In Hosea 8, we read that Ephraim had “multiplied altars for sin” (v. 11). They built altars, but they certainly were not worshiping God as He desired. The altars were “altars of sinning.” Oh how the things that could be useful for good can be used for evil just the same. What a great reminder to tread with caution. Thankfully, God has given us His Word so we know what is desired of us.
This verse translates in the NLT as, “Even though I gave them all My laws, they act as if those laws don’t apply to them.” The ESV translates this as a “strange thing.” Like it’s strange to apply the laws to them, like it’s foreign to them. Sadly, the people of this time period were far from God. They were led away. They were sinful, idolatrous people. It did not matter how many laws there are—they would be seen as foreign nonetheless.
For many people today, God’s Law is a strange thing. People are so far from understanding the Truth, they look at what God commands and see it as strange, difficult, demanding, and even unnecessary. People do not understand the reason for the Law. God blesses us with the Law. The Law is actually all about GRACE. It is through the Law that we realize we are sinners (Romans 3:20, 7:7). As a result, the Law leads us to Jesus Christ so that we may be justified by faith (Galatians 3:24). Without the Law, we would not recognize our need for Jesus. We would not accept the grace of God. We would not be able to have the relationship for which we were created. To outsiders, the Law is a strange thing. To believers, the Law is a constant reminder that we fall short (Romans 3:23) and that we need a Savior. Knowing that He fulfilled the Law and that through Him we have life and life in abundance is a blessing! Today, remember the not-so-strange thing. More importantly, thank the Lord for His unending grace.
“Were I to write for him my laws by the ten thousands, they would be regarded as a strange thing.” – Hosea 8:12 [ESV]
After we read about the sinfulness of God’s people in the beginning of the fourth chapter of Hosea, there is this one verse that follows which talks about accusations. The verse says, “let no one contend, and let none accuse.” Then we read the reason why. The contention has a place—it is towards the priest.
Wow! This is harsh to chew upon. The finger is pointed at the leadership. The priest who was put in charge of God’s Word, who was to lead the people to God and His Truth, was on the receiving end. That was where the contention was placed. But why? Because the people were led astray. The people were so far from God that they had no knowledge of Him. What was the priest doing? Why was the Law absent? Why was God not known?
Leadership is hard. Each day I recognize the opportunity I have been given, but more importantly the responsibility. I have a tree of people in my office at work to look at to remember this responsibility. At my home office, I have a card I was given by the church congregation. I read over the names often. I remember this great responsibility. Lead to Truth. Lead with grace. Lead with love at the center. Whether you lead in an area of ministry, lead your children at home, lead at your workplace—no matter where you lead, it’s always the same. Lead to Truth. Lead with grace. Lead with love at the center.
“Yet let no one contend, and let none accuse, for with you is my contention, O priest.” – Hosea 4:4 [ESV]
As you look through old clothing, you might find a pair of old shorts that are not even able to be donated. They are beyond salvageable. They are discolored. They are frayed. They have holes. The fabric is worn hard and perhaps stained. They are worthless.
God had Jeremiah take a linen belt, or for us to better understand, some linen shorts, and wear them without any washing. Then he was directed to take them off and hide them. When they were retrieved, they were worthless because they did not receive the proper care.
The people of God, which includes us today, are to cling to God. But like the people of this time, the people that went from clinging to God and His Law to burying themselves in idolatry and sin, we have a great problem with corruption that can take away our worth to the Kingdom. Thankfully, Jesus Christ can wash us and we become as white as snow. When we come to know Christ, we do not have to be a pair of old shorts. We are made new. We are forgiven. We are redeemed. We are restored.
God told me, “Go and buy yourself some linen shorts. Put them on and keep them on. Don’t even take them off to wash them.” So I bought the shorts as God directed and put them on. Then God told me, “Take the shorts that you bought and go straight to Perath and hide them there in a crack in the rock.” So I did what God told me and hid them at Perath. Next, after quite a long time, God told me, “Go back to Perath and get the linen shorts I told you to hide there.” So I went back to Perath and dug them out of the place where I had hidden them. The shorts by then had rotted and were worthless.
-Jeremiah 13:1-7 [MSG]
Did you ever fight tooth and nail for something? Perhaps there was some injustice in the world that caused you to stand up and boldly state your resistance. Maybe you had a circumstance arise that demanded you fight hard. Today’s passage speaks of a love for God’s law, a love that causes one to fight tooth and nail.
Fighting tooth and nail means fighting with every means available. You don’t hold back. You use everything you got in the fight. You put it all on the line because you care so much. Today’s passage says that if you love God’s law, you will fight just like that to defend it, to stand up for it, to uphold it.
Did you realize you were in a tough battle in this world? Not only is there a battle for your soul which Christ already sealed as a victory so long as you believe, but there is another battle all around this world. People are battling to knock God out of His creation. People are trying to take away public prayer. People are trying to ban people from practicing Christianity. People are stealing Bibles, twisting Scripture, and improperly representing Christ. If you love God’s law, if you love God, I pray you fight tooth and nail. He doesn’t need you to fight for Him—you need you to fight for Him. It’s about passion. It’s about love. It’s about being all in though many in the world are totally out. You can sit on the sidelines and desert God and His Word—“you’re free to embrace depravity,” or you can fight. You can stand firm. You can boldly declare the Name of Christ and embrace His will for your life.
“If you desert God’s law, you’re free to embrace depravity;
if you love God’s law, you fight for it tooth and nail.”
-Proverbs 28:4 [MSG]
One of my favorite books of the Bible is 1 Kings. Not so long ago I was led to make a Bible study for the book and it was a great journey through God’s Word. We are introduced to Elijah in 1 Kings and we see a lot unfold. From the moment he is on the scene, we are not provided much of an introduction into his life, but we slowly see this picture of Elijah revealed through the drought, the time with the widow, and the magnificent display by God at Mount Carmel.
Now Ahab describes Elijah differently than most of us would. He called him a “troublemaker.” A troublemaker. Most of us would not call Elijah a troublemaker. He was following God’s commands. He was anything but a troublemaker. But to Ahab he was a troublemaker because Ahab was not following God’s commands. What Elijah was doing was causing trouble for Ahab and his evil ways.
In the same way, people might see Christians as troublemakers. We stand firm and uphold the Word of God but that goes against what society desires. The world wants what the world wants. So you might be called a “troublemaker.” Just remember that there are two types of troublemakers. There are troublemakers who are simply standing firm on God’s Word so they appear as the disorder amidst the world. Then there are the troublemakers who are against God’s Word and are living a life filled with evil. Ahab saw Elijah as a troublemaker. We see Ahab as a troublemaker. The difference is—one is following God’s Word and the other is not. Where do you fall?
“When Ahab saw him, he exclaimed, ‘So, is it really you, you troublemaker of Israel?’” – 1 Kings 18:17 [NLT]