Hosea / chapter 5 (read the chapter)
Yes, keep reading. Such a provocative title deserves a little explanation! It stems from the last verses of this chapter: “For I will be like a lion to Ephraim, like a great lion to Judah. I will tear them to pieces and go away; I will carry them off, with no one to rescue them. Then I will return to my lair until they have borne their guilt and seek my face—in their misery they will earnestly seek me.” (vs 14-15)
We don’t usually picture God as a devouring lion. In fact, when the New Testament reminds us that there is an enemy who “prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (1 Pet 5:8), it’s talking about Satan, not God.
I would even venture to say that, especially in Western Christianity, we have all but dismissed the idea that God brings pain, hardship, or suffering across our paths. Instead, those who are eager to proclaim God’s wonderful character (and it is, indeed, wonderful!) sometimes tend to gloss over or ignore many of the Bible’s dramatic pictures of Him. (Ironically, many of them—just like this one—are written as God speaking about Himself in the first person!)
So I guess that begs the question: Would God ever do what He talks about in this chapter of Hosea? Would He act like a lion with His own people? Or maybe we should wonder if that was something He would only have done in Old Testament times, but not today?
In Western society, one of the things we love to do most is avoid consequences. Although we don’t have a 100% success rate, we are nevertheless pretty good at it. We attempt to minimize a whole range of “negative” consequences—from taking medication to ease the heartburn related to eating unhealthy foods, to installing a radar detector to be able to drive over the speed limit, to getting abortions to end inconvenient pregnancies.
We see this trend in general society as well, as over the decades, our government has put various “safety nets” in place to help people minimize the “negative” consequences of life’s situations—from being laid off from a job, to losing your house in a flood, to having an unsupported child out of wedlock. Most recently, Americans witnessed a huge, full-scale example of this in the economic bailouts of 2009, when it was determined that many banks, corporations, and companies were “too big to fail.”
There may be nothing wrong with applying this principle to general society, but as saturated as we are with this type of mentality, I think we also try to apply it to God, and there isn’t much in Scripture to suggest that He’s interested in helping us avoid the “negative” consequences of our choices. In fact, it’s often the opposite. Instead of having a “too important to fail” attitude toward us, God so values our eternal life that He looks at us as “too important not to fail” when the road we’re on will lead to ultimate destruction.
To that end, God will happily make us miserable. He will crash in like a roaring lion and tear us to bits, if that’s what it takes. If, in our misery, we will finally, finally turn to Him and seek His face, He will certainly make us miserable. Sometimes this may mean simply letting us experience the natural consequences of our actions. At other times, this may mean God imposes consequences as a means of discipline in order to help us change course before we go somewhere we can’t return from. (This is how Satan and God differ as the two lions. Satan is only interested in devouring, because he’s a hater. God is interested in restoring, because He’s a Lover.)
From the perspective of Love, it isn’t always the loving thing to rescue someone from “negative” consequences. It isn’t always the loving thing to help someone avoid misery, for you may be removing the very thing that would send that person seeking after God.
We tend to think that God relieves misery, and sometimes He does. But sometimes, misery might just be what the Doctor ordered.