This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. —1 John 1:5-9
Do you remember playing hide and seek as a child? My Grandmommy’s house was perfect for hide and seek, but my little brother would always hide behind Grandmommy’s antique cane-back rocking chair, clearly visible through the woven canes with his golden curls and bright blue eyes. When the seeker would enter the room where he was ‘hidden,’ calling out, “Where’s Charles?” my brother would giggle and whisper, “You can’t see me!” and if the seeker was kind, they would look behind the curtains and under the bed, and then walk right past the rocking chair, muttering all the while, “I wonder where he is?” Little Charles didn’t realize that he wasn’t as hidden as he suspected. In fact, he wasn’t hidden at all.
In our previous devotion we saw that the ignorance of the Israelites led to their lack of faithfulness and steadfast love toward God and others (4:1). In Hosea chapter 5, God tells them that even though they don’t know him, he knows them. They may think they are hidden from the eyes of God, but they are clearly visible to him, from their wicked deeds to their wandering hearts:
I know Ephraim,
and Israel is not hidden from me;
for now, O Ephraim, you have played the whore;
Israel is defiled.
Their deeds do not permit them
to return to their God.
For the spirit of whoredom is within them,
and they know not the Lord. — Hosea 5:3-4
Hosea tells the people that they are not only seen by God, but even if they wanted to be found by him, they can’t return to him on their own because their deeds—their sinful thoughts and actions—do not permit them. The spirit of whoredom that is within them is compelling them to seek after other gods and preventing them from truly knowing the Lord.
With their flocks and herds they shall go
to seek the Lord,
but they will not find him;
he has withdrawn from them. — Hosea 5:6
While the Israelites participated in the worship of pagan gods, they continued to bring sacrifices to Yahweh as well. It’s as if they were hiding behind their religion, giggling all the while and saying, “You can’t see me!” as they laid the bloody carcasses on the altar. These rituals performed without true faith were so offensive to God that he pledged they would not find him because he had withdrawn from them.
James Boice, commenting on this passage, offers the following advice: “I cannot say whether your worship, prayer, Bible reading, or other religious activity is like that [devoid of God himself]. But you know whether it is the real thing or not. You know whether or not your soul is being satisfied by true fellowship with the living God. If it is not, then you must turn from the sin that is barring you from God’s presence and come to him in Christ where that sin has been forgiven and a door of access into the presence of the Father has been opened.”
Before we came to know God we were as deluded in our sins as the Israelites. But God saw the depth of our sins—a depth which we could not fathom, and yet foolishly believed we could hide. He knew us through and through, our depravity and defilement, our determination to follow the world, and our pride. We were so blind to our own sins that we tripped and stumbled over them as obstacles in our path, even if we observed religious rites that we believed would somehow make things okay.
We weren’t seeking God, but he was seeking us, and in his kindness he did not pass us by as we giggled in our sin, but he called us out of the darkness of our hiding places and brought us into the light of his love and presence to fellowship with him forever.
This is the message of today’s passage, and the message of the gospel. Our Heavenly Seeker, in his kindness, does not pass his children by, but he goes directly to our hiding places and gently draws us into the light. In his light all our sins become visible, from our wicked deeds to our wandering hearts, and in his love he cleanses us by the blood of his Son, Jesus Christ. As we walk in his light we will occasionally—okay, daily—stumble and fall into sin. But we need not hide these sins. God wants us to bring them to him in prayer, confessing not by rituals empty of faith, but in true repentance, and he will forgive us and cleanse us again. Every time. Listen for the voice of the Seeker. When he calls, don’t run and hide, but run to him.
Pray With Me
O Lord, If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light around me be night,” even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is as bright as the day, for darkness is as light to you. Thank you for shining your light into my darkness. Thank you for drawing me out of my hiding places and into the light and life of fellowship with you through Christ. Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!(adapted in part from Psalm 139:11-12, 23-24)
 Boice, 52.