10 “When I found Israel,
it was like finding grapes in the desert;
when I saw your ancestors,
it was like seeing the early fruit on the fig tree.
But when they came to Baal Peor,
they consecrated themselves to that shameful idol
and became as vile as the thing they loved.
11 Ephraim’s glory will fly away like a bird—
no birth, no pregnancy, no conception.
12 Even if they rear children,
I will bereave them of every one.
Woe to them
when I turn away from them!
13 I have seen Ephraim, like Tyre,
planted in a pleasant place.
But Ephraim will bring out
their children to the slayer.”
14 Give them, Lord—
what will you give them?
Give them wombs that miscarry
and breasts that are dry.
15 “Because of all their wickedness in Gilgal,
I hated them there.
Because of their sinful deeds,
I will drive them out of my house.
I will no longer love them;
all their leaders are rebellious.
16 Ephraim is blighted,
their root is withered,
they yield no fruit.
Even if they bear children,
I will slay their cherished offspring.”
17 My God will reject them
because they have not obeyed him;
they will be wanderers among the nations.
(Hosea 9:10-17 NIV)
In our last passage, at the autumn harvest festival for the kingdom of Israel, Hosea joins a local group and proclaims that the end of Israel’s kingdom is near, and they should be mourning, not celebrating. This was obviously a very unpopular message; Hosea was accused of being a crazy person that should be ignored, not a prophet sent from God.
In today’s text, we see a dialogue between Hosea and the Lord about the state of affairs in Israel.
In verses 10-13, the Lord begins the discussion. The Lord remembers Israel and the great beginning they had. The relationship was wonderful, as pleasant as grapes in the desert and the promise of tree-ripened figs just waiting for the harvest (v. 10a).
But then Israel took a bad turn away from the Lord and began following Baal, an idol. Baal was supposed to be the god of fertility for people in that region. Rather than relying on the Lord for their prosperity and well-being, the people of Israel turned to Baal. God said that He would confront the people in their beliefs and their reality by taking away their fertility and their offspring, leaving the Israelites childless. The so-called blessing of Baal has now become a curse.
In verse 14, Hosea responds to the Lord. He begins with a prayer, but even he cannot finish what he was praying for – one last chance, another opportunity for the nation to repent and turn back to the Lord. But Hosea then stops mid-sentence, probably remembering his own situation with his wife Gomer who abandoned her marriage vows to pursue love in all the wrong places.
Hosea ends his thoughts by encouraging the Lord to give the people what they deserve – barrenness and emptiness. Maybe that will help them see through the powerlessness of Baal and the power of God that is mightier than all the other “gods”.
The Lord resumes speaking in verses 15-16, remembering the evil of Israel. It’s time to prune the vine and remove all the dead branches that no longer have life in them. The branches are bearing no fruit – so they need to go. Even if a rare blossom does eventually bear fruit, it will be taken away because the branch is bad.
Hosea closes the dialogue with verse 17. Because of Israel’s sin and rebellion against the Lord, they will be exiled to other nations. The end is near.
Today’s passage is a tough one. Thankfully, today’s message is not the end of God’s word to His people. God’s love is still the central essence of His character and being. But sometimes the Lord has to take away what we focus on when we take our eyes off Him.
May we keep our eyes on the Lord – Emmanuel, God with us.