Some people, even after genuinely becoming a Christian, are not content in the Lord. They still hunger for the world. Theres a feeling about them. Theyre restless and see their commitment to the Lord as a collar around their neck. They may be outwardly obedient, but inwardly they wish they were free. Apparently, they arent able to rest until they backslide. A backslider is not someone who openly renounces Jesus but who gradually becomes disloyal and falls in love with the gods of the world. Sadly it seems that the only way they can find fulfillment in Him alone is to discover how bitter life can be without His blessings. Backsliding is a dangerous game. We can get in way over our heads and become enslaved to forces we foolishly invite into our lives (Ro 6:15, 16). We can get in so deep we cant climb back out. But if at any point in the process we repent, God will take us back, and not as a second-class citizen. Hell love us like a husband cherishes his wife, and restore us so completely that the world will marvel and say, Surely God is your father for He cares for you like you are His child!
What does Paul say? (Ro 9:22-26)
The violent persecution of the gospel by some in the Jewish community raised a question in some minds, Why does God put up with it? Why doesnt He unleash the curses listed in the Covenant (Dt 28:15-68) (His wrath) and destroy them? After all, He had unleashed that wrath numerous times before over the course of Israels history. Paul says the answer isnt passivity or indifference. What was taking place was just another example of Gods amazing faithfulness. Based on His divine foreknowledge He has known from before He made the universe who will come to Him, and in His love He chooses to put up with all kinds of terrible behavior, determined to wait for every stubborn rebel who will someday come back to Him.
Paul rightly includes himself in this category (v24) saying he was part of a group of Jews and Gentiles who deserved nothing but judgment because they had betrayed God, but for whom God patiently waited. He had been one of those people about whom Hosea had prophesied, rebels whom God would marry again. As stubborn as some people might be, God does not stop pursuing them until everyone that He knows will come, is His again.
The prophets wife (Hos 1:1-3; 3:1-5)
God not only spoke through the prophet Hosea, He turned his life into a powerful illustration. Hosea and his family were like actors in a play showing Israel what it was like to be their God. But in that play God revealed something else, something startling in the depth of His patience.
Hosea modeled what it was like to be Israels God at that time. It was like being married to a prostitute (Hos 2:1-13), who no matter how much you loved her kept longing for other lovers. The heart is always the key issue for God. Its never about did you keep all My rules?, its about Do you love Me, will you be loyal to Me? Letting our heart fall in love with other gods is just like disloyalty in a marriage. What God wants is a relationship as loyal and filled with love as a passionate marriage. But we, like ancient Israel, can be fickle; after making sincere promises to love Him, the pressures from our bodies and the world can still subtly undermine our affections until our love for Him dies. But its in the depths of our unfaithfulness that we discover His faithfulness. After giving Him every reason to loathe us, He steadfastly refuses to abandon us (Hos 3:1-5).
No place in the Bible is the long-suffering of God pictured more vividly. Hoseas message is this: If we betray God and walk away from Him He will not walk away from us but will severely chasten us if necessary, not out of revenge, but in order to quench our passion for the gods of this world. And when that heart-change comes, in spite of the shameful way weve treated Him, He comes after us and makes us His bride once again.
Prodigal Son (Lk 15:22-24; robe, ring, sandals, feast)
The foundational promise (Dt 29:1-4; 22-29; 30:1-10)
This lesson did not begin with Hosea. Moses prophesied it long before. Shortly before he died, Moses told Israel that he knew they would forsake Gods covenant and fall under its curses (wrath) (Dt 28:15-68). They would forsake Him so badly they would be conquered and driven out of the promised land into many Gentile nations (Dt 28:64, 65; 29:22-28). But then after picturing them in complete despair, he turned and delivered a prophecy of hope (Dt 30:1-10). He said God would chasten them until they repented and then regather them into their land, prosper them, take the love of the world out of their hearts and punish their enemies. In other words, God would restore them fully, as if they had never broken the covenant.
Godly sorrow (2Co 7:9, 10)
God puts up with an amazing amount of garbage from us. Hell let us treat Him like Gomer treated Hosea, but when we do Hell lift His hand of protection until the hardships that result grow bad enough, until the pleasures of this world lose their appeal, until loneliness for Him overwhelms our angry accusations against Him, until we become sorrowful to the point of repentance (2Co 7:9, 10). Then when we reach that point of desperation with no reason to expect anything from Him but judgment, we find our Bridegroom, humbling Himself to walk into the midst of our misery to take us back.
This lesson doesnt apply just to individuals. It applies to backslidden areas without our own hearts as well. We may have prayed to surrender our whole lives to God only to find there are specific gods which still tempt us, where our heart isnt settled yet, where we havent really decided that Jesus is enough for us.
As we close, there may be people who have become sorrowful to the point of repentance, who have hit bottom and are ready to call out to Jesus, but there may also be those today who need to say, Jesus You are enough for me. I dont want to love anything more than You, yet my heart has been divided. Im ready to surrender my rights in this area.
Romans 11:22, 23
1) Did you ever backslide? What brought you back to Jesus? How did that experience change you?
2) Are you waiting for a friend or loved one to come back to God? What have you learned from Paul and Hosea that helps you be patient?
3) Is there an area where youre being tempted by the gods of the world and you would like us to pray for you?