Hosea 9:1-9

Do not rejoice, Israel;
    do not be jubilant like the other nations.
For you have been unfaithful to your God;
    you love the wages of a prostitute
    at every threshing floor.
Threshing floors and winepresses will not feed the people;
    the new wine will fail them.
They will not remain in the Lord’s land;
    Ephraim will return to Egypt
    and eat unclean food in Assyria.
They will not pour out wine offerings to the Lord,
    nor will their sacrifices please him.
Such sacrifices will be to them like the bread of mourners;
    all who eat them will be unclean.
This food will be for themselves;
    it will not come into the temple of the Lord.

What will you do on the day of your appointed festivals,
    on the feast days of the Lord?
Even if they escape from destruction,
    Egypt will gather them,
    and Memphis will bury them.
Their treasures of silver will be taken over by briers,
    and thorns will overrun their tents.
The days of punishment are coming,
    the days of reckoning are at hand.
    Let Israel know this.
Because your sins are so many
    and your hostility so great,
the prophet is considered a fool,
    the inspired person a maniac.
The prophet, along with my God,
    is the watchman over Ephraim,
yet snares await him on all his paths,
    and hostility in the house of his God.
They have sunk deep into corruption,
    as in the days of Gibeah.
God will remember their wickedness
    and punish them for their sins.
(Hosea 9:1-9 NIV)

In our previous passage, God was sounding the warning of Israel’s sin and impending discipline if the nation did not repent.

In today’s text, the people of Israel were gathered at various spots around the kingdom to celebrate a national holiday – like a “birthday” for the kingdom.  This was an autumn festival that coincided with the fall harvest.

At one of these fall festivals, Hosea stands up and tells everyone there is no reason to celebrate:

  • Israel has broken the covenant relationship they made with the Lord
  • God gave them the land and made them a nation out of nothing
  • Now they have turned their back on God and give thanks to foreign gods
  • God has been faithful to Israel, but they have played the prostitute and chased after other idols instead of staying true to the Lord, their faithful “husband”

So the consequences are that they will lose their nation and independence, and will be exiled to other places, specifically Egypt and Assyria (v. 3).  Instead of celebrating, this will be a time of mourning, as there will be nowhere to make their offerings to the Lord, even if they wanted to (vv. 4-5).  They will end up dying in exile in a foreign land, as portrayed by the mention of Memphis, an Egyptian burial city (v. 6).

Hosea finishes his message from the Lord by saying that the end is at hand for Israel – the time is short (v. 7a).  This is a “last call” for people to repent.

Obviously, at a fall festival, a time of national celebration, this would not be a popular message.  Imagine the reaction you would receive if you stood up in a large gathering on your nation’s birthday or independence day celebration and started talking about the sins of the people and the doom about to hit the nation because of its rebellion against God.  The crowd would likely tell you to be quiet or try to shout you down, anything to get you to shut up.  Or they would question your patriotism and your motives.

That is exactly what happened to Hosea.  In verse 7b, Hosea says that because of the sins of the nation and their hostility toward God, they call Hosea a fool and a maniac (a crazy person whose speech should be summarily disregarded).

In verse 8, Hosea remembers His calling by the Lord to proclaim what God has told him to say.  Hosea counts the cost of obedience – snares await him at every turn in his path, and he even feels the hostility when he goes to worship in God’s house.  Life is hard, and Hosea is living with the dangers and treachery of being a prophet of the Lord in a society that has forgotten its founder and sustainer.

Hosea summarizes the state of Israel (v. 9a) – the kingdom has sunk into deep depravity, just like the people if Gibeah (Judges chapters 19-21).  For this terrible sin and open rebellion against God, the Lord will discipline His people Israel (v. 9b).

May we stay faithful to the Lord and humbly carry His message of love to those around us.  There will be many who will be turned off by the mere mention of God; may our lives reflect His glory and be a light to the darkness wherever we go, as God works in and through us to draw others to Himself.

