God deplored the insincere faith of Ephraim and Judah: “O Ephraim, what shall I do to you? O Judah, what shall I do to you? For your faithfulness is like a morning cloud, and like the early dew it goes away” (Hosea 6:4). He still does. In defense of His interaction “with tax collectors and sinners,” Jesus explained that He came to call sinners to repentance – those who need spiritual healing (Matt. 9:11, 13). He applied Hosea to His critics, “But go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice’” (Matt. 9:12). Accurate knowledge of God compels mercy toward sinners without forgetting one’s dutiful offerings to God (Matt. 23:23; Psa. 85:10-13). We have received His mercy and are to be merciful as we serve God (Matt. 18:33). Yet, being a Christian is often reduced to rituals and formalities in not a few churches. Sinful conduct of members is winked at and ignored because they are large donors, prominent in the community, in regular attendance at worship services, or otherwise highly regarded (1 Cor. 5:1-2). They may “fast twice a week” and “give tithes of all” they possess, but such things are meaningless to the Lord when hearts are far from Him (Lk. 18:10-14). God foretold and executed judgment upon Ephraim and Judah for their insincere, disobedient faith (Hosea 6:5). Let us learn from their failures and not repeat their sins (1 Cor. 10:5-13). Genuine and enduring faith must be driven by mercy toward others as we keep the commands of God.
Good understanding gains favor, but the way of the unfaithful is hard. (Proverbs 13:15, NKJV)
Sin is a choice that brings hardship to everyone who is enslaved by it. The consequences of sin are hard, and can be permanent (as is indicated by the Hebrews word which is translated “hard” in today’s verse). When we choose to be unfaithful to God’s standard of truth, under which we live and to which we are accountable, the course of our life will be difficult. When we choose to be unfaithful to God, we only hurt ourselves (cf. Acts 9:5). Unfortunately, evil influences in this world are at work to play-down the age-old truth, that “whatever a man sows, that he will also reap” (Gal. 6:7). Many think they can sin without consequences or punishment. They have been deceived by a permissive society that glamorizes and rewards sin. It is a hard, yet necessary lesson, to accept the consequences of our sins. Only by acknowledging the reality of our own sins against God – as well as the consequences they bring – will we ever be willing and able to repent and obey the Lord to be saved by His grace (cf. Acts 2:37-41). Good understanding of sin’s difficulties helps us avoid sin, and obtain favor from God and men. Sinners will obtain favor from God by coming to Jesus. His yoke is far easier, and His burden is far lighter, than sin (Matt. 11:28-30).
For the Lord brought Judah low because of Ahaz king of Israel, for he had encouraged moral decline in Judah and had been continually unfaithful to the Lord. (2 Chronicles 28:19, NKJV)
The Lord allowed the kingdom of Judah to be oppressed by enemy states during the 8th century B.C. Assyrians, Edomites and Philistines plundered Judah because king Ahaz was “continually unfaithful to the Lord,” and because he “encouraged moral decline in Judah” (2 Chron. 28:16-18). It is undeniable that our country has been encouraging moral decline for a very long time. The “sexual revolution” of the 1960s promoted fornication and adultery, fracturing the home and paving the way for accepting the homosexual lifestyle as normal and natural (which it is not, cf. Rom. 1:24-28). Alcohol and other drugs decimates lives and destroys families (1 Pet. 4:1-5). Pornography has captured and corrupted souls – fueled by passion and internet accessibility on cell phones, tablets and computers. “Sin is a reproach to any people,” and America is no exception (Prov. 14:34). The Old Testament shows that God does not long endure any nation that mocks faith in Him as it rushes headlong into immorality. Now is the time for our nation to heed the warning God gave Israel: “Cast away from you all the transgressions which you have committed, and get yourselves a new heart and a new spirit. For why should you die, O house of Israel? For I have no pleasure in the death of one who dies,” says the Lord God. “Therefore turn and live!” (Ezek. 18:31-32)