September 27, 2015.
Daily Reading: Hosea 8-14.
Background: Hosea 1-7.
Concepts and Connections.
Sow the wind, reap the whirlwind: In this oracle, it becomes apparent that you will reap what you sow. The Lord, through Hosea, beings with a warning blast, to call Israel to attention that they might see their folly and turn from their ways. It seems that Israel did not know how far they had transgressed from the Lord, as they cry out “My God, we—Israel—know you.” They no longer knew Him, however, for their deeds had separated them from their God (see Isaiah 59:1-2). Their words claimed to know righteousness, but their deeds were far from righteous. They were about to reap what they had sown, as the wrath of the Lord was going to come upon them because of their continued iniquity. This phrase can be compared with what the Lord says in Hosea 10:12, where He calls for them to sow righteousness to reap steadfast love, and in10:13, where He says they had plowed iniquity and reaped injustice. Note the dismissal of God by Israel. They had set up kings without going though Him; set up princes without His consent. They had made idols of gold and silver and set them up as God. Yet they said, “My God, we—Israel—know you.” Their words could not override their actions, and they would be sent into Assyrian captivity because of their sin. Israel had forgotten their maker, and punishment was coming.
Israel’s Punishment: In the previous chapter, we saw the Lord call Israel into accusation, with a warning. Here we have the oracle of the Lord’s punishment that He was going to bring on them because they had played the whore with foreign gods and committed adultery with them, leaving their true Husband. The Lord had given them the land, cared for them and brought them up, but they would remain in it no longer, for they had thrown off their God and run to the gods of the people around them. Their offerings and sacrifices to the Lord would not be heard. They had reached out to Egypt instead of the Lord, and Egypt would devour them, after which Assyria would come upon them and lead them away. Their punishment had come, and their prophets and watchmen were all foolish; they prophesied with a snare and there was great corruption in the land. There is a reference made to Baal-peor, where the people of Israel whored with the daughters of Moab and yoked themselves to their god (see Numbers 25:1-9). What they were doing now really was nothing new. Because of their idol worship, the wrath of the Lord would come upon them; Israel, who had been brought up by the Lord in their youth, would be dried up. Their God had rejected them because they had rejected Him.
Israel’s punishment continued: There we have a continuation of the oracle against the children of Israel because of the evil that they had done. They were a great nation, and they had the blessings of kings and princes. Yet, with all the wealth they had acquired, they had just gone more and more into idolatry. They built more altars and improved their pillars. Note that the Lord points to this as a heart problem in verse two. Their heart was not set on the Lord their God, but rather on the gods and idols of the peoples around them. Their pride had built them up, rejecting their king and their God, asking what a king could even do for them. They were but mere words and empty oaths, and they were about to be put to shame and exiled by Assyria. Note the despair they would be in, symbolized by their call of the mountains and hills to fall on them (compare with Luke 23:30 and Revelation 6:16). The Lord would discipline, but even in this oracle of punishment, there is a call for repentance, to sow righteousness and reap steadfast love. The Lord did not want them to leave, He did not want to have to punish them. But they had plowed iniquity, and they reaped injustice, and thus they would incur the punishment of God.
The heartbroken Lord: In this chapter of Hosea, we see the compassion and tender mercy of the Lord, and just how much He loved His people, to the point where His heart recoiled within Him because of their actions. The oracle starts out with Israel as a child, being raised by the Lord as a loving Father would bring up His son (verse one is a Messianic prophecy of Jesus’ parents escape to Egypt when Herod issued the order to kill every child under two years of age in Bethlehem, see Matthew 2:15-18). Note the care and compassion of the Lord when He leads His child in kindness, even when they don’t know it. But they refused to return to Him. They were bent on turning away. Even so, the Lord pours out His heart here How can I give you up, “O Ephraim? How can I hand you over, O Israel?” Though they would be lead into their punishment in the land of Assyria, He would call them out again. Note that it is referenced that Judah still walked with the Lord at this point. They certainly had a better track record than Israel.
The Lord’s indictment against Israel and Judah: Here we begin an oracle against both Israel and Judah, opening with Israel’s covenant with Egypt which would violate their agreement with Assyria (see II Kings 17:1-5). The Lord’s punishment was at hand for Jacob (Israel) to repay according to their deeds. Even still, they are reminded of what their father Jacob did when he sought the Lord God for help, and what the Lord did for Jacob (see Genesis 28, 35). Thus, Israel is called once again to seek the Lord, that He might find favor on them once again. But Israel found pride in their own wealth and in their own standing, and did not think anyone could accuse them of sin. The Lord, however, is the ultimate judge, and He had called them into court. He would once again make them dwell in tents as their fathers had done before reaching the promised land (see Leviticus 23:39-43). The Lord had sent them prophets to warn them, to tell them His word, just as He had guided their fathers in times past. But they would not listen, and their bloodguilt was on their own head.
Judgement on Israel: Once again, Israel’s sin is laid out before them as they are called into court by God. They had incurred their own guilt, and were doing nothing to seek repentance and mercy from the Lord. They had gone on to worship idols and even offer human sacrifice. They were doing abominations in the sight of the Lord. The Lord reminds them what He has done for them, how He had brought them out of the land of Egypt and been their Savior and God. But when they became full, when times were good, they forgot God. Since they were against their Helper, His judgment was upon them, and He would come with great wrath. He asks the rhetorical question, “Where now is your king, to save you in all your cities?” which was a reference to Israel calling for a king to be over them, though they should have been satisfied in the Lord as their King (see I Samuel 8). The wrath of the Lord was now upon them, and it would not be pleasant. It should be noted that Paul cites verse 14 in I Corinthians 15:55 talking about the victory that Christ won over death and sin.
The call to return to the Lord: At the culmination of these oracles given to Hosea is a final plea that Israel return to the Lord their God, that He might heal and forgive. Note that the absolute character of God is revealed in this chapter, showing His desire for steadfast love and mercy over punishment. He sends a plea to His people that they would return to Him, that they would ask Him to take away their iniquity, that they would no longer worship the gods made by their own hands, but rather the One who made their hands. If they would come back, the Lord would heal their apostasy and love them freely. He would turn away His anger and bless them. This truly shows the love of the Lord for His people, as exemplified by Hosea’s life. Hosea is told in chapter three to go again and take back his wife of whoredom after she had committed adultery with him, just as the Lord would willingly and readily accept about His people after they had committed adultery with Him. His steadfast love endures forever, but the choice is ours to go to Him. Love cannot exist without free will. The final verse in this chapter calls all the wise to hear and understand these words that had been given to Hosea though the Lord. Let us discern the words and take them to heart, that we might learn the lesson that was brought to Israel though these words.
Tomorrow’s Reading: Numbers 13-16.