Hosea 14: "I want an Easy Button"by Ed de la Cour on November 25, 2012
Hosea 14: "I WANT AN EASY BUTTON"
A couple of years ago, a band of terrorists attacked the Taj Mahal Hotel in Mumbai, India. Over the course of sixty hours they killed 166 people. When the battle with authorities was over, only one of the attackers survived and was captured, a baby-faced young man named Ajmal Kasab. Mr. Kasab was hanged this past Wednesday. Of particular interest to me were his last words. After demonstrating a great deal of bravado in court, he began to babble incoherently when he reached the gallows. According to The Times of India, his only understandable words were these: “I swear by Allah, please forgive me. I won’t make such a mistake again!” What an amazing thing to say! Here is the tragic, but all-too-human response of a man being forced to face the consequences of his actions. No matter that he participated in cold-bloodedly killing 166 people in the course of a brutal attack, Ajmal Kasab wanted to be granted a “do-over.” Like Mr. Kasab, we also find it hard to come to grips with our sins and our failures; so much so we will often resort to magical thinking in an attempt to get our own way.
Every time we hear of moral failure on the part of some political, business, religious leader, or even military leader, they will often blame their troubles on everyone and everything except themselves. How rare is it to see a person take responsibility for his actions and then seek forgiveness from God and man. This is why those Staples commercials for the “Easy Button” are so good. We all would like to have an Easy Button to press so the difficult might be made easy, and perhaps so we might escape the consequences of our actions. You can actually buy an Easy Button at Staples, but I know for a fact, it doesn’t work.
We are a generation raised on television drama where the bad guy is caught and whatever problem is solved within the prescribed limits of programming. We expect to be rescued in the nick of time. We are certain the cavalry is just over the hill, riding to save us at the last moment. Mom and Dad – or somebody – is sure to bail us out of trouble. Somehow, an Easy Button will appear!
I do not doubt this will come as bad news for many, but truly, your deeds do matter. The way we live our lives in this world matters. Elections have consequences. The world is full of people who think like Ajmal Kasab. He thought a do over was not only possible, but it was also just and fair.
Contrary to our definition of normal, God speaks to our rebellious attitude in Hosea 5: 4, “Their deeds do not permit them to return to their God. A spirit of prostitution is in their heart; they do not acknowledge the LORD.” God is saying, the way we live matters to Him. A continuing lifestyle of sin simply does not allow us to “return” to God. Hosea is not referring to this or that single act, but to a whole way of living, to our lifestyle. He was talking about our life habits, behaviors that are not going to stop, to those things we enjoy more than we enjoy intimacy with God.
Gone are the days when crocodile tears could convince God we really were sorry, because, like any good parent, God sees through His children’s manipulative performances. We cannot return to God when the reality of the way we live will never match the words coming out of our mouths.
Even worse is the spirit of prostitution Hosea says possesses the hearts of God’s people. That is an attitude of heart by which we happily sell ourselves to anyone or anything, but we are unwilling to admit we are wrong, stop what we are doing, and seek forgiveness of God. We will sell our integrity and our future for a bowl of cheap porridge.
I wonder if this is the same spirit that manifested itself in the rift that began between Jacob and Esau in Genesis 25. When you are hungry, everything has a price. You will recall Esau decided, because he was hungry, he would give away his birthright in exchange for something to eat. In his case, Esau sold his future for a bowl of stew. However, in order to return to God, we need the willingness to forgo giving away our birthright to satisfy our hunger for small things. Instead, God calls us to pay another price that is not so easy – the willingness to be honest to God – and there’s no Easy Button for that!
God is looking for us to acknowledge Him. That does not mean when we see God on the street we are to wave and tip our hats. To acknowledge God means we stop making excuses. It means we put away our normal willingness to go after every cheap thing that denies God. It means instead of denying God, we will pursue, we will go after, the priceless thing God wants to give us. When we agree that our sins have stopped us from being able to come home to God, we are in the process of acknowledging Him. When we acknowledge God, we are being honest before Him. We know and agree that our arms are too short to pull the wool over His eyes. So, we agree with God, and we affirm His diagnosis of our situation.
Hosea shouted over the hubbub and all the commercial noise. He cried out to Israel to come home: “Return, O Israel to the LORD your God.” The idea of coming home, especially at this time of year, is filled with all kinds of hope and is poignant with meaning. We all want to be able to come home again. Yet, in order to come home to God, we need to acknowledge Him, and we do so, not by pleading for a do-over like Ajmal Kasab, but by admitting we have failed God and seeking His forgiveness.
In order for us to be honest to God, we need to follow a certain prescribed format, if you will. Hosea said to “take words with you.” In other words, be prepared with a certain protocol for the right way to do it. Admit you have done wrong in God’s sight. Seek His forgiveness for all of it, and “offer the fruit of our lips.” In other words, we will learn how to engage in wholehearted worship. We will not leave the praise to the musicians and singers, but will enter in ourselves.
