In Hosea 13 we read the following: “But I am the Lord your God from the land of Egypt; you know no God but me, and besides me there is no savior. It was I who knew you in the wilderness, in the land of drought; but when they had grazed, they became full, they were filled, and their heart was lifted up; therefore they forgot me. So I am to them like a lion; like a leopard I will lurk beside the way. I will fall upon them like a bear robbed of her cubs; I will tear open their breast, and there I will devour them like a lion, as a wild beast would rip them open.”
Hosea was a prophet to Israel, the northern kingdom, just before they were attacked and overcome around 722 B.C. by the Assyrian army. Hosea’s ministry arrived on the tail end of a golden era for Israel (of course). Israel had been thriving: financially prosperity, peace at the borders, gold and silver filled the treasury, life was easy. We see God warn His people multiple times throughout the Bible of the danger of peace and prosperity. We are forgetful and fickle creatures. When life is difficult we lift our heads to pray and sadly when life is easy we become impregnated with idolatry, lusting after mischief, addiction and slothfulness.
Preaching a God who rips His people open and tears open their breast like a bear robbed of her cubs is not the sort of thing that easily attracts a following, but this is our God. He is judge over all the earth. He blesses the meek and humble but He “strikes the earth with the rod of His mouth…and kills the wicked” (Isaiah 11:4). He chastises us corporately, as seen in the Old Testament exile of His people, and He also reproves and disciplines those whom He loves in order to heal and guide them (Rev 3:19).
CHEAP, LIMP-WRISTED LOVE
The quickest way to earn a man’s approval is to fill him with compliments and withhold from him helpful, hard words of criticism. It is also the best way to kill his soul. Western culture has become limp-wristed. We’ve repeatedly seen leadership cower from telling people what they need to hear in fear of the revolt that might result from it. This is cheap, empty love. It isn’t love. This kind of false love doesn’t know suffering or sacrifice.
It has sadly become a regularity within Bible-believing churches to hand out “Get out of jail, free” cards to smiley, happy families, imbued with greed and self-reliance. In tight religious circles we pretend same-sex attraction doesn’t exist and then anathematize it when it surfaces. An incredibly small group of politically extreme left or right wingers somehow often hamstrings politicians and judges to unjustly arbitrate in their favor in fear of the social media fallout that might otherwise occur. Our love has turned to lukewarmness. We have become limp-wristed. We offer each other comfort and security and say ‘Peace, peace’ when there is no peace. We teach the kind-heartedness of God, when His actual intention is to rip our breast open like a she-bear robbed of her cubs.
THE CHIEF SUFFERER
Those who pass Christians off as unaware fools who have no concept for the reality of things don’t know Jesus, who is the Reality of all things. Can you imagine showing up to your bowling league, or to you family brunch, or maybe even your own birthday party only to realize that nobody recognizes you? What if, going even further with this ludicrous idea, they despise and reject you? This is a summation of Christ’s life on earth. “The true light (Jesus Christ), which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him” (John 1:9-11). Later in life Jesus formally began His preaching ministry, proclaiming He was the Son of God, sent to save the world and even his own family begged him to stop. They passed him off as a fool.
But the ultimate act of Jesus’ suffering was the cross, where his Father ordained the hands of men to grotesquely murder him. Isaiah 53 says of God the Father that, “it was the will of the Lord to crush him (Jesus.).” But even Jesus was in league with his Father. He gave his life as a ransom, to create for himself a church, a bride for the eternal ages. God loves His people and His love tolerates no rivals. Jesus’ suffering and death is proof of that. Jesus laid his own life down and he took it up again after carrying the weight of hell on behalf of His brothers and sisters, the children of God (John 10:18).
Rip Me Open
Hosea prophesied to Israel, “Come, let us return to the Lord; for he has torn us, that he may heal us; he has struck us down, and he will bind us up…Let us press on to know the Lord” (Hosea 6:1, 3). If you are Christ’s, then Christ has been struck down for you, that you might be lifted up with Him, in Him. That being said, be wise and discerning. We serve a holy God, a fierce, wild and unstoppable God. He is not safe, but He is good. If for a time God has chosen to rip you open, then let it be so. He tears in order to heal. He rips in order to bind.
If you are Christ’s, and life is not going the way you had planned, don’t mourn as others do, who have no hope (1 Thess 4:13). You are not entitled to all the things you want in this life because you are not the orchestrator of your life. God is, and He has nothing but the best planned for you. Furthermore, every second of suffering in the here and now for the cause of Christ will be richly rewarded in heaven beyond your wildest dreams. Jesus is our Savior and Lord. His very flesh is our reminder that God rips open that He may heal. Jesus was torn for us that we might be redeemed.
“And between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain… (and the heavenly hosts cried out) ‘You were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation…'” (Rev 5). Amen, come Lord Jesus.