes between our initial communication and their lack of response we begin to second-guess ourselves. “Maybe I could have said that differently?  What if that just made matters worse?  I shouldn’t have said anything.”  We get to the place where even a automated or negative response would be better then no response at all.  Message given.  Message received? We just need a response! Its even more difficult when waiting on a divine response from a God we can’t even see.  “Have I sinned too much?  Maybe God doesn’t talk to someone like me.  I’ should just stop waiting because He’s never going to respond.”  May I suggest that, according to this passage in Hosea, God has never stopped responding to us.  His relentless pursuit of our heart is anything but automated and everything we hope for.  In the midst of our worst rebellions and gravest sins He is still calling us to Himself!  The question is not, “will God respond to me”, as much as “when will I respond to God’s response of grace already given?”  This is exactly what the author of Hebrews 2 is getting at:” 1. So we must listen very carefully to the truth we have heard, or we may drift away from it. 2 The message God delivered through angels has always proved true, and the people were punished for every violation of the law and every act of disobedience. 3 What makes us think that we can escape if we are indifferent to this great salvation that was announced by the Lord Jesus himself? It was passed on to us by those who heard him speak, 4 and God verified the message by signs and wonders and various miracles and by giving gifts of the Holy Spirit whenever he chose to do so.”. 

Prayer

You have gone out of Your way to respond to me with grace when I deserved a response of judgment.  I see in today’s passage a chain reaction of grace is set off when I simply to choose to respond in humility rather then ignore with indifference.  You deserve more then an “Out of Office” reply from me.  When I respond to You, as I did when I was younger, in absolute abandon to Your love, something is released in the heavens that changes what is going on here on earth!  The sky responds with rain, the earth responds with growth, the crops respond with abundance, and the people respond with a simple declaration of identity: “I am Yours and Your are mine”‘!  Let this season of response be kicked off now in how I give of my time, talents and treasures during the summer season.  You crossed time and space, heaven and earth, sin and death to show us Your response of grace! The least I can do is take every day to respond to You in real and un-religious ways with grace to those around me!  For all the unanswered questions You haven’t given us an empty hope, but an absolute covenant guarantee that You are not going to leave me hanging.  If you didn’t leave me in our sin why would You now abandon me as Your own with no response? Let my life be a resounding response to the amazing grace that called me home and holds me close today!  I’m not checking out, I’m checking in!  I’m stepping back, I’m stepping up.  As I respond to You I begin to see responses to Your grace in everything around me!