I've been reading Hosea. Such a heart-wrenching story of a man/prophet, told by God to take a wife who he knew would be unfaithful. A symbol of the unfaithfulness of Israel in turning from God and 'prostituting' their faith and devotion.
As I walked through this story of testimony and prophecy... of condemnation and hope, I couldn't help but think of my own life and, on a grander scale, the effects of the world around me today.
This message in Hosea from God repeats and reflects all Scripture in calling out TRUE repentance from.the.heart.
until they acknowledge their guilt and seek my face and in their distress earnestly seek me.
- Hosea 5:15b
- Hosea 5:15b
God, through Hosea, draws out three points here:
- acknowledge guilt
- seek God's face
- earnestly seek God
1-Seek God's face is an intimate and personal approach to God. I will contrast this in a moment.
2-Earnestly seek God is more of an all around, looking to see God in everything, more general 'seek'. In this particular passage God, through Hosea, says to seek in their distress which could articulate, possibly, calling on God for help, guidance, comfort and so on.
To contrast these two, I think of it like this: when I talk or listen to someone I can do so in two ways: passively or engaged. When I am really engaged in talking or listening I seek the person's face. I look into their eyes to see if I can read their heart there, I scan their face to note creases in the brow or eyes which might indicate stress or concern. I may even look to their lips and cheeks to see how deeply they smile or frown. When I seek the face I am seeking deep meaning, to truly understand the heart behind the person and when I want to share something deep or personal, I seek the face in hopes of 'reading' their deep hearted response.... the words not spoken. In seeking face, I am engaged.
Conversely, to earnestly seek... is a more general statement. A somewhat passive approach in relationship. In this passage I see God switching from saying know me over to see me in all things and seek me in all things. It is really quite beautiful when considered.
But God doesn't leave it there. He goes on to say
For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.
They do not cry to me from the heart but they wail upon their beds...
God is desperate to hear our repentance not just the acts of faith, but the deep heart relationship of faith. Yes, first at salvation, but also each and every time we discover ourselves on the wrong track.
I recently found myself falling into a spirit of complacency and laziness... an area where I began to see the potential to also become complacent and lazy in my faith if I allowed myself. Thankful, God snapped me out... I heard His call to repentance and I did just that... I cried out to him acknowledging my guilt, I sought His face to know his desires for me and I began to more earnestly seek Him in all things in my life.
Don't get me wrong, I wasn't a heathen when I did this a few months ago (and every other time I have sought this route of deliverance to better things since salvation), and there is no such thing as the "perfect" Christian. But I recognized a heart that was meandering a little to close to the line... I saw where I could be and do more for God, to see his glory here, and I seized the moment to make it right.
God desires all of us, not just parts. He desires our best, not our least.
In Hosea, God is heartbroken. He wants to love his people. He wants to have them close. He wants their love in return. But they reject him. They prostitute their faith by giving themselves to other gods and indulgences in other things not of God. Finally, he warns, if you keep it up, I'm kicking you out. If you keep it up, I'm withdrawing from around you.
I will return again to my place...
And he holds to that promise as we know from Jeremiah and Daniel.
The beauty of it though?
And the Lord said to me, "Go again, love a woman who is loved by another man and is an adulteress, even as the Lord loves the children of Israel, though they turn to other gods and love cakes of raisins... [so Hosea goes and buys Gomer back] And I said to her, "You must dwell as mine for many days. You shall not play the whore or belong to another man; so will I also be to you."
Hosea 3:1 & 3
God will later send Jesus to buy us back because, truly, he loves us in spite of ourselves.
I fell so in love with the book of Hosea this week... even through chapter after chapter of the promise of destruction and dispersion... there is also entwined this plea for true deep-heart faith (not the motions of faith) and seeking God... this deep desire from God to be in a reciprocated relationship with His people. There is the promise of a savior nestled there too, something they couldn't have understood then, but I look back on it now and find my heart warmed knowing, in the midst of such despicable behavior, He still wants to 'buy' me back to be with him too. Talking about Amazing Grace!
I pray, where-ever you seek and find His face this week and earnestly seek His presence through all things and all places in your life.
As I read Hosea I also thought of the movie, Amazing Love staring Sean Astin, which intertwines the story of a youth group camping trip and the lesson of God's amazing love through Hosea. I highly recommend it!