The destiny of the elect is to abide with the Almighty, yet concerning the northern tribes of Israel, the Lord’s gave this indictment through Hosea: “Their deeds do not permit them to return to their God. For the spirit of whoredom is within, and they know not the Lord.” Even if they brought animals to sacrifice to God, “they will not find Him; He has withdrawn from them.”
The immediate prospects for the inhabitants of the Promised Land were decidedly bleak. The north would “become a desolation,” and God would also pour out His “wrath like water” upon the “princes of Judah.” Though many people would be torn away by the brutal Assyrian empire, the displeasure of the Almighty should have been of far greater concern to God’s children than their military adversaries. “I will be like a lion to Ephraim, and like a young lion to the house of Judah. I, even I, will tear and go away; I will carry off, and no one shall rescue.”
While we are not surprised to hear the Lord represented as a majestic animal of the forest, He says something about Himself in Hosea 5 that is perplexing. “I am like a moth to Ephraim, and like dry rot to the house of Judah.” An unflattering picture, yet this assessment was true in at least two ways. First, the covenant community imagined that the Lord was only a minor issue until it was too late. Second, though God’s judgment might become visible slowly, His anger would turn their glorious garments into rags and would bring down the whole house of Israel and Judah.
The ancient worshipers of God were unwilling to see the consequences of their rebellion. Is the New Testament church throughout the centuries any better?
Unrepentant behavior is always serious. Many in our day are shocked by the suggestion that God might be confronting them. They may think that the Lord could never do anything to them that might bring discomfort, but God’s steadfast plan is complex. His dealings with the Old Testament saints should take away any doubt concerning the Lord’s determination to correct His beloved children.
How can the church bear up under the biblical teaching that God disciplines those He loves? Through every providence, we remember the gift of Jesus, our atoning sacrifice. We are reassured as we seek the Lord on His terms that He who gave up His Son for our salvation will never abandon us. He will carry us through every trial that He ordains for our good.
Prayer from A Book of Prayers
Glorious God, there is a day of wrath coming and a day of division in the church. There will be a separation of the sheep and the goats. Our pride will do us no good when we face Your judgment. In that day we may seem to seek You, but many will not be acknowledged by You as Your children. Are we all lost? How can we stand Your holy indignation against sin? Our trust is not in the power of men and governments. Our hope is in You, and our deliverance is secured through Christ alone.