The Grace of God

That Brings Salvation Has Appeared to All Men (Titus 2:11)

Return to the Lord

In the book of Hosea, the prophet was called to rebuke and warn Israel and Judah. Israel was such an adulterous people that Hosea was commanded to marry a whorish woman to demonstrate what it was like for God, married to people who “transgressed the covenant” in every conceivable way. The children of Hosea were given names that forecast the judgment of God on Israel–literally “no mercy” and “not my people”–for the mercy of God has a limit, and He will eventually cast off those whom He cannot reform by His many kindnesses.

Some of the charges against these people included:

Appreciating idols rather than God for daily provisions (2:5, 8 )
Forgetting God (2:13)
Forsaking truth, mercy, and knowledge of God (4:1)
Swearing, lying, killing, stealing, committing adultery, and breaking all restraint (4:2)
Having no respect for the priests (4:4)
Rejecting knowledge and forgetting God’s law (4:6)
Setting their hearts on iniquity and “eating up sin” (4:8)
Ceasing to obey the Lord (4:10)
Asking counsel from wrong sources (4:12)
Loving dishonor (4:18)
Not directing their deeds toward turning back to God (5:4)
Pride (5:5)
Begetting pagan children, not brought up in God’s ways (5:7)
Willingly walking by human precepts (5:11)

This list is what apostasy looks like.

It is possible to begin well, but fail to finish the race, both personally and corporately.

God commands His people to love Him first, to do what is right by His standards, and to teach their children His ways. But over time, even those who have tasted of the heavenly gift and seen His goodness can become hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. They can begin to forget God, spending more time in carnal pursuits and increasing worldly goods or other means of self-satisfaction. In fact, the more they increase, the more they sometimes sin (4:7). Little by little, they begin to ask counsel from the wrong places, rejecting the knowledge of God (which is always right) and replacing it with human precepts (which are generally wrong). Their judgment becomes skewed, as they no longer have the mind of Christ, but the carnal mind which is death. They begin to see their daily provisions as coming from their own labor or good luck, forgetting they can’t even breathe apart from the help of God.  If they do notice their own spiritual brokenness, they turn to other broken people for the cure (5:13), trying to get water from broken cisterns. Pride keeps them continuing on their way even when it becomes obvious they have made a wrong turn somewhere.  They don’t direct their deeds toward turning back to God, but instead make provision for their flesh, taking advantage of God’s patience. Worst of all, they continue to call themselves by God’s name, imagining that once in God’s favor means always in God’s favor. Unless there is repentance and change, whole generations of children are brought up in this apostasy; they are “pagan children” though they may deceive themselves to the contrary.  If they “accept Jesus,” He is only one of their many gods, not their only Lord and King.

A cursory look at American Christianity today reveals that we are in a state of apostasy as bad as Israel’s, and we too are in terrible danger of reaching the end of God’s mercy and being altogether disowned without recourse.

A bit closer to home, perhaps this scene of apostasy describes you. Perhaps you once knew God, knew His tender mercy and gracious forgiveness. Perhaps you felt your burden of sin roll away. Perhaps you experienced joy and peace for the first time. Maybe you even served the Lord with gladness for some years. But something hindered you in your walk. Maybe it was laziness.  Maybe there was some sin in your life you refused to give up. Maybe you grew discouraged because of persecution. Maybe you were lonely, and you began to seek counsel or companionship from “friends” who serve the devil. Maybe you began to seek after something–money, material goods, social advancement, romance, etc.–and this pursuit eclipsed your pursuit of the kingdom of God and His righteousness. Whatever the reason for your apostasy, there is only ONE THING TO DO. You must return to God. His threatenings apply to you just as much as to adulterous Israel, for these things were written for our learning. And yet, there is hope!

Listen to what the Lord said He would do to Israel (Ephraim) and Judah in hopes that some would yet be saved:

For I will be like a lion to Ephraim, and like a young lion to the house of Judah. I, even I, will tear them and go away; I will take them away, and no one shall rescue. I will return again to My place till they acknowledge their offense.   Then they will seek My face; in their affliction they will earnestly seek Me. (Hos. 5:14-15)

Faithful are the wounds of a friend! He who knit you together in your mother’s womb will tear you as a lion tears the prey, and go away, hiding Himself until you acknowledge your offense and earnestly seek Him again. The prophet tells us how to respond to this:

Come, and let us return to the LORD; for He has torn, but He will heal us; He has stricken, but He will bind us up.      After two days He will revive us; on the third day He will raise us up, that we may live in His sight. Let us know, Let us pursue the knowledge of the LORD. His going forth is established as the morning; He will come to us like the rain, like the latter and former rain to the earth.  (Hosea 6:1-3)

Are there any more precious promises than these?  David acknowledged that in faithfulness God had afflicted him, and that his affliction was good for him–for before he was afflicted, he went astray, but now he had learned to keep God’s Word. (Psa. 119: 67, 71, 75)  Come, and let us return to the Lord, for He has torn, but He will heal us; He has stricken, but He will bind us up. Leave off sloth and sin and the pride that drives you blindly along, storing up wrath as you go; acknowledge your offenses and seek mercy from the Lord.  He does not afflict you to no purpose, but for your healing!  Yes, when you die to your sins and your old way of life, He will raise even you up on the third day, that you may live again in His sight. He will not reject you if you will only return to Him. Just as the morning is faithful to arrive, so He will come to you like the rain and make your life fruitful again, if you only pursue the knowledge of the Lord. For He has no pleasure in the death of one who dies; therefore turn and live! (Eze. 18:32)

May God bless you!

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