Does God ever abandon His children? Does He ever see their continued sin and say “Enough!”? If so, how can a loving and forgiving God do such a thing?
“I will return again to my place, until they acknowledge their guilt and seek my face, and in their distress earnestly seek me.”
While it may appear from this verse that God had abandoned His children, the truth is that Israel had gone too far in her sin and spurned God’s presence. So far in Hosea, we’ve seen how Israel has committed spiritual adultery, formed alliances with heathen nations, and loved raisin cakes over the God of her fathers. Though God had made many advances and attempts to convince this wayward people to return, Israel had refused.
Enough is enough. There is only so much one person can do. It takes two people to build a relationship, and Israel was unwilling to recommit. So God turned His face. He left Israel and went back to His dwelling place in glory.
Remember, God’s holiness cannot remain in the presence of unrepented sin. Israel was holding so tightly to their wickedness and debauchery that God knew He didn’t stand a chance of reaching their hard, stubborn hearts. So He left.
But was God leaving Israel forever? No! Throughout Hosea, we’ve already seen promises of God’s eventual restoration and renewing of His eternal covenant with Israel. Therefore, this forsaking wasn’t going to be permanent. It was only for a season. God would eventually return. But what did Israel need to do to enter back into relationship with the LORD? What was required for God to return?
Humility. Repentance. Sincerity. These three traits needed to be abundantly evident in the lives of the people of Israel for God to return. But Israel was a long ways away from showing evidence of these three attributes. They were not ready to let go of the pleasures of the world. God knew that and that is why He left. However, though He wasn’t present amidst Israel and bestowing blessings upon them, He was still working on their behalf. From afar, God was still protecting His people and working out His purposes and discipline to bring this rebellious people back to Him.
So what can we learn from this? What truths can we take away from Israel’s experience?
1. Don’t take for granted God’s presence in our lives.
God’s presence is a privilege and gift that we are unworthy of. Thus, the awe, wonder, and amazement of the cross and the fact that the omnipotent, infinite, Creator God would desire a relationship with us should never depart from our hearts. If it does, we may begin to grow callous to the seriousness of sin. If we lose sight of the high cost of our redemption, we may forget the reason why we needed to be redeemed in the first place, thus falling into the mindset Israel had.
2. Don’t rouse God’s anger to the point where He withdraws His presence from us.
How is God’s holy anger ignited? Unrepentant sin. Therefore, we don’t want to become like Israel who attempted to claim the promises of God while walking in unrepented sin, and therefore lose God’s presence in our lives.
But in these cases, is God the one leaving us? Or are we leaving God?
The way of the Lord is upright, righteous, and truth. If we choose filth, sin, and falsehood we leave the path of God to tread a different road—a road that God cannot accompany us on—and we will forfeit the presence of God in our lives. We will be the ones leaving God, His way, and His righteous standard.
So the next time we feel a lack of God’s presence or a sense that He is distant, we should examine our lives and see if we have left the narrow road. For God is not the one leaving us, we leave God. We choose sin over righteousness, lies over truth, our selfish desires over God’s will. All these break fellowship and estrange us from the God who loves us and has done so much to win our hearts.
Therefore, let us be quick to acknowledge our guilt when we veer away from the path of life. Let us be humble and sincere in our repentance. And let us never take for granted the presence of God and the active fellowship we enjoy with Him through the cleansing power of the blood of Christ.
“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
~I John 1:9