I have moments where I will smile, shake my head, even roll my eyes with a chuckle, as I reflect on my old life, when I was living without a thought of God in it. Not surprisingly, and due to my ignorance and rebellion back in the day, there were many situations that, had it not been for the hand of God interceding, I would probably be dead. I was always slow to learn and even slower to recognize that God was, and still is, in control, despite my dangerous decisions and activities. And because He has plans for me, there was nothing I could have done that would ever thwart His plans! I’ve come to accept that I didn’t have a lot of wisdom flowing through my brain cells, nor was sound discernment involved in many of my decisions. I chased after my own gods, idols, desires; to do what I wanted in life. I thought I was a god.
“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.“
This Scripture verse is the last in the book of Hosea, chapter 14 verse 9. I start here because it speaks of two paths we all have the choice to venture down: God’s way or our way. Unfortunately, most people who read the book of Hosea never get past the storyline regarding his marriage to his God-given, yet wayward, wife. Beyond the marriage issues lie the important message that is in the heart of this great book of warning. And because some people will assume it to be directed only to a certain people of a certain time, the bulk of the chapters (4-14) often get overlooked. But the message has great application to the church today. And since our Savior Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever, it is imperative that we understand how the warnings should impact our lives in this day and age.
Hosea is filled with warnings to the Israelites (using his own marriage as an example) that they have committed spiritual adultery against the Lord God. They have chased after other gods and have become idolaters instead of worshipping the one true God. The prophet spent about 45 years preaching this message to a stiff-necked peoples who wanted to live life their way. (Sound familiar?) If it wasn’t for the amazing love and mercy of God, they would have been vanquished from His sight forever. Yet, despite their unfaithfulness, God is always faithful. Despite their lack of love towards God, God still loves them.
To understand the reasons of God’s anger because of their violations, we need to review the first three Commandments, or Laws, that God has given to mankind. Exodus chapter 20 covers them:
1- “You shall have no other gods before me.”
2- “You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.”
3- “You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain.”
In respect to the beginning storyline of Hosea and his “extracurricular” wife (chapter 1:1-9, chapter 3:1-5), I will throw in the seventh Commandment from God: “You shall not commit adultery.” -Exodus 20:14
Without overstating the obvious, we can clearly see that our God is a jealous God. “You shall have NO other gods.” In clarifying terms; any religious activity focused on someone or something outside of the God of the Bible is clearly a violation of His Commandments. There is not a lawyer or judge that could double-speak any other interpretation based on God’s decrees. So, with that said, it is clear why God is justified in His anger. Whether you call it spiritual adultery, spiritual idolatry, or spiritual apostasy, it is a sin against the Holy God. But this is not just an issue that Hosea was facing during the Old Testament writing, it is also an issue of today’s church. We are living and acting no different today than the Israelites were back then!
The book of Hosea’s warnings are applicable to the people of God as a collective, yet also have deep relevance to individuals as well. If you and I were to stop for a moment, to truly and honestly reflect on our life; all our thoughts, our lifestyles, our focus, our priorities, our inner desires, our goals…we would see that we have been living a spiritually adulterous life. We fill time, effort, and energy on temporal things far more than we do spiritual. Jesus warned us that we are to store up our treasures in heaven, not on earth. He also said that “where your treasure is, there your heart will also be.” (Matthew 6:19-21) If our heart’s desire is on the things of this world more than God, then perhaps our passions are skewed.
The number of idols, or gods, that people worship in their daily life are far more than we might think. For some, it could be the drive for great success at work. Some might put emphasis on chasing after money and prosperity. Some might place their highest importance on appearances. Some might seek fleshly pleasures, while yet others may be seeking to fulfill inward emotional needs. Some seek praise and popularity. Some cherish other people more than they do God. And some will chase dreams of fame. But regardless of where they are focusing their heart’s desires, they all want it according to their will, their way, their timing, their effort. And all the while they are placing God on the back burner of their lives. What is most sad about these people, those who are busy in their daily idol worship, is that they are usually the people who claim to be church-attending, Bible-believing, Christians. And while there is nothing wrong with working hard, making an income, taking care of others, and having a respectable image, what matters is their source: God or self.
If we truly understand God, how He explicitly time and time again warns people through His Word to stay clear of idols, that we are to be on our guard against them, and to not even mention the name of other gods (Exodus 23:13), we would be more conscientious regarding the things we place as important. Even within the walls of the church throughout history, priority has been misplaced on things like status, buildings, mannerisms, and even material objects…so much more than the truth of God. And despite what you would think about the church today, idolatry is still a very prevalent problem. When non-believers struggle to see the difference between the world and the church, you have rampant idolatry happening.
Psalm 106:35-36 points out the issue; how the church has diminished their worship of God, “but mingled themselves with the nations, and learned their works, and served their idols, which became a snare unto them.” And in 1 Corinthians 10:21-22, Paul warns that “You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons. You cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons. Shall we provoke the Lord to jealousy? Are we stronger than He?”
So how do we respond to this? Have you chosen this day whom you will serve? Do you cherish with lust the material things of this world or do you place importance on fulfilling the desires of God? Do you focus on pleasing others by your outward appearance or focus on how to present yourself before the living God? Do the things of this world take precedence before your walk with God? Has television, media, social media, computers, phones, tablets, games, become gods to you? Even many of the spiritual leaders (false teachers) of today have become so engrossed with garnering worldly idols that they even invent ways to obtain more through their misguided followers. The multitude of idols are there, all aiming to fulfill you with immediate gratification. And all of these idols are what people use to replace God and His Word as the sole want and desire in life.
