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“The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace” (Numbers 6:24–26).

WORDS OFTEN COME IN PAIRS. For example, consider the words “benevolent” and “malevolent.” The first means “good will” and the second, “ill will.” To be benevolently inclined toward someone is to want to help them, but if a person is malevolently inclined, that means their basic disposition is to harm.

It’s important to understand that God’s basic inclination toward us is benevolent rather than malevolent. Having given us a free will, He will not force us to obey Him, and if we refuse to do so, He will not, just for our personal benefit, suspend the laws of His creation, one of which is that the penalty of sin is death. But He loves us, and it will break His heart if we refuse His salvation.

If there is ever any alienation between us and God, there can never be but one reason: we have kept God away by insisting on continuing in our sin — and by refusing to accept His forgiveness on His terms. “Behold, the Lord’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save, or his ear dull, that it cannot hear; but your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear” (Isaiah 59:1,2).

But God’s hope is that we will turn back to Him. As He said to Israel through Ezekiel, “I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live; turn back, turn back from your evil ways, for why will you die, O house of Israel?” (Ezekiel 33:11). And much earlier, Moses had said, “I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live” (Deuteronomy 30:19).

God’s faithful love is like most things about Him: it is sobering as well as encouraging. It should encourage us to know that God is always at the door of our hearts, wanting us to open up and accept His gift of life. But it should sober us to know that if we refuse, He will remain outside — and if we die in our rebellion, we will be lost forever. So with life and death set before us, let us choose life.

“Let a man go away or come back: God never leaves. He is always at hand and if he cannot get into your life, still he is never farther away than the door” (Meister Eckhart).

Gary Henry — +

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