The subject of this article is the powerful spiritual reality that occurs when there is a return by humanity to the Lord God our Creator. The reason the word “return” is used is that in Biblical history it denotes a time when a people, who had become apostate, returned anew to the Lord. That event, the “return”, not only placed the people back to the place where they had been before the apostasy but the return itself generated a spiritual power that had not been known before. Likewise, in our day, a return to our creator could put the entire world on a course unequaled at any previous time in world history. No one can argue that world events have become beyond human control and that there needs to be drastic changes in all realms of human endeavor. Neglecting this change or “return” could hasten a destruction of life as we have known it. Returning to the Lord is the one act that can generate this change for the better.
By necessity, this article will follow the course of the ancient nation of Israel as recorded in the Old Testament. Israel’s history was one of continual apostasy and return, eventually resulting in their destruction as a nation. Many other kingdoms and empires rose and fell throughout history, nations and empires that far exceeded any we see today including the Sumerians, Egypt, Greece, Babylon, Persia and the Roman Empire. These civilizations collapsed on their own, never having a real God, other than the gods of nature they followed. Israel, on the other hand, was the first monotheistic nation and thus had to deal with the One True God who they ultimately were unable to please on a consistent basis. But when they did please God they, being one of the smallest nations of the world, achieved success beyond that of their larger neighbor nations.
The Biblical Book of the prophet Hosea illustrates this principle of return. He wrote vividly about the conditions which existed in the Northern tribes of Israel in about 800 B.C. He likens conditions in his homeland to that of a bride forsaking her husband and depicted Israel as an unfaithful lover, much like that of a prostitute. As the relationship with their God diminished so did the conditions in the country.
He writes: “Listen to the word of the LORD, O sons of Israel, For the LORD has a case against the inhabitants of the land, Because there is no faithfulness [truth] or kindness [loyalty] Or knowledge of God in the land. There is swearing, deception, murder, stealing and adultery. They employ violence, so that bloodshed follows bloodshed. Therefore the land mourns, And everyone who lives in it languishes Along with the beasts of the field and the birds of the sky, And also the fish of the sea disappear” (Hosea 4:1-3).
This description could just as easily apply to conditions in our country today. Politics practice mass deception in order to garner votes. Crime is rampant, not only within the crimes of violence but the crimes of greed on Wall St. and by the rich. Animals on land, in the air and in the seas are becoming extinct at a level not previously known, as environmental conditions deteriorate. The lands (people) mourn as they see life pulled from under them. There is no joy only bloodshed, both literally and spiritually. Where is the faithfulness and truth that founded this nation?
Hosea goes on: “Harlotry, wine and new wine take away the [heart of] understanding. My people consult their wooden idol, and their diviner’s wand informs them; For a spirit of harlotry has led them astray, And they have played the harlot, departing from [under] their God” (Hosea 4:11-12). If there has even been a nation in which idols have replaced God it is the United States. What every man calls his toys are his idols. The car a man drives defines his character not his heart. Where and how he lives becomes his god as he strives to outdo his neighbor. Technology and communication has flooded the world with useless information and man revels in his knowledge of masses of irrelevant facts spread by those who do not know truth. Religion itself leads the masses astray by their adherence to legalistic moral codes they try to force on one another and attempt to incorporate into legislation, legislating morality on a scale as effective as the Catholic Inquisitions of days gone by. Sexual license to do as you please in that area has become the accepted norm of society. Faithfulness is rare and real commitment is unknown.
People today hide their eyes from these realities as civilization descends down the slippery slope to destruction. On the other hand, people who are aware of these conditions become discouraged when they realize there are no human solutions to the problems. Hope flourishes for a moment and fails just as quickly in the face of the reality that the fervent hope was not realized. What real solutions exist for such massive problems as the current national indebtedness, the rise of terrorist nations set on destruction of all who oppose them, the proliferation of nuclear weapons in the hands of the irresponsible and the raging of plagues, famine, natural disasters and unchecked nationalism leading to the ethnic cleansing of entire races of humans.
It becomes readily apparent that there can never be any real solutions to these ills by human action. The same humans who can send man into space, who can accomplish medical miracles, develop drugs for every ill and other acts of so called modernization cannot solve basic problems of providing a successful human social existence. But despite the magnitude of man’s problems there does remain a solution that is capable of turning the tide faster than the proverbial bullet. A returning to the Lord, the Creator, has more power inherent in it than the power of the big bang that created the entire physical universe.
Hosea’s answer for ancient Israel is the same answer available today—the power of returning to the Lord. He says:
“Come, let us return to the LORD. For He has torn us, but He will heal us; He has wounded us, but He will bandage us. “He will revive us after two days; He will raise us up on the third day, That we may live before Him.
“So let us know, let us press on to know the LORD.
His going forth is as certain as the dawn;
And He will come to us like the rain,
Like the spring rain watering the earth” (Hosea 6:1-3).
It would appear that if anything America has lost its vision, the vision it had at the time of the founding Fathers. At the time, when we declared independence and fought and won an impossible war against the greatest power of the then known world, there was a vision of a form of government never seen in the world. Men of great diversity and difference of opinion came together and managed to agree on how this new nation would conduct its affairs. All differences and divides were put aside for the greater vision. That same vision carried us through other wars, a civil war, and two great world wars and brought us to the place it seemed anything was possible.
