Blow the horn in Gibeah, the trumpet in Ramah. Sound the alarm at Beth-aven; we follow you, O Benjamin! Ephraim shall become a desolation in the day of punishment; among the tribes of Israel I make known what is sure. The princes of Judah have become like those who move the landmark; them I will pour out my wrath like water. Ephraim is oppressed, crushed in judgment, because he was determined to go after filth. But I am like a moth to Ephraim, and like dry rot to the house of Judah.
When Ephraim saw his sickness, and Judah his wound, then Ephraim went to Assyria, and sent to the great king. But he is not able to cure you or heal your wound. For I will be like a lion to Ephraim, and like a young lion to the house of Judah. I, even I, will tear and go away; I will carry off, and no one shall rescue. I will return again to my place, until they acknowledge their guilt and seek my face, and in their distress earnestly seek me. – Hosea 5:8-15 ESV
What does it take to get our attention? When we forget God or fail to give Him the honor and reverence He is due, what does it require for God to wake us up and get us to return to Him? God loves us and wants to bless us, but when we refuse to submit to His will and live according to His ways, He is forces to discipline us. But He does so because He loves us and wants what is best for us. In the book of Proverbs we read, “My son, do not despise the Lord’s discipline or be weary of his reproof, for the Lord reproves him whom he loves,
as a father the son in whom he delights” (Proverbs 3:11-12 ESV). The author of Hebrews expands on this same idea. “For our earthly fathers disciplined us for a few years, doing the best they knew how. But God’s discipline is always good for us, so that we might share in his holiness. No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening—it’s painful! But afterward there will be a peaceful harvest of right living for those who are trained in this way” (Hebrews 12:10-11 NLT).
The people of Israel would experience this loving discipline of God, and it would prove to be quite painful. God warned the He would pour out His wrath like water. It would come like a flood and they would not be able to withstand it. They had long ago forsaken Him and now He was going to have to punish them for their disobedience and rebellion – just as He had warned He would. This was not a case of God losing His temper and flying off the handle. He had long ago warned His people what would happen if they disobeyed Him. He had painted a very clear picture of the blessings that came with obedience and the curses that would come from disobedience. And He had sent His prophets to remind them and call them to repentance. But the people had stubbornly refused and now they would face the discipline of God. He told them, “I, even I, will tear and go away; I will carry off, and no one shall rescue.” There was no escaping the discipline of God.
And God would leave them in their state of divine discipline “until they acknowledge their guilt and seek my face, and in their distress earnestly seek me.” God’s motive was their repentance and return to Him. Why? Because He knew that the best thing for them was for them to live willingly under His care and protection. But they were going to have to learn what it was like to live outside of His influence and out from under His protective hand. They had wanted to live their lives without Him and He was going to let them experience just what that lifestyle would be like. God will sometimes allow His child to live without Him until they recognize their need for Him. He will let us walk away from Him, but He never takes His eyes off of us. He will allow us to reap the results of our stubborn defiance and willing rebellion. All because He loves us.
In the book of Revelation, we read of Jesus’ indictment against the church in Laodicea. He says, “You say, ‘I am rich. I have everything I want. I don’t need a thing!’ And you don’t realize that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked. So I advise you to buy gold from me—gold that has been purified by fire. Then you will be rich. Also buy white garments from me so you will not be shamed by your nakedness, and ointment for your eyes so you will be able to see. I correct and discipline everyone I love. So be diligent and turn from your indifference” (Revelation 3:17-19 NLT). The purpose behind God’s discipline of His people is their repentance. He wants to bless us, but He also wants us to desire His blessings. He desires that we admit our sin and acknowledge our need of Him. But too often, like the people of Israel and the church in Laodicea, we take a look at our circumstances and think we have it made. We view ourselves as fat and happy, enjoying the good life apart from God. We have everything we want and don’t have a need in the world. But we fail to recognize our desperate need for God. So God lovingly disciplines us. He allows events and circumstances into our life that are designed to wake us up to the reality of our need for Him. But we can be surprisingly stubborn. We can be dangerously self-sufficient, refusing to acknowledge our need for God. So He lovingly, patiently continues to discipline and correct us. He faithfully reveals His love for us by refusing to let us continue in our sin and live our lives apart from Him. He knows that the very best place for us is within His will and He will do whatever it takes to help us come to see that truth on our own, so that we willingly repent and return to Him. But what will it take to get our attention? What will God have to do to wake us up from our spiritual stupor and break us of our stubborn habit of trying to live without Him? What will He have to do until we acknowledge our guilt, seek His face and earnestly seek Him?