The book of Hosea is not the first place you turn when you're looking for a nugget of encouragement from God's Word. However, as I've made my way through this book in my personal devotions, God has spoken to me big-time. As many of you know, the key theme of Hosea is Israel's idolatry and God's mercy. To hammer home his point, God chooses Hosea to marry a prostitute. In this way we are made to see the covenant-keeping love of God for his adulterous people.
One of the most stunning passages in this book is found in Hosea 6:1-3:
Come, let us return to the LORD; for he has torn us, that he may heal us; he has struck us down, and he will bind us up. After two days he will revive us; on the third day he will raise us up, that we may live before him. Let us know; let us press on to know the LORD; his going out is sure as the dawn; he will come to us as the showers, as the spring rains that water the earth.
A cursory reading suggests that Israel is repentant and sincerely returning to the LORD. In fact, as I read these verses for the first time, I was saying, "Amen. I need to return to the LORD for healing and revival in my heart." However, as I looked more closely at this passage, and read a few thoughts from Warren Wiersbe's commentary, I was struck at what Israel was really asking and what God really wanted from them.
Look at what God says in verse 6-7:
For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings. But like Adam they transgressed the covenant; there they dealt faithlessly with me.
Clearly, God was not pleased with Israel's confession. It was not genuine. According to Wiersbe, Israel wanted healing, but not cleansing. They wanted happiness, but not holiness. They were seeking a change in circumstances, but not a change in character. In short, they were giving lip-service to God.
This is where I began to feel very convicted. In my pursuit of God, I so easily want a quick-fix to my sin. I so easily get in a hurry to be holy that I rattle off some words to God expecting him to act. In my quiet times, I rarely get "quiet" before he Lord and soak in the Scriptures meditating and bathing in his love. Instead, I want the nugget of truth to lift me up and get me feeling good for the day. I want the profound truth in a few minutes so I can tell others or put it on my blog.
This is candy-bar Christianity. I expect when I put the money in the machine and push the button, out will come my candy bar. Out will come my need for fulfillment. Out will come my increased joy in God. Out will come my holy life. But God doesn't work that way. The Christian life is about a relationship with God. It's about getting right with God through His Son. And it's about union with God and communion with God as an end, not a means to other lesser things.
So often I want to push the button and get the candy bar from God. I want healing instead of cleansing. I want happiness instead of holiness. And I want a change in circumstances instead of a change in character. Lord, help me to see that you are not a vending machine. You are my Father in heaven. And communion with you is greater than all the "candy bars" in the world.