Yahweh’s Passionate Love for Israel, part 2 (Hosea 11:3-7)

Last week we started Hosea 11, noting how grandly this chapter presents Yahweh’s love for Israel.  We noted that in verse 1 we have that nostalgic look back at Israel’s beginning and that seemingly bright future.  God, in His elective love, had chosen Israel out from among all the nations, not for anything good in themselves, but simply because He wanted to.

They, however, no matter how good God had been to them, spurned His goodness and His love and turned to other gods.  Those gods were less demanding, although they never delivered on their worshippers expectations.

This was represented in vv. 1-2, which we talked about last week:

1 When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son. 2 The more they were called, the more they went away; they kept sacrificing to the Baals and burning offerings to idols.

Today we will pick up at verse 3, but let me again read the whole chapter, verses 3-11…

3 Yet it was I who taught Ephraim to walk; I took them up by their arms, but they did not know that I healed them. 4 I led them with cords of kindness, with the bands of love, and I became to them as one who eases the yoke on their jaws, and I bent down to them and fed them. 5 They shall not return to the land of Egypt, but Assyria shall be their king, because they have refused to return to me. 6 The sword shall rage against their cities, consume the bars of their gates, and devour them because of their own counsels. 7 My people are bent on turning away from me, and though they call out to the Most High, he shall not raise them up at all. 8 How can I give you up, O Ephraim?  How can I hand you over, O Israel?  How can I make you like Admah?  How can I treat you like Zeboiim?  My heart recoils within me; my compassion grows warm and tender. 9 I will not execute my burning anger; I will not again destroy Ephraim; for I am God and not a man, the Holy One in your midst, and I will not come in wrath. 10 They shall go after the LORD; he will roar like a lion; when he roars, his children shall come trembling from the west; 11 they shall come trembling like birds from Egypt, and like doves from the land of Assyria, and I will return them to their homes, declares the LORD.

So Hosea continues the father-son metaphor into verse 3.  Just as a human father would give loving attention to a son trying to learn to walk, so Yahweh had taught them by supporting them and then healing them when they scraped their knees.

3 Yet it was I who taught Ephraim to walk; I took them up by their arms, but they did not know that I healed them.

As Roy Honeycutt says…

“There are fewer pictures which more graphically portray a parent’s loving care and a child’s complete dependence” (Hosea and His Message, p. 74).

H. Ronald Vandermey writes:

“Note how the words of this verse parallel Moses’ statement regarding Israel’s being carried through the wilderness as a father carries his son (Deut. 1:31-32; 32:10-11)” (Hosea-Amos, p. 65).

Israel in the wilderness was like an infant son.  Yahweh lovingly taught Ephraim to walk.  Just as we teach our children to walk, one of the first steps of independence in their lives, so Yahweh taught Ephraim to walk, with the hope that they would grow to maturity.

C. S. Lewis, in the chapter called The Law of Undulation in The Screwtape Letters, an imaginary tutelage between Screwtape, a senior demon, and Wormwood, his protégé. Screwtape is explaining to Wormwood how God treats his favorites, by taking away his presence just like a parent eventually stops holding their child, in order for him to learn to walk on his own. Here is what Lewis, through Screwtape’s devious, but accurate understanding, claims:

“He wants them to learn to walk and must therefore take away His hand; and if only the will to walk is really there He is pleased even with their stumbles.  Do not be deceived Wormwood.  Our cause is never more in danger than when a human, no longer desiring, but still intending, to do our Enemy’s will, looks round upon a universe from which every trace of Him seems to have vanished, and asks why he has been forsaken, and still obeys.”

Not only was Yahweh there teaching Ephraim, but He was also nearby training them, being “present” so that He could, at times, hold them up and keep them from falling.  I don’t imagine Israel was aware of how often Yahweh had kept them from falling to temptation, just as we are not.

He keeps us from falling, guiding us in paths of righteousness, for His name’s sake (Psalm 23:2).  But He also heals us when we do fall.  Or, as David says in Psalm 25:11, he forgives our iniquity, “though it is great,” again, for His name’s sake.

The VERB “healed” (BDB 950, KB 1272, Qal PERFECT) is often used for God forgiving sin, as seen in Hosea 5:13, 6:1; 7:1; Exod. 15:26; the parallelism of Ps. 103:3; and Isa. 1:5-6, examples of national sin described in terms of a physical disease (also note Isa. 53:5 and I Pet. 2:24-25).

The sad reality is that we, like Israel, tend to forget how much God has helped us along the way.  Ephraim “did not know,” or, more accurately, “did not acknowledge,” or “did not call to mind” God’s help all along the way—teaching, holding, healing; instructing, training, forgiving.

Despite this dynamic expression of love and identification, “They did not know that I healed them” (v. 3).  How insensitive each of us can become to the Lord’s grace.  This theme appeared earlier in Hosea’s indictment of Israel for receiving the gifts of God but ascribing them to Baal (cf. 2:8).

The line “did not know that I healed them” (v. 3b) alludes to the story of the Exodus.  In particular it looks back to Exodus 15:22-26, the story of the bitter water at Marah, which Moses miraculously purified after praying to Yahweh.  God then commented on this incident

26 saying, “If you will diligently listen to the voice of the LORD your God, and do that which is right in his eyes, and give ear to his commandments and keep all his statutes, I will put none of the diseases on you that I put on the Egyptians, for I am the LORD, your healer.”

Hosea’s allusion to this incident implies how the Israelites quickly forgot both how the Egyptians were afflicted and how God repeatedly restored health to Israel in the wilderness (e.g., Numbers 21:6-10).

Hosea is drawing a strong contrast here between Yahweh and Baal.  Although they now had affections for Baal, it was not Baal who had taken them out of slavery in Egypt and took care of them every step of the way to the Promised Land.  Baal had done nothing for them; Yahweh had done it all.

Although some believe that Hosea continues the image of a father and son in verse 4, it is likely that he is communicating the same underlying concepts through a different image, that of a master and his ox.  The image of a loving herdsman taking care of his animal is in view here.

The description here is in harmony with the figurative language built upon the agrarian imagery of Hosea 10:11-13 and also provides a literary hook between the two chapters.

It is instructive that the Scriptures teach us to be compassionate towards our animals, to not abuse them but to take good care of them.  Here Hosea continues the complaint of Yahweh against them…

4 I led them with cords of kindness, with the bands of love, and I became to them as one who eases the yoke on their jaws, and I bent down to them and fed them.

Notice that unlike verse 3, which ended by showing how Ephraim failed to acknowledge all the good that Yahweh had done for them, here the emphasis is totally upon what Yahweh had done.  Verse 5 will pick up Ephraim’s failure.

Instead of driving Ephraim, he led them.  He led them “with cords of kindness, with the bands of love.”  Unlike Egypt, who had bound them with a heavy yoke and showed no compassion upon them, Yahweh leads them gently.

Of course, this should remind us of the great invitation of Jesus Christ, to those burdened down by Pharisaic legalism, bent under the weight of the stipulations and accretions to the law of Moses, Jesus said…

28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)

Here Yahweh says that he loosens the yoke, enabling them to eat as they plow.  Leon Wood notes, “Often a cattleman would lift the yoke from an ox’s shoulders, so that when it bent over to eat, the yoke would not slide down over its face and impede its feeding” (Hosea, 212-213).

We are saved because we are drawn by the Father’s love, the Son’s sacrifice and the Spirit’s call.  In John 6:44 Jesus speaks of the impossibility of us coming to salvation apart from the Father drawing us…

44 No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him.

Not many, not some, but no one can come to a personal relationship with Jesus Christ unless the father draws him.

Of course, in another of John’s writings, in the book of Revelation, near the end John is told to write:

The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price. (Revelation 22:17)

But even here, where our desires are involved, there is also the calling of the Spirit and the church (gospel preachers) that awakens the desire in the heart of those who have developed a spiritual thirst for Jesus Christ and eternal life.