Blessings,
~kevin

Hosea 8:1-14

“Put the trumpet to your lips!
    An eagle is over the house of the Lord
because the people have broken my covenant
    and rebelled against my law.
Israel cries out to me,
    ‘Our God, we acknowledge you!’
But Israel has rejected what is good;
    an enemy will pursue him.
They set up kings without my consent;
    they choose princes without my approval.
With their silver and gold
    they make idols for themselves
    to their own destruction.
Samaria, throw out your calf-idol!
    My anger burns against them.
How long will they be incapable of purity?
    They are from Israel!
This calf—a metalworker has made it;
    it is not God.
It will be broken in pieces,
    that calf of Samaria.

“They sow the wind
    and reap the whirlwind.
The stalk has no head;
    it will produce no flour.
Were it to yield grain,
    foreigners would swallow it up.
Israel is swallowed up;
    now she is among the nations
    like something no one wants.
For they have gone up to Assyria
    like a wild donkey wandering alone.
    Ephraim has sold herself to lovers.
10 Although they have sold themselves among the nations,
    I will now gather them together.
They will begin to waste away
    under the oppression of the mighty king.

11 “Though Ephraim built many altars for sin offerings,
    these have become altars for sinning.
12 I wrote for them the many things of my law,
    but they regarded them as something foreign.
13 Though they offer sacrifices as gifts to me,
    and though they eat the meat,
    the Lord is not pleased with them.
Now he will remember their wickedness
    and punish their sins:
    They will return to Egypt.
14 Israel has forgotten their Maker
    and built palaces;
    Judah has fortified many towns.
But I will send fire on their cities
    that will consume their fortresses.”
(Hosea 8:1-14 NIV)

In our last time together, we saw God’s desire to heal Israel and restore His blessings to her.  But everywhere God looked, sin was rampant, and there was no repentance anywhere in sight.

In today’s passage, the warning to God’s people is even more ominous.  The Lord says to sound the trumpets as an alarm because of Israel’s sin as a nation.  Trumpets in ancient times were used for praise and worship in celebrations and songs.  They were also used as public address warning systems, similar to tornado warning sirens or tsunami warning klaxons or other public warning signals used to let the general populace know of impending disaster.

Unfortunately, the Israelites were deluded into thinking everything was fine between themselves and God.  Verse 2 says the people were saying “God, we acknowledge You!”, meaning that they agreed that God existed, and even made sacrifices to Him.

But their hearts were far from God.  Israel rejected what was good (v. 3), they chose their own rulers and rejected God’s leadership (v. 4), and made a golden calf to worship in place of the Lord (vv. 5-6).

Verse 7 is the summary of Israel’s choices, and the consequences of their choices:
They sowed the wind, and will now reap the destructive force of the whirlwind.  While there is the appearance of goodness and righteousness, there is no substance, just as a wheat field might look great, but yields no grain.

Israel has become an unwanted neighbor, a burden to all the countries around her (vv. 8-9).  In fact, the Lord said that Israel’s sin will affect the other nations’ well-being – she will drag them down with her as she seeks foreign alliances to keep up her protection and standard of living (v. 10).

Israel’s focus on idol worship is God’s primary complaint against her.  Israel has set up many altars to foreign gods (v. 11).  God has recorded His Law for the people to study and obey – nothing has been hidden from them, yet they treat God’s words as crazy talk (v. 12).  The Israelites have kept up the sacrifices that God ordained, but the sacrifices were not for God’s glory and as a covering for their sin.  Instead, the nation treated the sacrifices like a cookout, and they ate the meat for their own pleasure (v. 13a).

As a result and a consequence, the Lord will make them subservient (slaves) to another nation, just as they were slaves in ancient Egypt (v. 13b).

In summary, the Lord says that Israel built palaces and Judah built fortified cities, but the Lord will send His fire of righteous judgment to consume them both.  The people were building for their own glory and pleasure, not for God’s honor.  They are about to experience the consequences of their actions and rebellion (v. 14).

May we stay rooted and grounded in the Lord, with our hearts firmly attached to His, not wavering or chasing after the things the rest of the world strives for but do not satisfy.

