If I were to ask you to bring your dog or cat to church on Sunday, you'd probably look at me sideways. Especially if you knew we were going to stand in a line and wait for the pastor to say some special words over it, then we were going to offer it as a sacrifice for the sins we committed that week. YIKES!
Thank God for grace... literally!
I mean, if Jesus had never paid the price for our sins, that's what we'd still have to do to stay in right relationship with God. Which is why today's verse is so significant.
Take words with you
and return to the Lord.
Say to him:
“Forgive all our sins
and receive us graciously,
that we may offer the fruit of our lips.
Hosea 14:2 NIV
Now for us, it doesn't seem odd to pray words to God. But for the people of Hosea's day, to only 'take words' to God, would mean coming empty handed... without the required sacrifice or payment required by the law. So I bet they were wondering, 'How could God forgive me?'
But oftentimes what we do repeatedly, becomes routine. And as such it can lose it's meaning. God saw that these people brought their sacrifices but they continued in the same sins. They didn't fully turn their hearts toward Him during the in-between times. So the sacrifices meant nothing to them. They were just like 'box-checking' church goers. As if somehow that was going to make God happy.
But God is going to be God, no matter whether we show up to church or not... no matter whether these people sacrificed or not. You see, the system of sacrifice was never set up for God to grow. It was never designed so that He would change, or fulfill His purpose. The sacrifice was intended for the people to realize their sin and how it was actually hurting them. But God saw that the system of sacrifice wasn't working.
All God really wants is our hearts.
So He told them to forget the animal... leave it at home and just bring sincere words. Instead of a burnt offering for your sins... bring Me a burning and humble heart. And instead of morning and evening offering of thanksgiving... bring Me a perpetual heart of praise.
So let us renew our hearts in prayer
considering the attitude of our heart.
It takes focus to set our mind on Him,
practice to stay in the moment,
and dedication to make it a habit.
But what a change this sacrifice makes
when the Lord brings blessings of peace.
Blessed is the one
whose transgressions are forgiven,
whose sins are covered.
Blessed is the one
whose sin the Lord does not count against them
and in whose spirit is no deceit.
Psalm 32:1-2 NIV
I've never liked studying history much.
But for some reason, anytime I see a movie, documentary, or article on slavery in the colonies or the Holocaust, it's like I have to know more.
That may sound like a strange admission, but for some reason I am drawn to those two atrocities and I've never been able to articulate why... until today.
You see, my bible reading took me to the book of Hosea. And it was there that I had one of those "Aha," moments.
If you don't know much about Hosea, he was a prophet whom how God told to marry a prostitute. Strange, I know. But God had a purpose. He was trying to give the people of Israel a vivid picture of how they looked to Him.
Well this woman became Hosea's wife. They had three children, and then she left him and returned to her former life. And what I was reading today was right about that point. And God told Hosea to go find his wife...
The Lord said to me, “Go, show your love to your wife again, though she is loved by another man and is an adulteress. Love her as the Lord loves the Israelites, though they turn to other gods and love the sacred raisin cakes.” Hosea 3:1
This is just so amazing to me.
God chose His words carefully when He said, "go show your love." He didn't tell Hosea to, "go get her and judge her." He didn't tell him to, "drag her back and make her obey."
But what would you want to do if you were Hosea? I mean, short of NOT going? If it were me, I'd want to just bring her back quietly and ignore her. I'm not big on conflict, so I'd really take my time on this one. But if I was able to 'show her' my love, you can bet that I'd also get around to showing it off in front of others. Like, let me just post a pic of us for everyone to see how great I am for overlooking your cheating. But that's not what Hosea did.
Which then makes me wonder what the wife is thinking. I mean, really. Here is this man you left to go back to prostitution. And he is paying for you... buying you back, even though he's legally your husband.
Obviously she struggled to see herself as a free woman. She had to be filled with doubt, constantly attacked with thoughts of unworthiness from years of being enslaved to prostitution. Think of all the lies running through her head. It's no wonder she returned to her old life.
And as much as I hate to admit it, that's the picture of my life too. I constantly feel like I have to earn my way to a perfect life. All my striving, grasping, begging for attention, likes and followers... when God has already paid the ultimate price and we are free to walk away from everything we chain ourselves to.
There are no rules that bind us.
Only the ones we keep locked up in our minds. They are the ones that own us. The lies that say we aren't enough. The religion that screams we must do more to earn God's love and attention.
So look how God chooses to free us...
“Therefore I am now going to allure her;
I will lead her into the wilderness
and speak tenderly to her.
There I will give her back her vineyards,
and will make the Valley of Achor a door of hope.
There she will respond as in the days of her youth,
as in the day she came up out of Egypt."
Hosea 2:15 NIV
In order for God to get our attention, He will often get us away from the noise and chaos of what's distracting us. And He'll take us to the wilderness. For me, it's the dry, empty place I've been cursing and complaining about? You too?
But we need to know that it's intentional. It's for our own good! Because it's there that He wants to 'speak tenderly' to us. How BEAUTIFUL is that?
And in that place, He's planning to GIVE to us... to fill us with what we need. But we must be still and listen. We can't continue to run our mouths with complaint or we'll never hear Him. (I'm talking to me as well, by the way!)
Oh how God's ways are unlike anything of this world.
And finally there is this.
And it's this, which God struck my heart today...
“In that day,” declares the Lord,
“you will call me ‘my husband’;
you will no longer call me ‘my master.’
I will remove the names of the Baals from her lips;
no longer will their names be invoked."
Hosea 2:16-17 NIV
This was my lesson... the NEW thing that enlightened. For some reason, God moved me to search the meaning of the word Baal. It means owner. Look how this is in stark contrast to what God wants us to call Him... husband.
