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Hosea ministered to a people who had forgotten what sin means. They had so redefined their behaviour that sin had become acceptable. God’s desire to restore his people depended on their recognition of sin. Sadly, the people seemed not to recognise sin’s reality. Indeed, their leaders took delight in their sin (17:3) and though the Lord was willing to redeem them, they would not acknowledge their sin but spoke lies against him (7:13).

In chapter 7, God goes to great lengths to point out the people’s sin. While they overlooked sin and believed that God would likewise overlook it (7:2), he was careful to identify the ways in which they had sinned against him. He called them out for disloyalty, violence, sexual sin, dishonesty, drunkenness, mockery of his standard, arrogance, empty religiosity, and lack of repentance. They had redefined sin to make these things more palatable—even celebrated—which made their restoration impossible. Unless they confessed their sin, the promise of forgiveness was impossible.

Does this sound familiar? Do we not live in an age that has redefined and celebrated sin? God’s standard is mocked while social elites take great delight in flaunting his law. As Christians, we desperately need to hear the call of Hosea 7. We need to take sin seriously and call others to do the same in our evangelism.

What are we doing when we fail to take sin seriously? According to this chapter, there are at least five things that can be said of those who fail to take sin seriously.

First, those who fail to take sin seriously forsake God’s grace. God was willing to “heal Israel” (7:1) and to “redeem them” (7:13), but their sin got in the way. When he wanted to heal Israel, “the iniquity of Ephraim is revealed, and the evil deeds of Samaria” (7:1). It was necessary for them to confess and repent of their sin if they would be healed but since they would not do that, they did not experience the healing that God wanted to give to them.

God is always ready to forgive our sin, but we cannot receive forgiveness apart from confession. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). Confession must precede forgiveness and cleansing. If we will not take our sin seriously, confessing it to God, there is no hope of healing.

Second, those who fail to take sin seriously undermine God’s word. “They do not consider that I remember all their evil” (7:2). Because the people took their sin lightly, they fooled themselves into thinking that God would take it lightly. They thought that their view of sin would sway his. But God had already clearly spoken regarding sin: “We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment. We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away” (Isaiah 64:6).

The Bible is clear. God hates sin. He is determined to punish sin. Christ’s death is the clearest evidence of this. When we fail to take sin seriously, we undermine what Scripture teaches about sin. If people do not see Christians taking God’s word seriously on this matter, how will they learn about the seriousness of sin?

Third, those who fail to take sin seriously abandon their uniqueness. God had chosen Israel as his “treasured possession among all peoples” (Exodus 19:5) but, by failing to take sin seriously, they “mix[ed themselves] with the peoples” (7:8). They had begun to look just like the surrounding nations.

God has called the church to be “a people for his own possession” (1 Peter 2:9), but when we fail to take sin seriously, and consequently begin to live just like the unbelieving world around us, we fail to be as unique as he has called us to be. We no longer look peculiar to the unbelieving world as God has designed his church to be.

Fourth, those who fail to take sin seriously shift their allegiance. Israel was called to be completely devoted to God (6:6). They were to rely on him to meet their every need. Instead, they were found “calling to Egypt, going to Assyria” for help in their need (7:11). They had shifted their trust from their God to human beings.

We are told to trust in the Lord with all our heart and not to lean on our own understanding (Proverbs 3:5–6). When we fail to take sin seriously, we soon find ourselves in trouble and naturally begin to look to sources outside of God to bail us out.

Fifth, those who fail to take sin seriously display deep ingratitude. “Although I trained and strengthened their arms, yet they devise evil against me” (7:15). Where they should have thanked God for what he had done for them, they plotted evil because they failed to take sin seriously.

Failure to take sin seriously is of itself a display of ingratitude. Thankfulness manifests itself in steering clear of sin, as God commands, but when we understate the seriousness of sin we show just how unthankful we are for what God has done for us.

As you meditate on Hosea 7 this morning, ask the Spirit of God to help you see the depths of your sin. It is only through the Spirit that we can put sin to death (Romans 8:13). Ask for grace to do that as you labour to show steadfast love to God.