Blessings,

~kevin

Hosea 6:11b – 7:16

“Whenever I would restore the fortunes of my people,

whenever I would heal Israel,
the sins of Ephraim are exposed
    and the crimes of Samaria revealed.
They practice deceit,
    thieves break into houses,
    bandits rob in the streets;
but they do not realize
    that I remember all their evil deeds.
Their sins engulf them;
    they are always before me.

“They delight the king with their wickedness,
    the princes with their lies.
They are all adulterers,
    burning like an oven
whose fire the baker need not stir
    from the kneading of the dough till it rises.
On the day of the festival of our king
    the princes become inflamed with wine,
    and he joins hands with the mockers.
Their hearts are like an oven;
    they approach him with intrigue.
Their passion smolders all night;
    in the morning it blazes like a flaming fire.
All of them are hot as an oven;
    they devour their rulers.
All their kings fall,
    and none of them calls on me.

“Ephraim mixes with the nations;
    Ephraim is a flat loaf not turned over.
Foreigners sap his strength,
    but he does not realize it.
His hair is sprinkled with gray,
    but he does not notice.
10 Israel’s arrogance testifies against him,
    but despite all this
he does not return to the Lord his God
    or search for him.

11 “Ephraim is like a dove,
    easily deceived and senseless—
now calling to Egypt,
    now turning to Assyria.
12 When they go, I will throw my net over them;
    I will pull them down like the birds in the sky.
When I hear them flocking together,
    I will catch them.
13 Woe to them,
    because they have strayed from me!
Destruction to them,
    because they have rebelled against me!
I long to redeem them
    but they speak about me falsely.
14 They do not cry out to me from their hearts
    but wail on their beds.
They slash themselves, appealing to their gods
    for grain and new wine,
    but they turn away from me.
15 I trained them and strengthened their arms,
    but they plot evil against me.
16 They do not turn to the Most High;
    they are like a faulty bow.
Their leaders will fall by the sword
    because of their insolent words.
For this they will be ridiculed
    in the land of Egypt.
(Hosea 6:11b-7:16 NIV)

In the previous passage, God condemned Israel and Judah for their superficial love toward Him.  The Lord did not desire Israel’s “check the box” attitude toward Him; instead, He longed for relationship, not ritual, and love, not legalism.   But Israel would not listen – they would not repent and turn back to the Lord.  So the Lord required discipline to keep the people from self-destructing.

As we begin today’s text, we see God’s desire to heal Israel, to restore them, and bless them (vv. 6:11b-7:1).  However, the reality of Israel’s corruption and wickedness confronts God on every facet of life, from the government rulers to the priests to the people they lead (vv. 3-7).  Their quest for power and wealth has led them far from God, and the rulers kill each other in order to obtain that power and wealth.  The nation sees the intrigue and murder, yet no one repents and turns back to the Lord.

The Lord uses the analogy of an oven to describe the heat of Israel’s wickedness.  In verse 8, the Lord says that Israel (Ephraim) is like a flatbread in that oven – burned on one side, and raw on the other; in other words, inedible.

The Lord also describes Israel as a dove, flitting from place to place, first to Egypt, then to Assyria (v. 11), looking for solace and rest.  God casts His net over them, to bring them home and redeem them.   But instead of being grateful, the people rebel even more and speak lies about God to anyone who will listen.

God says that the people cry on their beds (v. 14), but their tears are not repentant, but rather, selfish.  They don’t want to be reconciled to the Lord; they want what they want, and are acting like a child having a temper tantrum.  God has blessed them, but they give credit to Baal (other gods) instead.  Their demise as a nation is near; God’s hand of discipline is about to become evident.

As we look at this passage, we see Hosea faithfully proclaiming the word of the Lord in his generation.  With the political climate of intrigue and murder, Hosea’s life was likely threatened if he did not keep quiet.  Yet Hosea stood faithful to the Lord and proclaimed a very unpopular message of repentance and love.

The sun was setting on Israel, and a long night lay ahead.

May we stand firm and continue to proclaim God’s message of repentance and love regardless of the social and political climate we find ourselves in.

