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.”
6 “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.
2 After two days he will revive us;
on the third day he will restore us,
that we may live in his presence.
3 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:
1 I lift up my eyes to the mountains—
where does my help come from?
2 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.