So Spurgeon explains…

“Understand, then, it is true that no man comes to God except he is drawn; but it is equally true that God draweth no man contrary to the constitution of man, but his methods of drawing are in strict accordance with ordinary mental operations. He finds the human mind what it is, and he acts upon it, not as upon matter, but as upon mind. The compulsions, the constraints, the cords that he uses, are ‘cords of a man.’ The bands he employs are ‘bands of love.’” (Spurgeon)

We are also sanctified because of the drawing work of the Holy Spirit in our lives, placing within us God-honoring, righteousness-loving desires, and then giving us the enabling to do that.  This is what Paul is saying in Philippians 2:12-13.  Beginning in the last part of verse 12…

work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

We don’t work for our salvation.  It is a free gift, according to Ephesians 2:8-9.  But we do work out our salvation, we live in the power of our salvation in every sphere of life day by day.  But, we can only do this because God works in us (v. 13).  He is always working in us “both to will” (giving us new and holy desires) “and to work” (giving us the power to say “no” to temptations and yes to Jesus).

Any time we have a desire to do what is right and good and true, it comes from God, not from ourselves.  Whenever we actually follow through and do what is right and good and true, that is not because we had the willpower and the strength to accomplish it, but because God provided that power.  It was working within us.

Yahweh was doing something similar for Ephraim.  He brought them out of slavery to Egypt, giving them freedom (within the boundaries of the law).  He loosened their restraints and “bent down and fed them.”

Almighty Yahweh, before whom we should always bow, stooped down to feed them.  This reminds me, and probably you as well, of that wonderful passage of Paul in Philippians 2, where he shows the servant attitude of Jesus Christ…

5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

Christ came down; He bent down; He served and died on the cross.  Yet He was and is and forever will be the King of kings and Lord of lords!

The point in these two verses is that just as any good father or animal owner would act and compassionately toward his child or animal, so the Lord has dealt tenderly—even most affectionately—with Israel.

Derek Kidner, in his characteristic way of driving the point home, says:

“Every detail of this pampering drives home the extraordinary graciousness that Israel has experienced, far beyond anything that she had any right to expect, or any prospect of receiving at the hands of their new masters.  The next paragraph will make the last point brutally clear” (The Message of Hosea, p. 102).

Referring to verses 1 through 4, and verse 8, G. Campbell Morgan wrote:

“… do you know of any passage in the Old Testament or the New, more wonderful in its revelation of the love of God than that?” (The Unfolding Message of the Bible, p. 202).

Having described His deliverance, and loving care and guidance for Israel (vv. 1, 3-4), the Lord now declares that judgment now must come to His people (vv. 5-6). This is because of their longstanding and abiding sinfulness (vv. 2, 7).

5 They shall not return to the land of Egypt, but Assyria shall be their king, because they have refused to return to me.

Although it is against His deepest desires (cf. vv. 8-9), Yahweh will “give them over” like we read He does to any civilization (cf. Romans 1:24, 26, 28) which turns their back on Him.

“Ever since chapter 7, with its picture of Ephraim flitting between Egypt and Assyria like a flustered bird (7:11), every chapter has named one or both of these great powers as her obsession and her downfall” (Derek Kidner, The Message of Hosea, p. 103).

God’s sentence for the near future remains the same as that delivered previously: in accordance with the covenantal stipulations Israel will return to Egypt (cf. 7:16; 8:13; 9:3-6). By “Egypt” is meant primarily Israel’s fall to the Assyrian forces and deportation to their lands.  Even though some of Israel’s exiles might escape to Egypt, theirs would not be a pleasant experience there.

Thus, what Hosea is saying is that Israel’s judgment will be like a reversal, back to the slavery they experienced in Egypt.  However, the actual physical location of this exile would be Assyria.  Having rejected Yahweh as King, they would henceforth have Assyria as their king.

The key issue is their failure, in fact their refusal, to repent.  Because Israel refused to “return” (Heb. shub) to Yahweh after so many appeals by His prophets (v. 2), He would “return” (Heb. shub) the nation to captivity.

This refusal to repent is ultimately what sent Israel into captivity.  It was not their sins, in particular, which deserved this judgment, but their refusal to turn back to God when they had the chance.

Likewise, no one is in hell because they have sinned, but because they refuse to repent of their sin and turn in faith to Jesus Christ for salvation.  This is what John is referring to in John 3:19-21.

19 And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. 20 For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. 21 But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.”

When sinners love their sin they will not come to the light, they love their sin and don’t want to be forgiven.

This condemnation of their refusal to repent is described further in v. 7…

7 My people are bent on turning away from me, and though they call out to the Most High, he shall not raise them up at all.

Their inclination (their “bent,” a word that means “impaled, addicted to, hung upon”) is not to draw near to Yahweh, but to turn their backs on Him.  Truly, the nation was hooked on, addicted to, their sin and none was willing to turn back to Yahweh.  As a result, He would turn from them.  Apparently in the dire distress of those days, they would “call out to the Most High,” but it would be too late.  He would not hear them and would not deliver them “at all.”

David Hubbard notes that that the word “call” ties us back to vv. 1-2 which “play on the contrast between Yahweh’s call and the seductive calls of the Baals” (Hosea, p. 203.)

Their military defeat is pictured in v. 6

6 The sword shall rage against their cities, consume the bars of their gates, and devour them because of their own counsels.

False prophets would counsel them to depend upon their fortified cities when their former allies turned against them.  Enemy soldiers would swarm around Israel’s cities and break down the gate bars that secured them against foreign attack.  All places of refuge will fail when the day of reckoning arrives.

They would consume the Israelites because of the decisions the Israelites had made to depart from the Lord (cf. Mic. 6:16).  These were the result, in part, of false prophets’ advice.

Yahweh had fed His people (v. 4), but now the sword would feed on them (cf. Isa. 1:19-20).

Israel has put its trust in fortresses (v. 6; cf. 8:13-14; 10:14) and other gods (i.e., especially Baal, v. 7; cf. 9:10; 10:1), but none of these would be able to save them when the invader came.

In another listing of threes Israel’s cities are depicted as witnessing the flashing, swirling, cutting swords of the enemy, the fall of the city gates and their supposedly strong fortresses turned into graveyards.  For the dead shall lie everywhere within their precincts (v. 6).

It was all so needless. If only they had trusted Yahweh who alone could protect them rather than their supposedly impregnable fortresses.  Moreover, only the Lord could really promote the welfare, which no foreign power or supposed god could provide.  But to the contrary, they called to a “higher power” which could do neither (v. 7).

Even in the midst of this determined rejection, Yahweh goes on to cry out…

8 How can I give you up, O Ephraim?  How can I hand you over, O Israel?  How can I make you like Admah?  How can I treat you like Zeboiim?  My heart recoils within me; my compassion grows warm and tender. 9 I will not execute my burning anger; I will not again destroy Ephraim; for I am God and not a man, the Holy One in your midst, and I will not come in wrath.

But we will have to wait until next week to answer the questions that these verses bring up.

Until next week, soak yourself in the amazing grace of Jesus Christ.

 

Yahweh’s Passionate Love for Israel, part 1 (Hosea 11:1-2)

Over the last few months we’ve been examining Yahweh’s judgments that He would bring upon Israel for their sin.  Yet, in spite of all their sins, Yahweh still loved them.  He couldn’t stop.  He had covenanted Himself to them at Sinai.  Actually, God’s faithfulness to faithless Israel goes back even further to the Abrahamic Covenant.  That covenant was unconditional and Yahweh will keep His promises to Abraham.

However, the Mosaic covenant was conditional.  To enjoy blessings within their homeland required obedience to the law and faithfulness to worship Yahweh alone.  Because they had rejected Yahweh in favor of pagan gods and had kept breaking the law, God must discipline them.  Yet, like a loving father or mother today, while disciplining their heart is breaking and they still love their child.

