“Look down from heaven and see from Your holy and glorious habitation; where are Your zeal and Your mighty deeds? The stirrings of Your heart and Your compassion are restrained toward me. Why, O Lord, do You cause us to stray from Your ways and harden our heart from fearing You? Return for the sake of Your servants, the tribes of Your heritage. We have become like those over whom You have never ruled, like those who were not called by Your name.” (Isaiah 63:15, 17, 19)Who is to blame for Israel’s condition? Has Israel slipped into apostasy due to the lack of God’s zeal and the concealment of His mighty deeds? Is God to blame for their hardness of heart? Has God caused them to stray from His own ways? Has God’s love for them grown cold? Was it not their own sin and the stubbornness of their own heart that lead them astray?
God is actively searching for those for whom He can show Himself strong. “For the eyes of the LORD move to and fro throughout the earth that He may strongly support those whose heart is completely His.” (2 Chronicles 16:9) God wants to be both God and Father to us and, if something is restraining Him toward us, it is not Him but we who are at fault. God stands ready to receive us, He longs to gather us in, but if we are left outside it is because of our own choosing. “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, just as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not have it!” (Luke 13:34)
If we find ourselves distant from God, it is our responsibility to return to Him. Waiting for Him to come to us will not close the separation; we must choose to return to Him. “From the days of your fathers you have turned aside from My statutes and have not kept them. Return to Me, and I will return to you.” (Malachi 3:7) Returning to the Lord is something that is done with our heart. The issue is not where we are physically but where we are spiritually in our hearts. To return to the Lord we need to deal with our heart. “And rend your heart and not your garments. Now return to the Lord your God, for He is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger, abounding in lovingkindness and relenting of evil.” (Joel 2:13) Here is some practical advice from the scriptures to help in returning to the Lord.
“Take words with you and return to the Lord. Say to Him, ‘Take away all iniquity and receive us graciously, that we may present the fruit of our lips.’” (Hosea 14:2) We need to talk to God about the condition of our heart. We need to confess our sins and the coldness of our heart. We need to allow ourselves to hear what God has to say about us and then choose to repent of those things. We cannot hide our sin; now is not the time to keep silent; we must go to the Lord and talk it over with Him.
“Let the wicked forsake his way and the unrighteous man his thoughts; and let him return to the Lord, and He will have compassion on him, and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon.” (Isaiah 55:7) We must choose God’s ways over our own ways. Living with God often requires a change in our life style. When we choose to walk with God, we are also choosing to leave our own path and to walk in the path He has chosen for us. We cannot walk with God and at the same time walk after our own lusts and desires. We must leave our own ways and choose to walk in His.
“Then Samuel spoke to all the house of Israel, saying, ‘If you return to the Lord with all your heart, remove the foreign gods and the Ashtaroth from among you and direct your hearts to the Lord and serve Him alone; and He will deliver you from the hand of the Philistines.’” (1 Samuel 7:3) We must worship God alone. We must be willing to forsake all other gods and serve only the Lord. It is interesting that Samuel refers to them as “foreign” gods. The world serves many things: money, power, pleasure, and possessions. The world may seek and serve these things, but we have been redeemed out of this world. We are to choose to seek the things of the Kingdom of God and to serve Him alone. We are not to be like the world but rather we are to be like His son Jesus.
“If you return to the Almighty, you will be restored; if you remove unrighteousness far from your tent, and place your gold in the dust, and the gold of Ophir among the stones of the brooks, then the Almighty will be your gold and choice silver to you.” (Job 22:23-25) What is your treasure? What are the things you value? An easy way to tell is to consider what are the things that you could not afford to loose? Can you live without your riches, your relationships, your vocation, even your church? We can live without a lot of things but we cannot live with out the Lord. As Paul said, “I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.” (Philippians 3:8) We too need to be willing to surrender all for the privilege of knowing Jesus, for when we know Him, all other things pale in contrast. He is our Gold and He is our treasure.