Blessings,
~kevin

Hosea 4:6-11a

“What can I do with you, Ephraim?
    What can I do with you, Judah?
Your love is like the morning mist,
    like the early dew that disappears.
Therefore I cut you in pieces with my prophets,
    I killed you with the words of my mouth—
    then my judgments go forth like the sun.
For I desire mercy, not sacrifice,
    and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings.
As at Adam, they have broken the covenant;
    they were unfaithful to me there.
Gilead is a city of evildoers,
    stained with footprints of blood.
As marauders lie in ambush for a victim,
    so do bands of priests;
they murder on the road to Shechem,
    carrying out their wicked schemes.
10 I have seen a horrible thing in Israel:
    There Ephraim is given to prostitution,
    Israel is defiled.

11 “Also for you, Judah,
    a harvest is appointed.
(Hosea 4:6-11a NIV)

In our last time together, we saw God’s discipline prophesied to both Israel (also called Ephraim after the largest tribe in the northern kingdom) and Judah.  Israel realized they were sick, but ran to Assyria for help, rather than to the Lord.

The Lord knew there would be a day that Israel would realize that the same God who was disciplining them was also the same God who could and would heal them as a nation.  But it would take the confession of their sin and repentance (the changing of their mind and actions) for the Lord to transform their hearts.

As we pick up today’s passage, the Lord sees both Israel and Judah had failed in love for Him (v. 4) and had failed in their worship of Him (v. 6).

Verse 4 begins with the Lord describing Israel and Judah’s love as a light dew that immediately evaporates when the sun comes up, and a thin, wispy cloud that disappears into the surrounding blue sky when the heat of the day arrives.

God has spoken to both Israel and Judah (v. 5) through the prophets and through His Word, but neither has impacted them. So if God’s Words and God’s messengers were not effective, then God must take the next step of discipline.

So what does God want of His people (v. 6)?  He wants relationship, not ritual, and love, not legalism.  The people wanted to “check the box” and say they were connected to God because they did something for Him, rather than be in connection with Him.

Have you ever had a friend that is always doing things for you, but does not want to spend any time with you?  They will send a card for a birthday or anniversary, they will bring a meal when you’re sick, and their family will mow your grass while you’re on your summer vacation, and they are always friendly and stop to say hi at church and the grocery store.  But when you invite them over to your home to get to know them, they seem to be too busy or have an excuse why they can’t make it.

After a while, you begin to question the nature of their friendship.  Are they friends with you because they have a genuine interest in you, or because they are doing what they do out of duty to earn “brownie points” with God, or you, or themselves?

That is how God felt about His people, and why He said He desired a deeper relationship with them above all else (v. 6).  And who better to communicate this truth than Hosea, with his love for his wife and her abandonment of him as told in chapters 1 – 3?

In verses 7 – 9, the Lord lists three locations where the people had broken their covenant with the Lord:

  • At Adam, a town in the trans-Jordan area, located about 20 miles north of Jericho.  The Lord does not specify a particular sin there, other than to say the people were unfaithful to Him there.  If we were to speculate based on the context of the rest of the book, it would likely have been a place of idol worship.
  • At Gilead, another town in the trans-Jordan area.  Here the Lord brings an even more serious charge, that of bloodshed.  Again, the Lord does not specify the particulars, but it may have been either the bloodshed in and around Gilead over the centuries, or it could have been a place where child sacrifice was carried out.
  • At Shechem, up in the mountains, east of the Jordan River, between Mount Ebal and Mount Gerizim.  Here the Lord is much more specific.  The priests, the very ones who were to protect and guide the people of Israel, were now the ones being called out for their evil deeds.  The Lord had designated Shechem as a “city of refuge”, a safe place for people to go while they awaited trial or while a serious life-and-death matter was investigated (Joshua 20:1-7).  Instead of Shechem being a place of refuge as the Lord intended, it was exactly the opposite, a place of thievery and murder.

In summary, the Lord sees the terrible sin in Israel, and judgment will come to Judah as well.  The time had come for the Lord to intervene at a much more serious level.

