With their flocks and herds they shall go to seek the LORD, but they will not find Him; He has withdrawn Himself from them. (Hosea 5:6)
In the days of Hosea, ancient Israel knew they were expected to bring animal sacrifice to Yahweh, both for atonement of sin and for fellowship with God. Yet it was possible to perform the action of sacrifice without a heart or life sacrificed to God – to make sacrifice an empty ritual. When Hosea spoke to Israel, their worship was mainly empty rituals.
We see this in the words, They shall go to seek the Lord, but they will not find Him.
A few verses before this, God described their superficial repentance: they do not direct their deeds toward turning to their God (Hosea 5:4). When they made such superficial gestures of repentance, they will not find Him.
There is a big difference between superficial religious gestures and a genuine turning of the heart towards God. In a moment of crisis someone may turn to God for relief – but have no real intention of surrendering their life to Him.
In many ways today, people think they are seeking God when they really only make a superficial investigation. For example, a man might say, “I grew up in the Baptist church and couldn’t find God there. So, I went to the Methodist church and couldn’t find God there. Then I went to the Pentecostal church, but couldn’t find God there. Now I’m at the Presbyterian church and can’t find God.”
This man may imagine that he searched hard after God, but that could well be an illusion. The truth could be that he is running away from God. When God started to get close at the Baptist church, he left it and became a Methodist. When God started to get close at the Methodist church, he became a Pentecostal. This man followed the same pattern in each place – a superficial search for God that backed away when he really began to get close to God. Our sinful, fleshly nature doesn’t mind religion and religious ritual – but it does whatever it can to keep us from really drawing close to God.
God does not reward this kind of superficial seeking. It might fool everyone else, but it doesn’t fool God. Therefore, Hosea announced the sad verdict: He has withdrawn Himself from them. It can happen. We can be so set in our sin and rebellion that God just leaves us to ourselves. Usually we don’t even notice at first, but when we call upon the Lord and do not find Him, then we start to see the result of pushing God away.
Apart from a real relationship with God based on faith, religious traditions and works can’t make us right with God. You may be frustrated because you seem to do so much for God, yet it seems that you not find Him. Stop relying on empty rituals and come in faith. Let the promise of Jeremiah 29:14 be true for you: I will be found by you, says the LORD.