A Tale of Holy Love, Unfaithfulness, Justice, Mercy, and Grace
Over and over, Hosea repeats the same theme: Israel has broken the covenant, therefore, judgment is coming. It’s the same message, but voiced in different ways. Throughout our journey through this amazing book, we found various reasons why God had a contention with His beloved people. Now, as we enter chapter ten, we find yet another reason for God’s impending judgment.
“They utter mere words; with empty oaths they make covenants; so judgment springs up like poisonous weeds in the furrows of the field.”
Does this verse sound familiar? It should! Jesus quoted a verse very similar to this from the prophet Isaiah: “‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me…’” (Matt. 15:8) So lip service seems to be a common issue among the Israelite people.
In Hosea’s day, the people were quick to voice confessions and utter the correct words, but their hearts and lives did not line up with what they said. They made promises and oaths but they did not follow through on them. Their words were empty and did not carry truth or reliability. One moment they would be in the temple making promises and doing acts of godliness, but the next they would be out on the threshing floors getting drunk and committing perverse acts. They knew how to say the right words, but did not have the backbone or conviction to live them out. In short, their walk did not match their talk.
But God saw right through their pretenses and knew that in truth, they were insincere in their devotion to Him. It was merely an act, an outward semblance of godliness, and vain lip service. So God brought judgment upon them for their divided heart and deceptive act, for He hates mere lip service and desires sincere, heart worship.
After over seventy years in captivity and away from the Promised Land, you would think that Israel would have learned its lesson. But no, lip service was still happening in Jesus’ day. So if this was a recurring problem for Israel, do we think that we will be exempt from the same struggle?
No, we are not free from this struggle. Now, more than ever, it is easy to fall into the snare of lip service. It is easy to speak all the right words, use Christian jargon, be the “good” kid by not doing any of the bad stuff, go to church, sing worship songs, speak eloquent prayers, and fool our Christian friends and peers, but have a wayward heart. It is easy to spout words of godliness but not live them. It is easy to talk the talk, but not walk the walk.
So let us ask ourselves, are we guilty of offering mere lip service to our Lord and Savior? Do we say the “right” things but not live the life that supports them? Do we know how to act and talk like a Christian so well that others believe we are, but still live for ourselves and our own desires in secret? Do we say things and talk one way on Sunday, but use completely different language the rest of the week? In short, does our walk match our talk?
Just as God saw through Israel’s act during the days of Hosea, so also He sees through our measly attempts to talk like a Christian but not live like one. A divided and insincere heart is something that God hates and brings swift judgment upon. So let us beware, let us be warned, and let us learn from Israel that mere lip service does not work and is not pleasing to our Creator, Master, and Almighty God.
“Their heart is false; now they must bear their guilt.”