Some friends of mine recently told me a story of a harrowing experience they had in the
mountains of North Carolina. While there, they were told to watch for bears as they hiked. The time of year made this even more important, because many of the female bears would have young cubs with them. This family went on several hikes, and the dad was constantly teasing the kids by saying stuff like, “Listen, I think I hear a bear.” Of course the kids would get nervous, and then dad would laugh and say everything was fine.
On the last day of the trip, they were taking one last hike through the trails, and dad continued to tease, but the kids were getting immune to the jokes. Dad was leading the hike, when he stopped and slowly raised his hand as if to tell the rest of the family to stop. At first they thought he was teasing again, but then they saw what he saw. A mama bear with three cubs… about two feet away from dad. He was staring straight into her eyes. Everyone froze in terror. Dad began to slowly and carefully back pedal and mom and the kids began to do the same. The bear stood still. When they moved about ten feet away, they began to make noise as they continued facing the bear and moving away. Eventually the bear and the cubs ran away without incident, but for that family, the hike was over and they could not wait to get back in the car and get the heck out of there. So many things could have happened, especially if somehow the family would have found themselves between the mama bear and her cubs.
The entire book of Hosea is about God’s plan to bring His people back into a relationship with Himself, much like Gomer and Hosea. But at this time, they were wicked people who lived like every day was Mardi Gras. They had even come to the point that they were sacrificing their children to Baal and other gods (v.2). Their attitude toward the true God had become so complacent, so lackadaisical. They completely failed to realize they had a tiger by the tail, or were about to confront a mother bear in the woods whose cubs had been taken. The imagery is significant. When people reject God, when they say He doesn’t exist, when they seek after other gods that will let them live in wicked ways, these people are always putting themselves in a very risky place. And, they fail to realize that God’s justice is swift and terrible.
This is hard stuff. So often we try to soften God, making Him much like Barney (yeah, that purple dinosaur you watched when you were a little kid). He is just laughing, carrying on, singing, “I love you, you love me, where a happy family…” We think, “He does not really care about what we do, He is just waiting with open arms hoping we will come play with Him.” The true God does love us more than we can ever imagine, but He is also a holy, righteous God that cannot tolerate sin, will bring judgement, and will do whatever is necessary to bring His people back to Himself. When is the last time you genuinely considered the holy power of the God of the universe?