Week 5, Wednesday: Outward piety not enough
As we mentioned before, the people of Israel were very religious, at least outwardly so. They even claimed to know God, and could doubtless point to all kinds of ceremonies and activities entered into in His Name as evidence to back up their claim.
But God does not look on the trappings of worship, which are easy to perform. He’s looking for much more from those who claim to know Him.
Read Hosea 6
Meditate on Hosea 6.4-6
1. God addresses both Israel (“Ephraim”) and Judah in verse 4. Evidently the situation in each country bore many similarities. How did God regard the faithfulness of these two nations? What images might He have used to indicate the kind of faithfulness He was seeking?
2. Meditate on Psalm 50, which was written probably some time much earlier, during the time of Solomon. How can you see that the teaching of Psalm 50 has application to the situation in Israel and Judah which Hosea addresses? Does Psalm 50 speak in any way to the Church in our day?
3. Look at the images God uses to portray the ministry of the prophets He sent to Israel and Judah (v. 5). Why are these apt? What effect did God intend the preaching of the Word to have on these nations? Is this how we think about preaching today? Explain.
4. God is always looking for what His Law requires (cf. Matt. 22.34-40). What’s more important, that we be faithful in “church” and at “worship,” or that we love God and our neighbors? Explain.
5. The people of Israel appear to have been completely untouched by the prophets God sent to them. What keeps people from hearing the Word of God? Does preaching that fails to address the reality of sin help a people in knowing God and showing mercy to their neighbors? Why not?
It is not possible to love God when you will not listen to His Word. It matters not a whit how faithful you are in worship or serving at church if you have no mercy or love for your neighbors. What is God to do when His Word is ignored and when what we want is more important than what He wants? This is what He was forcing Israel and Judah to face up to, as the clouds of judgment began forming on the horizon.
Will the LORD cast off forever?
And will He be favorable no more?
Has His mercy ceased forever?
Has His promise failed forevermore?
Has God forgotten to be gracious?
Has He in anger shut up His tender mercies? Selah
And I said, “This is my anguish;
But I will remember the years of the right hand of the Most High.”
I will remember the works of the LORD;
Surely I will remember Your wonders of old.
I will also meditate on all Your work,
And talk of Your deeds.
T. M. Moore
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A primary theme of the book of Hosea is Israel’s failure to keep covenant with the Lord. God’s covenant is a central theme and provides the organizing motif for all of Scripture. Learn more about God’s covenant by ordering a copy of T. M.’s book, I Will Be Your God, from our online store (click here).
Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.