Hosea 11 contains the most poignant yet touching words in all of Hosea. It features a sharp contrast between God’s tender reminiscences of His early relationship with Israel and yet His sorrow at their rejection of Him for Baal despite all that He had done for them (vv. 1-4).  His people had taken for granted His love and care for them, and the Lord was concerned for their constant lack of fidelity, which now necessitated their coming judgment (vv. 5-7).

In a second display of His compassion the Lord reveals that His abiding love for Israel would mean that His judgment could not and would not spell the end for His people (vv. 8-9).  For in a future day Israel would respond to His call and they would return to their homes and His blessings (vv. 10-11). (Richard Patterson)

H. Ronald Vandermey also notices that Hosea delves into the past, present and future of redemption. Verses 1-4 show how the past love of God for Israel was met with ingratitude, then vv. 5-7 show the inevitability of punishment in the present, while vv. 8-11 reveal how Yahweh’s continued compassion spells hope of future restoration for Israel.

Hubbard believes that this chapter, through v. 11, “draws to a close the second major division of the book which began at 4:1.  Its final words of hope (vv. 10-11) recall the promise of 3:5

5 Afterward the children of Israel shall return and seek the LORD their God, and David their king, and they shall come in fear to the LORD and to his goodness in the latter days.

And anticipates Israel’s penitent return predicted in Hosea 14:3

3 Assyria shall not save us; we will not ride on horses; and we will say no more, ‘Our God,’ to the work of our hands.  In you the orphan finds mercy.”

Listen to how Hosea puts this now in Hosea 11…

1 When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son. 2 The more they were called, the more they went away; they kept sacrificing to the Baals and burning offerings to idols. 3 Yet it was I who taught Ephraim to walk; I took them up by their arms, but they did not know that I healed them. 4 I led them with cords of kindness, with the bands of love, and I became to them as one who eases the yoke on their jaws, and I bent down to them and fed them. 5 They shall not return to the land of Egypt, but Assyria shall be their king, because they have refused to return to me. 6 The sword shall rage against their cities, consume the bars of their gates, and devour them because of their own counsels. 7 My people are bent on turning away from me, and though they call out to the Most High, he shall not raise them up at all. 8 How can I give you up, O Ephraim?  How can I hand you over, O Israel?  How can I make you like Admah?  How can I treat you like Zeboiim?  My heart recoils within me; my compassion grows warm and tender. 9 I will not execute my burning anger; I will not again destroy Ephraim; for I am God and not a man, the Holy One in your midst, and I will not come in wrath. 10 They shall go after the LORD; he will roar like a lion; when he roars, his children shall come trembling from the west; 11 they shall come trembling like birds from Egypt, and like doves from the land of Assyria, and I will return them to their homes, declares the LORD. 12 Ephraim has surrounded me with lies, and the house of Israel with deceit, but Judah still walks with God and is faithful to the Holy One.

Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s Sonnet 43, better known as How Do I Love Thee goes like this:

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of being and ideal grace.
I love thee to the level of every day’s
Most quiet need, by sun and candle-light.
I love thee freely, as men strive for right.
I love thee purely, as they turn from praise.
I love thee with the passion put to use
In my old griefs, and with my childhood’s faith.
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
With my lost saints. I love thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life; and, if God choose,
I shall but love thee better after death.

How does Yahweh love thee, O Israel?  Hosea says, “let me count the ways.”

  • He loved you when he called you to sonship, though there was nothing remarkable about you (vv. 1-2; Deuteronomy 7:7-8)
  • He loved you when you failed to acknowledge His gifts and rejected His love (vv. 3-4).
  • When you abandoned Him, He still loved you and loves you still (vv. 5-7)
  • He loves you with a compassionate agony that would not give you up (vv. 8-9)
  • He loves you with a persistence that will ultimately draw you back into a relationship of love with Him (vv. 10-11).

The theme of love is found in varied degrees throughout the book of Hosea.  From the love of the prophet, which was the basis of his purchase of Gomer, to Yahweh’s love for Israel, as reflected in one divine expression after another, the theme occurs.  Chapter 11 is the high-water mark of this emphasis.

Derek Kidner says…

This chapter is one of the boldest in the Old Testament—indeed in the whole Bible—in exposing to us the mind and heart of God in human terms.  We are always in danger of thinking of divine majesty in terms which we have learnt from earthly potentates [Kidner, by the way, is British]….Even when we speak of God as Father we may hesitate in case we read too much into the word.  But our chief danger is in reading too little from it, drawing our ideas either from an earthly father’s indulgence, caring too little for his children’s training, or from his self-indulgence, taking the convenient path of a domestic tyrant.

Here, by contrast we are made to see this tile in terms of accepted cost and anguish.  God as a father is rebuffed, torn between agonizing alternatives, may seem too human altogether; but this is the price of bringing home to us the fact that divine love is more, not less, ardent and vulnerable than ours….Once more, as in chapter 3, it is He, not we, who sets the pace and who stays the course against every discouragement and provocation that ingratitude can offer. (Kidner, Hosea, p. 100).

Hosea begins…

1 When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son.

Notice that Yahweh uses both nouns (child, son) and verbs (loved and called) to shout out His amazing love for Israel.

Hosea again goes back to Israel’s beginning, when Yahweh delivered them from Egypt and brought them into the wilderness and cared for them.  More than once we’ve been reminded of the bright promise of Israel’s early days, only to rapidly fade (cf. 6:4; 9:10; 10:1, 11; 13:1, 4-6).

The word “child” indicates immaturity and helplessness, but the word “son” indicates a person who now has full rights and will be the heir.  The covenant Yahweh made with Israel was like an adoption, sealed at the Exodus and at Sinai (cf. Hosea 12:9; 13:4).

Love is the theme of Yahweh’s relationship with Israel, just as it is with you and me.  Just as “in love he predestined us to adoption” (Ephesians 1:4), so in elective love God called Israel “my son.”

Here, by the way, notice that Hosea has shifted away from the husband-wife language so prevalent in chapters 1-3.  But if there is any love that is a near rival, it is the love between a parent and child, a father and son in this case.

What man among us has not longed for a close relationship with his father?

John Stevenson touches on this nerve when he writes:

That touches a nerve because there is something within all of us that hungers for the love of a father.  Perhaps you are one who hungered for that which was not given.  That is very often the case.  Or perhaps you had the love of your earthly father but still hungered for a greater expression of that love and acceptance than which you perceived.  I can still hear the words of my younger brother as we wrapped our arms around one another at the funeral of our father as he said, “Why didn’t he ever talk to me?” (http://www.angelfire.com/nt/theology/hosea11-01.html)

It reminds me of this story…

No one could really say why he ran away. Or perhaps he didn’t, but was kicked out of his home by his father for something foolish that he said or did. Either way, Paco found himself wandering the streets of Madrid, Spain, with hopes of entering into a profession that would most likely get him killed – bullfighting. Those who train under a mentor have a good chance of surviving this profession, but Paco’s memory of his mistakes and guilt over what happened blindly drove him to this one way street to suicide.

But that was the last thing his father wanted, which is why he tried something desperate which he desperately hoped would work. There was little to no chance that he would be able to find Paco by wandering the streets of Madrid, so instead he put an advertisement in the local newspaper El Liberal. The advertisement read, “Paco, meet me at the Hotel Montana at noon on Tuesday. All is forgiven! Love, Papa.”

Paco is such a common name in Spain that when the father went to the Hotel Montana the next day at noon there were 800 young men named Paco waiting for their fathers … and waiting for the forgiveness they never thought was possible!

So in v. 1 the Lord first reminded His people that when Israel was in its early days as a nation, like a youth, He loved the nation (cf. Exod. 4:22-23).  As often is the case, loving refers to choosing (cf. Gen. 12:2-3; et al.).  God chose Israel for special blessing among the world’s nations and in this sense loved him.

Nothing in Israel (or us) merits God’s love.  It is freely and graciously given.  It was not because of Israel’s religious activities, nor her strength or numbers or potential, it was simply because Yahweh chose to love them.  Deuteronomy 7:7-8 reminded a new generation of Israelites…

7 It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the LORD set his love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples, 8 but it is because the LORD loves you and is keeping the oath that he swore to your fathers, that the LORD has brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.

