If you have read through the Old Testament of the Bible, you will find fickle people, just like me. But, you will also find a very present and faithful God--a God of mercy, justice...and faithfulness. I am so thankful for God's faithfulness because, as I said yesterday, there is absolutely nothing I have done to deserve it. God's character is always perfect, even with very imperfect children. My sweet daughter-in-law, Jessica*, summarized this so well when she shared with me some musings after studying through the book of Hosea...
I’m no good with history. It’s hard for me to remember a lot of what I read in the Bible because it is contextual. The Bible is sweet in that way, it’s always connecting back to itself. But, it makes it exceedingly difficult with little scriptural knowledge to understand the sweetness of the words. I find myself especially lost in the Old Testament. I’m not sure when any of this happened, who all the people involved are, who is important for me to know and who can I forget, what the cultural implications for this scripture is, and what I’m supposed to do with it now.
I want to challenge myself to process more of the scripture I read. It’s a lot of the in one ear out the other most times when I read. So this is what I learned from the book of Hosea, through a women’s discipleship group in the fall of 2016. Initially we see a story about a man named Hosea who was directed by God to marry a woman who would be unfaithful to him. It’s hard for me to get my mind around God telling Hosea that he’s walking into an unsuccessful situation and equally as mind numbing that Hosea was obedient. Hosea goes out and marries Gomer. Soon after their marriage begins she sleeps with other men. Hosea continues to provide for Gomer and she goes on with these other men, even giving them credit for the many blessings in her life. She thanks them for providing things like food, shelter, and provision when actually it was Hosea who was doing the work. Hosea is told to reconcile with his wife and to bring her back to himself. He does so and they make a new covenant with each other.
The story of Hosea and his wife ends near the beginning of the book. The story transitions from one about the marriage of Hosea and Gomer and focuses on the marriage between God and Israel. God was faithful to bring the Israelites out of slavery and Egypt. When they were saved they quickly gave the credit that was due to God to the things made by their hands. They worshiped idols instead of God. The Israelites fall into a vicious cycle where they go back to God again and again, and they fall away from him again and again. Their hearts are not sincere when they repent and ask for forgiveness and worship.
I find it easy to judge the Israelites. The worship they were taking from God was so obvious. Our misguided worship now is much easier to hide. I may not have a golden calf sitting in the center of my house, but I do give my worship to other undeserving things. My heart is filled with desires to cook the perfect meal, have an organized house, and feeling “put together” as I leave the house. Just as quick as they repent they go back to sinning, but isn’t my heart the same? I repent, I tell God that I’m truly sorry, but I keep on sinning. I repent of binge watching TV instead of spending time in the word and I turn the TV back on. I feel disappointment when the meal I prepared isn’t as satisfying as I wanted it to be. I keep on choosing myself, my desires, and my flesh over the God who saved my soul from eternal separation from Himself.
I saw my heart with clarity as I read Hosea, especially near the end of the narrative I found myself saying “enough already! God stop!” God is rightly punishing the Israelites for their disobedience and unfaithfulness. But I was done with the wrath and ready for the mercy. I was ready for the God I knew and loved to show up. God was always faithful to them, even when He was executing His wrath on them. This is because His faithfulness is always first to Himself and then to His people.
Am I compartmentalizing God? Am I dealing with and pushing through His wrath and unsavory characteristics to have the love, grace, and mercy for myself? Am I putting myself and my judgment ahead of God? I think the answer is yes. I am thankful that through the book of Hosea I was reminded about my sinfulness and rebellion every day. But I am most blessed to be able to know, understand, and love more about the character of God.
Great is Thy faithfulness! Great is Thy faithfulness!
Morning by morning new mercies I see;
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided—
Great is Thy faithfulness,” Lord, unto me!
*I'm also so thankful for Jessica...such a sweet sweet gift to us!