Studying to teach is a beautiful and frustrating process for me. If I spend too much time on details, I am immediately lost. What happens instead, is I spend a few weeks just thinking about the book I’m supposed to teach. Clearly, I have read through it and I will often gather bits of big picture information to chew on.
At some point, in the pondering (and attempting to study), I Get It. This usually happens much closer to the time I’m to teach than is really comfortable, but that also somehow suites me. I take the stress and I plunge head first into papers and my teaching outline. What I want to give my students is the Big Idea- the perspective they will not have time to discover for themselves in the two days they will get to study the book I’ve been studying for 4 weeks. But it takes me most of that four weeks to see the big idea clearly enough to teach it to them.
Something else happens while I’m studying to teach a particular book- God allows me to somehow experience or feel this Big Idea in a personal way in my own life. You can imagine because of this factor I was a bit nervous before I started studying to teach the book of Job!
Now I am currently working on the prophetic book of Hosea…
Read it through once and I guarantee you will feel confused. But then, go back to the first three chapters and take note of the set up. Hosea is asked by God to marry a prostitute, to love her and to stay faithful to her. She bears him a child and also bears a child that he hasn’t fathered. She runs away from him and then God asks Hosea to buy her back for himself. It’s an example of God’s faithful love for his unfaithful people. This “enacted symbol” in Hosea’s life, also explains the emotional, semi-chaotic language of the rest of the book. Just imagine how Hosea and God feel.
While many people might pity Hosea, what I have been dwelling on (and what God has been making personal to me) is the kind of love it would take to be relentlessly faithful to such a woman as Gomer… such a people as Israel. As I meditate on Hosea and look for modern examples to make the situation more visceral, I have been overwhelmed time and again by God’s unparalleled love for us. I’ve been taking it very personally.
It’s shocking to consider that this love has been offered by God for so long and our response today is not much different than Israel’s response so long ago. “We’re fine, God, we don’t need you that bad. Why don’t you go bother the religious people with your epic presence? We’re doing just great here with our entertainment, our sex and our work.”
And like God expresses through Hosea, this response is based on the fact that we don’t really know Him. We wave him away because we haven’t truly encountered him.
“Let us know; let us press on to know the LORD;
his going out is sure as the dawn;
he will come to us as the showers,
as the spring rains that water the earth.”
My prayer for us today is that we encounter him, that we really may know him. May we know his love and his presence and respond to him in kind.