As we read through the Bible, looking for the questions which God has asked of various people throughout history, we come to the book of Hosea, which is a wonderful picture of God’s pursuing love. God’s desire to redeem us is amazing. God created us; thus, we belong to Him. We ran away from our loving master and sold ourselves to a cruel taskmaster (sin). From a human perspective, it seems that only a couple of responses make any sense. The owner could be expected to either track down the runaway to deliver swift and sure punishment; or the owner could be expected to simply wait for the runaway to reappear at which time the owner would at the very best, reject the attempted return of the runaway. Thankfully, God does not respond in either of those ways. The book of Hosea shows God pursuing us (rebellious runaways) always loving, always receiving, always welcoming us back, even to the point of paying a terrible price to purchase back what was already rightfully His in the first place.
Hosea 4:16 is a most interesting verse. It presents a minor problem in translation. In chapter four, God is speaking specifically to the northern kingdom of Israel and the southern kingdom of Judah. However, He is also speaking to each of us as well. God points out that the northern kingdom has sinned terribly against Him and that the southern kingdom is not far behind. A few versions translate verse 16 as a statement saying that the Lord will feed His people as a shepherd would feed his lambs in a spacious field. Most translations render it as a question from the Lord. God asks, “Since Israel is stubborn, Like a stubborn heifer, Can the Lord now pasture them Like a lamb in a large field?” (NASU)
Stubbornness is not a quality to be admired. Throughout His Word, God condemns the stubborn and rebellious heart which resists His loving care. The will of God, His heart’s desire, is to care for us as a perfect shepherd cares for his lambs. God wants to keep watch over us, protecting us, sheltering us by night in a safe place, leading us out by day into a spacious field, finding pasture and water for us, watching out for the enemy, driving the enemy away, comforting us, and on and on go those things which He wants to do for us. The problem is us. We have stubborn and rebellious hearts filled with self-pride. We have a desire to be in control, to make all the decisions, to shout or mutter, “You can’t tell me what to do.” Our stubborn, rebellious hearts cause us to reject the very rules and regulations that will bring us safety, provision, happiness, and even real freedom.
Every command in Scripture is given for our good. Every instruction in Scripture, if obeyed, will result in blessing for us. Living by faith is taking God at His word. Voluntary submission to His will is the way to happiness, blessing, and freedom. It is rather simple. Obedience to God’s instruction is living by faith. Ignoring and disobeying His instruction is prideful stubborn rebellion. This rebellion results in our not being pastured in God’s lush, spacious meadow. Sometimes we are guilty of not bothering to mine the Scriptures for His instructions. Other times, we choose to simply ignore the commands we do happen to run across. Other times, we rationalize that those commands really only apply to others, not to us, our circumstances are somehow different.
Whatever the case, Hosea 4:16 is clear: our stubbornness keeps us from being pastured in the Lord’s lush and spacious meadow.