Part of the honesty required is for us to further admit, as Hosea says in verse 3, “Assyria cannot save us.” Israel was always seeking for some foreign power to come to their rescue, but Assyria cannot save us. Our money cannot save us. Our education, our good looks – nothing we have or can manufacture can save us. God wants you to know that He is not to be our fallback position, our last resort. God’s way is Plan A and there is no Plan B. God is our one hope. God is our fortress and God alone is the One in whom we put all our trust.
Israel was to confess, “We will not mount warhorses.” Warhorses were not the nice ponies we took for trail rides when we were kids. Warhorses were huge, larger and stronger than ordinary horses, and bred for battle. Nothing scared them. They wore armor just like the men who rode them into mortal combat. Warhorses were weapons in themselves, even more frightening for foot soldiers to confront than a chariot. It takes some soul-searching honesty to say you will let go of your hope and trust in these massive beasts and put your trust in God alone, but that is acknowledging God.
More than that, Father God, more than giving up our alliances with pagan strength, more than giving up our hope in our own resources, we will also never again worship what our hands have made. Our confidence in technology will not be greater than our willingness to put our lives into Your hands. If we are removed from You and from Your love, then we really are fatherless. Many of us know what it means to be orphaned. Many of us have lost the love of a father and a mother. There is a sense of lostness deep in our beings that is unparalleled, which is why we stand in desperate need to know Your compassionate touch.
Here is where it gets wonderful. Yes, it hurts awfully bad when we have to confess our wayward wickedness. Yes, our flesh may cry out for the sin it enjoys so much, but you and I have come to God for help. We have cried out to Him for relief. We have acknowledged our weakness and our sin and we have thrown ourselves on His mercy. God hears the cries of His children. We have stopped trying to manipulate God. We have stopped whining and whimpering for an Easy Button.
Listen to the hope you have in God today, verse 4: “I will heal their waywardness and love them freely.” That’s God’s promise to you. He is willing to heal you the rebellion and sabotage that is in your bones. No waiting, no standing in line – God’s promise is to love you immediately.
Verses 4 – 8 are very important to us, because in those verses it is as though God were prescribing exactly what we need. We don’t need an Easy Button; we need Vitamin G; we need God. In those verses, God promises to nourish His people with Himself. He promises to restore them to life, to bring them back to robust health and vitality. Using language that is very much reminiscent of Jeremiah 17: 7 – 8, God promises to water Israel, His people – of whom you and I are numbered. God promises to cause us to bloom, to make our roots go deep, to bring forth growth and newness of life. He promises to cause us flourish and be fruitful. Here is a picture of a restored relationship with God, that once once broken, but is now healed. The brutal heat of the sun will be mitigated and we will be brought into the shade of His love. Everyone wants their lives to bear fruit, to flourish, for their lives to have meaning, and to be a blessing to others in this world. The world offers you a myriad of options – ten ten thousand advertisements that promise you fruitfulness and blessing. But no matter where you may look, friends, no matter what promises you may hear, God wants you to know a fruitful life, a life of blessing, comes only from Him. A fruitful life comes from living in relationship with God.
I wonder, as you think about what Hosea says in verse 9 < v.>, do you consider yourself to be wise? Many people believe they know it all. They are full of pride and they will not accept counsel or advice from any source. Hosea says the very definition of wisdom is to understand that God’s ways are right. They are not the best of many paths; God’s way is the only path. “The ways of the LORD are right.” It is only the wise person who will recognize God’s truth and order his life according to God’s truth. It is the righteous and discerning person who seeks to know God, who seeks and finds and possesses understanding. That person makes their plans and lives their lives accordingly. The truly wise person follows God’s ways and regards that path as a no-brainer.
The fool is the one who laughs at God. The fool is the one who laughs at those who find their shelter under His wings. It is the fool who insists he can make it on his own. It is the fool who creates a god of his own understanding, a god he created. He believes this god will save him. This god of his own making is a god who is inherently and by definition powerless. That person only thinks he is wise. The unrighteous, the un-wise, and the rebellious cannot help but stumble and fall because their lives have no lasting foundation. Their so-called wisdom is but a spider web of deception and silky smooth nothingness.
Many people today live their lives by accident, proving they have no clue as to how to find wisdom or how to live without self-inflicted plain and misery. Their lives and their nerves are frayed from constantly living on the edge and living with neither rest nor hope.
God’s invitation to you is, “Return!” Come back home. Stop going in a wrong direction. Stop wishing for an Easy Button. The enemy of your soul always tries to tell you than returning to God makes no sense, or that it is too late. But if you are still alive, it is not too late. Turn around and face the God who loves you. Acknowledge God by agreeing with Him – you are in this mess because you did wrong. Getting out of the mess means returning to God. There are no other options.
Friends, this is neither rocket science nor brain surgery. It is only hard for rebellious and the fool, who will always stumble and never receive from God because their sins won’t allow it.