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C. S. Lewis famously stated that, at the final judgement, there will be two groups of people: those who say to God, “Your will be done” and those to whom God says, “Your will be done.” In other words, those who want nothing to do with God in this life will receive exactly what they want in the next. They will be eternally separated from God. You might argue that Lewis was slightly overstating the case (nobody really wants eternal destruction) but his point is taken: Sometimes, as an act of judgement or chastening, God gives us over to our own desires.

Paul argues this point in Romans 1:24: “Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonouring of their bodies among themselves.” Hosea 9 powerfully paints the same picture.

The chapter once again shows the depth of Israel’s sin. God’s people had “played the whore, forsaking [their] God” and had instead “loved a prostitute’s wages” (vv. 1–2). They had abandoned God by worshipping the gods of the nations and he, in turn, would give them what they wanted. Rather than “remain in the land of the LORD,” where they must worship Yahweh exclusively, they would “return to Egypt,” where the worship of foreign gods was acceptable. Rather than remaining pure in God’s sight, they would “eat unclean food in Assyria” (v. 3). In other words, they were acting so much like the foreign nations that God would give them what they wanted by driving them into foreign lands. They wanted nothing to do with pure worship, so he would remove the very possibility of pure worship from them.

Oscar Wilde, who I have no reason to think was a friend of biblical Christianity, once said, “When the gods wish to punish us, they answer our prayers.” Our minds are not always righteous, our hearts not always pure, our motives not always right, and our desires not always godly. Sometimes, the most effective punishment we can bear is to be given exactly what we want—to experience what it is like to pursue something in life other than him.

Perhaps your covetousness has revealed itself in a strong desire for a higher paying job. You mask this desire under a guide of righteousness: You simply want to be able to provide a good life for your family. Despite the counsel of godly friends, who exhort you to be content with what God has given you, you relentlessly pursue your desire for a greater paycheque. Perhaps God grants you your desire, but now you find yourself loaded with more obligations and less time for rest, family, and devotion to God. You soon find that your granted desire has become the enemy of your faith.

Perhaps you have longed for marriage. Despite counsel from godly friends that your present relationship is unhealthy, you forge ahead to attain your goal of matrimonial bliss. The wedding day arrives and is perfect. You are thankful for a skilled photographer who captures beautiful memories. You look forward to a future filled with marital bliss but, before long, you find that your spouse does not share your excitement for your faith or your commitment to the local church. You have received what you longed for, but it invites a litany of new challenges with it.

I do not mean to suggest that every trial we undergo is evidence of God’s displeasure against us or evidence of God handing us over to our own selfish desires. Scripture simply doesn’t bear out that conclusion. But neither does Scripture shy away from the reality that God sometimes gives us exactly what we ask for as a means to show us our idolatrous desires. At the very least, we must examine our own walk with him to determine whether we are perhaps reaping the fruit of our own unrighteousness.

Writing on this very issue, Craig Ford asks some direct questions. Is God opening the flood gates of heaven? Does he stand by to applaud all our gains, accomplishments, and growth? Or is he perhaps giving us what we want so that we will see the futility of our desires  and look to him for our sufficiency—our meaning, hope, security, and comfort? Have we prostituted ourselves? Have we forsaken our first love? Have we lived with a  passion other than his kingdom and his righteousness?

As you reflect on Hosea 9 this morning, ask yourself these questions. Examine your desires and your devotion to see if they are in line with biblical revelation. Ask whether God has given you over to your desires and pray for grace to remain firm in his desires.