Summary: The Gospel According to Hosea The Anatomy of Religious Hypocrisy, part 6
The Gospel According to Hosea
The Anatomy of Religious Hypocrisy, part 6
We are well into our summer series, The Gospel According to Hosea, looking at God's faithful love for an unfaithful people. Let me recap where we have been. The first three chapters set the foundation for how we see God responding to Israel's idolatry. God is a faithful and loving husband who has been cast aside by a wayward wife. Chapter six begins with a plea to return to the Lord then lists several accusations concerning their religious hypocrisy. So today I have entitled today's message, The Anatomy of Religious Hypocrisy.
1. Does Not Take the Word of God Seriously
First, religious hypocrisy does not take the word of God seriously. Israel ignored God's threats of judgement. Scripture often gives two motivations for obedience, warnings and rewards. The warnings in Scripture are God's means to motivate us away from sin and idolatry toward God with the threat of negative consequences, including not inheriting eternal salvation. The rewards in Scripture are God's means to motivate us away from sin toward God with the promises of more grace. Both are given to strengthen our faith, encouraging us to turn away from sin and toward God. But Israel saw the promises of Baal as stronger and better than the promises of God and the the threats of God as weaker than the threats of Baal. So God gave prophets to speak the words of God, specifically the warnings of God, to expose their idolatry and bring repentance.
2. Attempts to Atone for its Own Sin
Next religious hypocrisy attempts to atone for its own sin. We saw last week that when Israel saw their sickness, their wounds, that instead of turning to God they turned to Assyria but here we see that they also became more religious. Yet God did not want more religious activity, outward appearance and performance, which is meaningless without covenantal faithfulness. God was looking for steadfast love and the knowledge of God, which we have seen points to covenant faithfulness, not just going through the motions but a living and dynamic faith in God. This unfortunately characterized much of Israel's history even up to the time of Jesus. Israel, in general, was religiously strict but spiritually dead. So Israel became more religious in an attempt to appease God by religious effort without forsaking their sin. The danger of this is that you become deceived into thinking your ok when you are not. Religious hypocrisy is not sinning Saturday night and coming to church Sunday morning not is it the gap between your private life and public life. Religious hypocrisy is being comfortable with your sin and not remorseful; being comfortable with that gap between your private life and your public life. Religious hypocrisy is seeing your sin, seeing the need to do something about it but instead of going to Christ you do nothing and continue your religious behavior hoping that it will appease God.
3. Attempts to Cleanse Its Own Filth
Third, religious hypocrisy attempts to cleanse its own filth. Whoredom defiled Israel and no shower could wash it away. Israel recognized their sinfulness but thought religious behavior would solve their problem. Do you attempt to clean your own filth instead of repenting and turning to Christ? You make a promise not to do it again or to be nicer, not get angry, or maybe pray and read your bible more. This minimizes the depth of your sin and your need for a Savior. Sin is not just behavior but a cancer in our hearts, always there and cannot be ignored or it will destroy us. Behavior modification or making promises does not solve our sin problem; turning to Christ does.
4. Attempts to Control God
Fourth, religious hypocrisy attempts to control or manipulate God. Israel worshiped God in the same way they worshiped Baal. Canaanite religious sacrifices were like paying dues which obligated the god to give you what you wanted. All of us are tempted to do this with God. Do you ever get mad when things don't go your way? This is offensive to God because it shows you really want the goodies he offers rather than the relationship he offers; that you want the gifts of God rather than God himself.
5. Religious Hypocrisy is Running from God
Last, religious hypocrisy is running from God while it looks like running toward God. Religious devotion can be evidence that you are running from God. If we went to temple worship during this period in the history of Israel we would be impressed with their religious devotion but they were actually running from God. Going through the motions does not bring about heart transformation. The Lord brought suffering in the form of natural calamity and military defeat to bring them to the place where they would recognize their sin and return to the Lord. Yet they chose not to repent. Repentance is the gift of God which comes when we take the warnings of Scripture seriously. It is recognizing our sin and turning away from it toward Christ. Repentance is a way of life of recognizing my sin, turning from it, and turning toward God in faith. It is not even turning toward right behavior but directly toward Christ, and resting in what he has done for us, receiving grace and mercy, and then walking in Spirit empowered obedience. Repentance and faith are always linked together as two sides of one coin. Repentance and faith are both gifts but we are still responsible to exercise them. Then Hosea gives a wonderful promise, 'His going out is sure, certain and faithful as the dawn.' This is the confidence that he will provide for us. Today do not leave here without taking God's word serious, turning from your sin and trusting God.