A Forgotten God
“For Israel hath forgotten his Maker, and buildeth temples; and Judah hath multiplied fenced cities; but I will send a fire upon his cities, and it shall devour the palaces thereof.”—Hosea 8:14
Hosea 8:14 is the voice of Jehovah speaking to His people and ringing down through the centuries to each of us.
I believe that what I have to say, in the name of the Lord, has something for everyone of us. I have lived for over four years in this country now—a very short time compared with most of you—yet long enough to feel its pulse, to love its people and to know something of a burden in my heart for its tremendous spiritual need. What I say to you is said as a Christian man to a country with a great origin and certainly under God, with a great destiny but which is today in imminent peril of losing her way, missing the great purpose of God and ending in disaster.
Hosea 8:14 contains a message of judgment upon Israel from Jehovah, and the warning of impending disaster. How dramatic it all is! The chapter opens with two clarion calls. Here is God speaking to His prophet, “The trumpet to thy mouth as an eagle against the house of the Lord because they have transgressed my covenant and trespassed against my law.” With that clarion call to awaken a nation to a sense of danger that threatens them, there follows in crescendo, five more trumpet blasts in this chapter. In the first verse, transgression and trespass against the law of God; verse four, false princes and kings set up in authority without consulting Jehovah; verse five, idolatry, the calf of Samaria set up as a center of worship; verse nine, the folly of seeking safety in sinful alliances, in pagan powers, in this case with Samaria; verse eleven, false altars and sin as a result of it. The whole grim picture is summed up in the words of verse fourteen.
Here is the malady of the nation, she hath forgotten her Maker. But she is not idle, she is not inactive, “She buildeth temples (or palaces) and multiplies fortified cities.” Because of her malady and her activity there is the divine judgment pronounced, “I will send fire upon her cities and it shall devour the palaces thereof.” Consider this prophecy in the light of American life in 1957.
First, the malady of the nation. “Israel hath forgotten her Maker.” Do we understand what it means to forget God? I am not sure we do. It does not mean that God was put into the realm of oblivion. You cannot forget God like that! Even in denying God you are remembering Him. Intellectually we do not forget God. The word “forget” here means, “Israel hath mislaid her Maker.” If you forget something, it is out of your memory altogether. If you mislay something you are completely aware of its existence, but as far as you are concerned it is out of use, out of circulation.
When Israel was in the process of development they had a God-given leader, Moses. In Deuteronomy he warned Israel of the tremendous peril of mislaying God. For example, Deuteronomy 4:9. Beware, says Jehovah, of making the things which you say you believe with your mind utterly removed from the center of your family life. Teach them to your children and to your children’s children. Beware of mislaying God in your home life. In Deuteronomy 6:10, 12 he says that when you get into the land and you are living in easy prosperity, a prosperity that has come to you not because of your own skill or ability, but a prosperity that has come simply in the providence of God, beware when you enter the land of easy prosperity of this deadly peril of mislaying God.
Then in Deuteronomy 8:11–17 God says to beware of this peril of self-satisfaction when you are enjoying all the riches of the land which God has given you. Beware lest you forget the Lord thy God and say you have acquired to yourself this wealth and these riches.
In Deuteronomy 9:4, 7 Moses saw the danger that lay ahead. He knew that the supreme peril for this people had been that in the hour of prosperity, in the time when they dwelt in the land which God had given them by His promise, in that place they could forget God. If they could not do it intellectually, they could at least put Him out of their calculations and they could live as though He did not exist. That is what it means to mislay Him and that is surely much worse.
Now hundreds of years have passed by and the very thing that Moses said would happen has happened. In this hour in the time of Hosea, five minutes from midnight in the history of Israel, the prophet with tears, with a broken heart and yet with the tremendous authority of the Holy Ghost, because he payed the price of it through suffering in his own life, declared the coming judgment of God. He says, “You have transgressed God’s law, you have chosen false kings, you have set up false worship, you have allied yourself with material powers, you have built false altars all because you have mislaid God. Mislaid Him? To all intents and purposes you are oblivious of Him.”
My friend, this is a deadly peril which faces America, the church in America and all of us today. How do we mislay God today? By giving intellectual assent to His existence without seeing to it that our conduct is in harmony with our belief. We dare to say that we are Christians, not knowing that faith without works is dead. Intellectual orthodoxy will bring a man to eternal ruin just as much as heretical faith, if his life is not in harmony with his belief. Wherever there is mental assent to the existence of God, to the truth in Jesus Christ, which is not followed by action, then there is death, hell and judgment. God, intellectually accepted, intellectually believed, but with no response in obedience is a God who disappears from our conscience. He is relegated to our church observance on Sunday and left until we get back again. God help us, for if we live like that we are just not Christians! God has been mislaid as to His active power, as touching our daily life, as to His control over our lives, as to His inspiration, His driving power, as to His real living presence. America in 1957 has forgotten her Maker. When a people fail to see to it that the intellectual conception of their mind is followed by obedience and harmony in life then they mislay God altogether.
In the second place, look at the activity of the nation. “Israel buildeth temples, and multiplieth fenced cities.” The revised version says, “palaces and fortified cities.” The literal meaning is that they built spacious buildings. But whether the size of the building was for pleasure or worship it does not matter. The passion of the heart of that nation was for bigness without God. Today the passion for size, for greatness, to break through the sound barrier, the space barrier, the passion for the infinite is simply an unrecognized fact that man has a capacity for God and he will push back the prison walls of this world, push back every barrier—for his passion for greatness is everywhere.