The reference to the “oath that he swore to your fathers” in v. 8 is a reference back to the promise Yahweh had made with Abraham in Genesis 15:13-14

13 Then the LORD said to Abram, “Know for certain that your offspring will be sojourners in a land that is not theirs and will be servants there, and they will be afflicted for four hundred years. 14 But I will bring judgment on the nation that they serve, and afterward they shall come out with great possessions.

It was this quality of unmerited love that called Israel into existence at the time of the Exodus.  When God met Moses at the burning bush, commissioning him to go deliver Israel from Egypt, he told him he should say to Pharaoh,

Exodus 4:23 and I say to you, “Let my son go that he may serve me.” If you refuse to let him go, behold, I will kill your firstborn son.'”

Just as it was God’s undeserved, unearned love that redeemed Israel, so it is that same undeserved, unearned love that redeemed us out of slavery to sin and Satan.  We are now part of God’s family—His sons and daughters.

This verse, Hosea 11:1, will be quoted by Matthew.  After the wise men had returned home, refusing to tell King Herod where the Christ child was, Matthew records…

13 Now when they [this is, magi] had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you, for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.” 14 And he rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed to Egypt 15 and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet, “Out of Egypt I called my son.”

Scholars debate over whether Matthew is taking this verse out of its context, or whether he gives us license to do the same.  One of the things we must remember is how often Matthew compared the experiences of Israel with that of Jesus.  In Matthew 3 Jesus is baptized, just like Israel was “baptized” by going through the Reed Sea.  In Matthew 4 Jesus triumphs over temptation after 40 days in the desert, unlike Israel which fell to temptation in their 40 years in the desert.  So it is not necessarily surprising that Matthew intentionally compares Israel and Jesus here.

Just like Yahweh called Israel, His Son, out of Egypt, so God will call Jesus, His greater Son, out of Egypt.  Kiel makes the comparison:

“Just as Israel grew into a nation in Egypt, where it was out of the reach of Canaanitish ways, so was the child Jesus hidden in Egypt from the hostility of Herod.”

Matthew did not mean that Hosea had Jesus Christ in mind or was predicting His exodus from Egypt when he wrote, but that Jesus’ experience corresponded to what Hosea had written about Israel.  He saw the experience of Jesus as analogous to that of Israel. (Thomas Constable)

The Scofield Bible also has this note:

“This is a reference not only to the exodus of Israel from Egypt but also to the fact that all of God’s dealings with Israel were based upon the love that He would show in calling His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, back from the comparative safety of Egypt in order that He might suffer and die to accomplish His great redemptive work.”

If Yahweh’s love is a constant theme in Israel’s history, so Israel’s stubbornness is persistent.  Verse 2 tells us…

2 The more they were called, the more they went away; they kept sacrificing to the Baals and burning offerings to idols.

This “the more I…” “they more they…” has been a repeated emphasis of Hosea, found also in 4:7 and 10:1.  No matter how much good God did for them, they turned their backs on Him!

God’s calling of Israel was not just a one-time event.  Through the prophets He had called to them time and time again, calling them back to righteousness and covenant loyalty.  But the more the prophets appealed to the people to follow the Lord, the more the people turned aside from following Him.

This must be immensely frustrating to God, to abundantly pour out His blessings, to give His children chance after chance to repent so that they can really enjoy those blessing, and to see them turn away from Him to other gods.  Somehow, the empty calls of the idols had more drawing power than Yahweh’s goodness to them.

Kidner says that “Israel’s sin, so far from springing from ignorance or hardship, was their reply to heaven’s kindness and concern” (Kidner, Hosea, p. 101).

They even went so far as to embrace Baal and to burn incense to images.  Both were in clear violation of the standards in God’s law (cf. Exod. 20:3-4; Deut. 5:7-8).

Although this was the present reality—Baal worship—in Israel, it is likely Hosea is again showing how this was a persistent problem in Israel by pointing back to the Exodus and the incident at Baal-Peor, where Israelites got their first taste of worshipping a Canaanite god.

A number of texts expand the historical perspective of the exodus account by recording the redeemed people’s whining ingratitude … (cf. Exod. 14:11; 15:14; 16:3; 17:2, 3; 32:1; Num. 11:1, 18-20; 14:2-4; 20:5; 21:5; Deut. 1:2-6).”

No matter how much Yahweh had done for them, it was never enough, never good enough.  Satan always deceives us into thinking that ultimately God is not being good to us, that He is withholding something from us that we need.  So, through sensuality or religion, he offers us something to relieve our pain or restore our pleasure.  But it is a lie.  It is an illusion.  It may bring “pleasure for a season” (Heb. 11:25) but it cannot deeply satisfy.

 

 

Israel Reaps the Whirlwind, part 10 (Hosea 10:8-15)

For several chapters now, from Hosea 8 to Hosea 10, Hosea has been showing Israel how they were reaping, and would be reaping, what they had sown.  The controlling metaphor throughout this section of Hosea comes from Hosea 8:7 “they sow the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind.”  This is a basic principle of life, repeated by Paul in the New Testament when he tells us we “reap what we sow.”

As in agricultural life, we reap in like kind as we sow (wind and whirlwind; worshipping fertility gods, being childless; relying on other nations for protection and being destroyed by them).  We never reap at the same time we sow, which sometimes gives us the illusion that we can get away with it.  And we always reap more than we sow.

In Hosea 10 we’ve seen Hosea picture Israel as a vine, planted by God, but yielding bad fruit, in vv. 1-8.  Hosea changes metaphors in the last part of this chapter, calling Israel a stubborn calf, in vv. 9-15.

Unfortunately, we were not able to get to verse 8 last week, so although it goes with the previous section, we will deal with it today.  Hosea has been talking about the destruction of the nation—losing their homeland, their political leaders and their idols.  Then, continuing the devastation of their false religion he says…

8 The high places of Aven, the sin of Israel, shall be destroyed. Thorn and thistle shall grow up on their altars, and they shall say to the mountains, “Cover us,” and to the hills, “Fall on us.”

Aven is Bethel, the place where Jeroboam I set up one of the golden calves. The other was in Dan.  The Assyrians would also destroy the sites of the idolatrous shrines at “Aven” (wickedness, i.e., Bethel [or Beth-aven, cf. v. 5]), where the Israelites had sinned.  Ironically, when the Israelites had entered the Promised Land, the Lord had commanded them to destroy such places (Num. 33:52; Deut. 12:2-3).

Because they failed to obey, God would now use the Assyrians to destroy these idolatrous shrines.  The result, due to the exiling of the people of Israel, is that “thorn and thistle” would cover these altars, showing their disuse over a long period of time.  Not only would the land be devastated, but idolatry would become extinct in those places.  Once busy pagan altars would be “closed for business.”

Interestingly, the first time “thorn and thistle” occur together in the Scriptures is in the original curse upon Adam in Genesis 3:18, “thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you.”

It is also found in Hebrews 6:8

But if it bears thorns and thistles, it is worthless and near to being cursed, and its end is to be burned.

That is speaking of unbelievers and how their lives will be fruitless and ultimately judged.

The fierce destructive force of the Assyrian army would lead the Israelites to ask for the mountain to “cover us” and the hills to “fall on us.”  If you think you’ve heard that before, it is the exact words out of the mouths of unbelievers during the tribulation period, when they begin to experience the judgments of the wrath of the Lamb are poured out in the breaking of the seven seals.

12 When he opened the sixth seal, I looked, and behold, there was a great earthquake, and the sun became black as sackcloth, the full moon became like blood, 13 and the stars of the sky fell to the earth as the fig tree sheds its winter fruit when shaken by a gale. 14 The sky vanished like a scroll that is being rolled up, and every mountain and island was removed from its place. 15 Then the kings of the earth and the great ones and the generals and the rich and the powerful, and everyone, slave and free, hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains, 16 calling to the mountains and rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who is seated on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb, 17 for the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?” (Cf. also Luke 23:30)

Thus, both “thorns and thistles” and the desire for mountains to fall upon oneself only occur in judgment of sinners.

