Is Your Cup Upside Down?

Bible Reading: Hosea 10; 11; 12; 13; 14; 2 Kings 14:17, 21; 15:1-4; 2 Chronicles 25:26-28; 26:1-15

God just keeps pouring out his love upon Israel, and they just keep deflecting it. As God bares his heartbreak over Israel's rejection, his words are even more poignant coming from Hosea, whose own deep personal hurt and committed love identify strongly with God's heart. Hosea, too, has gone to extreme lengths to demonstrate his loyal love to his unfaithful wife, but inexplicably, the woman he loves so deeply never feels loved. The more he pursues her, the farther she runs from him.

God has experienced that kind of rejection throughout history. His beloved have had many faces, all of us with a propensity to doubt his abiding love and run from his open arms. Despite our obstinance, he persists in his gentle care for us. "When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son. But the more I called Israel, the further they went from me.... It was I who taught Ephraim [Israel] to walk, taking them by the arms; but they did not realize it was I who healed them. 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" (11:1-4).

We incorrectly picture God with his arms crossed and his back turned to us in our rebellion; we think he is unable to look at our sin and unwilling to accept us in our imperfection. In reality, he is calling out to us, by name, urging us to come home. He bends down to feed us, even when we stubbornly purse our lips and turn our heads, like a baby in a high chair, getting food all over our face and not in our mouth.

We lift our cup up to God, saying, "Fill my cup, Lord," not even realizing that our cup is often turned upside down! God pours out his love, spilling it all over us, but we're unable to receive it and we can't figure out why! We hold out our empty, upside-down cup, thinking we must protect what is ours; we distrust God's involvement, unsure of how he will treat us; we think we are unworthy, unlovely and sure to fail. Assuming that God loves us the way we feel we have been loved by others, we strive to earn what God freely bestows. But God is "God, and not man--the Holy One among you" (11:8-9). Far more faithful and patient than any man, the flow of his love never stops. If we would just turn our cup over, he would fill it up to the brim and even make it overflow.

God faithfully demonstrates his love to us in every way possible. He lifts our burdens so he can feed us (11:4); when he feeds us, we are satisfied; when we are satisfied, we become proud; then we forget him (13:6); so he weighs us down again and calmly says "It is time to seek the Lord" (10:11-12). We insist we need something besides God to make us happy and secure, so he gives us what we want; we drift further away from him; then he takes it away (13:10-11). God settles us in homes so we will see his power (11:10-11); we view it as a sign of his approval and boast of our success (12:8); God warns, "I will make you live in tents again" (12:9). He warns us of the consequences of eating the fruit of deception and depending on our own strength (10:13-15); yet all his compassion is aroused at the thought of handing us over to utter devastation, so he holds back the full weight of punishment as long as possible (11:8-9).

When neither tender love nor tough love has brought us home, God reluctantly decides it is finally time to unleash the full rein of his discipline, sparing no mercy (13:7-16). "You are destroyed... because you are against me, against your helper" (13:9). Flat on our backs, with no direction to look but up, we hear God lovingly plead with us once more, "Return... to the Lord your God. Your sins have been your downfall! Take words with you and return to the Lord." He even gives us the words he wants us to bring to him: "Forgive all our sins and receive us graciously.... We will never again say 'Our gods' to what our own hands have made, for in you the fatherless find compassion" (14:2-3).

Holding no grudges, God scoops us up in his arms and showers his love upon us. With our cup finally turned right-side up, we can drink it in. He promises "I will heal their waywardness and love them freely, for my anger has turned away from them. I will be like the dew... he will blossom like a lily. Like a cedar of Lebanon he will send down his roots; his young shoots will grow.... I will answer him and care for him... (14:5-8).

"Who is wise? He will realize these things. Who is discerning? He will understand them. The ways of the Lord are right; the righteous walk in them, but the rebellious stumble in them" (14:9). Will we walk or will we stumble? Will we turn our cup right-side up and fill it with the fullness of his love?