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]
Rules and regulations are important and certainly needed. If we would not have rules, there would be no boundaries in the world. People could drive on any side of the road. There would be no need to stand in a line. These are only a few examples but it is easy to see things would be very different. Structure would disappear.
Even so, there are two things that are important to remember. We must remember that none of us keep all of the “rules.” We do not follow God’s Law. Read the Law of Moses. Read the Ten Commandments. It won’t take long to see that we fall short. In Romans 3, Paul is quick to profess that we all fall short. Accept it. Second, grace is above the Law. The love of Christ, the grace of God—with this we have salvation because of what Jesus did for us on the Cross.
In Colossians 2, we read of people who were trying to keep the Law. Though Christ fulfilled the Law, though we no longer live by the Law, people were still trying to submit to the Law. Do not handle. Do not taste. Do not touch. Do not. Do not. Living with these regulations enslaved the followers. No longer were these people living by grace; instead, these people were slaves of the Law. They were asked if they still belonged to the world. Why? Because those in the world follow the laws of the world, while those who belonged to Jesus lived by grace. By following the Law, they were basically saying that the blood of Christ wasn’t enough. You decide. Where do you belong? For me, I belong to Jesus.
“Why do you live as if you still belong to the world? [Why do you submit to rules and regulations? – as] Do not handle [this], Do not taste [that], Do not even touch [them].” – Colossians 2:20b-21 [AMP]
Because of Christ we are free. We are free from the bondage of sin. As Galatians 5 states: “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by the yoke of slavery” (v. 1 NIV).
Earlier in his letter to the churches of Galatia, Paul noted that there were false believers who came to spy on the freedom that they had because they wanted to make them slaves again. They wanted to bring them back into bondage. How could they bring them to bondage? The law.
There is grace. There is law. Because of God’s grace, we do not have to focus on the law. We are justified through Christ. “For through the law I died to the law so that I might live for God… I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!” (2:19, 21 NIV). Don’t allow someone to make you a slave again. Do not set aside the grace of God.
“This matter arose because some false believers had infiltrated our ranks to spy on the freedom we have in Christ Jesus and to make us slaves.” – Galatians 2:4 [NIV]
God’s word speaks a lot about obedience. We aren’t too fond of the “O” word. In Deuteronomy 4, we see everything listed for us. This passages says “hear the decrees and laws…. follow them… do not add… do not subtract from it… watch ourselves so that you do not forget… teach them to their children” (Deuteronomy 4:1-9 NIV).
As I was reading this passage today, I thought of HEART. We need to have a heart devoted to God, a heart for God, a love for God, that will cause us to do as this passage says. Deuteronomy 4:29 says, “But if from there you seek the LORD your God, you will find him if you seek him with all your heart and with all your soul” (NIV). It all comes down to heart.
Having a relationship with God is not simply knowing what God’s word says, but doing what His word commands. Yes, the “O” word.
Do you have HEART?
- Hear (Listen)
- Ensue (Follow/Obey)
- Arithmetic (Don’t add or subtract)
- Remember (Keep it in your heart and head)
- Teach (Teach your children/others)
We typically take whatever effort we can to not let people see us for who we really are, and to keep up the image we want people to have of us. I saw a neighbour attempting to walk out in his pajamas to get the newspaper. When he noticed that I was fast approaching, he ran back into his home and hid in wait until I passed by, only to then walk out quickly to grab his morning paper. He was wearing pajamas and a robe, but he didn’t want anyone to notice. I guess he assumes people believe he doesn’t wear sleepwear to sleep, or that perhaps he does not even sleep at all. Later I noticed a pre-teen boy fall at the bus stop. He cowered and went by himself to another area because he did not want his friends to see him crying because of the pain he was feeling.
Jesus called the Pharisees white washed tombs because they were spiritually dead inside. They knew all about the Law, down the fine print; however, their hearts were dead. They liked to put on this facade for everyone, making it look as if they were high, upstanding individuals. The truth is that God sees our hearts. He sees what is going on even if we hide behind our screen doors, waiting to make a dash for the paper. He sees that we are crying when we try to hide our face. He sees everything that we do at every moment of our lives. We can pretend with everyone else, but there is no pretending with God.
I find it amazing that God loves me so much despite the fact that He has seen everything I have ever done, and that He also knows what I will do next but does not leave my side. I have found that rather than spend the extra time trying to hide and pretend, that when we are transparent, when we let people see everything, there is a great peace in our lives. Being transparent also allows God’s light to shine through so much brighter. People can see God at work in your life.
I pray that you are able to be more transparent today. I hope that if you are hiding things in your life and trying hard to live up to a particular image, that you let go of the facade and focus on the Truth. God thinks you are awesome despite the flaws. Let God help you and work in your life; don’t hide.
“But the LORD said to Samuel, ‘Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the LORD sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart.’”
– 1 Samuel 16:7 [ESV]