Whom have I in heaven but you?
And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you.
My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. — Psalm 73:25-26
My goal in these devotions is to find the treasures of the gospel in Hosea. But there are places in this book where we only see the gospel in what the Israelites rejected. The deeper in we go, the more disheartening it gets.
In Hosea chapter 8, we see the mounting cost of Israel’s iniquities. Their many sins in breaking God’s covenant and rebelling against his law, which included idolatry, alliances with pagan nations, hypocrisy in worship, and self-reliance, trace directly to the root of forgetting the God who made them (8:14). Therefore, the God to whom they should have turned for protection has decreed their demise. Instead of crying out to the LORD who covenanted to be their refuge, they have turned to the neighboring nations seeking security, employing worldly solutions to their degenerating foreign affairs.
And yet it is evident that the Israelites believed that they were on good terms with God. Appealing to him that, “My God, we—Israel—know you” (8:2). But they have “spurned the good” (8:3), rejecting the covenant and laws by which he made himself known to them and called them to walk in his ways as his own people. They are pursuing relationship with their Creator not on his terms, but their own. By forsaking their exclusive calling to be set apart from the nations and live according to God’s holy laws, they made a mockery of their faithless worship of him.
I want to stand next to Hosea and yell at them, “What are you doing? You should know better!” And then I realize that Hosea isn’t just preaching to them, he’s preaching to me. I too continue to sin, forgetting the good and choosing self-reliance over reliance of God. I look for worldly solutions to my problems instead of seeking refuge in God. I pick and choose which of God’s righteous, holy, and good laws I will obey. I too prefer my relationship with God to be on my own terms, and not his. I too forsake my calling to be in the world but not of it, making a mockery of my confession. What am I doing? I should know better!
Yes, I should know better. When I, like the Israelites, spurn the good, it’s not merely God’s good gifts that I am rejecting, but God himself. But thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord, when I forget the good and choose to sin, there is no condemnation for me in Christ Jesus, for the law of the Spirit of life has set me free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death (Rom. 8:1-2)! Now that I am no longer under the blinding dominion of sin, and with the help of the Holy Spirit, I am learning, ever so gradually, that there is nothing in myself or in the world that will satisfy the desires of my heart more than Christ himself.
The answer to the first question of the Westminster Catechism tells us that our chief end is to glorify God and enjoy him forever. The glorious truth behind this, our highest purpose, is that it is not a benefit to God alone, but he has so designed us that when we set out to pursue this purpose with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength, it not only blesses him, but it is the greatest blessing we could receive! Christian, even if everything else in your world falls apart, God is the strength of your heart and your portion—forever!
Pray With Me
Father, please keep me from taking your grace for granted. Remind me that you are the greatest gift of grace in my salvation. In Christ I am united to you by faith, and it is in you that I live and move and have my being. Sharpen my desire for you, Lord, so that my heart’s cry may truly be, “there is nothing on earth I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but you are the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”