Robert Wurtz II
“When Ephraim saw his sickness, and Judah saw his wound, then went Ephraim to the Assyrian, and sent to king Jareb: yet could he not heal you, nor cure you of your wound. For I will be unto Ephraim as a lion, and as a young lion to the house of Judah: I, even I, will tear and go away; I will take away, and none shall rescue him.
I will go and return to my place, till they acknowledge their offence, and seek my face: in their affliction they will seek me early. Come, and let us return unto the LORD: for he hath torn, and he will heal us; he hath smitten, and he will bind us up. After two days will he revive us: in the third day he will raise us up, and we shall live in his sight.” (Hosea 5:13–6:2 KJV)
The two kingdoms could not defend themselves against the chastisement of the LORD with the help of any earthly power, including the mighty Assyrians. They had a festering wound — what we would call in modern times an abscess. The root of this deadly sore was sin. Not just any sin, but apostasy from the Lord. In fact, though God elected Israel to be a light to the nations and predestined them to be a kingdom of Priests unto God; they failed miserably becoming more sinful and godless than some of the pagan nations before them.
Jehovah (Yahweh/YHWH) was not ready to merely cast them aside, but He brought to bear tremendous chastisements that were designed to sober their minds so they might change them and turn back to Him. In another figure, He turned the temperature up until the bellows was burned and the silver was consumed in the fire (Jeremiah 6:29). In other words, as a nation, they were never cleared of their sin no matter what God did. What made things worse is that they sometimes tried to serve Him in a backslidden state. They went through the motions as if they had no sin. This type of blindness and self-deception is rife in modern times.
Backslidden — but Still Worshipping
“Hear the word of the LORD, You rulers of Sodom; Give ear to the law of our God, You people of Gomorrah: “To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices to Me?” Says the LORD. “I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams And the fat of fed cattle. I do not delight in the blood of bulls, Or of lambs or goats. “When you come to appear before Me, Who has required this from your hand, To trample My courts? Bring no more futile sacrifices; Incense is an abomination to Me. The New Moons, the Sabbaths, and the calling of assemblies— I cannot endure iniquity and the sacred meeting.
Your New Moons and your appointed feasts My soul hates; They are a trouble to Me, I am weary of bearing them. When you spread out your hands, I will hide My eyes from you; Even though you make many prayers, I will not hear. Your hands are full of blood. “Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean; Put away the evil of your doings from before My eyes. Cease to do evil, Learn to do good; Seek justice, Rebuke the oppressor; Defend the fatherless, Plead for the widow.” (Isaiah 1:10–17 NKJV)
At some point in the 20th century the prostitute who worshipped Jesus in Luke 7:36-47 became the role model for worship — only instead of repenting and receiving forgiveness, multitudes came to believe they can go on worshipping God with full-blown sin in their lives. From whence it came I cannot tell, but somehow people got the idea that worship solves everything. So long as a person is a worshipper… nothing else mattered. An entire generation believes that worship is a substitute for obedience. Many believe they can live like Sodom and Gomorrah, but as long as they were a “worshipper” God is fine with their sin. The old timers would say that such a lie is hatched from hell. Nevertheless, it is a very old lie; because it was a common problem in Israel.
Isaiah 1:5, 6 tells us that Israel’s “whole head was sick.” God actually referred to them as Sodom and Gomorrah. The other prophets likewise painted horrid pictures of how terribly the people, who were called by God’s name, had drifted from Him. He could no longer tolerate them coming to worship Him — while behaving like they did. What did God say, “When you spread out your hands, I will hide My eyes from you; Even though you make many prayers, I will not hear.” Isaiah 1:16-17 gives a list of things they needed to do to get back on track. But the point is well taken. God does not accept worship as a sort-of “spiritual cure-all” for the disobedient. Worship must begin with obedience.
