“Ephraim mixes with the nations; Ephraim is a flat cake not turned over. Foreigners sap his strength, but he does not realize it. His hair is sprinkled with gray, but he does not notice.” (Hosea 7:8-9)
Do you remember your parents ever saying, “You can’t hang out with that person- they’re a bad influence!” If so, what they were trying to say was that if you hang out with people of lesser moral standards and values than you, then those people will drag you down with them.
To an extent, the parents are right. If a child is easily influenced and can’t hold their ground when tested in situations of peer pressure or temptation, then this is a worthy guideline to follow. There will hopefully come a day when they are strong enough in their values that what other people do have little-to-no effect on them, but that’s hard to sustain over long periods of exposure on their own.
Here in Hosea 7, God calls out Ephraim (or Israel) for intermixing with foreign nations, including taking on their foreign gods, their wickedness, and their sin. The unhealthy relationships with these nations wear on Israel, eventually sapping their strength and rotting them from the inside out. And the scary thing is, that it happens so quickly and fluidly that they don’t even notice!
God calls us to be in the world, but not of the world, meaning we are to live and reside in this world as Christ’s ambassadors, but we are not to take on the world’s pursuits, values, or philosophies as our own. We are to be in the world, but set apart.
The Bible tells us that the temporary ruler of this world is Satan (Eph. 2:2, John 12:31), and thus anything in the world that is not founded in Jesus nor seeks to glorify Him, is of the world. As followers of Christ, we must be careful not to fall into the enemy’s trap; we are not to yoke (attach) ourselves to such things.
When we are truly reconciled with God by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone, He gives us the Holy Spirit to embolden us, empower us, and equip us to stand firm. In that way, we are able to spend time with and love on those who do not yet know Christ; and rather than being influenced by them towards their ways, we influence them towards Christ.
We are called to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world, that the world would see the fruit of our lives and glorify the Father (Matt. 5:13-16).
Brothers and sisters, be the influencers, not the influenced!
[From January 28, 2019]