Today I was at Lifeway Christian bookstore browsing while my son got a haircut next door, I found the Holman Bible Dictionary–print edition–50% off, which made it only $14.99. I’ve wanted a print edition of a Bible Dictionary, so I snagged it up.
When I got home, I thumbed through my find just enjoying reading some of the entries. I know, how nerdy.
One entry particularly caught my eye. The word was Ayyah. The reason this word caught my eye is because a little girl that had been adopted from China used to call me this when she was very young and I would watch her or help with her. It was what they referred to at the orphanage as a caregiver or nursemaid, and was spelled with one “y” instead of two, but pronounced the same way.
So of course I was naturally curious about the word’s Hebrew meaning and spelling. I discovered that the word “Ayyah” means “ruin” or “ruins”. Desolation, waste, torn apart.
Wow. What a contrast.
This little one saw me as Ayah. But what I really was is Ayyah. My life has been torn. Desolation has often ruled. Despair has often been the norm. My life has known ruin.
Before I met my God as my Savior, my life truly was Ayyah. It was in ruins. Ruins from my sin. Ruins from my circumstances. There appeared to be no hope for my life, just like the Israelites who had turned their back on God to follow other idols. My life had been a wasteland.
In the Old Testament book of Hosea, his wife Gomer bears a child, and God tells Hosea to name the child “Not My People”. What a strange name, a terrible name! But God’s intent was to show the people of Israel that their sin had separated them from the Holy God–a position of despair and hopelessness. And this is where I was–where we all are–before we come to know Christ as our Savior. Our lives are Ayyah–they are ruins.
But God, in his mercy and grace, did not allow me to stay there in the ruins; in the Ayyah. No, He showed Himself to me. He pursued me. And I came to believe and know that He was my Ayah, my caregiver. In fact, we get a picture of this later in Hosea when God says :
3 Yet it was I who taught Ephraim to walk;
I took them up by their arms,
but they did not know that I healed them.
4 I led them with cords of kindness,[a]
with the bands of love,
and I became to them as one who eases the yoke on their jaws,
and I bent down to them and fed them.
God was Israel’s Ayah–He loved Israel and cared for Israel. He taught Israel (Ephraim) to walk. He took them up by their arms and healed them. He led them with cords of kindness and bands of love. That is what an Ayah is supposed to do.
God’s salvation removes the ruins–the Ayyah–of our lives and replaces it with His love, His mercy, His grace and the hope of eternal life forever with Him. It’s so much more than what we deserve or could ever imagine.
Yet there are days that I still feel as if I am living in the ruins…the Ayyah…of my life and my sins. Of my abandonment and desolation and heartbreak. It is those days that I have to fight hard for joy. It is those days that I have to fight for my life and fight with scripture and worship and prayer to remind myself that I am God’s child—that He is my caregiver, my Father, my Ayah.
And then I once again find comfort in the words of Hosea, for God says:
My heart recoils within me;
my compassion grows warm and tender.
9 I will not execute my burning anger;
I will not again destroy Ephraim;
for I am God and not a man,
the Holy One in your midst,
and I will not come in wrath.[c]
God will not give up on me. God will not give up on you. His compassion is real. He is a Holy and Righteous God, and could leave us in the ruins…the Ayyah….but He promises Israel (Ephraim) that He will not again destroy them. And He promises us that when we turn from our sins and repent, he will not leave us in the ruins but will cover us with his grace.
For He is God and not a man. He is the Holy one in our midst. He will not come in wrath. He will come in love and compassion as our Ayah (caregiver) and not leave us in the Ayyah (ruins).
Indeed, the LORD will comfort Zion; He will comfort all her waste places. And her wilderness He will make like Eden, And her desert like the garden of the LORD; Joy and gladness will be found in her, Thanksgiving and sound of a melody.