Thus, the Israelites end up preferring death to life.  Instead of rescue, instead of calling out upon Yahweh to save them, they call to “Mother Nature” to kill them.

Now, in vv. 9-15 Hosea focuses upon Israel’s impending war with Assyria.

This section also opens with a reference to an event in Israel’s past history (cf. 9:10; 10:1; 11:1).  Announcements of war punishment (vv. 9-10, 14-15) bracket Yahweh’s indictment of His people for their sins (vv. 11-13).  Notice also how Hosea once again looks back historically and geographically, locating their continued sin patterns in Gibeah (v. 9) and Bethel (v. 15).

9 From the days of Gibeah, you have sinned, O Israel; there they have continued. Shall not the war against the unjust overtake them in Gibeah? 10 When I please, I will discipline them, and nations shall be gathered against them when they are bound up for their double iniquity. 11 Ephraim was a trained calf that loved to thresh, and I spared her fair neck; but I will put Ephraim to the yoke; Judah must plow; Jacob must harrow for himself. 12 Sow for yourselves righteousness; reap steadfast love; break up your fallow ground, for it is the time to seek the LORD, that he may come and rain righteousness upon you. 13 You have plowed iniquity; you have reaped injustice; you have eaten the fruit of lies. Because you have trusted in your own way and in the multitude of your warriors, 14 therefore the tumult of war shall arise among your people, and all your fortresses shall be destroyed, as Shalman destroyed Beth-arbel on the day of battle; mothers were dashed in pieces with their children. 15 Thus it shall be done to you, O Bethel, because of your great evil. At dawn the king of Israel shall be utterly cut off.

Hosea, in v. 9, again (as in 9:9) recalls the horrific sin that happened in Gibeah recorded in Judges 19.  It was such a despicable sin, so appalling, yet it typified the continued crimes of Israel against one another.  Notice how Hosea speaks of past sins “you have sinned” as continuing into the present.

Did Israel consider itself a scene of progressive grandeur?  Such is not the case, for current Israelite society is as vile as in those early days in the incident at Gibeah.  For immorality, violence, and injustice are rampant throughout the land.

I think Hosea intends to shock Israel.  He wants them to face the fact that indeed, they are “that bad.”  He doesn’t want them to justify themselves, or minimize what they have done, but to see it as the bald-faced atrocity that it is.

The Lord’s rhetorical question in verse 9 emphasizes the fact that war accompanied the evil acts of that time (cf. Judg. 20).  It would do so again.  The tribes had gathered together against Gibeah in that earlier episode: this time foreign nations will march against Israel and overwhelm it.

The Israelites had sinned consistently since the days of the atrocity at Gibeah (Judg. 19—20; cf. 9:9; Isa. 1:10).   Hosea seems to be calling the Israelites to take up arms, as the tribes had done against Benjamin back in Judges 19-20, to right the wrong that had been done.  Hosea asks…

Shall not the war against the unjust overtake them in Gibeah?

Since there was no one to rise up, like Phineas at Baal-Peor, or the Israelites against Benjamin in Judges 20, Yahweh himself would bring another nation to discipline them.

10 When I please, I will discipline them, and nations shall be gathered against them when they are bound up for their double iniquity.

All that happens is by God’s pleasure.  Psalm 115:3 says, “Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases.”  Ephesians 1:11 says that God “works all things according to the counsel of his will…”

The juxtaposition of God’s pleasure and the nations actions indicate that Yahweh is ultimately in control and the nations do as He desires.  God will use Assyria as His instrument of judgment upon Israel.  OT prophets frequently linked the first cause (the Lord) with secondary causes (here, the nations).

At the Lord’s chosen time, He would chasten (punish, discipline, cf. 5:2) His people by binding them as prisoners, harnessing them to their sins (cf. v. 11).

What is meant by Israel’s “double iniquity”?

It is possible that it refers to “their original guilt because of their sin at Gibeah and their present guilt because of their sin at Bethel” (Wolff, p. 184).  Another view is that it refers to the sin of forsaking God and the sin of forsaking His appointed Davidic kings (Keil, 1:133; Pfeiffer, p. 813).  It is also a play off the name Ephraim, which means “doubly fruitful.”

Hosea goes on to say…

11 Ephraim was a trained calf that loved to thresh, and I spared her fair neck; but I will put Ephraim to the yoke; Judah must plow; Jacob must harrow for himself. 12 Sow for yourselves righteousness; reap steadfast love; break up your fallow ground, for it is the time to seek the LORD, that he may come and rain righteousness upon you. 13 You have plowed iniquity; you have reaped injustice; you have eaten the fruit of lies.

Vv. 11-13 is punctuated with agrarian images, again alluding to the issue of fertility.  “Ephraim was a trained calf” is another allusion to Israel’s beginnings.  The Lord had spared Israel the yoke; she loved to thresh in his field (cf. Deut. 25:4).  But that freedom has been abused.  Instead of justice and righteousness, Israel “plowed iniquity” (v. 13).  And again, they would reap what they had sown, reaping “injustice.”

Derek Kidner notes…

“Threshing was a comparatively light task, made pleasant by the fact that the creature was unmuzzled and free to eat … as it pulled the threshing sledge over the gathered corn” (Hosea, pp. 97-98).

Ephraim had abandoned this comparatively light service in preference for becoming yoked to sin (v. 10). As punishment, Yahweh would yoke the people of both Northern (Ephraim/Jacob) and Southern (Judah) Kingdoms to an enemy who would greatly restrict their movements and force them to do hard work.

Ephraim’s freedom had been misused, so now they would be brought under the yoke of slavery.

Unfortunately, Israel has abused her status with God by its sin and self-indulgence.  As McComiskey points out, “She was like a playful, unbridled heifer that enjoyed its freedom from the drudgery of hauling heavy loads.  Like the heifer in Hosea’s analogy she had not experienced the strictures of divine law; [but] the nation exulted in the unrestrained liberty of the nature cult.”

In the midst of the judgment in vv. 11 and 13 is another call to repentance.  They should cultivate righteousness with a view to reaping the Lord’s covenant loyalty (chesed).  The act of “breaking up fallow ground” is what a farmer does when he plows land that has remained untouched for a long time, even forever (cf. Jer. 4:3).

Their hearts had become hardened and needed to be broken.  Jesus spoke of seed that fell upon the path and upon the rocky soil.  In either case it could not take root because either on the surface or just beneath the surface, the soil was hard and the seed was unable to penetrate there and germinate.

This is a figure for confessing sins and exposing them to God when they have remained unconfessed under the surface of life for a long time.

They were to do this because “now” it was time to “seek the Lord.”  They should not wait another moment.  Just as Paul says “now is the day of salvation” (2 Cor. 6:2), so here the act of confession and repentance must be both deep and immediate.  They must not wait or it would soon be too late.  Not only should their repentance begin now, but it should continue “until’ that time that Yahweh responds to them.

Were they to truly confess and repent, forsaking their sins, God would rain righteousness upon them, delivering them from their enemies.

David Guzik reminds us…

God use of the figures of sowing and reaping remind us that harvest is sometimes a season away.  Sometimes people expect to sow sin for years, but to immediately reap in mercy after sowing righteousness for one day.  Stick with sowing in righteousness, you will reap in mercy in due time.

Seeking YHWH is sinful Israel’s only hope of avoiding destruction (cf. 10:12; Isa. 55:6-7; Amos 5:4,6).  Fortunately, Judah did respond to Yahweh with repentance and would have another 150 years before they were taken into captivity.

However, Hosea points out that Ephraim was not sowing righteousness, but rather “plowing iniquity.”  As a result, she was reaping “injustice.”