What did God tell Hosea? “I will go and return to my place, till they acknowledge their offence…” Our first word is “I” or Jehovah. This is important because since the beginning, Israel had been offered substitutes and imposters in place of the one true God. You will recall that while Moses was on the mountain with God that a dreadful thing happened:
“And all the people brake off the golden earrings which were in their ears, and brought them unto Aaron. And he received them at their hand, and fashioned it with a graving tool, after he had made it a molten calf: and they said, These be thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt. And when Aaron saw it, he built an altar before it; and Aaron made proclamation, and said, To morrow is a feast to the LORD.” (Exodus 32:3–5 KJV)
Notice how the people were about to worship a gold calf as if it were Jehovah! We would call this a “bait-and-switch” if they were selling goods. Nevertheless, it has been the common means of fooling people down through the ages. Many cults have offered people a false god in place of the one true God. They go through all the religious motions worshipping it… just like Aaron proposed in Exodus 32:5. The meeting may have been labeled “A feast to the LORD” but it was a feast to a dead golden calf serving as an imposter. It was idolatry. Aaron had turned the people’s minds away from the one true God and fixed it on an idol. The key thing is that the people worshipped it as would pagans, but called it “A feast to the LORD.” The whole experience was false.
Worshipping With Themselves
Similarly to how the Pharisee who “prayed with himself” in Luke 18:11, it is very possible for people to “worship with themselves.” The Greek words “with himself” is pros heauton, . This was a soliloquy with his own soul, a complacent recital of his own virtues for his own self-satisfaction, not fellowship with God, though he addresses God. (A.T. Robertson) When a person “worships with himself/herself” it is likewise not fellowship with God — though God is being addressed. One can sing in order to admire the sound of ones own voice. This is not worship. One can play an instrument in the name of worship — but truly they are admiring the sound of their instrument. This is why some desire their instrument to be loud. Their admiration is a sort-of “self-worship” — but addressed to God. True worship has God alone in view and does not divide the worship with anything else.
It has been said that “Religion is worship in the absence of God.” Sadly, Israel reached the point where God was not present with the people, but they still went on with their worship meetings. What happened? They created a golden calf, a substitute for the presence of God. It was something to direct the senses to. However, God cannot be made into a golden image or anything else. One might exclaim, “We would NEVER do that!” Really? Not so fast. In modern times a whole generation believes that God is a feeling… a similar feeling that one would get listening to a power ballad at a rock and roll concert.
The Holy Spirit is not a feeling. He is a person — the Almighty. Not a tingle, goosebumps, or strange emotional feelings one gets when a beautiful musical arrangement is played. As sad as it is, too often the band starts to play and the music leader (much like Aaron) has knowingly or unknowingly fabricated an imposter. Colored lights begin to flash into the manufactured smoke… the feeling begins to build… and someone proclaims, “Look saints! It’s the glory of God! I feel the presence of God!” Or in the words of Aaron, “These be thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt.” It didn’t happen over night. It happened one compromise at a time. One carnal leader influencing another carnal leader until a whole generation has been deceived by these false spiritual experiences. Somewhere along the way someone knew better — but they did it anyway and defended the practice. Many were on paid staff — receiving a check to deceive people concerning the true presence of God.
What were the children of Israel doing? They were trying to worship God with sin in their lives. They substituted God with something else. It could have been anything so long as the people could direct their need to worship at it. Yet one cannot worship and rebel at the same time without self-deception; but this has not stopped multitudes from trying. If the book of Isaiah teaches us anything it is that repentance-less worship is worthless. Man may fabricate a host of sights, sounds, and feelings that counterfeit God and His holy presence, but God doesn’t buy it. He says, “… in their affliction they will seek me early.” Not counterfeits or figments of mens imaginations, but Me, the real Me. Indeed, when the people were finally ready to get right with the one true God they declared, “Come, and let us return unto the LORD: for he hath torn, and he will heal us; he hath smitten, and he will bind us up. After two days will he revive us: in the third day he will raise us up, and we shall live in his sight.” Again, notice the personal pronouns.
The consequence of repentance and seeking the one true God is that, “…we shall live in his sight.” This is a way of saying that we will live in the genuine presence of the LORD. We will forsake the notion that worshipping God is a substitute for obedience. Again, the one true God says, “I will go and return to my place, till they acknowledge their offence, and seek my face: in their affliction they will seek me early.” Notice the personal pronouns, I, my, me. The people may go through the motions worshiping as they always did… but God was absent. It was dead, empty religion — surviving off the life support system of false emotional worship experiences. Is God saying to a generation, “I will go and return to my place, till they acknowledge their offence”? Repentance and acknowledging our sin is always the first step. We must agree with God. There can be no way forward until we acknowledge our offenses. God will simply “return to His place” until we do and leave us to our false devices.