When they go with their flocks and herds to seek the LORD, they will not find him; he has withdrawn himself from them. (Hos 5:6 NIV)
The book of Leviticus provides extensive detail on the sacrificial system that was to be practiced by the Israelites. The issue that Hosea is dealing with is the result of turning Leviticus into a religious system based on transactions rather than relationship. It was easy to do because that’s how idol worship worked. If you wanted bountiful crops the priests would tell you what sacrifices to bring and which religious acts to perform. The fact that the priests got wealthy on the sacrifices and the people were encouraged to indulge in sexual promiscuity made it easy to pursue this approach. The fact that all this activity was totally disconnected from crop results didn’t seem to catch anyone’s attention. So, God became just one more god in a religious system full of gods. When this happened, God withdrew.
God hasn’t changed. Here’s what Paul says in Romans:
For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles. 24 Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. (Romans 1:21-24 NIV)
I think in the phrase “God gave them over” Paul is communicating the same thing as Hosea. When we do not acknowledge God, when we do not recognize and thank Him for all He provides, when we have no desire to have a relationship with Him, then He withdraws and lets us have our way. It is easy to look at the world around us and see this happening. What about those of us who identify ourselves as followers of Jesus? Jesus replaced the sacrificial system with His death on the cross, but what is our motivation for our spiritual activity? Are we really interested in knowing God better or are we simply attempting to please God so that He will bless us?
Sovereign Lord, please grow in us a desire to know you and trust you regardless of our circumstances. Continually remind us of your overwhelming love for us so our activity becomes a loving response to who you are and what you have already done. In Jesus Name, Amen.
For my grandchildren:
Never attempt to bargain with God to get your way.