“They will eat but not be satisfied; they will be promiscuous but not multiply. For they have abandoned their devotion to the Lord.” (CSB – Read the chapter)
Did you know there is a whole industry dedicated to creating the food you see in television commercials? It’s all fake. Well, most of it is anyway. It’s all plastic and wax. But wow does it look good on the screen! It looks good enough to eat to be sure. If you made your own version, the TV version would look better. But if you ate it, you would find it to be remarkably unsatisfying. In fact, you would find it to be decidedly bad for your health. What Hosea says here is that sin is kind of like that too.
When it’s sold right, sin always looks good. If it doesn’t, it’s not tempting, and if it’s not tempting, we’re not going to leave behind what is right in order to try it out. In fact, if you’re sinning and it isn’t fun or doesn’t feel good in the moment, you’re not doing it right.
This is all part of sin’s deception. And we find it everywhere we look in our culture. The number one invitation to sin is that it is a better, more pleasurable way of life than righteousness is. Think about it. In the movies churches are almost always places where you can expect judgment and forced conformity to a mold that isn’t you. They are boring and filled with guilt over your desire to do things that are way more fun than church is. And, they’re filled with hypocrites who, like you, don’t really want to be there either. In fact, they are secretly doing them, they just don’t want you to do them.
Sin, on the other hand, is where real life and joy are found. And just so we’re clear, the word sin is used only for the sake of argument. The “truth” our culture really wants us to understand is that there’s no such thing as sin. There is only really living versus needlessly keeping oneself from what is good. All those things religious people judgmentally label “sin” are experiences without which our lives aren’t as full as they might otherwise be. Missing out on those makes us less well-rounded than folks who experience them to their fullest. If we’ll just join in instead of worrying all the time about crossing some made up standard that was really only used to keep us in line for the convenience of our parents and teachers when we were kids, we’ll experience life for what it really could be. Back to me now: These arguments are rarely made explicitly (although they are sometimes), but they lie at the heart of almost every invitation to sin we encounter.
But it’s all plastic and wax. It’s all fake. As appetizing as it looks, it not only won’t fill us up, it will be rather decidedly bad for us. One of the challenges is that we don’t often experience this bad in the moment. Often, in fact, we get the apparent good without any immediate consequences. All the stuff about it being better than what we’re told is supposed to be good seems right.
Think about it: When you told that little, white lie to avoid hurting her feelings, it actually improved the situation. She felt good about herself and was never the wiser. Nothing was lost and much was gained. When you finally said yes to the girls and went along with them on the Vegas trip, lying to your boss about being sick, you had the time of your life—and what happened in Vegas definitely needed to stay there. You’re still the life of any party you go to when you start retelling that story…with a few specially chosen details to keep them interested. You looked that stuff up on your phone when no one was around, felt relief, and no one was the wiser. Who was really hurt?
The truth, though, is that sin cannot ultimately deliver on its promise. It will not ultimately satisfy. Ever. Now, hear me well: It’s going to taste good in the moment. Again: If it doesn’t, we’re not doing it right. But, whenever we sample that food, it will not fill us up. And every time we try to eat some more, it fills us less. Sin is like drinking sea water. The more we drink, the thirstier we become. And as we keep going back to get the satisfaction we long to have, we are slowly killing our body. Except, in the case of sin, we are slowly killing our soul. Sin kills the soul, not just the body. And even when we don’t feel any effects on our body, our soul is slowly being drained of its life.
The real message here is this: Don’t take sin’s bait. It will always look good and will sometimes even look necessary, like something we don’t have any choice but to do. But it will not deliver. If the path is going to dishonor God or otherwise deviate from His character, it will leave us emptier than when we started. Israel was ignoring this truth and killing themselves from the inside out. Hosea tried to warn them, but to the thirsty man in a pool of seawater, that’s a hard truth to buy. But buy we must. Our very lives are at stake. Stick with the path of righteousness. It’s the only place you’ll find the life you seek.