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Why God Doesn't Settle for Being Our Last Resort

Feb 25, 2018 06:59AM ● By Bonnie Lyn Smith
Recently I finished reading the book of Hosea in the Old Testament. When my mother-in-law texted me asking me what I gleaned from the book, my cheeky response was: 
That without Christ we are left to our 'whoredom' and chase after idols. How faithless we are on our own.
I later shared this with my kids who got a good laugh out of the playful relationship I have with my mother-in-law. They know how Midwest-sincere she is and how East-Coast-edgy I am and that somewhere in-between humor and our love of Christ is understanding. After all these years, we know what we are each getting with the other. 

But the truth is that is what I learned from Hosea. That, like Israel, I am faithless and wandering in my spirit, and God often needs to get my attention and lead me back to Him. 

The past few weeks with my husband away, I felt that gentle, deceptive slide into unproductive, winter-whacking-me gloom. It's not that I can't manage the household without him. I'm actually independent to a fault. But the weight of the full responsibility of holding the foundation in place was weighing me down, as well as frustrated goals of my own. Then we hit week-long school break: that time when skiing families get a week off school and the rest of us stress about what we can do in the not-so-warm weather with our kids. I guess more than a few people go to the Bahamas or Disney World. (If that's you, I am not keen on hearing about that right now, but hope it was awesome! But, seriously, good for you for getting out of the winter blues!) 

Maybe your slide is something else: getting too comfortable? Taking people or comfort for granted. Or your head could be spinning with goals or a to-do list longer than hours of the day. A worry could be taking you down "Stress-Out Alley" and away from the beautiful gaze of your Savior.

In the case of Hosea, at the time, the nations of Israel and Judah had sought after idols and Assyria (later Babylon became their oppressors) for answers. God was their last resort. He no longer took first place in their affections. 

God described the actions of His people at this time through Hosea, who took a "wife of whoredom" (Gomer) in obedience to God as a way to illustrate to Israel how she was being unfaithful to her first love. (There is an ongoing theme in the Bible of God as a groom to His bride Israel. This is continued in the New Testament as believers of Jesus are "the bride of Christ.")

Hosea 2:7-8, ESV
"She shall pursue her lovers
but not overtake them,
and she shall seek them
but shall not find them.
Then she shall say,
'I will go and return to my first husband,
for it was better for me then than now.'

"And she did not know
that it was I who gave her
the grain, the wine, and the oil,
and who lavished on her silver and gold,
which they used for Baal."

God was speaking to Israel through Hosea. You can almost hear the anguish in His words. He spoke of Israel chasing after other loves but eventually coming back to Him. The part that really grabbed me was the second of the two verses: 
"she did not know
that it was I who gave her
the grain, the wine, and the oil,
and who lavished on her silver and gold..."

Does that poke at you the way it does me? Do you see God's love and His heart at having bestowed blessing that was never identified by the receivers as from Him?

Now, I realize we may not be worshipping other gods or idols. But is God getting the attention as our first love? Do we come to Him first in our distress, our thankfulness, our excitement, our joy? Or is He our last resort?

If it's hard to understand what I mean, here are some examples:
  • That note of kindness or gift from a friend—Yes, we thank the giver, but do we remember who really sent that love to us? Who inspired that person to reach out?
  • That unexpected bonus or perk at work—So great we were acknowledged for our accomplishments and hard work, but Who really puts food on the table and opens the eyes of those who recognize what we do?
  • That understanding teacher in the wake of a struggle our child is having—Sure, we have worked to build relationship there, but do we control all responses to our concerns? Only God can orchestrate our lives on that level—whether or not we see it that way.
  • That healing in a relationship—We may have prayed for this and even taken steps toward it, but did we make it happen in both hearts?
My point isn't that we berate ourselves that we don't always stop to thank God. On the contrary, it's to start being more mindful of where these gifts and blessings come from. 

Likewise, when trouble brews in our hearts, there's nothing wrong with calling a friend, neighbor, parent, sibling, spouse, other dear one, but while they may have great advice and can temporarily soothe us, God desires to be the one we bring our anguished hearts to.

What did He say through Hosea to His people Israel (Ephraim) and Judah?

Hosea 6:4
"What shall I do with you, O Ephraim?
What shall I do with you, O Judah?
Your love is like a morning cloud,
like the dew that goes early away."

He was clearly frustrated with how fickle the love of His people was (and is).

His response to His own rhetorical question?

Hosea 6:6
"For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice,
the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings."

This week, I was praying, reading my Bible, and maintaining many spiritual disciplines to stay on track, and yet, I stopped looking up. What brought me back? The storm that sometimes rises within my soul after absorbing the mess of life—either my own or other people's—was somehow quieted as I heard my oldest child furiously tickling the piano keys with the crescendos and decrescendos so excellently timed within classical pieces. I feel like my heart was being expressed throughout the house, carrying on chords, staccato notes, and the madness of sixteenth notes flying around. (I will greatly miss this as he leaves for college in the Fall.)

And I thought about what God wants, what He so clearly and lovingly expressed in Hosea 10:12:

"Sow for yourselves righteousness;
reap steadfast love;
break up your fallow ground,
for it is the time to seek the LORD,
that he may come and rain righteousness upon you."

This verse was referencing Israel to stop sinning and come back to God, and while that is often us, it also reminds us of what God wants every day: to seek Him so He can come and rain righteousness upon us. 

How can we include Him more in our everyday so we walk in full blessing and peace? This is an area I'm committed to growing in because it bears tremendous fruit in my life when I do.

I end with some words of God through His faithful servant Hosea. They are God speaking His never-ending love to us. Let's listen and soak this in:

Hosea 12:6
"So you, by the help of your God, return,
hold fast to love and justice,
and wait continually for your God."

Hosea 13:4
"But I am the LORD your God
from the land of Egypt;
you know no God but me,
and besides me there is no savior."

Hosea 14:7-9
"They shall return and dwell beneath my shadow;
they shall flourish like the grain;
they shall blossom like the vine;
their fame shall be like the wine of Lebanon.

"O Ephraim, what have I to do with idols?
It is I who answer and look after you.
I am like an evergreen cypress;
from me comes your fruit.

"Whoever is wise, let him understand these things;
whoever is discerning, let him know them;
for the ways of the LORD are right,
and the upright walk in them,
but transgressors stumble in them."

Author Bonnie Lyn Smith writes about mental health advocacy, special education, faith in the valleys of life, drawing healthy boundaries, relational healing, renewing our minds, walking with a Holy God, and much ado about grace. Join the conversation at Espressos of Faith.

She is the author of Not Just on Sundays: Seeking God’s Purpose in Each New Day and the founder and editor-in-chief of Ground Truth Press, a book publishing company.

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