Summary: When unfaithfulness leaves us, our churches, and even our nation in a state of decay, God comes in like a surgeon to restore us. How will we respond?
How Does God Get Our Attention?
Pastor Jim Luthy
For several reasons, I haven’t spoken much about my years as a Fingerprint Technician with the Washington State Patrol. I’ve got stories, but I don’t tell them very often. Most of them have to do with crime scenes more than the actual crimes because I was never really part of the action. But it struck me (that’s a funny choice of words) the other day that since I moved down to Gresham I haven’t told the story about when I was stabbed.
It was a regular work day. There were 6 of us in a room—myself, two other men, and three women. One of the guys was talking about his vacation when one of the women handed him a knife and he stabbed me, right in the lower abdomen. The last thing I remembered before I passed out was the women working to control the bleeding. I woke up in a 5th floor hospital bed at St. Peter’s Hospital in Olympia. You wanna see my scar?
I think I better tell you the whole story. It was indeed a regular work day while I worked for the State Patrol, but I wasn’t at work. The room was a surgical room and the 5 other people in the room were my anesthesiologist, my surgeon, and three nurses. They were there to perform an appendectomy, which is why the doctor stabbed me in the gut. Fortunately, he had my best interest at heart and he was nice enough to sew me up when he was finished.
You see, if you don’t hear the whole story, the act of a surgeon cutting into you with a knife can sound quite traumatic. Who would opt for that? But for someone who is sick and in need of relief, it is a welcome wound.
I tell this story to introduce God’s solution to the problem of unfaithfulness I brought up last week. You might recall that last week we asked the question, "Is God ignoring our nation?" The short answer to that question is, most likely, yes. But remember, we are destroyed for lack of knowledge. In other words, God ignores us because we are first ignorant of him. If that is true, then the next logical question is "How does God get our attention?"
Those who don’t hear the whole story might only hear that the Lord will tear into us and go away, like a lion. On that basis, many people reject God, thinking of him as a vengeful judge who waits to destroy all of us who prove unable to follow his commands. But it is more appropriate to describe God as a divine surgeon, who indeed cuts into us, but also binds up our wounds.
Job 5:18 – "For he wounds, but he also binds up; he injures, but his hands also heal."
Lamentations 3:32 – "Though he brings grief, he will show compassion, so great is his unfailing love."
Deuteronomy 32:39 – "See now that I myself am He! There is no god besides me. I put to death and I bring to life, I have wounded and I will heal, and no one can deliver out of my hand."
Hosea chapter 5 describes the surgical work of God. It describes how God gets our attention to remove the rotten decay left by our unfaithfulness.
My appendicitis occurred long before my symptoms. Either a viral infection in my digestive tract or a blockage in the tube connecting my large intestine and my appendix led to an infection in my appendix. That was my sickness. My appendix was literally rotting. After the sickness settled in, I felt a huge gas bubble that wouldn’t go away (meaning my misery was someone else’s relief!). The relief of the symptoms came through surgery, which was painful at the time but critical for relieving my pain and ultimately in saving my life.
Hosea was called upon by God to get Israel’s attention so he could address the decay that had come as a result of the nation’s sickness of sin. In verses 1-2 Hosea charged the priests, the people, and the royal family of oppressing and even slaughtering the people. In verse 3 he charges Ephraim with prostitution and corruption. Verse 4 reveals a heart condition of unfaithfulness. In verse 5, the symptom is arrogance. Verse 6 talks about going "with flocks and herds to seek the Lord," meaning these people were bringing their animals for sacrifice, but it was empty worship. Outwardly they were worshiping, but inwardly their hearts were far from God.
These were a people, not unlike us, who were sick with sin. They were self-seeking and self-centered and assumed they were self-sufficient. They sold out their bodies as well as their moral and religious convictions like prostitutes. They were unfaithful to God, as Gomer was unfaithful to Hosea. Even their sad attempts at worship was empty and void of meaning.