The last half of verse 13 goes with vv. 14-15, indicating why God would bring the Assyrian army against them.

Because you have trusted in your own way and in the multitude of your warriors, 14 therefore the tumult of war shall arise among your people, and all your fortresses shall be destroyed, as Shalman destroyed Beth-arbel on the day of battle; mothers were dashed in pieces with their children. 15 Thus it shall be done to you, O Bethel, because of your great evil.  At dawn the king of Israel shall be utterly cut off.

Trusting in one’s own strength, one’s own self, is always a losing proposition.  Despite the “multitude of warriors” “all your fortresses shall be destroyed.”  They would experience total devastation.

The identity of “Shalman” in v. 14 is undetermined.  “Shalman” may refer to King Shalmaneser III, an Assyrian who conducted campaigns in the West in the ninth century B.C.   Another identification of “Shalman” is King Salamanu, a Moabite ruler who was a contemporary of King Hoshea of Israel, whose name appears in a list of kings who paid tribute to the Assyrian king Tiglath-Pileser III.  A third possibility is the Assyrian king, Shalmaneser V, who prepared the way for Israel’s captivity by invading the land (cf. 2 Kings 17:3-6).

The location is also undetermined.  “Beth-arbel” could refer to the town of “Arbela,” about 18 miles southeast of the Sea of Chinnereth (Galilee), or to “Mt. Arbel,” two miles west of that sea.

In either case, the battle had been a bloody one that the Israelites of Hosea’s day remembered vividly.  The enemy had slaughtered mothers and their children without mercy.

This was a gruesome aspect of Assyrian exile.  The army killed all of the very old and very young who could not travel into exile.  This, of course, included pregnant women.  This was done to shock and traumatize the population (cf. 13:16).

Hosea closes this oracle with a strong warning that a similar fate awaits God’s people in the Northern Kingdom (v. 15).  For their spiritual wickedness, which began and yet continues in the cult religion at Bethel, has become so degraded that Israel must be annihilated.  When that day of reckoning would come, cult centers like that of Bethel would be destroyed and Israel would no longer have a king. It was a sober warning, which could be ignored only with deadly consequences.

Leon Wood points out…

“Since her destruction would occur ‘when that day dawns’ (meaning the very beginning of the day of battle), it is noteworthy that Israel’s final king, Hoshea, was taken captive by the Assyrian conqueror Shalmaneser V before the actual siege of Samaria began.” (“Hosea.” In Daniel-Minor Prophets. Vol. 7 of The Expositor’s Bible Commentary. p. 211)

Trusting in oneself is the essence of sin.  It leads to the pride which keeps us from admitting our need for God’s help or Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross.  Under the New Covenant we have to understand that we cannot trust in our own efforts to gain eternal life or even to free ourselves from our sin patterns.  The essence of the Christian life is taking our confidence off of ourselves and put in totally on Jesus Christ alone.

Israel Reaps the Whirlwind, part 9 (Hosea 10:3-7)

Thank you for joining me today is our study of the book of Hosea.  Because of Israel’s idolatries and their unwillingness to trust in Yahweh—instead turning to political alliances for protection—Israel is about to experience the final judgments that God had warned them about in the Palestinian covenant back in Deuteronomy 28-30.  The controlling metaphor since chapter 8 has been…”they sow the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind” (Hosea 8:7) and time after time Hosea is showing them that they are getting exactly what they deserve, that their judgment is the same in kind as their sin.

So let’s pick up our study in Hosea 10:3-7 this morning…

3 For now they will say: “We have no king, for we do not fear the LORD; and a king–what could he do for us?” 4 They utter mere words; with empty oaths they make covenants; so judgment springs up like poisonous weeds in the furrows of the field. 5 The inhabitants of Samaria tremble for the calf of Beth-aven. Its people mourn for it, and so do its idolatrous priests– those who rejoiced over it and over its glory– for it has departed from them. 6 The thing itself shall be carried to Assyria as tribute to the great king. Ephraim shall be put to shame, and Israel shall be ashamed of his idol. 7 Samaria’s king shall perish like a twig on the face of the waters. 8 The high places of Aven, the sin of Israel, shall be destroyed. Thorn and thistle shall grow up on their altars, and they shall say to the mountains, “Cover us,” and to the hills, “Fall on us.” 9 From the days of Gibeah, you have sinned, O Israel; there they have continued. Shall not the war against the unjust overtake them in Gibeah? 10 When I please, I will discipline them, and nations shall be gathered against them when they are bound up for their double iniquity. 11 Ephraim was a trained calf that loved to thresh, and I spared her fair neck; but I will put Ephraim to the yoke; Judah must plow; Jacob must harrow for himself. 12 Sow for yourselves righteousness; reap steadfast love; break up your fallow ground, for it is the time to seek the LORD, that he may come and rain righteousness upon you. 13 You have plowed iniquity; you have reaped injustice; you have eaten the fruit of lies. Because you have trusted in your own way and in the multitude of your warriors, 14 therefore the tumult of war shall arise among your people, and all your fortresses shall be destroyed, as Shalman destroyed Beth-arbel on the day of battle; mothers were dashed in pieces with their children. 15 Thus it shall be done to you, O Bethel, because of your great evil. At dawn the king of Israel shall be utterly cut off.

Verse 3 follows the progression of vv. 1-2.  Although Israel had been planted as a vine designed to give Yahweh good fruit, their luxurious growth (in this case, material prosperity) had only given them opportunity to bestow their gratitude and worship and petition upon other gods instead of Yahweh.

And because they were “biting the hand that fed them” Yahweh would destroy all their places of worship.  These gods would do them no good at all in the foreign lands to which they would be exiled.

Since v. 2 references the Assyrian invasion it is likely that Hoshea is in view here, that he is now (soon to be) dead and gone.

Verse 3 speaks of a time when there was no longer any king over Israel.

3 For now they will say: “We have no king, for we do not fear the LORD; and a king–what could he do for us?”

It is true that in Israel’s final years they would have a quick succession of kings, none of whom were fitting the role or very effective as leaders.  Thus, it would be true to say that they “had no king” during these years.  None like David or Solomon, or even Jeroboam II had been on the scene for 30 years now.  And that can seem like a long stretch of political nightmares.

Those kings were Zechariah (753 B.C.), Shallum (752 B.C.), Menahem (752-742 B.C.), Pekah (752-732 B.C.), Pekahiah (742-740 B.C.), and Hoshea (732-723 B.C.).  If you remember, in Hosea’s opening he mentioned four Judean kings and only one Israelite king.  Since Hosea was ministering to the Israelites this must signify his relative insignificance in comparison.

One of the reasons that they had no effective kings is that they—and the men who led them—did not fear the Lord.  Unlike Solomon, who charged his son, his protégé, to fear the Lord, they did not.

In other words, not only did they lose any respect or hope in human political leaders, but declared themselves free of any rule, human or divine.

Duane Garrett notes…

In connection with the vineyard metaphor [cf. vv. 1, 4], this line constitutes the people’s rejection of Yahweh’s claim to their “fruit” and is analogous to the conspiracy of the workers in the vineyard in Jesus’ parable (Matthew 21:33-46) (Hosea-Joel, p. 208)

I don’t think that the fear of the Lord primarily means that we are terrified of God, that we are afraid of being in His presence.  While it is true that our sin should cause us concern, knowing that God knows it and will judge it, I think it is more accurate to think of the fear of Yahweh as that attitude which always holds Him high and wants to please Him.

Fearing the LORD means that we believe that He exists, believe that He sees, and believe that we will be held accountable for every sin, whether public of private.

Psalm 147:10-11 says…

10 His delight is not in the strength of the horse, nor his pleasure in the legs of a man,11 but the LORD takes pleasure in those who fear him, in those who hope in his steadfast love.

So it seems to be a more positive thing, than walking on eggshells afraid we’re going to experience His wrath.  It is compared here to one who hopes in Yahweh’s steadfast love.

