“What Can I do with You?”

by Alexandra Rutkowski

“Come, let us return to the LORD.

He has torn us to pieces

but he will heal us;

he has injured us

but he will bind up our wounds.

After two days he will revive us;

on the third day he will restore us,

that we may live in his presence.

Let us acknowledge the LORD;

let us press on to acknowledge him.

As surely as the sun rises,

he will appear;

he will come to us like the winter rains,

like the spring rains that water the earth.”

At first glance, this sounds about right. And pretty familiar if you ask me. Israel said these words. And the people said to return to the Lord, to acknowledge Him because He would save and restore them. They had hope in this and that they would soon be in His presence.

But this is what came next. God said:

“What can I do with you, Ephraim?

What can I do with you, Judah?

Your love is like the morning mist,

like the early dew that disappears.

Therefore I cut you in pieces with my prophets,

I killed you with the words of my mouth—

then my judgments go forth like the sun.

For I desire mercy, not sacrifice,

and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings.

As at Adam, they have broken the covenant;

they were unfaithful to me there.”

Harsh? Not at all. The people of Israel were not truly repentant before God. They spoke all the right words and said all the ‘perfect’ things, but what came next? Nothing.

Talk is cheap.

I was reading through this passage a few nights ago for a homework assignment, and I couldn’t get any farther. I just kept reading it over and over again. And I felt a very strong conviction. Just thinking about this chapter (Hosea 6) kept me up for hours. All I could see is the dying church of today, and a lot of times, us. We cry out to God, we say we long for His presence, we acknowledge Him, and we have hope. Just like the Israelites. But that wasn’t enough. They spoke the right words, but God knew their heart weren’t in it. God wasn’t fooled by their seemingly holy proclamations. They didn’t impress God or win Him over. Instead, God pointed out that their loyalty was fleeting and evaporated easily. God didn’t want their words; He wanted their hearts. He wanted their loyalty and obedience, not their rituals. They didn’t seriously consider the changes that needed to be made in their lives. And it breaks my heart to read that they did not value the eternal benefits that come from worshiping God; they spoke these words caring for the material benefits.

But honestly, doesn’t that sound familiar?

I fear we often do the same. We say the perfect words and we even make ourselves believe that God is buying it. But have we deceived ourselves?

If we examine our heart and our intentions, do we find that we worship God because He is God or because we are human, and we can somehow reap the material benefits? Our selfishness blinds us to the real meaning of worship. When we cry out to God, are we loyal? Are our hearts right before Him? Are we obedient? I know these are simple questions… but we often ignore them. We fear them. And we fall into the trap of thinking that God falls for it. Trust me, He doesn’t.

Talk is cheap.

He doesn’t want our words alone. He wants our hearts.

I can’t help but think that often times, when we are saying these ‘perfect and right words,’ and believing that they are winning God over, is God shaking his head in sadness, saying,

“What can I do with you? What can I do?”

Next time you spend time with God and worship Him, I’d challenge you to examine your heart before Him.

I’ll definitely be doing the same.