May we take the time to ask the Lord about our love for Him and our worship of Him.

May we listen well, and if have strayed or are just going through the motions to “check the box” in our commitment to the Lord, may we return to the relationship with Him that He desires, that is genuine and dedicated to Him alone.

Blessings,
~kevin

Hosea 5:10 – 6:3

10 Judah’s leaders are like those
    who move boundary stones.
I will pour out my wrath on them
    like a flood of water.
11 Ephraim is oppressed,
    trampled in judgment,
    intent on pursuing idols.
12 I am like a moth to Ephraim,
    like rot to the people of Judah.

13 “When Ephraim saw his sickness,
    and Judah his sores,
then Ephraim turned to Assyria,
    and sent to the great king for help.
But he is not able to cure you,
    not able to heal your sores.
14 For I will be like a lion to Ephraim,
    like a great lion to Judah.
I will tear them to pieces and go away;
    I will carry them off, with no one to rescue them.
15 Then I will return to my lair
    until they have borne their guilt
    and seek my face—
in their misery
    they will earnestly seek me.”

“Come, let us return to the Lord.

He has torn us to pieces
    but he will heal us;
he has injured us
    but he will bind up our wounds.
After two days he will revive us;
    on the third day he will restore us,
    that we may live in his presence.
Let us acknowledge the Lord;
    let us press on to acknowledge him.
As surely as the sun rises,
    he will appear;
he will come to us like the winter rains,
    like the spring rains that water the earth.”
(Hosea 5:10-6:3 NIV)

From our last section, we saw the Lord issue a clarion call, a loud warning to all who would listen.  The warning called out three towns along the border between Israel and Judah, signifying that the message was for both Israel and Judah.

In today’s passage, we see Judah being called out for their evil, for trying to move the boundary that God had ordained.  This is likely referring to Judah’s attempt to conquer part of Israel, attacking their fellow Jews in a selfish (and failed) land grab.  Instead of helping the northern kingdom of Israel in their distress, the southern kingdom of Judah waged a civil war on their northern siblings and tried to take what was not theirs.  And God said they would be judged for that selfish act.

When Israel (named as Ephraim, the largest tribe of the northern kingdom) found themselves in distress and need of help, to whom did they turn?

Did they turn back to the Lord?  No.

Instead, when Israel (Ephraim) realized how sick and vulnerable they were, they turned to their new neighbors, the Assyrians (v. 13a).

But the Lord said that Ephraim’s sickness was far beyond what the Assyrians could help them with.  The problem was not the attacks from Judah (or anyone else, for that matter).  The problem was their sin and rebellion against the Lord, the turning toward idols and away from God.  Their problem was inward, not outward.

In verse 14, God says that He is Israel’s worst nightmare – he is their enemy, the lion who will devour them and tear them apart, leaving them nearly dead and mangled, then go back to His den (lair) until the people of Israel confess their sins, turn their hearts toward the Lord, and seek Him and Him only.

This sounds really harsh, doesn’t it?  This does not square up with the typical “God is love” image we have of Him, does it?  But yet, if we’ve ever had to deal with a strong-willed child, it’s the same thing.  Sometimes when that child is unrelenting, we have to stand our ground and that child’s world has to implode and collapse and get far worse than they could have ever imagined before it can get better.  In that scenario, we as the parent are the “lion” that is “destroying” their life.  But we do what we must do in order to effect a change in the child, because we know that if we don’t parent through this tough time, the child’s behavior will ultimately lead to their self-destruction.

And so God was parenting Israel, and so He parents us.

Chapter 6, verses 1 – 3 lay out the prayer of the people as a three-part process.  This process is not formulaic, meaning that if they do parts one and two, God will automatically show up and do part three.  This is not a “check the box” exercise; it is seeking the Lord and Him alone.  We cannot demand that God do something for us (like change our circumstances) because we have done something He told us to do.

It’s a matter of our hearts.

These verses talk about three “days”.   The days signify the process steps that the people need to walk through, not in literal days, but in the attitude of their (and our) hearts.

