Back when you were in nursery school and kindergarten, do you remember how the teachers kept everybody together? In my day, anyway, it was with the rope. Typically, the teacher would hold the front of the rope, and a parent or a helper would hold the back of the rope, and in between would be a series of knots in the rope, and each student was required to hold on to the rope near one of those knots. That way, everybody stayed in line, and everybody was accounted for.
Most of us were pretty excited to ‘graduate’ from walking along beside the rope. When you’re in kindergarten and some older kids pass by, it can seem pretty embarrassing. It probably wasn’t really all that embarrassing – instead, it was something that kept us all safe.
I don’t know about you, but when I consider that image, I can still feel the prickliness of the rope. Can you? Teachers never used the silken ropes – just the jute ones, or something like that, making you feel like you were holding on to a sack of potatoes. It was prickly, but it kept us safe.
I thought of this image when I read Hosea 11.4 in my devotions this week: “I led Israel along with my ropes of kindness and love. I lifted the yoke from his neck, and I myself stooped to feed him” (NLT).
The book of Hosea is a book depicting the covenant faithfulness of God in pretty poignant ways (the prophet is enjoined by the Lord to marry a hooker – do I have your attention now?!). In spite of the people’s unfaithfulness to God, he constantly and continually sought them out and redeemed them. He led Israel along, as the Scripture says, with his ropes of kindness and love.
Our teachers’ knotted ropes were ropes of kindness and love, too – whether we chose to see them that way or not! They used those tools for our safety and protection. Likewise, the Lord protects and guides us, perhaps with ropes invisible.
Think about the times when you have been protected and cared for when you thought you were done for: perhaps losing control on a highway covered in black ice, or something like that, when you were able to regain control. The Lord led you with his ropes of kindness and love.
Sometimes, his ropes of kindness and love do feel prickly, though. We sense that being under divine guidance and discipline is not the most comfortable thing ever. But it is for our good. God knows what is best for us, and his guidance, as we hold the proverbial rope, will keep us in his care.