“When Ephraim saw his sickness and Judah his wound, Ephraim went to Assyria and sent a delegation to the great king. But he cannot cure you or heal your wound.” (CSB – Read the chapter)
Where do you go when trouble comes? If you’re like me, you go to someone or something you believe can solve your problem. You go somewhere you think will be able to provide refuge until the trouble passes. Wherever or whomever this is says a lot about you. It says a lot about who you trust. It says a lot about what it is that has captured your heart. For Israel, what it said wasn’t good.
As you read through the book of Deuteronomy, the promises God made through Moses to the people of Israel were simply stunning. The blessings He guaranteed they would experience if they would just stay faithful to Him were almost beyond description. They amounted to this: Your land and lives will flourish beyond what you can believe. Everything you touch will turn to gold. Life will be good. In short: They didn’t have any reason to ever turn anywhere other than God for anything.
If you are a follower of Jesus, you have something similar from your heavenly Father. We have Jesus’ invitation to come to Him when we are wearied and burden and He will give us rest. We have His promise to never leave us or forsake us. We have Paul’s assurance that we can go to Him in prayer with our worries and the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will overwhelm even the biggest anxieties in our lives. In Christ, life is good.
But it’s not easy. That’s because sin is still in the world. It was for Israel too. Remaining faithful to the God who had brought them up out of Egypt didn’t mean they weren’t still going to occasionally face life’s stiffest challenges. King Asa was famously faithful for nearly all of his life and yet early in his reign had to face down the forces of the Cushite King Zerah that were a million strong. Remaining faithful meant that God was going to carry them through those challenges. Their wildly outnumbered army won the battle decisively.
In the same way, in addition to all of the more comforting promises we have from Jesus, He also promised us that we would face persecutions and hardships from the world because of our commitment to follow Him. There was going to be a direct, one-to-one correspondence between faithfulness and suffering. Paul and Peter both would later affirm this promise.
This is where the challenge comes in and where what Hosea had to say here begins to matter. In spite of all the reasons we have to trust in Jesus explicitly, when we are up against life’s difficulties, the strong temptation we face is to go with what looks like it will work to bring us some relief in the moment. We are sorely tempted to trust what we can see will get us out of the situation or ease our pain rather than wait for God to move in His time. In other words, while we’re happy to wait on His timing when everything is going well, when it’s not, our timing is better, thank you very much.
For Israel, they were hurting from life somehow—probably geopolitically being threatened by a militarily stronger neighbor—but instead of turning to the Lord for help, they turned to Assyria. Assyria was the superpower of the day. They were bigger than everybody and expansionist-minded. Israel must have figured they were far enough and small enough to stay off Assyria’s conquest radar, because they paid them off to deal with their problem. The real problem was, though, that Assyria wasn’t going to be able to solve their problem. Trusting in them would only create a new one. Their eventual conquest of Israel bears out this truth.
For us, the same thing is true. When we are in a moment of pain or stress, there will be apparent sources of help all around us. There will be a whole list of people or organizations who look like—and even assure us—they can solve our issues if only we will trust in them. Any solution they offer, though, will come with strings that are attached to even bigger problems than we have now. They cannot ultimately help us.
There is only one person who has the power and the willingness to help us solve all of our problems. His solutions aren’t always going to come in the ways or at the time we want them to come, but His plans are better than ours and we can experience that good if we will only trust in Him.