One other clarification before we start:  the “three days” are not a prophecy of the Resurrection.  We must be careful to not read more into this than what God intended.

So what are the three process steps?

  • We must acknowledge (confess) our sin.  This is telling God what He already knows – that we have disobeyed Him and His commands, and gone our own way.
  • We must change our mind (repent), turning from our selfish way to follow Him in humble obedience.
  • We must seek Him and Him alone, asking Him to change (transform) us from what we were and are into what He lovingly desires us to become – connected with Him and abiding in Him and walking with Him through life.

We cannot demand that God change our circumstances; instead, we need to humbly ask God to change us, then allow Him access to our hearts, to transform us from the inside out.

To whom do we turn when life gets tough and the wheels come off, when life gets unbearable and we want to give up?

Listen to the words of the Psalmist:

I lift up my eyes to the mountains—
    where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord,
    the Maker of heaven and earth.
(Psalm 121:1-2 NIV)

Dear friends, Jesus is enough.

May we say, along with the people of Israel, that we will put our trust in God and in Him alone, that just as the sun rises each day, that God will hear our broken hearts and respond in love (6:3) as a parent who comforts their children when they repent and seek reconciliation.

Blessings,
~kevin

Hosea 5:8-9

“Sound the trumpet in Gibeah,
    the horn in Ramah.
Raise the battle cry in Beth Aven;
    lead on, Benjamin.
Ephraim will be laid waste
    on the day of reckoning.
Among the tribes of Israel
    I proclaim what is certain.
(Hosea 5:8-9 NIV)

As a quick review, Hosea 4:1 – 5:7 was a collection of writings and prophecies of the Lord holding Israel accountable for their thoughts, words, and actions.  These writings and prophecies were for all the people in Israel, including the priests (the religious rulers) and the king’s house (the civil rulers).  The religious and civil rulers had led the people away from the Lord, and the people blindly followed them.

Today’s two verses are meant to be a clarion call, a loud warning for God’s people to hear concerning what is coming next.  In fact, the upcoming section (Hosea 5:10 – 7:16) is a collection of warnings and prophecies directed primarily toward the northern kingdom of Israel, but also inclusive of the southern kingdom of Judah.

The three cities called out in verse 8 (Gibeah, Ramah, and Beth Aven) were all near the southern border of Israel and the northern border of Judah, implying that the warnings were to be heard in both Israel and Judah.  Yes, the warnings were meant primarily for Israel, and Judah would be well served to also heed these warnings.

As a quick reminder of background and context, Hosea’s ministry covered Israel from the days of King Jeroboam II’s reign until the fall of Israel at the hands of the Assyrians (roughly 750 BC through 722 BC).  If you want to study more about the history and issues associated with this time period and what prompted these warnings and prophecies, read 2 Kings chapters 15 – 17.

So who was the major threat being called out in today’s text?  Was it the Assyrians?  Or Judah, since they had invaded Israel?  Maybe the Egyptians coming back into power?

Actually, it was none of the above.  The real disruptive power in these two verses is actually Israel’s former greatest ally, none other than God Himself.

Remember at the beginning of our study of the book of Hosea, we said that this book is really a love letter from the Lord to the northern kingdom of Israel.  God loved her with all His heart, but she rejected Him and chose to actively pursue other gods.

But God, in His infinite love for Israel, chose to pursue her relentlessly and would stop at nothing to bring her back to Himself.  It’s the larger picture of Hosea’s smaller story of loving and pursuing his estranged wife Gomer after she left him and ended up a temple prostitute being sold as a slave on the auction block.

And just as the Lord loved Israel and would stop at nothing to pursue her and bring her back to Himself, so the same Lord loves us and will stop at nothing to pursue us and bring us back to Himself when we turn our backs on Him and go our own way.

As followers of Christ, we often quote familiar scriptures to others (especially those who do not follow Christ) as a demonstration of God’s love toward us:

16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.
(John 3:16-17 NIV)

While God pursues those who do not follow Him, He also pursues those who have trusted in Him for eternal life.  Later in his gospel, John quotes Jesus talking about this deep relationship that He desires with each of us:

15 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned.If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.

