hide-and-seekTake your Bibles and turn with me to Hosea chapter 7 for the next study in our series from this minor prophet. The series titled “God’s Redeeming Love” and this week will we look at Hosea 7:1-16 in a study titled, “They Cried Out, but Not to God.”

This week we will learn that Israel was prepared to go anywhere for help but to God. They would seek help from the Gentile nations, help that only God can give. We see the people refusing to deal with their sin. They are seeking an escape from the consequences of their sin. They are not seeking to deal with the root of their problems, but they are seeking to gain relief by relying on other nations.

When we are guilty, and when we are convicted, why is it that so often we run to others first, others who cannot help us, forgive us, restore us, reassure us, or encourage us with the truth? Because turning to God for relief means repenting. It is a rejection of self. And we are all too often all too proud to admit how wrong we are before God. As if He doesn’t already know it!

We have learned that they simply refuse to do and say what He requires of them. When our lips and heart don’t match, whichever is right, we are still not telling the truth. The hypocrisy of an unmatched heart and mouth prompted Jesus to quote Isaiah in Matthew 15:7-9, where He said, “Hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy about you, saying: 8 ‘These people draw near to Me with their mouth, and honor Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me. 9 And in vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’ ” The results of the heart and mouth disconnect is vain worship, that is, useless worship. Worship that God hates and despises. Who in their right mind wants to worship God in a way that He hates – and yet we do it all the time!

In Hosea 7:1-2 then we see our first point this morning. We cannot play hide and seek with sin and win. Our text reads, “When I would have healed Israel, then the iniquity of Ephraim was uncovered, and the wickedness of Samaria. For they have committed fraud; a thief comes in; a band of robbers takes spoil outside. 2 They do not consider in their hearts that I remember all their wickedness; now their own deeds have surrounded them; they are before My face.”

Hosea is telling the people that they are in great danger, but they don’t seem to know it. They truly believe that they can sin and get away with it. They are playing hide and seek with sin. It has become a game. Their pursuit of sin and of serving themselves has been exposed here by the Word of God.

God says, “When I would have healed Israel,” signifying that He would do what He said He would do. If the people would repent and return to Him them He would reconcile with them, forgive, them, and restore them. It was not that He was would not pardon, but there are conditions to God’s pardon for sin. He is perfectly just and holy and righteous and so for us to be reconciled with Him, we must reject our sin and embrace walking in righteousness by faith in His Son. Remember faith without works is dead, so saving faith is faith that works. It is belief and trust in Jesus that leads to works of obedience and holiness and righteousness.

However, when we learn that God would have healed, we read after that, “then the iniquity of Ephraim was uncovered, and the wickedness of Samaria.” As God is looking for repentance and confession, faith and obedience, instead He finds only more sin. More iniquity. More self-righteousness and idolatry. Israel, represented by the tribe and territory of Ephraim and Samaria, is continuing in their pursuit of wickedness. They are not returning to God but only running further into sin. He says, “they have committed fraud; a thief comes in; a band of robbers takes spoil outside.” There was deception, dishonor, and defilement – they are defrauding one another and stealing from one another. They can’t get along with God because they can’t get along with each other. And if they claim to love God their actions demonstrate that they most certainly do not love their neighbors, so that proves right there that they do not truly love God at all. The worst of it is that they are deceiving themselves.

There was economic chaos. The rich were getting richer off the backs of the poor. The poor were stealing from one another to try and survive. Everyone is trying to blame everyone else for their problems and at the same time running further and further into sin. Remember, they know what to say and what to do – they are not ignorant of the prophet’s message – but in their pride and in their stubborn sin they will not meet God’s conditions for reconciliation.

Repentance is necessary if we are to turn away from our sin in brokenness and contrition and turn to Christ in faith. Yet here we see that the people wanted relief from the consequences of their sin but they would not repent. Their believed that the problem was the consequences of their sin and not their sin itself. The problem was not as they perceived it, the judgments of God. The problem was the iniquity in their hearts.

It is quite shocking to read in verse 2 there, “They do not consider in their hearts that I remember all their wickedness; now their own deeds have surrounded them; they are before My face.”  God knows what they have done and they don’t give it a second thought. They believe that they can hide their sin from Him. We see here the truth that the people know what the real problem is. We see it in their reaction. Their sin had to be uncovered because they were trying to hide it. They were going through the motions of worship and sacrifice for sin, but their hearts were not aligned with their mouths. And even then, as they worshipped God they also mixed with that the worship and sacrifice to idols.

God is here remembering all their wickedness – this means nothing escapes His sight and His notice and He is keeping a running account of their wickedness. They are surrounded by and suffering the consequences of their sin and He knows it and they know it but they act like He is obligated to save them instead of realizing that they need to repent and return to Him in order for Him to forgive and restore them.

Are the people really that hard hearted that they think they can pretend to be faithful and God will not know? They seem to think that God is like us, in that we look at the outward behavior and cannot see the heart. And they believe that their outward behavior is okay, that it is right and proper. We must reject this notion that outward conformity to God’s Word is enough. The Christian life is not, as the legalist would have us believe, merely a matter of rearranging out outward behavior and speech so that we think that we are pleasing to God and to other critical, judgmental, self-professed Christians.

On top of that we have to see here the futility of their thinking as they believe that they can worship God and worship idols and that their worship of God is pleasing to Him. As if He welcomes their worship of Him and at the same time closes His eyes to their worship of idols. Does that sound like God to you? The God of the Bible? The God Who wrote with His finger in stone, “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. “You shall have no other gods before Me. “You shall not make for yourself a carved image—any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.” (Exodus 20:2-6).

It is as if the people believe that they can camouflage their sin and God will overlook it. We would never try to camouflage sin would we? Surely not – that is why we don’t call it adultery or fornication or unfaithfulness, but we call it “having an affair, or a fling.” That is why we don’t talk about the sin of drunkenness or gluttony. We refer to it as an addiction, a disease, a weakness, a short coming. We blame our emotions instead of calling our flesh on the carpet and saying, “No!”

That is why we shy away from those old timey Biblical terms and talk about it in medical or psychological terms. We make up new, nice sounding terms that make us the victim instead of the perpetrator. Dr. Martin Lloyd-Jones rightly said that many of the undiagnosable or seemingly untreatable conditions we face today are not disease, but more than likely the physical manifestations of the consequences and results of our sin. At times we would like it to be a disease that a pill can treat when in reality it is sin and self that must be crucified with Christ. Popping a pill is certainly easier on the ego and self-esteem than the mortification of sin. We would rather deaden the pain of what is killing us while it kills us than take an axe to the root of the true issue – our stubborn will.

We may call sin by any other name but whatever we call it we cannot hide it from God. And we must never forget that when Christ died on the cross for our sin, He paid for it all. He died for it all. For every sin, before we were even born or had sinned. So if we sin in the future, after He has saved us, this is not news to Him, He has paid for it already! So don’t try and hide it from Him. Confess it. Forsake it. He knows.

And make no mistake here, this is not a permission slip for licentiousness. Understanding the price for our sin and embracing God’s forgiveness should lead us to hate sin even more.