Israel’s False Hopes
Open Your Bible
Hosea 7:3-16, Hosea 8:1-14, Romans 9:22-24, Galatians 6:6-10
In my early twenties, I was prescribed an intense form of medication to try and manage skin issues. It was something of a last ditch effort. No matter how many topical products I tried, or how many times I went off dairy, my skin would just not clear up. I was over it. Super over it. I was self-conscious and weary of searching for just the right foundation color to help disguise this rebellious skin that was stealing my peace at night.
After discovering this new medicine, I was ecstatic at the prospect of change. Finally! I thought. The solution I’ve been waiting for. Well, the short version of a long story is it didn’t help. My spirit was crushed because I’d put my hope in something that didn’t deliver, despite its professional claims.
Israel also had some false hopes. Looking at Hosea 8, we see the Israelites’ desire for God to accept their religious practices and cries for help, even though they didn’t come from the heart. They offer sacrifices in hopes that God would accept them (v.13). They appoint leaders and build palaces in the hope of protection and victory (vv.4,14). They hope to please God even though they have rebelled against Him (v.1). But, instead, all of these outward acts lead to judgment and destruction because they are just that—acts.
God is after something entirely different. He’s after our hearts.
“My God, we know you!” they claim (v.2). But did they? What the people of Israel think is a mutually pleasing relationship appears to be only empty knowledge on their part. Without truly knowing God, they are left with empty actions and rituals instead of a genuine relationship.
The second to last line in today’s reading is a devastating one. We are told that “Israel has forgotten his Maker” (v.14). It’s easy to read stories about people who go through the motions, forget about God, and become frustrated. I want to shake my fist at these stanzas of poetry and say, “What were you thinking? How can you not see this coming?” But then I remember my own forgetfulness, rebellion, and propensity to place my hope in other things. Empty, outward things that will not deliver.
It is impossible to flourish if we have forgotten our Maker. When we read the book of Hosea, let’s see their tragedy as an invitation. We aren’t left without guidance. As believers, we aren’t ignorant of where our hope lies, just as the Israelites weren’t if they would have only remembered. Scripture helps us understand the nature of our hope, which is always planted in the soil of God’s faithfulness and love. This is a true, assured kind of hope, one that we can count on.