You just don’t get it

Hosea 8:12 Though I were to write out for him ten thousand points of My instruction, they would be regarded as something strange. 

Have you ever tried to explain a concept to someone who just doesn’t get it?  You try one approach, then another, then another.  You throw in a dozen illustrations, back stories, hand gestures, and props.  But they just can’t seem to grasp what you are talking about.  It’s really frustrating being on the explaining end.  You know what you are trying to explain but it isn’t coming across.  All you get back in return is a blank stare.

God got a blank stare, too… from the people of Ephraim.  You can tell He is frustrated in this chapter because He has tried to show them the right way, but they aren’t getting it.  He says that even ten thousand points of instruction wouldn’t help.  They just don’t get it!  It’s one of those moments where you start thinking, “do I need to draw you a picture?”  How thick-headed can someone be?  The people of Ephraim couldn’t seem to follow God’s ways.

That’s what happens when someone is entrenched in the ways of the world.  There are so many other objects of worship and substitute saviors that they fail to follow the only true one.  I certainly don’t want to have the same problem that Ephraim had.  I actually want to get it when God is speaking to me.  I want to understand His instructions and do something about it.  After all, He’s already given me ten thousand instructions – the Bible.  So I choose to pick it up today, read it, and do what it says.  Feel free to join me.

Lame at hide-n-seek

Hosea 7:2 But they never consider that I remember all their evil. Now their sins are all around them; they are right in front of My face.

I am a master at hide-n-seek… especially when I play with my 3-year-old.  Have you ever played with a young child?  They really aren’t that good at it.  They hide in obvious locations, giggle when you walk by, and sometimes even say “I’m over here daddy.”  Seriously they seem to hide right in front of my face.  But they think they are hiding; they think they are a master illusionist act.  No, not so much.

Mankind is pretty lame at playing hide-n-seek with God.  It started with Adam and Eve, really.  Their sin caused them to try and hide from God.  Walking through the garden, God did what any good dad would do, “Where are you Adam?  I can’t find you.”  All the while, God knew where they were.  They were really lame hiders.  The Israelites thought they could hide their sin, too.  But they were covered in it.  Their sins were right in front of God’s face – He saw it all! It’s like the kid with chocolate all over his face who says, “I didn’t eat the candy bar.”  Buddy, that chocolate on your face is giving you away.

This isn’t saying that God was sitting there holding the past over Israel.  After all, Isaiah 43:25 says, “It is I who sweep away your transgressions for My own sake and remember your sins no more.” But if you want God to forgive and forget your sins, you’ve got to come out of hiding first.  You need to confess.  Most of us are afraid to do so, thinking that once God discovers our sin, it will mess up our chance at heaven.  Or maybe we will make Him mad.  Here’s the thing: the chocolate is already on your face.  Because we are really lame hiders.  God sees it so why try to hide it.  Instead, go to Him in humility and confess your need for Him.  Receive His grace and forgiveness.  He’s calling out “Olly olly oxen free!”    So come on already.  Get out from behind that couch and run to your Savior!

Rules

Hosea 6:6 I want you to show love, not offer sacrifices. I want you to know me more than I want burnt offerings. (NLT *This verse has been translated multiple ways, the word “love” being replaced with mercy or loyalty.  I like how this version stated it.)

Rules.  There are lots of them.  Some of these rules we call laws – things like: drive the speed limit, don’t steal, get a permit before you build a house.  The result of breaking these rules are things called penalties, such as fines or jail time.  There are also social rules and moral rules – be courteous, don’t cut in line, hold the door for the next person coming in, be kind to your neighbors.   The Old Testament had lots of rules, too.  These were the laws of God and Israel was expected to follow them.

The problem, however, was that even though they tried to follow the rules, their hearts weren’t always in it.  They went through the motions of righteousness but had wickedness in their hearts.  They focused so much on the ritual that they missed the relationship.  God wanted their love more than their sacrifices.  He wanted them to know Him more than He wanted their burnt offerings.  Because God is ultimately about drawing us into His heart.  He wants you to know Him.

As Christians, we try to do a bunch of stuff to measure up.  We read our Bibles, pray, go to church, love others, give money, and even volunteer in the nursery.  These are all good things – please don’t stop doing them.  But what we need to assess is “why” we are doing them.  Are we trying to follow the rules of religion or are we responding out of our relationship with our Father?  As you are drawn into His heart, these things flow from yours.  It’s about knowing Him.  So know Him.  Not the rules… Him.

Determined in the wrong direction

Hosea 5:11 Ephraim is oppressed, crushed in judgment, for he is determined to follow what is worthless. 

I try not to sin.  Even amidst the failure, I am pretty determined not to.  It’s not because I think it is yucky or that it will cause me to go to hell.  It’s not because I am trying to follow a bunch of rules.  I genuinely want to please the Lord with my life.  So I try.  I fail, but I try.  And there are those times that it seems like we fail over and over again.  Do you ever experience that?  You know – you just blow it day after day.  So we try harder not to mess up and focus on not doing bad stuff.  But it doesn’t work.

Recently, I was staying at a campground that had lots of rules.  I swear the word “no” was on a hundred signs.  No running, no diving, no riding bikes here and there, no kids in this pool, no tents on these sites, no, no, no, no, no.  You know what that does?  It focuses me on the word no.  I was thinking about all the things I couldn’t do rather than the things I could.  Later in that trip, we visited a waterpark.  I noticed that their signs were different.  They said things like, “please stack your tubes when you leave the lazy river.”   They focused on what you should do rather than what you shouldn’t.  It was a happy place.