“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. 10 If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. 11 I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. 12 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.13 Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command. 15 I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. 16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. 17 This is my command: Love each other.
(John 15:1-17 NIV)

The Lord calls us to abide, to remain connected to Him.  Only then do we thrive and bring glory to Him, and we experience the soul-satisfying joy of being closely connected to Him.

And out of that close connectedness to Him, we can love and minister to others.

Blessings,
~kevin

Hosea 5:1-7

“Hear this, you priests!
    Pay attention, you Israelites!
Listen, royal house!
    This judgment is against you:
You have been a snare at Mizpah,
    a net spread out on Tabor.
The rebels are knee-deep in slaughter.
    I will discipline all of them.
I know all about Ephraim;
    Israel is not hidden from me.
Ephraim, you have now turned to prostitution;
    Israel is corrupt.

“Their deeds do not permit them
    to return to their God.
A spirit of prostitution is in their heart;
    they do not acknowledge the Lord.
Israel’s arrogance testifies against them;
    the Israelites, even Ephraim, stumble in their sin;
    Judah also stumbles with them.
When they go with their flocks and herds
    to seek the Lord,
they will not find him;
    he has withdrawn himself from them.
They are unfaithful to the Lord;
    they give birth to illegitimate children.
When they celebrate their New Moon feasts,
    he will devour their fields.
(Hosea 5:1-7 NIV)

As a reminder and summary of chapter 4, the Lord brought charges against Israel in general (vv. 1-3), and against the priests (the religious rulers) in particular (vv. 4-19).

As we begin chapter 5, we see the Lord bring charges against the priests (the religious rulers), the king’s house (the civil rulers), and the people of Israel in general (v. 1).

The priests and the king’s house have taken away the peoples’ freedom, and the Lord is holding them accountable for their actions.  The Lord uses three distinct metaphors to describe the way these rulers have taken away the peoples’ freedom:

  • via a snare (for birds)
  • via a net (for small game)
  • via a pit (for large game, as indicated as being knee-deep in slaughter)

Was this sin localized to one section of Israel?  The Lord says no, that the sin is pervasive, from Mizpah (the southern part of Israel) to Tabor (near the northern border of Israel) to Shittim (mentioned in other translations) to the east.

In verse 2, the Lord says that He will discipline Israel, including the rulers (the priests and the king’s house).  The Hebrew word used for “discipline” does not mean to punish.   Rather, this word means to lovingly but firmly correct heart attitude and behavior, as a parent lovingly corrects their child and teaches them the right way to live.

Verses 3-4 use the analogy of a prostitute again.  Israel has played the harlot with both her soul (worshipping other gods) as well as her body (participating in the immoral sexual practices of foreign religions).

This will lead not only to the downfall of Israel (the northern kingdom) but also of Judah (the southern kingdom).  Unfortunately, Judah will follow in the footsteps of Israel (v. 5).

Hosea points out that the people of Israel will go to worship the Lord, but will not find Him (v. 6).  The reason is that the people are treating the Lord as another god, another deity to pay homage to, to earn favor with, rather than to exclusively serve and honor and give their hearts to.

Once again, the people are inwardly focused on themselves, what they can take, rather than being outwardly focused on the Lord and lovingly give to others.

The consequences of the rulers’ and peoples’ actions will be the Lord’s discipline (v. 7).  Their wealth and prosperity will go away because they do not honor the Lord who gave them the bounty of crops.  Instead, they ascribe the goodness to the foreign gods they worship instead.

We all struggle to some degree with sin, just as the Israelite did in their day.
May we remember the words from the writer of Hebrews as we continue in our walk with the Lord:

In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. And have you completely forgotten this word of encouragement that addresses you as a father addresses his son? It says,

“My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline,
    and do not lose heart when he rebukes you,
because the Lord disciplines the one he loves,
    and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son.”
(Hebrews 12:4-6 NIV)

May we learn from the Lord’s loving discipline and sense His tender care for us as His children.

Blessings,
~kevin