By Nathan Jones
We continue on with our twelfth installment of our faith study of the biblical Minor Prophets book of Hosea. This time we’ll ascertain just what’s caused all these problems for God and the people of Israel-sin-and what it is exactly.
The Problem and the Cure
How exactly then do we remain faithful-our loved ones, our Heavenly Father, our values, our principles, and to your own self be true-when our hearts are shattered and all faith seems lost?
Well, let’s look at the broken heart as if it was a physical condition. When your body gets hurt, you go to the doctor. The doctor does two things. The doctor examines you to discern the problem and next prescribes a cure. Let’s be doctors and examine what has caused the painful, broken heart and lost faith, then see what the Bible prescribes as the cure.
Remember that in the book of Hosea we are given two characters who also portray two types-Yahweh God whose type is Hosea, and the nation of Israel whose type is Gomer. God and Hosea both suffered because of what was done to them, while Israel and Gomer both suffered because of what they did to themselves. In all cases, though, the underlying cause of everyone’s suffering is a disease most today are loath to even whisper-SIN.
Sin as an act. What exactly is this disease called sin? Well, let’s first look at sin as an act. God defines sin in part in Hosea 6:7 using the Hebrew word abar, which means for one to “pass over,” such as trespassing over a boundary. For example, my inconsiderate punk of a neighbor up the street keeps riding his dirt bike across my front yard to get to an open field. Many times I’ve asked him to not tear across my property, but to no avail. He just disregards my right of ownership and defiantly continues to pass over the boundaries I’ve set. He is sinning against me.
When it comes to Man acting in sin against God, Dr. C. I. Scofield adds that sin is a “violation of or want of obedience to the revealed Word of God.”14 We willingly act to cross the boundaries and laws God has set for us. That’s why 1 John 3:4 defines sin as lawlessness.
Does that mean sin is only an act of doing something illegal, though, such as crossing a prohibited boundary? Not really, for actions are merely the inevitable result of sin put into motion.
Dr. Herbert Lockyer explains that sin as an act falls into three categories: transgression, denial, and failure.15 The first category of transgression, as we’ve seen in Hosea’s use of the Hebrew word abar, covers transgression as willfully “passing over” God’s divine command. God says, “This is how it is.” And we respond indignantly, “No way! I pass.” My biker neighbor willfully decided to ignore the sincerity of my request.
The second category, found in 1 Timothy 1:9’s use of the Hebrew word pasha, is to deny God’s divine right to command His creations by “breaking away from” and thereby causing spiritual anarchy. As famed missionary to China Hudson Taylor once said, “If He is not Lord of all, He is not Lord at all.” My neighbor denied my claim of ownership to my own land, and therefore also my authority inherent in that ownership.
The third category, found in Romans 3:23 and 1 John 3:4, is the use of the Hebrew word chata, conveys our failure to attain to God’s divine standard. Chata conveys the idea of deliberately missing a mark. Robin Hood, William Tell and Katniss Everdeen are all legends at never missing the bull’s-eye with their arrows, unless they choose to purposefully miss. My neighbor deliberately missed the mark by not meeting a lawful standard of mutual respect and compliance. How devastatingly sad that sin results in man’s failure to reach his true promise and potential.
Sin as a state. We’ve looked at sin as an act, now let’s look at sin as a state. Is sin something tangible where you can hold it, feel it, taste it, see it and smell it? No, you cannot, though certainly you can do all those with sin’s temptations and resulting consequences. That would make my neighbor’s dirt bike, helmet and even tongue ring sin, which is rather ridiculous. It’s the opposite, the intangible is the sin-his defiant attitude which manifests his unrighteous behavior towards me. When it comes to sin as a state, Scofield states that sin is “the absence of righteousness.”16 And, as 1 John 5:17 explains, “all unrighteousness is sin.”
Sin as a nature. Finally, let’s look at sin as a nature, or “enmity toward God.”17 In its fully distilled essence, sin is our natural desire to rebel against God and His moral law. It’s like that jerky co-worker assigned to your work team who thwarts every attempt you make at having a successful project. His very nature is to rebel and undermine. Hebrews 3:12 warns, “Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God…” Out of your heart springs the desire to rebel against Yahweh God and break His righteous laws.
To summarize these three characteristics of sin: one, it’s mankind’s rebellious nature that is sin, which two, causes us to be in an ongoing state of sin, resulting in three, where we act out our sin.
Sin as a disease. Sin’s the problem-the disease-which adversely affects our faith. How so? Coney Island, long known for its amusement parks and recreational areas on the sandy beaches of southwestern Brooklyn in New York City, was during the early 1920s in crisis. The land was rapidly losing its beachfronts to the Atlantic Ocean. The raging ocean surf, day-in and day-out, pounded the sandy shores with such power that the whole beach was being eaten away to nothing. A whole way of life was about to be washed away. Like the Atlantic waves wearing away Coney Island’s beachfront, so too does sin wear away at our belief in God.
Growing unbelief creates that loss of faith. There’s an inevitable decline. As our faith is washed away by sin, in our minds God becomes more distant, then nebulous, then laughable, then repulsive. Our very unfaithfulness condemns us before God’s justice and righteousness, for as Romans 14:23 reveals, “whatever is not from faith is sin.” Like a swimmer being sucked out by the receding tide, “unforeseen terrors are in store for the one who has carelessly plunged into sin.”18
Sin as a decision. Isaiah 59:12-13 points out how deep down, no matter how often we may claim ignorance of God’s righteous laws, we in truth do understand that we’re rebelling against the living God. The passage reads, “…as for our iniquities, we know them: In transgressing and lying against the Lord, and departing from our God, speaking oppression and revolt, conceiving and uttering from the heart words of falsehood.”
Dr. James M. Boice, former senior pastor of Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia, gets to the heart of why people knowingly reject God:
“This is the true nature of the problem. It is not that men and women have no knowledge of God at all and are condemned for what they ‘innocently enough’ do not know. It is rather that they do have knowledge of God but have rejected it because they do not like the direction in which such knowledge takes them.”19
Sin would still exist regardless of Man’s laws, for the origins of knowing right from wrong lie deep within Man’s very heart. As Romans 1:19 states, “because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them.” But, that knowledge of right and wrong also condemns, for as Romans 1:20 pronounces, “so that they are without excuse.” It’s like you being the defendant in a courtroom and having no defense to argue before the judge, because the bloody knife remains still clutched in your hand.
Sin as a fatality. Rebellion against God and His moral law only continues to sicken our hearts in a downward spiral that’s ultimately fatal. “Sin ages one and destroys his youthful spirit. The decay is gradual, imperceptible, but dangerous and fatal. Working secretly and silently it accomplishes the ruin of the stupid individual.”20 As Jesus stated about the rebellious heart in Mark 7:21-23, “For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lewdness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within and defile a man.” Our hearts gush evil because they’re rebellious, and so we stand before God as sick, defiled and ready for death just as Gomer did before the crowd.
Sin erodes the beach of your faith until nothing more is left than a few grains of sand. Sin tears, it washes away, it shatters your heart and all the hearts of those your sin collides against.
In the thirteenth part of this series on faith in the book of Hosea, we’ll finally understand the cure for sin and the shattered heart.