One day when I was little, I was inside because it was raining. I was mopey about that since I really wanted to be outside. Instead, I was inside playing with my Legos while mom was ironing clothes. At one point, mom had to leave to get something in the kitchen. So, she placed the iron on that rack at the end of the ironing board and she told me: “This is hot,” meaning the iron. “Don’t touch it.” In my dating advice to my daughters, I often tell them “Boys are stupid.” I was [am] no exception. Mom left and I had doubts about her warning. So, when she was gone, I reached up with my little finger and touched the bottom of the iron. It was hot! I yelped and when mom saw me holding my burned finger she said: “I told you it was hot,” and continued ironing – after she got me some ice in a paper towel to cool my finger.
I doubted my mother’s advice and suffered the consequences, but the consequences made me repent of my ways and heed my mom’s advice.
Sometimes God has to turn up the consequences to get us back to Himself. In the book of Hosea, the tribe of Ephraim had been engaged in sinful activity, but like us, Ephraim thought it was covered. They looked good. They appeared compliant, but God said to them: “I know Ephraim, and Israel is not [hidden] from me,” meaning, “You might have others fooled. You might even have yourself fooled, but you don’t have Me fooled.”
Ephraim had committed spiritual adultery by going after other gods. In their worship of other gods, they had committed some pretty heinous acts. We all become like the thing we worship.
The LORD said of them: “They will not frame their doings to turn unto their God” (Hosea 5:4a). In other words, they were unrepentant and blatant about it. When God began to chastise them, instead of turning to the Lord, they “went to the Assyrian, and sent to king Jareb” (Hosea 5:13). The odd thing about our heart is that when we allow it to go astray, we turn to the things and the people that can bring us the most harm thinking that they can help us. Addicts do this all the time. It’s easier to get the next fix than it is to break the habit and so for help, they turn to the ones who can facilitate their habit and reject those who can truly help them. Sometimes it takes aggressive intervention to rescue someone like that.
That is what God finally decided to do in the case of Ephraim:
For I will be unto Ephraim as a lion, and as a young lion to the house of Judah: I, even I, will tear and go away; I will take away, and none shall rescue him. (Hosea 5:14)
Because they would not respond correctly to His chastisement, God was going to be as a lion against the house of Ephraim and tear things up. There’s no gentle way to do that. Hebrews 10:31 tells us, “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” If He has set Himself in battle against you, there is no remedy except full surrender. That is what God is after whenever He must chastise us. Even with Ephraim, as sinful as it was, God’s goal was not their destruction, but their reconciliation. Hosea chapter five ends with God’s desire for Ephraim: “In their affliction they will seek me early.” “Early” isn’t just a reference to a time of day. It’s also indicative of priority. In its sin, Ephraim had put God entirely off the list. By afflicting them, God’s hope was that they would see the futility of their rebellion and put God at the center of their priorities. God wants us to seek Him early and first.
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