10 Israel was a spreading vine;
he brought forth fruit for himself.
As his fruit increased,
he built more altars;
as his land prospered,
he adorned his sacred stones.
2 Their heart is deceitful,
and now they must bear their guilt.
The Lord will demolish their altars
and destroy their sacred stones.
3 Then they will say, “We have no king
because we did not revere the Lord.
But even if we had a king,
what could he do for us?”
4 They make many promises,
take false oaths
and make agreements;
therefore lawsuits spring up
like poisonous weeds in a plowed field.
5 The people who live in Samaria fear
for the calf-idol of Beth Aven.
Its people will mourn over it,
and so will its idolatrous priests,
those who had rejoiced over its splendor,
because it is taken from them into exile.
6 It will be carried to Assyria
as tribute for the great king.
Ephraim will be disgraced;
Israel will be ashamed of its foreign alliances.
7 Samaria’s king will be destroyed,
swept away like a twig on the surface of the waters.
8 The high places of wickedness will be destroyed—
it is the sin of Israel.
Thorns and thistles will grow up
and cover their altars.
Then they will say to the mountains, “Cover us!”
and to the hills, “Fall on us!”
(Hosea 10:1-8 NIV)
In our last passage, we saw the Lord and Hosea have a dialogue about the dysfunction and broken covenant between Israel and God. Despite many warnings and prophets sent to proclaim God’s love for them and tell them the consequences of their attitudes and actions, the people still chose to rebel and sin against the Lord.
In today’s passage, we see Hosea’s continued thoughts toward Israel. We know these are Hosea’s thoughts and words because the Lord is referred to in third person (v. 2). While these words are Hosea’s, they are a summary of what the Lord has spoken through him.
Hosea begins by saying that Israel is a growing, productive vine. But rather than giving God the glory for its growth, it uses the profit from its growth and fruit on itself. Israel builds more altars to Baal and more temples for self-indulgent prostitution and depravity rather than giving God the glory in His house and caring for the needs of others.
Hosea then laments and notes that the Lord will hold Israel accountable for their attitudes and actions, and will destroy all these altars and places of worship (v. 2).
Hosea then predicts the people’s response to his words of warning; indeed, he had likely heard them many times before, as noted in chapter 9, verse 7, where they called Hosea a fool and told everyone not to listen to him.
So what did the people say this time? “We don’t have a king because we don’t honor God. But even if we did have a king, how would that help our situation? What can a king (or God, for that matter) do for us?” (v. 3, paraphrased). The people had put God in a box, a very small box.
Hosea notes that the Israelites talk big, but their faith in God is nonexistent, and their misplaced trust in their allies to get them out of this mess will not work, either (v. 4).
In fact, their worst nightmare is about to come true: their beloved object of worship, a golden calf, is about to be taken from them and carried off to Assyria. Their object of glory will be removed from their midst. They will be put to shame, and their leaders will have to eat their prideful words in bitter shame, humility, and failure (vv. 5-6).
Israel will become desolate and the people will be cut off from their supposed allies who are now their captors (v. 7). When their world and lifestyle implodes, the Israelites will freak out and wish to die rather than give up their way of life (v. 8). Turning back to the Lord is not even a consideration.
Hosea is not gloating over Israel’s demise, nor is he saying, “I told you so!”. Rather, likely with tears in his eyes and his heart breaking on the inside, he is warning anyone who will listen about the consequences of the kingdom’s sin, warning them that unless they repent, all this is about to happen. It’s sunny right now, but a devastating storm is on its way.
May our faith and focus be rooted and grounded in the Lord, where we give Him the glory for all that happens, rather than use God’s blessings for our selfish motives.
May our focus be upward and outward, not inward.