Preachers are clever weirdos.
Take, for instance, the use of the word “therefore.” Often when preachers come up to this word during their sermon we will typically say something like, “Whenever you see the word therefore you always need to stop and say, ‘what is it there for?’” Then we’ll typically stand back and look into the congregation with a glint in our eyes and a smile as if to say, “aren’t I clever???”
Weirdos, I say.
That being said, consider the following verses:
13 And I will punish her for the feast days of the Baals when she burned offerings to them and adorned herself with her ring and jewelry, and went after her lovers and forgot me, declares the Lord.
14 Therefore, behold, I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak tenderly to her.
15 And there I will give her her vineyards
and make the Valley of Achor (trouble) a door of hope.
“Therefore” is such an unexpected word—the whole follow up to verse 13 is really. God’s mercy amidst rebellion is unexpected. We expect to be cut off forever. We expect that mercy will finally reach its limit with us. We know that there will come a time when it will be over for us.
We treat one another that way. We reach our limits with people. We cannot speak peaceably to one another. We cut one another off. We burn with wrath. We seethe with bitterness. We cannot look upon one another without disdain rising in our hearts. Hatred, really.
We reason that our anger is justified. The way we have been hurt has caused a conflagration. We have drenched the place with gasoline & torched it. There’s no need or possibility for reconciliation. We offer no quarter—promise no redemption. It’s not possible. What’s more, it’s not necessary. Cancer needs to be eradicated, not nourished.
Yet, God confounds us with therefore. Your people have abandoned you, spit in your face, created lovers with counterfeits. We have worshiped gods that are no gods. We have embraced lies and have trampled the Name of the One True God.
And what does God do? He punishes the rebellion of the children of His promise. But not terminally. No, He allures her; He woos her into the desert! God in His grace (unmerited favor) brings His profligate children into a dry & arid place where there is no water. He brings them into a parched land to create in them a thirst—a thirst for GOD!!
In this infertile land, this wild wasteland, He speaks kindly to His rebellious child. This is unexpected. We see desert places as final destinations, whereas God sees them as well-watered gardens in which He can win back our hearts. We know for certain that we’re gonna die out her.
But God, in this barren terrain, gives us our vineyards. In this impossible place, God actually produces growth—soul growth. Because nothing is impossible with God—NOTHING!!—God uses the dry land of the desert to create some of the most prodigious fecundity (look ’em up) imaginable. The growth comes through His hand via His Holy Spirit to produce the fruit of Christian maturity.
The heat produces patience. The dryness produces a love and a longing after God and not His gifts. The visual environment creates a kindness toward others in their desert places, and so on, and so on… (See Galatians 5:22-23).
Therefore is so unexpected because what we see as final (whatever our Valley of Trouble might be), God sees as a Door of Hope. What we see as an impenetrable force, God sees a door. We can’t get ourselves out of this mess, but God can. We see our souls dying of dehydration and malnutrition. We see the vultures circling overhead, waiting for us to breathe our last, but God sees greater, deeper, and wider reservoirs of His grace being opened in our souls.
Truly, Therefore is unexpected to us.
But that is the very reason that He is God, and we are not.
He is the God of all grace. (1 Peter 5:10)