I am blogging this Advent from #decolonizelutheranism’s Advent devotional, Shut Up. (That would be the sanitized version)
Come, let us return to the Lord; for he has torn us, that he may heal us; he has struck us down, and he will bind us up. (Hosea 6:1 ESV)
So here’s the deal.
You don’t get to tell me I’m completely, largely, or even partially responsible for the crap I’m suffering through.
Not unless you love me.
Do you love me? I doubt it. You may claim to, but you speak words of judgement and condemnation. You tear me, you strike me down. You aren’t healing. You aren’t binding.
You have no desire to do any of that. I understand, I think, but that means you don’t love me. Whatever you claim, you do not love me. You fear me. Or you hate me. Or you simply find me a perplexing inconvenience, a waste of your time.
It’s okay. You aren’t the first.
God loves Israel. Israel knows they are loved. They have been rescued and redeemed — not from mere misfortune, but from their own faithlessness, from their own stupidity and their own bad decisions, from their sin. There is no abstract, meaningless misfortune in the story of Israel — that is different, as Jesus notes in Luke 13 when he speaks of those who died in the collapse of the tower of Siloam.
The disaster Israel suffers is very purposeful. And Israel is different.
It is not Babylonians telling Israel, “This is all your fault, if only you hadn’t worshiped Canaanite gods.” It is God who has pronounced judgement, saving the harshest for his very own people.
The prophets of Israel constantly speak of us and we. This is not about individual suffering, but about the fate of the whole people of God. If I find meaning in it for myself, that’s because I have found that meaning, and it made sense, spoke truth, to me. I would never try to impose it on someone else. Especially if their suffering is truly unearned.
Our God redeems, but he strikes low too. This is something Israel came to understand in its long encounter with God. A lot of suffering and despair and death were needed to make these words possible, and they are not to be spoken lightly.
Or from afar, from a place of comfort and security. They are spoken … in the midst of the disaster. By those who cannot avoid it or escape.
This God who tears down, who has led an army to our gates, who rescued us from slavery once but has also promised us a slavery we cannot escape from as a consequence of our failure, also heals and releases and sets free. This God who promised war and destruction, who commanded no prayers for us, breathes life into our dry bones.
And promises that, “on the third day, he will raise us up, that we may live before him.”