Gomer was given to Hosea by God to be his wife. Yet, she wanted something else. Her selfishness was a higher priority over God’s ways. And when she went out to fulfill that desire, it fueled her pride and made chasing after her lusts irresistible. Don’t we all have that at times? Where we crave something that might be outside of God’s will? Something that we might place as high priority, even though we know it goes against God and our duties to Him? And though we might have a momentary bit of success that gives us a boost in our ego and we feel accomplished, the insatiable desire never subsides. We just want more. Thus, our downward spiral to idolatry.
As I mentioned before, God’s plans for our lives will never be altered; even by our waywardness and sinful passions. Yet, when we chase after our own wants and needs, we are literally committing spiritual adultery. We are prostituting ourselves out to the highest bidder, as it were, so that we can get what we want, when we want it. Our pride then closes our ears to the Word of God and fills us up like poison…leading us slowly away from the true joy and peace that only God through Christ Jesus can provide.
I like to compare this overriding pride to driving a car in traffic. When I drive, I do it in a certain manner on the various roadways. Yet when others around me don’t drive at the speed or fashion I want, I find my impatience growing and my attitude toward them becoming hostile. I flair up with frustration that they are impeding my way! I plan on driving at such-and-such speed, yet the person in front of me is going slower than what I want. What’s really happening is my personal pride and demand for things my way are being challenged. We have this very same attitude with God and His Word! His ways are not our ways, yet we want things our way! And with that, we become hostile toward God, ignoring His Word, and ending up being a prodigal chasing after our own gods.
Can you imagine the heart of God as He watches the people that He not only created, but also loves with an everlasting love; continually turning their backs on Him and chasing after statues and false gods and lusts of the flesh? And though His love transcends the understanding of man, He still wants our complete and full love and adoration and obedience. We are created to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. His love is unfailing. Yet, we fail Him by turning our devotion to things created instead of the Creator. In Romans chapter one, it says that “…they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.” That is what the fallen do. That is what the unbelievers do. But, sadly, that is also what many professing believers do…worship any and every thing other than our Lord God.
God shows us by examples throughout the Old Testament that He is the only true God, a patient God, and yet a jealous God. God’s love and patience is beyond understanding, yet it also has limits. There has been in the past, and will occur in the future, God unleashing His wrath on the wicked and unrepentant. The Israelites learned this time and time again. Look at how many times they were punished and lost favor with God for their sinful rebellions and idol worshipping! How many of God’s people were destroyed eternally because of their impenitent hearts? But for the people who repent of their pride, their waywardness, their selfish desires, He welcomes them back! Those who turned away from idols and ceased worshipping other gods were granted forgiveness!
And we also see this very love from God in the New Testament. That God manifested Himself in His Son Jesus to come and bring His elect a way of salvation from the coming wrath, by paying the penalty for our sins on the cross, so that whosoever believes in Him and repents of their sins (turning away from them), and puts their faith in Him, will be forgiven! When Christ rose from the grave, he defeated the last enemy, death, so that we, who have received His mercy of forgiveness, will have eternal life with Him! We worship God alone through Christ Jesus alone by the power of the Holy Spirit. We shall have NO other gods before Him.
God is mercy and His grace is given to those who put away their idols and follow Him. It says in the Scriptures that He calls you back if you will “Only acknowledge your guilt, that you rebelled against the LORD your God and scattered your favors among foreigners under every green tree, and that you have not obeyed my voice, declares the LORD. Return, O faithless children, declares the LORD; for I am your master; I will take you, one from a city and two from a family, and I will bring you to Zion.” -Jeremiah 3:13-14
I can attest that I have had my attention distracted by wants and desires very easily at times. I end up taking my focus off of the prize, the goal set before me (Philippians 3:14). It’s a daily struggle. I doubt anyone can say that they don’t encounter this in their lives from time to time. But it’s when we find or create idols that consume our priorities, when we put our hope, trust, and faith in them, it’s then that we lose out on precious fellowship with the Lord. It’s worshiping these other gods that create an emptiness in our spirit and causes God to become angry. A. W. Pink said “So long as we are occupied with any other object than God Himself, there will be neither rest for the heart nor peace for the mind.” This is a war that we must fight to win, because our souls, and perhaps the souls of others, depend on it!
Our only solution is keeping God as our only God (first Commandment) and by keeping the Word of God in our hearts and minds by daily meditating on it (Psalm 119:9-11, 2 Timothy 3:16-17), and continually asking God’s Spirit for leading (1 Thessalonians 5:17), so that we can overcome this world and be ready for the glory of the next!
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” -Hebrews 12:1-2
If we are wise and discerning, we know that the Lord’s ways are perfect when compared to our ways. Because his plans will not be ruined, we should walk in His ways, upright, not stumbling about as the lost are in this lost world. Hosea paid the full price to restore his bride back to himself. God paid the full price for the penalty of our sins through Jesus to restore us to Himself.
Our sign of true faith is our obedience, keeping His Word, and worshipping the one true God. We shall have no other gods or idols. Instead of worshipping ourselves, submit to God and “present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” -Romans 12:1
By this, we shall revere and honor and obey the True and Living God!