There is a fairly famous verse in Deuteronomy 4 that goes like this:
“29 But if from there you seek the Lord your God, you will find him if you seek him with all your heart and with all your soul.“
In church, we often talk about how comforting this verse is, how encouraging it is. We read it, discuss it, and quote it. We make pretty posters with it on them. We cross stitch it into wall hangings. We … well, you get the point.
And often we misunderstand it.
We live our lives doing our best to follow God and obey Him. We try and try, and have a mixture of success and failure. But at some point, all of us fail in big ways. We fall flat on our faces, we blow it, we make fools of ourselves and our faith. For a few of us, it’s in a big, ugly, public way and we feel humiliated. For many of us, its in more private ways, where we know we’ve messed up, and wonder if God could ever forgive us.
On those days, this verse may not feel encouraging. We haven’t been seeking God with all our heart and all our soul, and we’ve made a complete mess out of everything. Now we are too far gone, and there’s no coming back. Things can begin to feel very, very, very hopeless.
If only we would read the rest of the verses around this one verse.
“24 For the Lord your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God. 25 After you have had children and grandchildren and have lived in the land a long time—if you then become corrupt and make any kind of idol, doing evil in the eyes of the Lord your God and arousing his anger,26 I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you this day that you will quickly perish from the land that you are crossing the Jordan to possess. You will not live there long but will certainly be destroyed.27 The Lord will scatter you among the peoples, and only a few of you will survive among the nations to which the Lord will drive you.28 There you will worship gods of wood and stone made by human hands, which cannot see or hear or eat or smell.29 But if from there you seek the Lord your God, you will find him if you seek him with all your heart and with all your soul.30 When you are in distress and all these things have happened to you, then in later days you will return to the Lord your God and obey him.
31 For the Lord your God is a merciful God;”
Did you catch that? This verse is packed into a section where Moses tells the people what will happen to them if they disobey God. They are getting ready to inherit this huge blessing, and Moses is desperately trying to warn them. If they wander from God, they will lose everything. They will worship fake Gods, and turn their back on the real God. If they get really, really ugly about it, God will take away their blessing (the land) and ship them off to other lands. Once they get there, if they STILL won’t turn around, it will get worse. At this point, they are about as far from God as they can get in their hearts, they are stubborn, they have lost everything, and He is MAD at them.
Then comes our little verse:
“29 But if from there you seek the Lord your God, you will find him if you seek him with all your heart and with all your soul.”
And do you catch how it ends?
“31 For the Lord your God is a merciful God;”
He is, you know. He loves us, and when we are truly broken, when we want God, He is there waiting for us. He doesn’t want us to come to Him as perfect people who never mess up, He just wants us to come to Him.
I don’t know what it is you’ve done. I’m sure it’s been painful. But He is waiting. No matter how bad your mess is, it isn’t as bad as what the Hebrew’s did.
And it was into their mess that God sent Jesus.
He still does the same thing today.