Their actions do not allow them to return to their God, for a spirit of promiscuity is among them, and they do not know the Lord… When Ephraim saw his sickness and Judah his wound, Ephraim went to Assyria and sent a delegation to the great king. But he cannot cure you or heal your wound (5:4, 13 CSB).
What is your view of God? What do you think he is like? No, this is not an exercise in allowing your imagination to run wild. The essence of idolatry is inventing a god from human imagination. Instead, I am asking what you know of God’s revelation of himself in the Holy Scriptures. God has communicated understandable and adequate truth about himself for life and godliness. Since he is God and our Maker, he is quite able to do this.
We should not be content with a minimal acquaintance with the Lord, for he is our Creator and Judge. What do you know of the One to whom you will give an account for your actions in this life? Can you provide others with an accurate picture of the Lord of the universe?
Old covenant Israel could not. The people that were called to be his witnesses could not even give an accurate testimony to themselves of God’s true nature, what he expected of them, and the way to find him. God’s prophet Hosea calls them back to the basics of spiritual reality, for in the spiritual realm, few things are as deadly as deception.
God exposed Israel’s lack of repentance. Here we observe a problem of the heart (5:4). Remember that the heart means the entire inner person, including the mind, emotions and will. It is the seat of your personality. Think of the importance of the motives of the heart. Here we encounter the deepest spiritual and psychological level of a person (Ezekiel 14:1-11; Hebrews 4:13). As we have seen, they pursued prostitution, whether sexual or spiritual, from their innermost desires. They did not know the Lord. Notice how the Holy Spirit keeps on emphasizing this point! Lack of knowledge of God is the empty space in the heart of a mere professor of religion. Such a person goes through the routine of worship without a personal relationship with the Lord. The true Christian knows the Lord (John 17:3; cf. 1 John 5:20; Hebrews 8:10-12).
God exposed their problem of performance (5:4). There are two ways of looking at this.
- The sinner is held prisoner by their sins. He or she cannot run away from their master. They are slaves to sin, though they suppose themselves free (Romans 6:15-20).
- The sinner’s mere profession to saving grace is betrayed by his or her actions (Romans 2:1-29). Before we judge others, we must first judge ourselves (Matthew 7:1-5).
A problem of misdirection (5:13)
Israel knew she had problems. When invading armies gather on your borders, it is hard not to notice.
Many Americans see our nation’s problems: escalating debt, troubling trade issues, increasing violence, deep, political hatred, the scourge of “new” diseases (HIV, Lyme’s, Autism, Alzheimer’s), declining literacy, and an entire litany of abuse (sexual, physical, substance, pornography, gambling). Not many can dare with a straight face to call this a golden age.
Israel decided to turn to her enemy for help! How deceived! Will one who seeks your destruction heal your sores? Yet they vainly hoped that Assyria would help them.
Israel turned to what was ineffective. Assyria would not have been able to help in any event, because Israel’s problem with God was beyond Assyria’s resources. (Recall that Assyria was the “superpower” of the day.)
The failure of our day is the ongoing human failure to recognize the depth of our problems. We have serious issues with God that the resources of American “superpower” cannot address and that tweaking our thinking with postmodern “insights” knows nothing about. May the Lord of all step into our lives in mercy and power.
Grace and peace, David