God Relentlessly Pursues Us
A key word in the Hebrew Bible is hesed. This word is usually translated as “steadfast love” or “loving kindness.” Old Testament scholar Walter Brueggemann says that he prefers to translate hesed as “tenacious solidarity.” Tenacious solidarity describes God’s relationship with Israel, and later the church, and indeed all of creation. It describes a God who has made promises to Israel and is intent on keeping them, come what may.
Tenacious solidarity is at the heart of God’s covenant with Israel. As in any relationship, there is always the risk that one partner (in this case Israel) will push the other (God) too far, and God will say, “Enough!” In Hosea, the prophet begins with Israel as God’s unfaithful wife. Despite all God has done for her, Israel has gone after other lovers and God has had it, and everything begins to fall apart (2: 1-13). But in the end God can’t give her up. Even though Israel has forgotten her partner, suddenly we find out “I will now allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak tenderly to her” (1.14). Israel’s husband is tenacious and will not give up.
Later in Hosea, the relationship between God and Israel is like a parent and a child: “When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out Egypt I called them” (11.1). Israel owes her very existence to God’s liberating power. But despite God’s love, Israel has chosen to worship another God. Exasperated, God has had it and is going to send them back to Egypt (11.5)! But then once again, God’s tenacious solidarity wins the day: “How can I give you up, Ephraim? How can I hand you over, O Israel (11.8)?
The God of the Bible is a God who pursues us until we are found. The upcoming season of Advent will bear witness to the God of tenacious solidarity once again. The story of Advent is that in a dark time, God pursued us. God sent the prophets, John the Baptist, and finally Jesus to bring us home to where we belong. The Advent story is the same now. In our “dark time,” God pursues us once again and wants to reconnect us with our primary relationship. We too have wandered after other lovers. We too have forgotten who brought us into being. So once again God comes after us.
What do we have to do? If we are aware that we have gone after other God’s, we should beg God to bring us back to the source of our life. We can once long for God to be born in us yet again at Christmas. But you know what? If we are still clueless about how much we have strayed away, not to worry. God is tenacious and will keep after us until we are once again where we belong.