For I am like a lion to Ephraim and like a young lion to the house of Judah. Yes, I will tear them to pieces and depart. I will carry them off, and no one can rescue them. I will depart and return to my place until they recognize their guilt and seek my face; they will search for me in their distress (5:14-15 CSB).
After exposing Israel’s lack of repentance, failure to do God’s will, and her misdirected ideas, the Lord turned to talk about what awaited his wayward old covenant people.
The Lord God previewed Israel’s punishment. First we see that God will not help the unrepentant (5:6-7). Israel thought she could satisfy God with sacrifices and ritual celebrations. Sort of like the churchgoer who imagines God is pleased when he or she says the Lord’s Prayer, listens disinterestedly to a sermon, and throws a few dollars in the offering plate. God is not held captive by religious ritual, even if it is appointed by him. Grace cannot be earned! It is always a free gift from God (Ephesians 2:8-9), and such grace always comes through the Lord Jesus Christ alone.
God told Israel that he would become their enemy (5:8-14). He would be like the silent destroyer. He would quietly bring ruin and decay like moth and rot do. Would you have ever imagined God picturing himself as a moth or rot? At times, the only thing that will gain our attention is shocking language. The Lord would be the ferocious predator. He would roar and attack like a bold lion, from whom there is no escape. Believers like the picture of God as a lion, boldly ravaging his enemies. But here, his enemy is Israel, his people! An uncomfortable thought! In either picture, God wanted Israel to have an “authentic meeting” with the living God. The Lord wants us out of our comfort zones to really meet him.
God declared Israel’s only escape (5:15). He corrected their wrong attitude. Israel had thought she could play religious games with the living God. “The Lord will forgive; that’s his job. Just bring him a few sacrifices once in awhile.” In our day people assume that they’re okay if they say a few “Jesus words”, even if they don’t really know him as risen Lord and Savior. However, the Lord solemnly said that he would withdraw from them, until they repented. Israel needed to have a proper fear of God and love for God.
He clarified the right way back to his favor. They needed to admit their guilt. The first step back to God is to confess openly that you have a serious problem, that you have offended the true and living God. They needed to confess their sin; that is, to take God’s side against their rebellious acts. Has this ever happened in your life?
They needed to turn to the Lord earnestly. God does not want us to play games with him. He wants a sincere, deeply-felt repentance from the core of our being (what the Bible calls the heart.) Forsake your old idols and look toward him. He wants us to seek Him, not merely His gifts. The only way back to the living God is through the Lord Jesus Christ. And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved (Acts 4:12 ESV; cf. 1 Timothy 2:5).
It is time to seek the Lord!
Grace and peace, David