Weekly Torah Commentary – Vayetzei December 9, 2016

Torah reading:  Genesis 28:10-32:3

Haftorah reading: Hosea 11:7 – 14:10

O Israel, return to the Lord your God, for you have stumbled because of your iniquity; take words with you, and return to the Lord. Say to Him, “Take away all iniquity; receive us graciously, for we will offer the sacrifices of our lips. Assyria shall not save us, we will not ride on horses, nor will we say anymore to the work of our hands, ‘You are our gods.’ for in You the fatherless finds mercy.  Hosea 14:1-3

The book of Hosea contains several rebukes to the house of Israel which has wandered away from God and from His Torah.  The prophet speaks sharply and repeatedly, warning Israel of the consequences of their rebellion and sinfulness.  Yet as the last chapter of the book opens, we find one of the most outstanding chapters in the entire Word of God that expresses His tender mercies and compassion.

The first thing to notice is this: the LORD calls Israel to repent and to ‘take words with you’.

There is a place for sharing the inarticulate feelings of the heart with God, but that is not the essence of fellowship and prayer with Him. The worship of God is intelligent, and God made us able to communicate ideas and feelings with words.It isn’t enough to sit before the Lord and feel love towards Him.Instead, take words with youtell God that you love Him.It isn’t enough to feel repentance before the Lord. Instead, take words with you and tell God you repent before Him. And we do so in full confidence that He is merciful towards those who repent ( re-turn, that is – turn around and come back to Me).

In the very next verse the LORD promises: I will heal their backsliding, I will love them freely, for My anger has turned away from him. This is the certain result when we repent of our ungodly ways, of our indifference or apathy towards the things of God, and turn back to Him.  The mercy of God is beyond amazing!

The LORD’s appeal to Israel (and to us)  is compassionate: I will heal their backsliding.This shows God looks on our backsliding more like a disease than a crime. He does not say, “I will pardon their backsliding.”Rather, it is “as though He said, ‘I do remember that you are but dust; that you are liable to a thousand temptations, and that you easily go astray; but I will not treat you as though you were rebels, I will look upon you as patients, and you shall look upon me as a physician.’”

The LORD’s appeal is certain: I will heal their backsliding.Not “I might heal” or “I could heal” or “I can try to heal,” but I will heal their backsliding.Come to God for healing of your backsliding, and He will do it!God is too great a physician to allow any patient to leave His office without being healed.

The LORD’s appeal  is personal: I will heal their backsliding. He speaks to His people, and addresses them personally.We have to come to the Great Physician and say, “Heal my backsliding.I want to be the ‘their.’” To get the healing, you have to count yourself among the backsliders.

What is backsliding?  One definition is ‘the gradual drifting away from fervently following the LORD and walking in His ways because of compromise and/or apathy.’

Think of it this way:  If you see a tree uprooted and fallen because of a windstorm, it’s easy to think that it was the wind that caused its destruction. But if you look closer, you will often see that insects have been at work a long time on the tree, making it weaker and weaker. It really wasn’t the wind that toppled it for other trees around it are still standing tall. It was the slow decline of strength, as insects nibbled away month after month.

The insects represent the distractions, the selfish pursuits, the so-called “little” sins that eat away at our spiritual strength slowly but consistently until one morning we wake up and find ourselves going through an entire day – or longer – with hardly a thought about God and His enduring Word.

This is what had happened to Israel and can easily happen to us if we are not vigilant in maintaining our personal relationship with the LORD in daily prayer and study of His Word.  It’s exactly like a friendship or a marriage; if you don’t maintain the relationship it gradually declines and fades away.

In Tune with Torah this week = is your love for God alive and well?  Do you spend time regularly in studying His word, in personal prayer with Him?  Is He often in your thoughts throughout the day?  Do you turn to Him naturally in every day life?

Vs. 9 of the last chapter of Hosea tells us what to do:  Who is wise? Let him understand these things. Who is prudent? Let him know them. For the ways of the Lord are right; the righteous walk in them, but transgressors stumble in them.

Shabbat Shalom

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