Stephen Altrogge says…

The “fear of God” that brings God pleasure is not our being afraid of him, but our having a high and exalted, reverential view of him.

And…

To fear God means to dwell upon his beautiful, glorious holiness which is the very opposite of sin and evil, and to revere God and know that he loves us so much that he desires us to hate and turn away from sin.

 R.C. Sproul, speaking of Martin Luther, said this:

Luther is thinking of a child who has tremendous respect and love for his father or mother and who dearly wants to please them. He has a fear or an anxiety of offending the one he loves, not because he’s afraid of torture or even of punishment, but rather because he’s afraid of displeasing the one who is, in that child’s world, the source of security and love.

The late Jerry Bridges wrote:

We cannot separate trust in God from fear of God.  We trust Him only to the extent that we genuinely stand in awe of Him (The Joy of Fearing God).

Thomas Watson, in his book The Great Gain of Godliness, noting that the fear of God is mixed with love for Him in Psalm 145:19-20, says…

The chaste spouse fears to displease her husband because she loves him.  There is a necessity that fear and love be in conjunction.  Love is as the sails to make swift the soul’s motion and fear is as the ballast to keep it steady in true religion.  Love will be apt to grow wanton unless it is counterbalanced with fear (accessed through Google Books, pp. 14-15).

Regardless of how we may define it, the Israelites did not possess it at this time.  And when you don’t submit to divine authority, you have little respect for human authorities.

Derek Kidner summarizes:

We might well wonder whether arrogance or apathy is the greater of two evils for a nation.  For Israel, the mood had swung between the two, marked by their changing attitudes towards the throne: at one moment pinning all their hopes to kingship (“, 13:10), at another cheapening it with debauchery and tearing it apart with assassinations (7:3-7); finally, here in verse 3, shrugging it off as meaningless, along with everything else, from the Lord downwards.  Only their superstition, their talisman the golden calf, will awaken any sense of loss by its removal.

It sounds much like our own political aspirations today, blowing in the wind, pinning our hopes on one politician and wanting to assassinate him or the rivals.

So, not only did they reject their own human king, but effectively rejected Yahweh as divine king as well.  “It was because they did not believe that Yahweh could cure them that they sent to the Great King (5:13), the king of Assyria.  Israel’s cry was “He will save us.”  Hosea 14:4 shows that Assyria was now cast in this role.

There would be no new king, for God’s help would only come to those who fear Him.  Without Yahweh’s backing, human kings are no help at all.

Roy Honeycutt believes that Hosea is introducing a glimmer of hope here—that when the people realize that all their hopes in human kings and government has failed them, that they will then turn again to Yahweh as their only hope.

Verse 4 possibly speaks to the intrigue and assassinations throughout their last 30-year political history.

4 They utter mere words; with empty oaths they make covenants; so judgment springs up like poisonous weeds in the furrows of the field.

The “false heart” from back in verse 2 is here described as evidence of the absence of the fear of Yahweh in the hearts of the Israelites.  Any pretense to loyalty either to Yahweh or the king is hollow talk—they swear to be faithful to the covenant and the king with fingers crossed.

I like what Derek Kidner says here:

When heaven is considered empty (‘we fear not the Lord’, 3) words and promises soon follow suit, and justice, so-called, becomes a parody of its true self–no longer towering impartially above the strong and the weak, but earthbound and tortuous, spring from the thoughts and policies of the moment; no longer a force for good and the nation’s health, but a source of poison (Hosea, p. 93).

Hubbard contends that the covenant is not with Yahweh, but either with their kings or with the foreign nations they sought to ally to themselves.  But, of course, those covenants with their kings would compromise Yahweh’s role in their theocracy and covenants with foreign kings betrayed their lack of trust in Yahweh as well as the temptation to trust in the gods of those pagan nations.

Garrett takes a different approach, saying that their hollow words illustrate their disloyalty to Yahweh…

They go through the liturgical declarations of fealty to Yahweh, but these mean nothing to them.  They do not fear him (Hosea-Joel, p. 208).

In this context, justice (which is a better translation that judgment) sprouts up as poison.  It kills rather than gives life.  As they had been a vine that God had made luxuriant (v. 1) yet had failed to produce good fruit for Yahweh, now justice would turn into injustice.  Again, they would reap what they had sown.

The “furrows of the field” were places that should produce good fruit.  Hosea 12:11 emphasizes that Israel’s idolatries appeared there, as well as on the high places.

If there is iniquity in Gilead, they shall surely come to nothing: in Gilgal they sacrifice bulls; their altars also are like stone heaps on the furrows of the field.

H. Ronald Vandermey notes that…

While America has In God We Trust on her coins, she has likewise deemed it expedient to make covenants with treacherous nations who despise the Lord (Hosea-Amos, p. 61)

This “poisonous plant” is mentioned in Deuteronomy 32:32 as “the vine of Sodom with “grapes of poison.”  Israel is thus a destructive, deceptive vine, serving only itself and yielding the false fruit of impiety, hypocrisy, and paganism.

Finally Hosea gets to the thing they would miss the most, and pine for, in captivity…

5 The inhabitants of Samaria tremble for the calf of Beth-aven.  Its people mourn for it, and so do its idolatrous priests– those who rejoiced over it and over its glory– for it has departed from them. 6 The thing itself shall be carried to Assyria as tribute to the great king.  Ephraim shall be put to shame, and Israel shall be ashamed of his idol.

Duane Garrett notes the parallels between vv. 1-4 and 5-8…

Both begin with a general statement of the sin of the nation; first it is the vine analogy, but here it is the bull-idol.  Both then describe the pagan worship of Israel and the punishment that shall come.  Furthermore, both assert that the cunning of the Israelites will be exposed (vv. 2, 6b).  Also, whereas in the vine text the people declare they have no king (v. 3), v. 7 similarly presents them as a nation under a weak king.  In addition, both texts describe what the people are saying: first it is cynicism and hypocrisy (vv. 3-4), and second, it is panic and despair (v. 8b).  Finally, the desolation of the pagan altars in v. 8a, when they are covered with weeds and thistles, appropriately looks back to the metaphor of vv. 1-4: Israel had been a well-plowed, carefully managed field, but it yielded only the poisonous fruit of paganism.  As a result, God would allow the field to be overrun with weeds that would consume the destructive vine of the fertility cult (Hosea-Joel, p. 209).

They would mourn the loss of their precious idol—the idol that had done nothing for them, that had betrayed them in their moment of need, that had cast them into captivity.

When God destroyed Israel’s altars (v. 2), specifically the golden calf at Beth-aven (i.e., Bethel, cf. v. 8; 4:15; 5:8), –which Jeroboam I had erected (cf. 4:15; 5:8; I Kgs. 16:28-29) the Israelites who lived in Samaria, Israel’s capital, would fear.  Notice that they would not fear God (v. 3), but they feared the loss of their idols.

Anderson and Freedman note that “calf” is actually feminine plural, “heifers,” perhaps referring to a female counterpart (Hosea, p. 555).

Notice the word play.  The name “Bethel” means “house of God,” but Yahweh changes its name to match its character, for “Beth-aven” means “house of wickedness.”

“Beth-aven” may stand not merely for Bethel, but also for the entire official, semi-pagan religious set-up in Israel.

The people would frantically mourn, and the idolatrous priests (Heb. kemarim; cf. 2 Kings 23:5; Zeph. 1:4) who served there would bewail the demise of this altar, since its glory had departed from the land.  That word “glory” again points back to Yahweh as the truly glorious One, but here it is used sarcastically to point out the failure of the pagan gods to act gloriously and bring victory.

The word “mourn” is a word used back in 9:1 to refer to the ecstatic, frenzied worship of the Baalim.  Now these same wild emotions would overcome them as their pagan gods are carried away.

Both altars (vv. 1, 8) and idols (vv. 6, 7) would be eliminated.

