We are moving into week two of a look at the book of Hosea and today I want to touch on something that I’m extremely passionate about. One of the misconceptions about the character of God comes from a limited or skewed knowledge of how and why God went about His business in the Old Testament. One of the reasons I felt such a call to spend a year deeply and thoroughly studying the Old Testament was so I could know for myself just what God was all about back then. Was He really a wrathful tyrant who was quick to kill His own people for breaking the slightest of rules like so many atheists would have us believe? Or was there more to it than that? Was the God of the Old Testament really just obsessed with rules and His people blindly following those rules? It’s a common stance that there’s a massive difference between Old Testament God and New Testament God (even though the scriptures tell us clearly that God never changes). But there’s a truly beautiful verse in Hosea that really puts this argument to rest. Check this out.
Hosea 6:6-7 I want you to show love, not offer sacrifices. I want you to know me more than I want burnt offerings. 7 But like Adam, you broke my covenant and betrayed my trust.
Even Old Testament God was looking more for relationship than He was for religion. I’ve spent a lifetime of having Christians and non-Christians alike putting this image in my head of such an angry, rigid God in the Old Testament, but it’s just not true. Here’s the truth of it from His own mouth! He wants their love, not their sacrifices. He wants them to get to know Him way more than He wants burnt offerings. We tend to only think of Jesus with this attitude, and the God of the Old Testament is always the vengeful “follow my law or perish” God, but here’s evidence to the contrary. God’s unchanging, He’s always just wanted a relationship with us above all other things. Yes, there were a lot of rules and regulations in the Old Testament. When mankind made the decision to disobey God in the garden of Eden it set a lot of things in motion, and one of those was that there needed to be a sacrifice for sin. There was a process for cleansing, a way to seek forgiveness for sin. But God’s heart is on display here in Hosea, He’s setting the record straight. It’s not just the Jesus era that brings us a time when God just wants to be in relationship with us, that was always the case! The next time someone tries to talk about God having too many rules, about Him being vengeful and rigid, show them this verse. Show them that He has ALWAYS sought relationship over religious ritual.
There’s such a deep beauty to this verse. God says “I want you to know me.” It’s the heart cry of pretty much every intelligent being that ever existed. We want to be known. For humans, when we don’t feel known, when we feel ignored or marginalized, that’s when we go down dark paths. Depression, suicide, drugs, rebellion, self-destructive behaviors, anything to distract us and dull the pain. While He doesn’t turn to the dark things that we do, God knows the feeling of wanting to be known! He’s sitting here crying out, amidst all the rules, all the traditions, all the regulations, He’s saying “I just want you to know me. I just want you to love me.”
We love to isolate ourselves in our pain and misery. A friend of mine actually sat in my car today and sang the first few lines of the old song “Nobody knows, the trouble I’ve seen”. Our suffering has become our uniqueness, our distress a key part of our identity. Loneliness and emotional distress and the desperate need to be loved and be known have taken hold in the hearts of people in a way that I believe far surpasses anything we’ve seen in the past. The most visible and connected generation in human history is also the most miserable and lonely. And if you talk to them about it they might use the phrase “You just wouldn’t understand”, but guess what friends? God gets it. He doesn’t fall into the depths of despair over it but He does understand that deep desire and hunger to be loved and to be known. I can’t express to you how much I love knowing that God gets it. I’ve gone through most of my life feeling inconsequential and unknown, which in turn makes you feel worthless. Worse than any physical pain I will ever feel is the emotional pain I’ve experienced trying to handle loneliness and worthlessness without God in my life. But reading this verse in Hosea and realizing that God gets it, that at His core He desires the same exact thing that I do, it lifts my spirits. While that old version of Aaron died long ago, I’m comforted knowing that God was there with me as I despaired, saying “I understand how you’re feeling.” I’m comforted knowing that when I feel lonely and struggle with a desire to be loved in the future God will be right there with me, fully aware of how it feels.
God doesn’t care about religious red tape nearly as much as He cares about authentic relationships with people. Despite what you probably think, that’s not a new development. God’s the same, then and now, Old Testament and New. The difference is that we have Jesus now too. Jesus helped us in so many ways, but one of the amazing things he did was simplify things a bit. He so beautifully and masterfully broke down the commandments in a way that we can all understand.
Matthew 22: 36-40 “Teacher, which is the most important commandment in the law of Moses?” 37 Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.”
That’s God’s heart, then and now, Old Testament and New. Just love him, just get to know him. When you do, everything falls into place.
I’m excited to continue this look at Hosea with all of you this week. I love you all a lot and it’s my prayer that the love of God manifests itself in your life this week in a way that feels so real and so near. If you’re not committing time to studying the Bible and praying I just want to encourage you to do so. He wants a relationship with you, and that’s the way it happens. It’ll be the best decision you ever make. If you need prayer for anything or just want to talk about faith or religion, please don’t hesitate to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. It will be my great pleasure to speak with you.