A Tale of Holy Love, Unfaithfulness, Justice, Mercy, and Grace
God loves to shower blessings and good gifts upon His beloved children. However, sometimes we, as fallen man, love and worship the gifts rather than the Giver. When this begins to happen, God’s heart is very grieved and out of His love, He begins to discipline us—which often begins with deprivation.
“And I said to her, ‘You must dwell as mine for many days. You shall not play the whore, or belong to another man; so will I also be to you.’ For the children of Israel shall dwell many days without king or prince, without sacrifice or pillar, without ephod or household gods.”
Deprivation. Taken from its root deprive, this word means to take away, withhold, be without, have not. Nobody likes being deprived of anything. We much prefer instant gratification, especially living in our pleasure seeking culture. However, often times God sees areas of weakness and idolatry that we either don’t see or refuse to acknowledge and therefore, in His great love, He decides to take away the thing(s) we’re pursuing. He doesn’t take these things away out of spite or sadistic pleasure, but because He has our best interest in mind.
This is what happened to Israel during her period of judgment and separation from God, and was the strategy that Hosea used after redeeming Gomer. He didn’t want his wayward wife to merely say “Hey, thanks for rescuing me out of that terrible situation! But I think I can take it from here. So see you!” and then return to the lifestyle that got her into that mess in the first place. No, Hosea’s redemption was a onetime deal and was meant to be final. Gomer wasn’t to go back into prostitution, but she needed to dwell and stay with Hosea. She was deprived of the pleasure she once sought, because that desire was not good or healthy for her, and she couldn’t see that. So Hosea had to put his foot down, lay down some ground rules, and take away the things she most desired. However, even though Gomer had to live without what she loved most, in the end she gained so much more.
Likewise, God often withholds things from us and deprives us of what our hearts desire most. Sometimes it's because those desires are for wrong things, but other times they might be good, beautiful things, and we can’t understand why God—our good Father—would withhold them from us. We ask “Why?”, struggle with doubt and anger, or become depressed and discontent. But during these times we don’t often consider that maybe it’s not the right time in our lives or maybe He knows that should we get it, we would begin to love and worship it over Him.
God doesn’t withhold good things from us because He’s angry and wants to harshly teach us a lesson, but rather it shows His deep love for us—that He would be willing to discipline us with deprivation even though we often become angry and resentful towards Him. As people living in a nation that has everything, we often begin to love and cherish the gifts rather than the Giver. The blessings, luxuries, and possessions we enjoy as a direct result of God’s generosity gradually become more important and necessary than the One who gave them. We become possessive, prosperity driven, and cultivate a mindset and heart attitude of entitlement.
This is where Israel was during Hosea’s day and what led the nation into a state of idolatry and spiritual adultery. And what did God do? He stripped away all that they desired and idolized. He made them live without the traditions, rituals, and habits that gave them security. He brought them to a place of deprivation.
And when necessary, God does the same thing with us. When our wayward hearts begin to love the world and the things in the world, only deprivation can show us our misplaced affections.
Therefore, God withholds. He deprives us of our heart’s desire. He makes us live without.
However, the entire purpose and goal is to make us realize that He is all we need, that things don’t matter, and that if we have God, we cannot truly claim to be deprived of anything.
Are these some lessons God is trying to teach you? Is there some deep longing that God has not fulfilled? Are you deprived of one of your greatest joys and pleasures? Do you think it may be because they have become idols in your life? Is your heart soft and open to God’s training or is it hard and angry because you are not getting what you want?
Just as the purpose of depriving Israel was to bring them back, so also God’s denial of our every want and desire is meant to test and reveal our love—or lack thereof—for Him and Him alone. But just as all of God’s disciplinary actions are merely for a season, so also our season of deprivation doesn’t have to last forever. We just need to take heed to the instruction God is trying to teach us and surrender to the work that He wants to do in our hearts. If we do this, then we can join the testimony of Israel who, after their period of deprivation, returned to the fear of the LORD and to His goodness, mercy, and love that has been from of old.
“Afterward the children of Israel shall return and seek the LORD their God, and David their king, and they shall come in fear to the LORD and to his goodness in the latter days.”