Although not necessarily formed as a Christian nation, we were founded on spiritual principles as real as its secular counterparts. As wise man once said “without a vision the people perish” (Proverbs of Solomon 29:18). And for good measure “If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. “If a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. “If Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but he is finished! (Mark 3:24-26). America today has lost its bearings, its vision, and its internal division has divided the country seemingly irreparably.
Today a new vision is set before us, for all those who choose to accept it. Whether we accept it or not it is coming and to those who see it will experience a complete newness of life on a scale not heretofore known. To those who do not, it could represent unprecedented destruction. The vision has been set to writing and is there for all to see.
“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is no longer any sea.
And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them, and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.”
And He who sits on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” And He said, “Write, for these words are faithful and true” (Revelation 21:1-5).
Can you imagine a new world where there are no tears, no grief, no mourning, no crying, no pain and no death? Most of us cannot because this world of strife and death is so familiar to us. We think, as Solomon wrote,
“Vanity of vanities,” [literally futility] says the Preacher, “Vanity of vanities! [futilities of futilities] All is futility.”
What advantage does man have in all his work
Which he does under the sun?
A generation goes and a generation comes,
But the earth remains forever….
That which has been is that which will be,
And that which has been done is that which will be done. So there is nothing new under the sun.
Is there anything of which one might say, “See this, it is new”?
Already it has existed for ages Which were before us.
There is no remembrance of earlier things;
And also of the later things which will occur,
There will be for them no remembrance Among those who will come later still”
However there is the promise of the better world which is more than a promise—it is the coming reality for those who will receive it.
Our current ills began back near the beginning of time when God expelled man from Paradise. However that expulsion was not meant to be permanent.
The great Apostle Paul explained as follows: “For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly [of its own will], but because of Him [God] who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now” (Romans 8:20-22). In other words creation, earth, plants, animals, the cosmos, was subjected to a state of futility as expressed by Solomon above. However, God placed creation in that state with the hope (let’s call it certainty) that at some point it would be released from this divinely imposed state and returned to His original purpose, perfection.
When God made creation He called everything good, including man (Genesis chapter 1). He was pleased with His work. But within this perfect creation God added one element that He desired above all else. That is He wanted man to chose Him, by His own will, over all else. God made man able to choose to remain in the perfected state or able to choose something else. Man, being man, chose another path to his ultimate detriment. It is in the consequence of that choice that we live today.
However, that choice was not permanent. The freedom to choose did not go away with the subjecting of creation to futility. We still have it today. It is the one quality that separates man from all of creation and is the greatest gift God gave man when he learns to choose correctly.
Yes man can choose freely, whatever he wants. Unfortunately choices involve consequences. Man chose incorrectly in the Garden of den and all of creation suffered from that wrong choice. Today, people can choose whatever they want, can live how they want, can believe or not, can curse or bless, but each choice carries a consequence. The choice with the greater eternal benefit is the subject of this article. Man can choose to return to His creator and, despite all the bad blood that has gone on before, the Creator is there to respond to that choice with the better consequences.
It has always been a choice to return, to turn or not to turn. John the Baptist, who came before Christ to announce his coming, preached that man should “repent” for the Kingdom of God (Christ) was at hand. The Hebrew verb for repent is “sub” which means to “return, to turn, to go/come back”. The Greek verb “metanoeo”, which is the word used in the New Testament as it was written in Greek, means, among other things “a radical, moral turn of the whole person to God” and means more than just changing one’s mind. It means a literal “turning” or “turning away” and actions that correspond to a leaving of the old and embracing the new (for a complete description see Mounce’s Complete Expository Dictionary, William D. Mounce, Zondervan Press, 2006; page 580-581).
Since John the Baptist knew that Christ was coming with a new law and a new way of living in the coming Kingdom of God, he told the people to repent, that is be prepared to turn from the old and embrace the new. “Now in those days John the Baptist came, preaching [proclaiming, heralding] in the wilderness of Judea, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand [has come near].”… “Therefore bear fruit in keeping with repentance; (Matthew 3:2,8).
Repentance means more than just feeling sorry for yourself and your sin. It is a positive action in response to a provision made available by God to man who was given the power to choose. Man has the ability to choose God or to reject Him. One would do well to recall the words of Moses as he led the nation Israel from the wilderness to the Promised Land. “See, I am setting before you today a blessing and a curse: the blessing, if you listen to the commandments of the LORD your God, which I am commanding you today; and the curse, if you do not listen to the commandments of the LORD your God, but turn aside from the way which I am commanding you today,” (Deuteronomy 11:26-28).
We, who find ourselves in the midst of the curse, have the power to choose the blessing. How do we do this? For one we cease thinking of god as a myth or a distant second cousin and realize He is right here among us willing to reverse the course of humanity and out lives. He is ready to forgive and forget all. He is ready to mete out the blessing which is our heritage. He stands ready to make “all things new”.
Don’t think for a minute that He is unaware of your personal situation. He knows your fears and your shattered dreams. He is aware of the hardships of losing your house, your job, your frustration over government and your feeling of being absolutely alone with nowhere to turn. He is aware of the terrors generated by unhindered evil rendered against those who do not believe as they do, the terrorists. His eyes peer deeper into your heart than you could ever do. As Jesus said: “not one sparrow falls from the sky that He is not aware of”. His understanding is inscrutable; His wisdom without measure. He knows all things. Yet he leaves the door open for us, His people, to choose Him. To return to Him. The power of returning to God exceeds all other power. It is the power to transform and defeat all His enemies. It is a power we can execute if we just ask Him. Our prayer should be “God I return to you, I can’t do this on my own, help me”. And He will, beyond your own expectations.