They do not cry to me from their hearts; rather, they wail on their beds. They slash themselves for grain and new wine; they turn away from me. I trained and strengthened their arms, but they plot evil against me. They turn, but not to what is above; they are like a faulty bow. Their leaders will fall by the sword because of their insolent tongue. They will be ridiculed for this in the land of Egypt (7:14-16 CSB).
Hosea has already mentioned two ways that sin affected Israel, God’s old covenant people: They were unfaithful to God and to each other, and they pursued intrigue on a national and international level. Next, Hosea states two other effects.
They lacked spiritual perception. They lost awareness of God’s ability. But they never consider that I remember all their evil. Now their actions are all around them; they are right in front of my face (7:2 CSB). They fell into a twisted view of reality. They assumed that God does not keep account of human sin, often questioning that there is any God who would judge human sin at all. This is silent mockery of the need to repent and to forsake sin. Someone might suggest, “God is irrelevant to our current problem. It does no good to repent and pray for mercy.” This must be corrected by a view of God’s omniscience and omnipresence (Psalm 139:1-12). God is near; he knows; he judges.
The also failed to accept their inability (7:8-9). Hosea used two illustrations. They were like a partially cooked pancake. One side looks good enough to eat, until you look at the other side. This shows the loss of distinctiveness caused by their half-hearted religion. Israel was supposed to be separated unto the Lord (Exodus 19:5-6), but she became like the pagan nations around her. They did not notice their gray hair. They had lost their vigor and strength without realizing it. Here is a picture of a pride-filled man, who will not realize his decline. We should seek to avoid this failing by “looking at ourselves” in the mirror of God’s word. We need a realistic picture of ourselves, which means seeing where we need to grow and where God is presently at work in us.
They were impenitent. They had a show of religion (7:14-15). They had tears without repentance. They might become concerned about their need, but what of their sin against the Lord. Did they want God involved in their lives? Not at all! Here is where much contemporary preaching goes astray. It is skilled in presenting human tragedies, like broken families, drugs and drunkenness, physical and sexual abuse. It can get people to cry out to God about these evils. But is there concern for God, for his rights, for his honor and worship? Where is a heart for God? We should not be surprised that our churches have become “little old covenant Israels.” They had ritual performance without love for God. They could gather for grain and new wine, like many attend church for “holy communion.” But you can do such things and still turn away from God.
The bottom line was their rejection of the Most High God (7:10, 16). The Lord desires that we live having him as our first and ultimate priority. We are to draw near to God. Consider James 4:8; Matthew 22:37-40; 1 Corinthians 10:31; Romans 11:36. This may require a diligent search for him (Isaiah 55:6), which Israel was unwilling to make.
What are you pursuing? Is it pleasure? Money? Entertainment? Relaxation? Or God? True conversion is a turning back to God. Is the center of your life turned toward the Lord? Is he your desire? Do you seek him daily? God welcomes you back to him through Jesus Christ, his one and only Son. In his name, I invite you back to him today.
Grace and peace, David