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Hosea 11:12-12:14

12 Ephraim has surrounded me with lies,
    Israel with deceit.
And Judah is unruly against God,
    even against the faithful Holy One.

12 Ephraim feeds on the wind;
    he pursues the east wind all day
    and multiplies lies and violence.
He makes a treaty with Assyria
    and sends olive oil to Egypt.
The Lord has a charge to bring against Judah;
    he will punish Jacob according to his ways
    and repay him according to his deeds.
In the womb he grasped his brother’s heel;
    as a man he struggled with God.
He struggled with the angel and overcame him;
    he wept and begged for his favor.
He found him at Bethel
    and talked with him there—
the Lord God Almighty,
    the Lord is his name!
But you must return to your God;
    maintain love and justice,
    and wait for your God always.

The merchant uses dishonest scales
    and loves to defraud.
Ephraim boasts,
    “I am very rich; I have become wealthy.
With all my wealth they will not find in me
    any iniquity or sin.”

“I have been the Lord your God
    ever since you came out of Egypt;
I will make you live in tents again,
    as in the days of your appointed festivals.
10 I spoke to the prophets,
    gave them many visions
    and told parables through them.”

11 Is Gilead wicked?
    Its people are worthless!
Do they sacrifice bulls in Gilgal?
    Their altars will be like piles of stones
    on a plowed field.
12 Jacob fled to the country of Aram;
    Israel served to get a wife,
    and to pay for her he tended sheep.
13 The Lord used a prophet to bring Israel up from Egypt,
    by a prophet he cared for him.
14 But Ephraim has aroused his bitter anger;
    his Lord will leave on him the guilt of his bloodshed
    and will repay him for his contempt.
(Hosea 11:12-12:14 NIV)

Yesterday we looked at the covenant bond between God and Israel portrayed as a parent-child relationship.  While the Lord loved Israel as a parent loves a child, Israel turned its back on the Lord and willfully went its own way.

In today’s passage, the Lord calls out Israel’s lies and deceit and gives one last call to repentance.

In 11:12, The Lord endicts both Israel (the northern kingdom) and Judah (the southern kingdom).  Israel is full of lies and deceit, and Judah is unruly against the Lord.  Starting in verse 1 of chapter 12, Israel is the focus for the majority of today’s text.

The Lord begins by laying out the lies and violence within the land, and the unholy treaties that Israel has made with both Assyria and Egypt (12:1).

The Lord then recalls Israel’s namesake and ancestor, Jacob, who God later renamed Israel (vv. 2-6).  Even his name meant “deceiver” (Genesis 25:26 footnotes).  Even before he was out of his mother’s womb, he was holding on to his brother’s heel.  Throughout his childhood and adult life, Jacob was known as a liar and deceiver.

Only when Jacob met God face-to-face, did he finally recognize the weakness of his character through his lies and deceit, and the power of God’s grace as his strength (vv. 2-5).  The Lord called Israel to follow in Jacob’s footsteps – to repent, seek love and justice, and to wait on the Lord (v. 6).

But Israel had gotten rich by oppressing others and had declared its innocence of any wrongdoing or sin (vv. 7-8).  But the Lord knows their true heart of sin, of oppressing others and deceiving themselves in their self-righteousness.  So what does the Lord do?  He reminds them that He can and will remove this mask of self-righteous behavior and take them back to their humble beginnings, to living in tents (v. 9).

The Lord also reminded the Israelites that He had sent His prophets to them, but the Israelites were so caught up in their web of lies that they could no longer discern the truth, much less obey it (vv. 10-13).

Ultimately, this rejection of truth and delusional belief in their self-made life would bring God’s promised consequences upon Israel (v. 14).

So what can we learn from today’s text?  How does this ancient history lesson apply to us in our life and era?

First, there is still freedom in truth.  Listen to Jesus’ words:

Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.
(John 8:32 NIV)

And what is the source of truth?  Is it to be found in us, or outside of us?
Again, let’s listen to Jesus’s words on the subject:

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
(John 14:6 NIV)

May we pursue truth by following Christ, the embodiment of truth and life.

And how do we follow Christ?  Hosea’s words point us in the right direction:

But you must return to your God;
    maintain love and justice,
    and wait for your God always.
(Hosea 12:6 NIV)

May this be our meditation and focus today.


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