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.
2 Threshing floors and winepresses will not feed the people;
the new wine will fail them.
3 They will not remain in the Lord’s land;
Ephraim will return to Egypt
and eat unclean food in Assyria.
4 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.
5 What will you do on the day of your appointed festivals,
on the feast days of the Lord?
6 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.
7 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.
8 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.
9 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.