I wonder how many of our readers like to make sacrifices, even little ones. My guess is, it depends on what you are having to sacrifice, for how long you have to, and what is the payoff in the end. Certainly the past couple of months have been about sacrificing some of our comforts for the good of others. It’s why we practice social distancing, wear masks, didn’t go into public places for a while. I’ve chosen to look at this as a time for the church to really practice what it means to be a disciple of Jesus. Does this mean there is going to be a big payoff in the end, and thousands of people are going to flock to our churches for Sunday worship as we begin to re-open? Not necessarily, but this I would argue is one of the biggest things we need to realize. If we are doing something for the sake of getting something, we may not have the best motives for what we are doing. Contrast our sometimes impure motives with God’s holy character, and His ability to shape events today for a greater purpose in the future. This is what we see in today’s text, which comes out of the the Old Testament book, Hosea.
Hosea is a really strange book. Those who have read it, know what I’m talking about. God actually tells one of His prophets to go marry a prostitute, love her, have children with her, and when she leaves him go back and marry her again. Given how much the Bible talks about adultery, sexual purity, and the like; this probably seems a little strange. However, God was using Hosea as a physical illustration to show how His love for His people, Israel, and how they had been treating Him. They had been committing spiritual adultery, which is idolatry. God warned them, and warned them through sending various prophets, yet they wouldn’t listen. God told them that judgment was coming because of it, yet they wouldn’t listen. Yet, through all of their idolatrous ways, God still loved His people, because God is love. The judgment God was going to send, was an act of grace, mercy, and love. They were going to have to suffer because of their sinful choices, but in the end it was going to produce something amazing. It was going to result in a nation who loved God and obeyed Him. Hosea 2:23 says, “Then I will sow her for Myself in the earth, and I will have mercy on her who had not obtained mercy, then I will say to those who were not My people, you are My people! And they shall say, ‘You are my God.'”
Israel was going to have to suffer for her sinful choices. It was a reminder of the holiness and the righteous standard of God. Yet, God was also promising that after a time, the judgment would end and they would be restored back to a right relationship with Him. In this story, we see two sides of the same coin. The coin is God’s love. On one side, there is righteousness and justice, where God because He is holy and pure cannot and will not tolerate sin in the life of His children. Because of His holiness, He disciplines us when we sin. On the other side, there is mercy and grace. Because of His love, knowing that we could never be sinless, He sent the perfect sacrifice to atone for our sins, and to satisfy His wrath against sin. He could have asked us to pay the price, yet He willingly paid it Himself. The story of Hosea, especially in the first three chapters is truly amazing to watch unfold, because it feels like it could be written about where we are right now. Yes, we are suffering through COVID-19. There has been a high price paid from sickness, loss of jobs, difficulties in paying bills, up to people losing their life. Yet, God in His sovereignty and all-powerfulness, can bring something glorious out of this. A church that is pure, undefiled, and seeking Him as we should have been all along. A nation and world that learns there is no safety and security in the things of this world, and there must be a greater purpose to my life than just working to pay bills and one day die. I’m not going to pretend that this time as been or moving forward will be easy. Rather, my purpose of this writing is to say that God can accomplish something far greater than we ever imagine, if we will turn from our sin and turn in faith to Him. We are suffering right now, but I believe that God has a bigger purpose that He is going to work out in His time, and in His way. But what should we be doing now?
- See our sin as God sees it. For far too long, we have minimized sin. Instead of calling it adultery, we call it “having an affair.” Instead of lying, we downplay it as a “little white lie”, no real big deal. Instead of calling it murder, we call it a “choice.” We can no longer pretend as though our choices don’t have consequences. Because God is sovereign, which means to be in control, He could stop us from doing anything and everything if He wanted to. However, in His love, He gives us a choice. We need to understand that every choice we make has consequences. Those consequences could be good or bad, but they are the result of the choices we make. If you keep swimming with sharks, one day you are going to get bit.
- Ask God to remove our idols. The thing that is so deceptive about idolatry is how subtle it can start. We all know that we shouldn’t have statues of fat men in our homes. But that’s not all an idol is. An idol is anything or any one who we love or cling to more than God. If you want to know if you have an idol in your life, you can ask yourself some questions. Questions such as, if there anyone that I would not want to let go of out of my life, even if God said they were not good for me? Is there someone who would ask you not to pray, read your Bible, give, serve, or attend church, and you would actually not do those things? When you get stressed out, what do you turn to first? Is there a place or an event that could keep you from going to church, even if it’s just once and a while? I could probably write out about another 20-30 questions, but I think we see the point. We can’t love God on Sunday, but then live like the devil Monday-Saturday. We need to ask God to show us our idols, and then remove them for our own good.
- See God’s discipline as a good thing. How many of you remember what your parents used to say to you before they spanked you? Remember, “this is going to hurt me more than it is going to hurt you?” Anybody else think that was a lie? I certainly did, until I had my own children. As much as I loved them, and wanted the very best for them, they still made and make decisions to disobey me. When they do, I have to deliver discipline. And that is one of the hardest things to do, because I love them. Yet, we know it is what is best for them in the long run. Where did we learn that? That’s how God loves us. Proverbs 3:11 says, “My son, do not despise the disciplining of the Lord, for whom the Lord love, He corrects.” As the writer of Hebrews says, no one thinks discipline is good at the time, but in the end it produces the right results.
I wish I could tell you that I understand everything that God is doing in our world right now, but I can’t. However, I know beyond the shadow of any doubt, that what He is doing is for His glory and our good. Therefore, let’s trust Him during this time and after it, learn what He is trying to teach us, and know that in the end, something far better for us will come.
By His grace and for His glory,