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I have swept away your offenses like a cloud,
your sins like the morning mist.
Return to me,
for I have redeemed you.
It’s pretty common for people–even Christians–to think that we have to be good in order to earn God’s favor. Most of the world’s religions reinforce this view. Redemption comes as a response to what we do. It is reward for good behavior, not an impetus for doing what’s right. But Isaiah 44 tells another story.
The prophecies of Isaiah often convey the Lord’s displeasure with his people. Because of their persistent rebellion against him, God will finally allow them to reap the sour fruit of their sin. But that’s not the whole story. Through Isaiah, the Lord reveals his persistent mercy. Beyond punishment there is forgiveness and restoration… a new start for Israel.
In Isaiah 44:22, God looks to the future when he will sweep away the sins of his people. So real is this to God that he speaks of it in past tense as if it has already happened. Then he adds, “Return to me for I have redeemed you.” Notice the order here. God does not say, “Return to me and then I will redeem you.” Rather, his redemption of Israel comes first. Their returning, their repentance, are responses to God’s gracious initiative.
And so it is in God’s relationship with us. Through Christ, we have been redeemed, set free from our bondage to sin and death. But in order to receive the gift of our redemption, we must respond to God’s initiative. We turn away from our sin and turn to God, not to earn God’s favor, but rather to receive the benefits of this favor already given in Christ.
QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER:
When did you first “return” to God in response to his redemption through Christ?
Do you find that your life consists of many smaller “returns” as you continue to respond to God’s grace?
What motivates you to leave your sin and turn to God afresh?
Gracious God, how I thank you for taking the initiative to set me free. Through Christ, you have paid the price of my redemption. And this is nothing I have earned. It is a gift from you, a reflection of your love for me.
Yet you don’t compel me to live in relationship with you. Rather, you beckon me to return to you. Your Spirit stirs within me, increasing my longing for you. I hear the good news of the Gospel preached, and I ache to be with you. I’m reminded of your grace at your Table and long to have intimate fellowship with you. Help me, Lord, to respond to your merciful redemption, not just once, but each day as I live in relationship with you. Whenever I wander away from you, may I hear your Spirit say, “Oh, return to me.” And may I do just that. Even today. Amen.
Explore more at the Theology of Work Project online commentary: Repentance, Restitution and Reconciliation (Numbers 5:5-10)
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