Do you believe God causes injury to those who love him? This is an excruciatingly hard question for believers. If you shouted “no,” please indulge me by continuing to read.
What if I said, “Do you believe God will do anything to stop us when we are going the wrong direction?” I bet you would say “yes” to that. Or how about, “Do you believe hurt can result when God redirects our path for our own good?” Phrased in this manner, perhaps the subject might seem a little more palatable.
I’m sure we all understand that God will do extreme things to stop us from sinning and spending eternity away from his presence. In fact, he sent his only Son for that very reason. The cross is evidence of God’s desire to put us on a righteous path no matter the cost, pain, harm, or suffering.
In our passage today, the nation of Israel had strayed far away from God. They had separated into two nations and had fallen into great apostasy, idolatry, and rejection of the Law. Hosea came along as a prophet in this fractured time, and God described what is happening in Israel as “adultery.” And so, God acts to discipline and correct the nations that he loves. His correction is painful, as it sometimes is with us. But see what Hosea says to the people:
“Come, let’s return to the Lord;
for it is he who has injured us and will heal us;
he has struck us down, but he will bind us up.
The One who has hurt you will heal you. Every parent who has had to correct or discipline a child understands this dichotomy. What happens for our own good can sometimes hurt a great deal.
I experienced this many years ago when a new pastor arrived at the large church I was serving and proposed a new staffing structure that eliminated all of the Associate Pastor positions. In a few months I was gone from the church and the people I had loved for 16 years. As I lay wounded, a lovely friend came and gave me the most startling news: God was the agent of my pain. It wasn’t the new pastor, or the restaffing plan, or the committee, or the church. God had done this for reasons beyond my understanding, but I was to trust in him.
Gotta be honest here; it took a while … about two years.
But I landed on this beautiful island and a year later, a position suddenly opened up for me in a wonderful church. Twelve years later I can say with assurance that God absolutely allowed me to have great pain in order to get me to a place where I needed to be. God indeed caused this to happen for my own good. I am thankful for his intervention in my life every day.
As you read this next part, notice the beautiful foreshadowing of the resurrection:
2 After two days he will revive us;
on the third day he will raise us up,
so that we may live before him.
And that’s the good news. If God has you in a hurt locker right now, he also has plans to bring you out of it.
3 Let’s know, let’s press on to know the Lord;
whose appearing is as certain as the dawn;
who will come to us like the showers,
like the spring rains that give drink to the earth.”
Like the spring rains that give drink to the earth, God will quench your thirst and restore you to joy if you return to him.
Hosea leaves us with the same warning he delivered to Israel. God desires faithful love. He is not interested in your faux acts of piety, your token offerings, or your shallow appearances at church for the sake of being seen there. No, indeed. We are called to give him our all with a love that is as steadfast as his love is for us.
Ephraim, what will I do with you?
Judah, what will I do with you?
Your love is like a morning cloud,
like the dew that vanishes quickly.
5 Therefore, I have attacked them by the prophets,
I have killed them by the words of my mouth,
and my judgment goes forth like a light.
6 I desire faithful love and not sacrifice,
the knowledge of God instead of entirely burned offerings.
Can God cause you pain? Only when you really need it. So come back to him with the offering of yourself and he will heal you.