Often when we refer to God as a “personal God,” we have in mind our own “persons,” the fact that we can know, relate to, and fellowship with Him. In other words, the Word of God teaches that God is not the creation of human imagination, nor merely a force. He is a living Being with a personality, a mind, and a will. What it is easy to forget or ignore is the fact that such a God takes “personally” our attitude toward Him, our interchanges (both positive and negative) with Him, and our responses (obedience or disobedience) to Him. In the seventh chapter of Hosea, God pronounces woe upon His people Israel in a very “personal” way for their neglect of and disrespect for Him. We can learn a valuable lesson from this example.
1. “They have fled [“strayed”] from me” (v. 13). The Lord both welcomes and insists upon a close relationship with His people. From God’s perspective, when we neglect a scriptural precept, we are not merely ignoring a moral principle, we are forsaking Him personally.
2. “They have transgressed [“rebelled”] against me” (v. 13). When we break a civil law, we have rebelled against a faceless government. We have transgressed against legal authority, but no individual has been offended. However, when we disobey the Word of God, we offend God’s personal holiness and have transgressed against His holy character.
3. “They have spoken lies against me” (v. 13). Rather than repenting of the sin that had brought God’s judgment upon them, Israel sought Egypt’s help against Assyria and Assyria’s help against Egypt. In effect, they declared that God could not and would not redeem them. These were more or less direct lies against the character of God. But the reality is that God views any untruth ultimately as an attack against Him who is Truth.
4. “They have not cried unto me with their heart” (v. 14). The remainder of the clause is dramatic: “when they howled upon their beds.” Blaming, criticizing, complaining, sighing, moaning, and crying may be expressions of distress, but they are not prayers addressed to God from a sanctified heart. We must address the Lord—even in times of dire need—with reverence and thankfulness. God does not acknowledge the prayers of the wicked.
5. “They rebel against me” (v. 14). The Lord prefaces this clause with the observation that “they assemble themselves for corn and wine.” God knows our hearts. He knows whether our religious assemblies are intended for the sole purpose of meeting our needs and satisfying our desires or if they are truly times of worship. God views self-seeking in the name of religion as rebellion against Him.
6. “They imagine mischief [“devise evil”] against me” (v. 15). The Lord had just said that He has “bound and strengthened their arms.” In other words, He has both shown them where their strength is and has also imbued them with power. Yet, rather than turning to Him and submitting to Him, they have gone their own way. God views those who follow their own will to the denial of His as devising evil against Him. Failure to submit to His Word personally affronts God.
7. “They return, but not to the most High” (v. 16). In their distress, Israel turned in every direction for deliverance, except upward. They sought every sort of human help, but they rejected divine help. As offended as God might be by our sin, the greatest failure is refusing to turn to Him in humility and repentance that He might forgive our sin and deliver us from bondage and distress.
A recognition that God is a personal God who loves us but takes personal offense at our sin will go a long way toward prompting us to stay on the straight and narrow way. Sin is not a violation of a staid principle; it is an offense against our Personal Savior. May we be careful to hallow Him.
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