Living life as a train wreck is no fun.  But you won’t pull out of it if you continue to focus on what you shouldn’t be doing.  You will just fail over and over again.  And to God, it will seem as though you are determined to follow what is worthless.  Friends, that is determination in the wrong direction.  Now we all know that you probably aren’t determined to sin, but apparently that is what it looks like to God.  What you need to do is turn your determination in a different direction.

If you don’t, you will end up trying to walk forward while looking backward.  Have you ever tried that?  You will inevitably crash into a telephone pole.  So turn your head around and start walking away from sin.  Determine to do right things.  Determine to please God with your thoughts, your actions, your life.  Determine to point your determination in the right direction.  Start focusing your thoughts on what you should be doing rather than what you shouldn’t.

Moooooooooo

Hosea 4:16  For Israel is as obstinate as a stubborn cow. Can the LORD now shepherd them like a lamb in an open meadow? 

Have you ever been around a stubborn cow?  Seriously, not fun.  A stubborn cow won’t be led; it won’t be herded.  A stubborn cow kicks when you try to milk it.  A stubborn cow hangs out in its own pasture rather than sticking with the group.  A stubborn cow is just a plain ‘ol pain in the butt.  Cut to the word of the Lord spoken to Israel: “you are a stubborn cow, a pain in the butt.”  Moo, Israel, mooooo.

Now I don’t know about you, but God has never spoken to me in animal sounds.  But in this case, He was really wanting them to baa rather than moo. You see, a stubborn cow is lousy at follow the leader.  A lamb, however, takes her every cue from her shepherd.  She looks to him for direction, warmth, protection, and food.  She trusts him for her next meal and runs to him when the wolves come.  She knows his voice and get this… actually listens to it.  Not the case with a stubborn cow.

So what will you be today?  A stubborn cow or a lamb?  Moving from cow to lamb requires that you surrender your obstinate ways.  It requires following the Great Shepherd into the open meadows.  It means training your ears to His voice and waiting for His command.  Be a lamb today.  Make the decision to embrace the baa and lose the moo.  Not only will you please God, but you will find peace and joy in following your Shepherd.

You don’t know me anymore

Hosea 4:6 My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge. Because you have rejected knowledge, I will reject you from serving as My priest. Since you have forgotten the law of your God, I will also forget your sons. 

Ouch – that’s gotta hurt.  God is telling his people that He is going to reject them since they have forgotten Him.  Oh, and their sons too.  It’s not like God didn’t put effort into the relationship; He pursued Israel over and over again.   But Israel didn’t try to know Him or even try to follow His instructions.  They weren’t studying His commands, exercising any discernment, and had no wisdom.

Let me offer this picture of a husband and wife.  After all, this is the picture God is using in the book of Hosea to describe His relationship with Israel.  Now in most of the books we read and movies we watch today, it is the husband who checks out of the marriage.  Not always, but that’s pretty standard.  He gets busy with his job, his friends, his hobbies, and forgets to pursue his wife.  Then one day (seemingly out of the blue to him) she says, “you don’t know me anymore.”  What?  I don’t know you?  Didn’t I spend all those years dating you and spending hours on the phone?  How can you say that I don’t know you?

There is an obvious disconnect here.  Where’s the breakdown?  Here’s the deal: it’s not that he never knew her, it’s that he STOPPED knowing her.   In the same way, God’s people stopped knowing Him.  They stopped listening to His words, following His commands, and pursuing His relationship.  The result: perishing.  And things aren’t a whole lot different today.  If you don’t pursue God and your relationship with Him, the same thing will happen to you, too.  You will feel like His voice is shriveling up and His Word is a bunch of text on a page.  So you’ve got to pursue Him!  If you don’t, you will find that hope perishes from your life.  Faith perishes.  Love perishes.  You perish.  The last thing I want to hear from my God is, “you don’t know me anymore.”  Oh… and I also don’t want to perish.

A punch in the gut

Hosea 2:8  She does not recognize that it is I who gave her the grain, the new wine, and the oil. I lavished silver and gold on her, which they used for Baal. 

Here’s the picture:  A man loves his wife so much that he wants to show her.  One payday, he hands her two $100 bills and tells her to spoil herself.  He grins at the smile on her face as she receives his gift.  He can’t wait to see what she is going to do and buy.  But his wife doesn’t buy any new clothes; she doesn’t spoil herself with a day at the spa.  Instead, she uses the money to go out on a date with another man.  What!?!

This is how God felt about the nation of Israel.  He treated her like a good husband would treat his wife.  He lavished blessings on her, took care of her, and provided for her.  It says here that He gave her grain, new wine, and oil.  He even lavished silver and gold on her.  However, she didn’t even acknowledge that all of this was from Him.  She didn’t return to Him in praise.  She took His gifts and ran away to another lover.

You see, Israel took what God had given them and used the resources to worship other gods.  They took His gold and honored Baal.  What a punch in the gut!  Is this how you thank the very one who is meeting all your needs?  It shouldn’t be!  And even today, we receive God’s blessings and provision and squander them away.  We turn to things that satisfy the flesh and in turn serve them with our hearts.  We give over our devotion to created things rather than living a life devoted to the creator.  If we would just learn a lesson from these words to Israel, we might just start turning all our worship toward the Lord.  We might even stop punching Him in the gut.