Hosea 6:3 “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.”
I have loved this verse ever since encountering the Japanese translation I use set to music verbatim. I promptly translated that into English (since no English translation of the Bible fits the meter of the song) and we’ve been singing it in this church ever since. However, there’s a real irony to that, because this verse expresses what the people were saying without getting their hearts right with God. The words themselves are all right and pious, but a close examination reveals that in this case, they were a “give to get” sort of thing. To use a Latin expression that has been in the news a lot recently, they were intended as a quid pro quo. God wanted more than words, He wanted follow-through. The dangerous thing is that sometimes we even fool ourselves, saying all the right things without actually doing them, as James pointed out. (James 1:22) When God expresses to the people what He really wants, He uses the same terminology they did, of acknowledging Him. (verse 6) We can say it without doing it! The Bible has countless expressions of the truth that God wants our hearts first. If He has those, our actions will follow. We get that backwards and try to “earn points” with God by our actions, without really giving Him our hearts. What a tragedy! We try to reform people, and even ourselves, from the outside in, but God knows it has to be the other way around. It’s not at all that our actions don’t matter. Jesus was very clear on that, asking, “Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?” (Luke 6:46) He hit the nail on the head when He said, “If you love me, you will obey what I command.” (John 14:15) James also talked about faith expressing itself in actions. (James 2:14-26) What further complicates things is that occasionally, repeated actions can lead to faith. However, that is certainly the exception. God wants us to start by repenting of our rebellion and giving Him our heart. Then and only then will we express our love for Him by the obedience that He seeks.
When we talk about acknowledging God, Proverbs 3:5-6 immediately comes to mind: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.” I have loved that passage for a long time, precisely because I have a strong tendency to “lean on my own understanding.” I have come to the conclusion that we are all hypocrites to some degree, and spiritual growth is the process of being liberated from that. It is not at all wrong for me to sing today’s verse, but I must be careful that I am indeed pressing in to acknowledge my Lord, and not just saying the words and going my own way. Since I’ve been in church literally since before I was born, I know all the right words to say. I must not be deceived by that, but seek to worship God always in spirit and in truth. (John 4:24)
Father, thank You for this powerful reminder. Thank You that I do know what is right, even though that leaves me with no excuse when I fail to follow through. Help me say the right things and do the right things because I am indeed fundamentally right with You, for the blessing of those around me and for Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!