Friday, May 9, 2014

Hosea and the Heart of God: A Profile in Unhappiness

Nathan JonesBy Nathan Jones

We continue on with our seventh installment of our faith study of the biblical Minor Prophets book of Hosea. This time we'll marvel at the remarkably uncanny parallels in personality and behavior between Gomer and Israel when it comes to being utterly unhappy.


Israel—A Profile in Unhappiness

Rebellious. God gave His cherished people Israel the Ten Commandments and other precepts in the Mosaic Law so right and wrong, good and evil, could easily be identified. Knowing how to choose what's right would save them from pain. But, for Israel to engage in their sinful desires and seek justification for their evil, they would have to do away with God's Law and the boundaries that it set. Ultimately, so too must the Lawgiver be done away with. And so, for the sake of their sin, Israel treacherously rebelled.

Much of the book of Hosea is filled with tear-stained page after tear-stained page as Yahweh God Himself explains the rebellious nature of His covenant "bride" Israel. In fitful pains of mournful agony, wailing and weeping and raging, and at times even seemingly disjointed ranting, the reader can only be struck by how staggeringly hurt God truly is by the devastating betrayal by His people. Read the very words God uttered to Hosea which describes Israel.

The reason God's people "ceased obeying the Lord" and "transgressed My covenant and rebelled against My law" was because they considered the "great things of My law... a strange thing." God's law did not fulfill the selfish desires, lusts and impulses of their sinful hearts, so in response Israel from peasant all the way up to prince rebelled against her God (Hosea 4:10,18; 7:14; 8:1,12; 9:1,15; 13:16).

Dealing a devastating blow, Israel in their desire to reject God's law also rejected Him personally. Like the chest-thumping Atheists of today, they even went as far as pretending God no longer existed. In response, God cries out, "They forgot Me!" Israel has "forgotten his Maker." When a person purposefully forgets the law of God, they in reality are rejecting true knowledge, and with no knowledge of God the ignorant people didn't know who to turn to during times of trouble (osea 4:1,6; 7:7; 8:14; 11:3; 13:6).

Deeply wounded, God, like a parent who's just heard their tween yell "I hate you!" laments over Israel's betrayal. "They do not return to the Lord their God, nor seek Him." No longer having a healthy respect for the Lord, they did not obey Him and so "did not cry out to Me" in their distress. Craven and ungrateful, "they have fled from Me" and "transgressed against Me, though I redeemed them." The betrayers were only ever "bent on backsliding from Me." God just wouldn't go away, so the people went on the offense and sought to "devise evil against Me." They have "spoken lies against Me," "encircled Me with lies and deceit" so as to tarnish and smear the name of the Lord (Hosea 5:7; 6:7; 7:10,13-15; 9:17; 10:3; 11:7,12).

Rejecting God as their king, Israel installed their own flawed and worthless leaders. Their doing so was an act hauntingly parallel to today's nations which leave us with presidents who make confusing decisions, Congress being stuck in gridlock, and activist judges who just make up the laws as it suits them. Israel had put all their trust in their military and endlessly tried to appease their two-faced enemies by making peace treaties not worth the clay tablets they were written on (Hosea 8:4,14; 10:13; 12:1).

As the rejection of God progressed over the decades, soon a youth culture arose who barely even know the name of the Lord as anything but a curse word. Those who did know God held Him in absolute contempt and tried to provoke Him to anger most bitterly by their language, music and lifestyle choices. They could care less if God was offended, forgetting that God in His all-knowingness always remembers (Hosea 7:2; 11:7; 12:14; 13:1).

Unhappy. Did Israel's rebellious heart bring them all they had ever hoped for? Did it bring them anything more than a fleeting joy? Did they feel a contentment and satisfaction that lasted? No, not at all whatsoever. For, like Gomer, Israel after a life of committing every evil possible under the sun could only heave a dejected, "For then it was better for me than now."

Why this strange response? First, without God's knowledge and the wisdom He provides, we are trampled down by our own lack of discernment until finally destroyed. When selfishness enslaves the heart, senseless people can only blindly stumble about through life making bad decisions. As Hosea so colorfully states, "When one sows the wind, they reap the whirlwind."

They're rather like that exasperating mother monkey in the children's song, "Ten Little Monkeys." She's the perfect example of making bad decisions. Why a mother would put ten kids in the same bed and then expect them to sleep is beyond reason. Jumping about as kids naturally do, one at a time each falls out and bumps their head. Mamma calls the doctor and the doctor says, "No more monkeys jumping on the bed." Does she heed the doctor's advice and stop those crazy monkeys? Not at all! One after another gets a concussion, and reaping the whirlwind, she racks up ten large medical bills. Stupid monkey!

Second, rebelliousness is a sickness that devours one's strength. The very sinful pleasures the people of Israel craved were sapping their youth and vitality, essentially destroying them. Crazy enough, they didn't even realize their emaciated condition until they were too far wasted away (Hosea 2:7; 4:6,11,14; 5:5,13,15; 7:9,11; 8:7; 14:1).


In the eighth part of this series on faith in the book of Hosea, we'll better understand the vastness of God's divine heart by looking at His profile when it comes to how He communicates.

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