So there are two words put here before us. One is “God” — the other is “us.”
And what has just happened as you looked these two word is something called “association activation.” It means that without even trying to, you saw these two words and instantly began relating them to one another. We do this all the time. It’s how we make sense of the world around us. We see symbols of people, places, and things, and we automatically try to form some coherence between hem in our minds.
For example, I walk in the kitchen and I see, on the counter, a loaf of bread, a jar of peanut butter, and some grape jelly. [See what just happened? We know what that is]
I walk into the kitchen and see that and I think food. And then, no, it’s actually a sandwich. No, it’s actually lunch for the kids. Melissa got this out to make lunch for the kids because its noon and this is when the kids eat lunch. And then I notice that the jelly is over half gone. And I think that we should get jelly the next time we go to the grocery store because you can’t have PB&Js without jelly. And I think I better write that down so I don’t forget, and then I move on to the next thing and do something similar all over again.
This is how we live. We do this all the time. It’s what just happened when you saw “God” and “us.” These two words triggered all kinds of activity in your mind, and heart. Without asking out loud, you looked up here and you asked, Why are these words there? What’s he doing? What does this mean? Is a verb missing? What does God have to do with us?
Eventually, you arrived somewhere close to this last question. What does God have to do with us? What does God have to do with me?
And whatever it is that you did with that question — however you think about that association — is the most important thing in your life. It’s so important, in fact, that I think we can say that it is the primary background question of the entire Bible. The Bible is really concerned with how you think when you think about God and yourself. The Bible is about what do you when you see this.
And so are the Minor Prophets. In just a few minutes, as we continue in worship, we’re going to open the Book of Hosea and begin at 12-part series that walks through the twelve Minor Prophets. And these twelve books are really special because they are almost like a distillation of the whole Bible when it comes to the theme of God’s judgment and mercy. Like the Bible as a whole, the Minor Prophets want to tell us what God is like. One of our kids’ catechism questions — and parents, you’ve probably been hearing this at home — the question is: “What is God like?” And the answer, adapted from Exodus 34:6, goes: “He is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, full of love and truth. He forgives sin, and punishes the guilty.”
And that — that description from Exodus 34 about what God is like — that is what the Minor Prophets want to tell us, but not only tell us, they want to show us. The Minor Prophets want to show us this God who is completely just and full of mercy. He is the God who hates sin and loves to forgive sin. And this reality about God has everything to do with us —if we have hearts that can see.
And so I want to exhort you to have hearts that can see. Like in the Book of Hebrews, I want to exhort you, “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts” (Hebrews 4:7).
And that means we must pray. Join me now, please, in a prayer of confession.
Prayer of Confession
Father, we confess that what we need help when it comes to how we think about you. We confess that our minds and hearts are often dull and rusty, and that there is so much of your love and grace that we do not understand.
Father, we confess that we need to be changed. We are not yet what we will be, but we know that you will take us there. And one of the ways that you will take us there is through the preaching of your holy Word. And so as we enter today into hearing from you in the Minor Prophets, we ask that you would effect in us the changes we need. Banish from our hearts all cynicism. Rid away from our souls the unbelief that tries to muffle your voice. And sharpen our minds to know that of all the things that matter in our lives, what really matters is how we think about you.
So Father, please begin a new work in our souls even now as we transition into a time of silent confession.
Assurance of Pardon
And now, I want to simply tell you, if you are united to Jesus by faith and you have now confessed your sins, God forgives you. I want to tell you that because that is what God himself tells us in 1 John 1:9 where the Bible says, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
God said that, and so I want to remind you.
By the authority of Jesus Christ, and as a minister of his gospel, I declare to you the entire forgiveness of all your sins, in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
Congregation: Thanks be to God.