We look with awe at a skyscraper but the sky looks down and smiles completely unperturbed, for, from the standpoint of the home of God, the mightiest skyscraper man has built is just a little dot on the globe that we call the earth. They are just the symptoms of the cry of the human heart for God, for eternity, for the infinite. They reveal the unrecognized truth that man cannot live by bread alone. A fortified city suggests the fear, the sense of insecurity, and of dread that grips millions of people in this world today. The passion for safety is an acknowledgment that if we have mislaid God we are not safe, we are desperately insecure, we are in danger of judgment. God has been mislaid so we build big without Him. We say, “Safety first,” but with God being mislaid we are utterly insecure. What is it that all nations are seeking? One word the heart longs for—security, rest and safety from destruction.
To put it on a personal level, a man believes with his mind an orthodox truth, but he fails to put it into the conduct of his life. You watch him, and his ambitions center around self-aggrandizement, bigness, greatness, money, business, comfort and the luxury of home. He builds great and at the same time he insures every conceivable risk with every insurance company he can because he is desperately insecure.
The malady, “Israel hath forgotten her Maker.” America hath forgotten her Maker. The activity, she buildeth spacious buildings without God and she is desperately afraid.
Now consider in the third place “the judgment of the nation,” “I will send the fire upon her cities and it shall devour the palaces thereof.” Long before the world was refashioned as described in Genesis chapter one, long before this world knew the rebellion of little puny people like us against our Creator, there was one who was a member of the angelic host in heaven and a friend of God, Satan by name, and he said, “I will ascend unto the heavens, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God, I will be like the Most High.” He ended in judgment and was cast down into hell.
Inspired by the same Satanic spirit long ago the human race got together (Genesis 11) and said, “Go to, let us build a city and a tower whose top may reach unto heaven,” but it ended in judgment and the Lord scattered them upon the face of the earth and confounded their language so that no longer they could speak in one tongue. It happened again in Hosea’s time and it ended in the judgment of Israel and the scattering of the Jewish people throughout all of the earth for two thousand years, with desperate suffering and judgment. It is happening today on a grander scale. What did the devil say? “I will build, I will reach to the throne of God.” What does man say in Genesis 11, “I will build to the very throne of heaven.” What is man saying today? “We will hit the moon!”
Would to God these words might reach people who would heed and listen, who are godless, God-rejecting people. Our Lord warned His disciples in Matthew 24 that this age would be no exception, it too will end in catastrophe, to be preceded by the coming of Jesus for His people. There will be adequate signs in the heavens and on Earth. Jesus said, “In that day nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places.” There will be warfare, bloodshed, and unhappiness. The Christian church will suffer, “Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name’s sake.” The man who is true to God, without compromise today, is going through that. “Many false prophets shall arise and shall deceive many and the love of many shall wax cold.” There will be an outreach of the Gospel to the uttermost parts of the earth. “This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.” This is the era of godless living when people could not care less. “For as in the days that were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage until the day that Noah entered into the ark.”
Somebody says this Bible is out of date; nonsense! Somebody says it is discredited. It is much more up to date, accredited and authentic than any daily newspaper or anything else. It is the Word of heavenly authority telling us that we are rapidly approaching the end of all time.
What did God say to Hosea, “I will send a fire, it shall consume.” What did Jesus say? “I am come to send fire on the earth.” Does that mean literal flame? No indeed! At the same time that Hosea was speaking Isaiah was saying in Isaiah 33:14, “The sinners in Zion are afraid; fearfulness hath surprised the hypocrites. Who among us shall dwell with the devouring fire? Who among us shall dwell with everlasting burnings?” Does that mean hell? No! John said of Jesus, “His eyes were as a flame of fire.” The first kind of fire that I am waiting to see upon Earth is the flame of the judgment of the Son of God. The Almighty omnipotent risen Lord, my Saviour, and Shepherd and Deliverer will come in glory and power. His eyes will be as a flame of fire. Who shall stand before that scrutiny? Isaiah answers this question in chapter 33:15–17. Who shall stand in the flame of His scrutiny?—the man who is not shopping under the counter, who is not taking bribes to get business, whose business life is not shady, who does not get business from somebody else underground and then share the profit when no one knows about it; the man who is straight, clean, and pure. Are you that man? My friend, is it you? Who shall stand before the flame of the fire of Jesus Christ?—the man who is pure in heart, who has not mislaid God, who is living in right relationship with Him and whose daily conduct is in harmony with his deepest convictions.
Beloved, if we forget God we do not escape Him. His very presence condemns. The fire that destroys is the fire of His nearness as He scrutinizes the very depths of our soul. You may mislay God but you cannot get away from Him. “Whither shall I go from thy spirit, or whither shall I flee from thy presence?” cried the psalmist in Psalm 139.
Ah, we mislay Him, we do without Him, but all the while we live and move and have our being, even our very breath is in the hand of an omnipotent God. According to our relationship to Him in Jesus Christ our Lord He will bless us or blast us!
God has got to be brought right back to the heart of the life of this nation as He was when this nation was founded. Not simply, “Trust in God,” on our coinage but, “trust in God” upon our hearts.
Oh, that for each of us, this day might mean the cleansing by the blood from the sin of mislaying God, the beginning of an upright walk, the dwelling on high of a sure defense and then we shall see the King in His beauty.