Usually leading up to Easter I try to read the timeline leading up to Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection. This year, however, the study I’m doing through Proverbs 31’s First5 App is in Hosea. Far away from the Passion Week and Good Friday, and yet I’ve realized in the past two days, from chapters 11 & 13, that Hosea is a great book to prepare one’s heart for Easter.
Hosea 11 hit me right in the heart. It’s a very climactic, exciting chapter. It builds up with God saying how much He loves Israel, how He raised Israel, saved Him out of Egypt, “I led Israel along with my ropes of kindness and love, I lifted the yoke from his neck and I myself stooped to feed him” (v4). But despite God’s love and care for them, the people chose false gods and worshiped them. They gave in to the human flesh and chose to live as the world and not God’s children. So God in His love had to punish them, He allowed the consequences of their actions to unfold. Because any good parent will discipline their children,
“Those who spare the rod of discipline hate their children. Those who love their children care enough to discipline them.” Proverbs 13:24
“Think about it: Just as a parent disciplines a child the Lord your God disciplines you for your own good.” Deuteronomy 8:5
But all the consequences didn’t change God’s love for His people. He doesn’t fathom how He could destroy them like He had others for disobeying His commands, these were His chosen people, they once followed and loved Him back, but now they hated Him by worshiping other gods.
“My heart is torn within me and my compassion overflows. No, I will not unleash my fierce anger. I will not completely destroy Israel…” Hosea 11:8c-9a
It gives me chills. It stuns me and makes me pause in wonder and reverence to the God I serve. I picture Him pacing back and forth, crying maybe, in such heartbreak because His people’s actions have hurt Him, their rejection hurts Him, our rejection hurts Him. Yet, He still loved them, and He still loves us. That’s a powerful love.
Now, we’re reaching the climax of the chapter…
“…for I am God and not a mere mortal. I am the Holy One living among you and I will not come to destroy. For someday my people will follow me. I the Lord will roar like a lion. And when I roar my people will return trembling from the west.” Hosea 11:9b-10.
Mere mortals would give into their anger, they’d destroy anyone who treated them as the Israelites treated God. But He’s beyond our ways, His ways are higher than ours and His mercy is indescribable. The fact that His wrath is as powerful as His love is hard to grasp. His righteousness is pure, which is why He was able to take on our sin as Jesus Christ the Son of God.
When He says “I am the Holy One living among you, and I will not come to destroy”, 9b. I have to wonder if it’s foreshadowing Jesus. Jesus lived among the people and He didn’t come to destroy but to give life (John 10:10).
It’s Passion Week and this insight of God’s great love over His great wrath is a perfect reminder of what Jesus did at the end of the week all those years ago. The whole reason Jesus came to earth was to make a way for His people to come back. Despite their sins, (despite our sins), God came in like a lamb and roared out as a lion when He conquered death and called His people back to Him. Cause once sin and death were overcome by His righteousness, He tore down the barrier between us and the Father, and we were given access to our Maker once more and for all time.
This chapter leaves me in awe and really just stunned at the great love the Lord my God has shown. I mess up and get distracted by idols I create, and yet He is always focused on me and His mercy is truly mesmerizing.
We are mirror images how the Israelites acted, going away from God then back to Him when we realize the world really can’t offer us what we need. We need Jesus.
“I have been the LORD your God ever since I brought you out of Egypt. You must acknowledge no God but me, for there is no other savior.” Hosea 13:4
He is our only savior. there’s no true peace, there’s no victory apart from Him. He alone saves us and takes care of us in our wildernesses. He alone is the water that gets us through times we find ourselves in the desert. But O that we would always be in deserts and wildernesses if that’s what it takes to keep our eyes on Him alone.
I find myself acting like the Israelites, turning to Him when I’m in a valley, but forgetting Him when I’m on a mountaintop. It’s easier to see our need for Him in the hard times when we’re dealing with heartache and strife. When we don’t know where else to turn we turn to Him, we remember what He’s done for us, who He is to us.
He’s our savior.
He’s our creator.
He’s our sustainer.
It’s during the good times we forget, instead of constantly reminding ourselves how we got to the mountaintop in the first place. We get a false sense of security “But when you’d eaten and were satisfied you became proud and forgot me” (13:6). We put security in our little mountaintop view with its beauty and feeling of success. But then our mountain crumbles and we realize it gave us no real security, no safety, it was hollow, a façade of true joy. Because our true joy comes from God.
He’s the One who brings us to mountaintops to see and proclaim His glory.
When we’re on the mountain we’re supposed to praise Him even more because He got us out of the valley. It’s often stressed we should use our valley stories to share Christ, but I believe we’re to use mountaintop experiences as well. This will help us not forget who did it all, who saved us out of the valley, who gave us water in the desert, and strength to reach the top of the mountain.
But we mess things up, mix up priorities and reality, just like the Israelites. They put their fear and desire to be like other nations before their faith in their true King and they began to praise their kings, leaders, and false gods for their successes. They got what they asked for when they begged for a king, a host of problems. Their kings and leaders eventually failed them, their mountains came down upon them.
“Should I ransom them from the grave? Should I redeem them from death?” (v14).
At this point, God was going to allow His people to suffer the consequence of their sins because they weren’t turning back to Him. But Paul uses this verse in 1 Corinthians to tell us, because of God’s love and mercy death does not have victory over us. Jesus, God, our Only Savior took the payment and saved us from destruction.
“Death is swallowed up in victory. O death where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” 1 Corinthians 15:5
Our sin is like the Israelites, God has dealt with it since Adam and Eve. He knew we’d never get better on our own so He sent His Son to bring us healing.
“But He was pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our sin. He was beaten so we could be healed. All of us, like sheep, have gone astray. We have left God’s paths to follow our own. Yet the Lord laid on Him the sins of us all.” Isaiah 53:5-6
….” By His wounds, we are healed.” 1 Peter 2:24
There’s No Logic in the Cross
This Easter I’m reminded of my great sin, my constant falling short of His glory, and forgetting He’s the reason I can face tomorrow.
I am also reminded of His great love and mercy despite my sin, despite my following other paths, despite myself… He loves me. He died for me, He died for EVERYONE. One just has to allow God to free them from the chains of sin. He could’ve destroyed us. He had every right. The youth pastor at my church posed a great question to the teens last week. He said everyone asks if God is just then why does He allow so many bad things to happen, but the better question to ask is ‘if God is just than why does He save us’? There’s no logic to the cross, Jesus the Son of God, dying for our sins, God Himself hung on a cross and became tainted by sin, all for a people who put Him on the cross to begin with, for a people who rejected Him in the past and would continue to do so into the future. He died for a world who hated Him. Who hates Him and tries to quiet Him still to this day.
There’s no logic in that.
There’s just love.