I will go and return to My place, till they acknowledge their offence, and seek My face: in their affliction they will seek Me early.
Hosea was a resident of the northern kingdom. Throughout his prophecy it is evident that Hosea had a tender feeling of compassion for the people of his land.
Alternately he warned the people and then pled with them to return to God in repentance. He knew, regardless of how wicked they had been, if they repented of their sins and forsook their wicked ways, God would receive them back in His love.
In Hosea 5:2 the prophet described the Israelites as "the revolters" and himself as "a rebuker." He saw it as his task to point out Israel's sin and call them to repentance. But there was a problem. Of the Jews he said, "They shall go with their flocks and with their herds to seek the LORD; but they shall not find Him; He hath withdrawn Himself from them." God does not answer our prayers if we have unconfessed personal sin in our lives. Again and again the Bible affirms this truth (see John 9:31; Psalm 66:18; Isaiah 59:1-2).
We should not assume that God will always hear and answer our prayers. There are many things that can militate against God's answer. The greatest hindrance to answered prayer is personal, unconfessed sin. The Apostle Peter, after listing a variety of attitudes that a righteous person will have, makes this observation: "For the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous and His ears are open unto their prayers: but the face of the Lord is against them that do evil" (1 Peter 3:12). Many other things in life block the divine answer to prayer: idolatry (Jeremiah 11:11-14), irreverence for the Bible (Proverbs 28:7-9), family problems (1 Peter 3:1-7), improper motives (James 4:3), prayer without faith (James 1:5-6); but the most certain way to make God unavailable to us when we seek Him is for us to harbor iniquity in our hearts.
If the conditions were met, God would not withdraw Himself from Israel, He would listen to their prayers, and He would answer them. Therefore, Jehovah promised, "I will go and return to My place, till they acknowledge their offense and seek My face; in their affliction they will seek Me early" (Hosea 5:15). The absence of God's influence in their lives would be affliction enough for the Israelites. God was about to get their attention and He would do so by means of the calamities which Hosea prophesied. But once He got their attention and their repentance for sin was made, they would again arise early in the morning to seek the face of God.
If God appears to have withdrawn Himself from you, perhaps you ought to ask yourself these questions: "Have I treated God well enough for Him to answer my prayers?" (idolatry); "Have I heeded God's Word well enough for Him to answer my prayers?" (irreverence for the Bible); "Have I treated my family well enough for God to answer my prayers?" (family problems); "Have I examined my motives well enough for God to answer my prayers?" (improper motives); "Have I trusted God well enough for Him to answer my prayers?" (prayer without faith); "Have I confessed personal sin well enough for God to answer my prayers?" (iniquity). When we can answer each of these questions in the affirmative, there is no reason for God to withdraw Himself from us when we seek Him. He has promised always to be near. Having confessed our sin, let us claim that promise today.
MORNING HYMN Power in prayer, Lord, power in prayer, Here 'mid earth's sin and sorrow and care; Men lost and dying, souls in despair, O give me power, power in prayer!
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