When I would heal Israel, the iniquity of Ephraim is revealed, and the evil deeds of Samaria; for they deal falsely; the thief breaks in, and the bandits raid outside. But they do not consider that I remember all their evil. Now their deeds surround them; they are before my face. By their evil they make the king glad, and the princes by their treachery. They are all adulterers; they are like a heated oven whose baker ceases to stir the fire, from the kneading of the dough until it is leavened. On the day of our king, the princes became sick with the heat of wine; he stretched out his hand with mockers. For with hearts like an oven they approach their intrigue; all night their anger smolders; in the morning it blazes like a flaming fire. All of them are hot as an oven, and they devour their rulers. All their kings have fallen, and none of them calls upon me. – Hosea 7:1-7 ESV
As children of God, it is sometimes far too easy to forget that He is there and that He sees all that we do. Because He is invisible to our human eyes, we can find ourselves acting as if He is nowhere in sight and wrongly conclude that He is unaware of our actions. But God is all-knowing and ever-present. He sees all. Nothing escapes His sight. In fact, the author of Hebrews warns us, “Nothing in all creation is hidden from God. Everything is naked and exposed before his eyes, and he is the one to whom we are accountable” (Hebrews 4:13 NLT). The psalmist tells us, “The LORD looks down from heaven and sees the whole human race” (Psalm 33:13 NLT). And in the book of Proverbs we read, “The LORD is watching everywhere, keeping his eye on both the evil and the good” (Provernbs 15:3 NLT). So the idea that somehow God is oblivious to our actions is ludicrous. Nothing is hidden from His eyes. And as followers of Jesus Christ, we should live with that insight in mind.
The idea of living our lives with a constant awareness that God is watching is biblical. When Adam and Eve sinned, God knew immediately. When Cain murdered Abel, God confronted Cain and asked him two questions: “Where is Abel your brother?” and “What have you done?” (Genesis 4:9-10 ESV). God was not asking for an update. He was not in need of a status report regarding what had gone on down on earth. He knew. He was looking for a confession from Cain, but instead He heard lies and denials. Many years later, when Abraham, the father of the Hebrew nation, was 99-years old, God appeared to him and said, “I am God Almighty; walk before me, and be blameless” (Genesis 17:1 ESV). God was literally saying to Abraham, “live your life before my eyes.” God wanted Abraham to conduct his life with a constant awareness that He was watching. When God called Abraham to “be blameless”, He was not asking for sinless perfection. The Hebrew word translated “blameless” carries the idea of wholeness or completeness. Abraham was to have no hidden areas in his life. There was to be no compartmentalization, no sacred and secular split, where some things belonged to God and others were reserved for Abraham. What God was asking of Abraham was that he live his entire life, every area of his life, with a constant awareness that God was watching, because He was.
So what does all this have to do with Israel and Hosea? Everything. If you notice in verse 2, God says, “their deeds surround them; they are before my face.” The Hebrew word is פָּנִים (paniym) and it is the same word used in Genesis 17:1. God was telling the Israelites that they were committing their sins “in His face.” While they probably thought their actions were invisible to God, He made it clear that every single sin they committed was visible to His all-seeing eyes. Their kings may have approved of their behavior, but God didn’t. He not only saw what they did, but He knew the motivation behind their actions because He knew their hearts. God spoke through the prophet, Jeremiah, saying, “The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is? But I, the Lord, search all hearts and examine secret motives. I give all people their due rewards, according to what their actions deserve” (Jeremiah 17:9-10 NLT). Jesus Himself said, “But the words you speak come from the heart—that’s what defiles you. For from the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, all sexual immorality, theft, lying, and slander” (Matthew 15:18-19 NLT).
The Israelites had a heart problem. Their hearts were far from God and it was reflected in their actions. They no longer knew God. They had no fear of God. They acted as if He could not see what they were doing and, even if He did, He would do nothing about it. Sadly, that is how many Christians live their lives today. Rather than understanding that God sees all that they do and even knows the motivation behind what they do, they live as if God is somehow oblivious or disinterested. But God would remind us, “The eyes of the LORD search the whole earth in order to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him” (2 Chronicles 16:9 NLT). He is looking for those who want to live their lives in keeping with His will and with an awareness that He sees all that they do. God doesn’t demand perfection from us, only dependence. He has given us His Holy Spirit to empower us to live the life to which He has called us. Abraham was far from perfect, but he was called the friend of God (2 Chronicles 20:7). David was anything but sinless, and yet he was called a man after God’s own heart (1 Samuel 13:14). God wants us to live our lives in His strength, according to His will and right in front of His face. He is watching. He cares. He rewards those who seek Him. But He also disciplines those who refuse to rely upon Him and live in obedience to Him. The saddest statement in this entire passage is God’s indictment against Israel that said, “none of them calls upon me” (Hosea 7:7 ESV). May that never be said of us as His children.