We will never again say ‘Our gods’ to what our own hands have made, for in you the fatherless find compassion’ (Hosea 14:3).
Few words are said with more conviction than the vow: “Never again!” Few regrets are as painful as those when we realize we did again what we said we would never again do.
Through the prophet Hosea, the Lord God put words into the mouths of his people. Never again does he want to see his loved ones making the lethal mistake of trading him in for a fake god. It makes us wonder. Does he also want to hear those words from us? To be sure, there’s no statue in the backyard that we bow down to. No hand-carved idol sits in our family room. But idolatry is not a sin we can check off our list of “Never Did Do—Never Will Do.”
If we look closely at our lives, if we examine them under God’s microscope, we will find many a would-be idol hidden in the cracks and creases. Whatever comes first in our life, that’s our god. If anything is more important than the Lord of heaven and earth; if we trust anything more than him; if we love anything more; if we fear anything more—mark that down as an idol.
And every idol is a fake. Every hope placed in an idol is empty. Every act of idolatry is a shame. Some of those in Israel did bow down to wood and stone. But many simply made up a god in their own mind—as we are tempted to do. Wealth has often been put forward as a candidate for Most Important in Life. So, we are tempted to make money, expecting it will solve our problems. But the field is crowded with rivals for God. Popularity, career-advancement, and the easy life raise their hands to be recognized. So, we “make friends” and “build careers”, as if they were all-important. But maybe, the greatest rival to the only true God is Self. We prefer a life that is self-made.
Simply put, we want to be God. Yet, never can that be. We can create nothing. We cannot control the wind. We cannot control the stars. We cannot map out the future. We cannot stop loved ones from eventually dying.
As gods—we are failures. By contrast, the Lord God is everything we are not. Life, death, nature, and history are in his hands. He meets every need—even those we may not think of. Hosea might have pointed to the Lord’s control of sunrises and sunsets. He might have pointed back to the miracles that stunned the Egyptians. Instead, he points his finger at children—to fatherless children. Fatherless children are a sad sight even today. But in ancient times there were no government programs, no adoption agencies, no job market for mothers without husbands. Overlooked and overwhelmed, the widows and the fatherless were often the helpless.
But not by their Savior God. He opens his heart to those with little hope. He is their Father. Do we really want to compete with him? Do we want to continue making our own god? The answer is: “No!” Once again, we vow, “Never again!”
This time we add, “So help me God!”
We pray: Holy triune God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, sometimes without thinking, we try to stand in your shoes and sit on your throne. We try to replace you with our own ideas, or with idols in this world that we have chosen to serve. Slap us across the head, if necessary. Wake us up. Show us again that we are but strangers here, and everything we see around us will pass away. You have told us, “Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life.” Give us the strength, then, to remain faithful. Empower us to mean it when we tell all idols, “Never again!” Amen.
Written by Pastor Paul Ziemer, WELS National Civilian Chaplain and Liaison to the Military, Cape Coral, Florida Provided by WELS Ministry to the Military