I enjoy reading and hearing stories about people who were changed by God. I am challenged and inspired when I hear about people who were willing to sacrifice everything to follow Jesus. It moves me deeply when I read about men and women who died for their faith. I get excited about stories of people who lived deeply sinful lives, but then were changed by the grace of God in miraculous ways. I gain hope from the stories of people who faced unbelievable adversity only to come through it stronger and better. You see, sometimes when reading the Bible or thinking about God, it is helpful when we can associate the idea from Scripture to the life of a real person who walked through that situation or issue.
Hosea leads the people to a story as he challenges them to return to God. He wants them to see that it can be done, if only they will have an encounter with Jesus. So Hosea takes them to a story of a person with whom they were familiar to show them how repentance might look. The story of Jacob can be found in the book of Genesis (you might want to read Genesis 32 for a refresher). Jacob’s father was a guy named Isaac and his grandfather was Abraham. From birth, Jacob was a sort of cheat and swindler. He cheated his brother out of the family inheritance, and lied to his father to make off with the goods. His life was one of self-centered fighting with anyone if it got him what he thought he deserved. Yet, God had something different for Jacob, but getting this cheat to change would be huge. First, God put Jacob in a situation with his brother where he could not lie his way out. Jacob feared for his life and that of his family. As Jacob fretted, Jesus literally showed up in the middle of the night, and wrestled with Jacob… yep, they had a brawl. Jacob did everything he could to get the upper hand on God, just like he had done in every relationship, but that could not happen. At the end, Jacob was left broken, repentant, and dependent on God. He asked Jesus to bless him, which He did, but he also left him permanently injured, as a reminder that you can never win if you try to fight with God.
Hosea used this story to give God’s people a real life example of what needed to happen in their lives. They too were trying to lie to God and run from Him. They too, would eventually lose. But repentance was possible, if only they would run to Him, and let God deal with them. Hosea gives them a tangible story with which they can associate that is a reminder of God’s activity and their needed response.
Many times in my life, these sort of stories have challenged me while God has demonstrated His glory through the lives of people. The Bible is full of great stories of people who met God, were changed, and then used to do the incredible. But those stories to not end with the Bible, church history is filled with sinful people who met God, whose transformed lives became trophies of the wonderful grace of God. For followers of Jesus, it is a good thing to find these stories and be challenged. To end today’s devotion, I want to encourage you to go read a story of one of God’s people. Use the internet and google search one of these names (or you may find someone else that interests you), and find the story of their life and faith. Be challenge, find hope, and give thanks that Jesus can still change people and use them.
*Polycarp (yeah, it is a name, not a fish)