8 “Sound the trumpet in Gibeah,
the horn in Ramah.
Raise the battle cry in Beth Aven;
lead on, Benjamin.
9 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. 2 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. 3 You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. 4 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.
5 “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. 6 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.7 If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.
9 “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.