He doesn't want us bowing down to Him out of fear, like a slave. That's what it's like when we (and I mean me) worship the things of this world. They keep us oppressed and in bondage, never satisfying.
If you're a slave to a master, you pray because you have to.
If you're a bride to a husband, you talk to Him because you want to.
If you're a slave to a master, you read the rule book to know what not to do.
If you're a bride to a husband, you read the Bible to know Him more.
If you're a slave to a master, you work to avoid punishment.
If you're a bride to a husband, you serve to show Him your love.
If you're a slave to a master, you are owned... in bondage.
If you're a bride to a husband, you are chosen... in freedom.
Oh how God has freed my soul.
Oh how God has lifted my spirit.
Now I see why I've always been so fascinated by the history of slavery and oppression. Could it be, because I keep running back to my old life? Could it be, because I am daily in need of deliverance?
Won't you let Him free you today?
Put it to the test.
Next time you're challenged or concerned about rules or religion, or you find yourself judging other's actions, ask yourself, "Is this causing me to be slave to a master, or bride to a husband?"
The Lord said...
I will betroth you to me forever;
I will betroth you in righteousness and justice,
in love and compassion.
Hosea 2:18 NIV
We strive... goodness knows we strive, daily.
We pursue, chase, and follow after whatever our heart desires in this life. But what of God? He so desires that we strive after Him. For He is the only certainty which we can actually realize. He is the only one thing which we can ever catch up to and attain. It's how He created us.
Just as sure as we wake to the dawn... He is there.
Just as the parched ground needs rain... He provides.
Just as the spring brings showers... He refreshes.
As much as we desire to control the outcome of our life, let us realize that pressing toward the goal of knowing Him more... setting ourselves apart from all the world clammers for... He is the only place we will find it.
Peace can be found when we turn toward and run into Our Refreshing Rain... when we stand fallen in the Refreshing Reign of God.
How do you know... when you know enough?
Could it be that you've actually become wise when you realize the you know nothing at all? When you face you're limits that day you stand in between the bookshelves in the reference section of the library, realizing how very little you've absorbed... how little you've even cared to know.
And what about the knowledge of God? There must be an infinite wealth of knowledge about Him. So how are we to attain that? Surely we will not be destroyed if we do not grasp it all on this side of eternity.
For this is more a matter of the heart. Do we DESIRE to attain it? Do we care to know Him? Or would we rather, like the Israelites of old, seek to satisfy ourselves with all that our senses can take in... all that money can buy?
Hear the word of the Lord,
people of Israel,
for the Lord has a case
against the inhabitants of the land:
There is no truth, no faithful love,
and no knowledge of God in the land!
Cursing, lying, murder, stealing,
and adultery are rampant...
Couldn't message could be spoken to us as well today? It wouldn't be a stretch to replace the name Israel, with the place we live. And it goes on...
For this reason the land mourns,
and everyone who lives in it languishes,
Wouldn't you rather thrive than languish?
It's that tired aching feeling which comes from rushing here and there, when someone asks, "How are you?" to which we reply, "Oh, I'm busy... so busy."
But what we really mean is, "I'm tired."
And one day, tired will lead to weak...
and weak will lead to the destruction.
But this is not to cause us fear.
This is not to condemn or anger.
Rather to incite us to seek Him more.
For this is the true battle.... one for our minds.
One which wages for our loyalties.
Let us rather not be deceived, but like Paul pray for one another...
I have not stopped thanking God for you. I pray for you constantly, asking God, the glorious Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, to give you spiritual wisdom and insight so that you might grow in your knowledge of God. I pray that your hearts will be flooded with light so that you can understand the confident hope he has given to those he called—his holy people who are his rich and glorious inheritance.
Ephesians 1:16-18 NLT
Upon reading this prophet Hosea,
I must consider, could it be...
a letter to my own heart?
How prosperous (Lisa) is--
a luxuriant vine loaded with fruit.
But the richer this (woman) get(s),
the more pagan altars (she) build(s).
The more bountiful (her) harvest,
the more beautiful (her) sacred pillars.
The heart of (this woman is) fickle;
(she is) guilty and must be punished.
Hosea 10:1-2 NLT (personalized)
As I live in the prosperity
of this wealthy nation,
do I simply let my lack of need
cause me to rely upon myself
denying that I should be dependent
on the God who wove it all before me?
Does the soil within my heart
grow harder still, each blessing
that I believe was earned within this grace
He so abundantly supplies?
Until one day when He will whisper...
I said, ‘Plant the good seeds of righteousness,
and you will harvest a crop of love.
Plow up the hard ground of your hearts,
for now is the time to seek the Lord,
that He may come
and shower righteousness upon you.’
For I should bow to His request.
I should ready my heart before He asks.
Or I will harvest a crop of lies
just as the world around me believes
that all success is by the effort of man's hand.
If I do not bow to the Almighty God,
I will fall to the habits what surround.
They may not be wooden idols, or
pillars of old, burning incense,
but idols nonetheless.
In the rectangular glow
of their false light,
our eyes are transfixed.
We set our gaze upon pictures...
eyes that cannot see,
ears that cannot hear,
lips that cannot speak.
Strapped in by thumbs
tap, tap, tapping out the rhythm
we beat a new worship song to self.
Time is a whirlwind, vanishing.
as we feed upon feed, upon feed...
and yet, we are never satisfied.
How long will you wait, O Lord,
this cycle to repeat once again.
For we should listen to Hosea...
we like Israel of long ago.
We have abandoned worship of You,
for the reckless love of self
and all that reflects our own image.
Word of God
train me, today...
to not succumb to the pressure
of self promotion,
to remain faithful to the worship
of first, and only... the one true God.
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