Hosea 4:12 “Take words with you, and return to the Lord, say to Him, ‘Take away all iniquity; receive us graciously, for we will offer the sacrifices of our lips.’”
Sacrifices. When I think of that word, I think of something I can do or something that I can offer or give up for God. You can probably name many things you’ve sacrificed over the years – and you’ve done so willingly, as have I, just to be closer to the Lord. I wouldn’t take anything back that I’ve given to God in the past.
This morning I read Hosea 14:2 where God’s people were told to “take words” with them when they returned to God’s presence; they were to prepare something to say to the Lord. Israel had enjoyed a time of relative peace and prosperity when the book of Hosea was written but they had, at the same time, gotten off track in their relationship with God, in effect, they had left Him. Spiritual leaders were corrupt, families were unstable, there was a lot of prejudice and poverty; sounds a lot like the conditions we are facing today. The depravity of the fallen nature of man is not a new phenomenon and neither is the way we need to address that fallen nature. We need to take words with us.
I’ve prepared words before – words for a presentation at school when I was young(er), words for presentations at work, words for a message that I would give in church, and words to win arguments. The importance of the task was at hand would determine how much preparation I would put into getting all my words in order. As a youth in school, there were times that the right words for a presentation were difficult to find so I wouldn’t spend much time working on the assignment. The grade I received reflected my lack of preparation and my parents made sure that I knew they expected more from me. As time passed, I slowly grew to understand how important it was to prepare and began to take my time making sure my presentations first for school and later on for work were done well. I had people proofread them, critique my presentation; I was serious about getting it right. That need to be right bled over into my relationships with others; I was always prepared with an answer whenever a disagreement arose. I’d find myself rehearsing with great effort all the words needed to win; I wasn’t really interested in reconciling the relationship as much as I was interested in being right and winning.
Why is it so important to be right? To win every argument? Why is it so important that my “side” of the argument is broadcast until I am sure that my “rightness” is acknowledged? Pride keeps me in a tangle of opinions that gets me nowhere yet I insist on remaining on my course of utter loneliness. My words dig me deeper into holes of isolation from the ones I love and into agreement with those who only are interested in being on the “right” side. What is the answer? Taking the right words, not just words to win by. Words like, “I’m sorry, I wasn’t thinking of your side as much as I should have. Please forgive me.” Those are hard words to say but they are words that dissolve the bonds of pride in relationships.
The Israelites, to correct their state of depravity, were told to “take words” with them to the presence of the Lord. They weren’t told to take sacrifices or bring money – they were to bring words. It’s often much easier to offer sacrifices, to give monetary offerings, than it is to bring words of repentance to the Lord or to those we have disagreements with. It’s especially difficult when we know we “have a right” to be angry or upset. I’ve learned, however, that the way to the Presence of the Lord isn’t climbing up to places of prominence and recognition for my “rightness.” The way to His presence is bowing low when everything within me says I need to prove how right I am.
***It is important to note that I’m not advocating bowing to abuse or anything of that nature. It’s not God’s will that anyone be abused physically or emotionally. If you are in a situation where your well-being is in question, know that God’s not pleased when anyone is abused. Please take time to consider what your options are by calling a counselor or hotline.