The Assyrians would carry their golden calf to their land in honor of their king (cf. 8:10).  In the eyes of the ancient near eastern people they defeat of a nation meant the defeat of their god, showing how weak they are in comparison to the gods of the conquering empire.  The fact that it had to be “carried” away is another expression of its weakness, a common prophetic dig at the impotency of their man-made idols to help (Isaiah 45:20; 46:1, 7; Jeremiah 10:5).

Isaiah 45:20

Assemble yourselves and come; draw near together, you survivors of the nations! They have no knowledge who carry about their wooden idols, and keep on praying to a god that cannot save.

Isaiah 46:1, 7

1 Bel bows down; Nebo stoops; their idols are on beasts and livestock; these things you carry are borne as burdens on weary beasts.

6 Those who lavish gold from the purse, and weigh out silver in the scales, hire a goldsmith, and he makes it into a god; then they fall down and worship!7 They lift it to their shoulders, they carry it, they set it in its place, and it stands there; it cannot move from its place. If one cries to it, it does not answer or save him from his trouble.

Jeremiah 10:5, speaking of the religious tendencies of the nations…

5 Their idols are like scarecrows in a cucumber field, and they cannot speak; they have to be carried, for they cannot walk. Do not be afraid of them, for they cannot do evil, neither is it in them to do good.”

So Hubbard concludes

As Hosea has more than once reminded them, the calf-god has no value beyond the material wealth of which it was fabricated (2:8; 8:5-6; 9:6).  In fact, its gold overlay has come to mean nothing to Israel, since they have to give that away, and Hosea rightly brands the calf a “wooden” idol (Hosea, p. 185).

The god they trusted to save them would be handed over to the king of Assyria as booty.  The king of Assyria (“Great king,” cf. 5:13) would be identified as Shalmaneser V at the time of the assault on Samaria and as Sargon II at the time of the ultimate collapse (2 Kings 17:3-6) in 722/721 B.C.

Israel would then feel great shame because the Israelites had decided to trust in a foreign alliance with the Assyrians for their security (cf. 5:13; 7:8-9, 11; 8:9-10).

You see, alliances in the ancient near east were not just political promise devoid of spiritual implications.

Pritchard and Ellison explains that…

“…in those days the secular state did not exist, and so in practice it was impossible to distinguish between a state and its gods. In an extant treaty of peace between Rameses II of Egypt and Hattusilis the Hittite king it is a thousand of their gods on either side who are the witnesses to and guarantors of it (Footnote 1: James B. Pritchard, ed., Ancient Near Eastern Texts Relating to the Old Testament, pp. 200-201).

So even a treaty on equal terms with a neighbouring country would have involved for Israel a recognition of the other country’s deities as having reality and equality with Jehovah.  To turn to Assyria or Egypt for help implied of necessity that their gods were more effective than the God of Israel” (H. L. Ellison, The Prophets of Israel: From Ahijah to Hosea, p. 131)

So now they would reap what they had sown—their trusts in these gods where were no-gods, would result in them reaping the utter shame of having trusted them and been let down.

Richard Patterson explains…

This will be like adding insult to injury. God’s people will suffer the disgrace of witnessing that their national treasure, which they revered, will not only be unable to watch over them, but the god whose worship was entailed in the idol could not even protect himself.  Israel will be doubly shamed for its reliance on a mere “wooden idol” (https://bible.org/seriespage/3-further-charges-against-unfaithful-israel-hosea-101-1015).

Finally

The Great King, whose favor Israel sought, will also carry off the king of Israel (v. 7).

7 Samaria’s king shall perish like a twig on the face of the waters.

Israel’s titular head will be as helpless as a chip of wood floating “on the surface of the waters.” The simile employed here speaks of the helpless state of Israel’s powerless king.

No longer a strong, massive oak, the king would be a twig upon the river waters, pushed along without any semblance of control.

As Garrett remarks, “Such a king is like a stick on water in that he can exercise no control over events.  A nation with such leadership is doomed” (Hosea-Joel, p. 212).  In all practicality, they had “no king” (v. 3) because he was powerless to do anything to help the nation.  Neither political rulers nor religious gods would save them from destruction.

Anderson and Freedman take a different approach, suggesting that there was no king in Samaria and that since Israel had rejected Yahweh, it was a pagan god (as a piece of wood) that is being referred to in v. 7 (Hosea, p. 558).

Israel Reaps the Whirlwind, part 8 (Hosea 10:1-2)

Charles Dickens begins his novel The Tale of Two Cities with the line

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.”

There were many characteristics of Hosea’s generation to suggest that it truly was the “best of times” in Israel.  It was a time of financial prosperity, religious zeal and the rise of the first generation of Israel’s prophets—Amos and Hosea.

But it was also the worst of times.  Both Amos and Hosea were written off as “fools” and “madmen” (Hosea 9:7) and Amos was banished to Judah (Amos 7:12).  Their wealth had often been gained at the expense of the poor and their worship was at best mere external formality and at worst devotion to false gods.

We find many of the same conditions in our nation today.

Thus, it was really a time to “seek the Lord” (Hosea 10:12).

Thank you for joining me today in our study of the book of Hosea—a tragic love story between Yahweh and Israel, mirrored by the tumultuous relationship between faithful Hosea and Hosea, who prostituted herself among lovers just like Israel did with false gods and untrustworthy allies.

Back in Hosea 8 Hosea had used a metaphor that went like this…

“they sow the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind…” (8:7)

Like Paul in Galatians 6:6, you reap what you sow.  You reap in like kind as you sow; you don’t reap in the same season than you sow; and you tend to reap even more than you’ve sown.

And since then we have seen Hosea employ the reality of this spiritual principle over and over again.  In the very areas that they sinned, they will reap judgment.  They worshiped fertility gods, their crops and their children will be taken from them.  They allied themselves with foreign nations for protection and those very nations will ravage them.

Today, as we begin Hosea 10, that metaphor is continued.  The frightful predictions recorded in the 10th chapter bring to a close the section of Hosea that etches in the mind of his readers the justice of Almighty God.

Let me read the whole chapter.

1 Israel is a luxuriant vine that yields its fruit. The more his fruit increased, the more altars he built; as his country improved, he improved his pillars. 2 Their heart is false; now they must bear their guilt. The LORD will break down their altars and destroy their pillars. 3 For now they will say: “We have no king, for we do not fear the LORD; and a king–what could he do for us?” 4 They utter mere words; with empty oaths they make covenants; so judgment springs up like poisonous weeds in the furrows of the field. 5 The inhabitants of Samaria tremble for the calf of Beth-aven. Its people mourn for it, and so do its idolatrous priests– those who rejoiced over it and over its glory– for it has departed from them. 6 The thing itself shall be carried to Assyria as tribute to the great king. Ephraim shall be put to shame, and Israel shall be ashamed of his idol. 7 Samaria’s king shall perish like a twig on the face of the waters. 8 The high places of Aven, the sin of Israel, shall be destroyed.  Thorn and thistle shall grow up on their altars, and they shall say to the mountains, “Cover us,” and to the hills, “Fall on us.” 9 From the days of Gibeah, you have sinned, O Israel; there they have continued.  Shall not the war against the unjust overtake them in Gibeah? 10 When I please, I will discipline them, and nations shall be gathered against them when they are bound up for their double iniquity. 11 Ephraim was a trained calf that loved to thresh, and I spared her fair neck; but I will put Ephraim to the yoke; Judah must plow; Jacob must harrow for himself. 12 Sow for yourselves righteousness; reap steadfast love; break up your fallow ground, for it is the time to seek the LORD, that he may come and rain righteousness upon you. 13 You have plowed iniquity; you have reaped injustice; you have eaten the fruit of lies.  Because you have trusted in your own way and in the multitude of your warriors, 14 therefore the tumult of war shall arise among your people, and all your fortresses shall be destroyed, as Shalman destroyed Beth-arbel on the day of battle; mothers were dashed in pieces with their children. 15 Thus it shall be done to you, O Bethel, because of your great evil. At dawn the king of Israel shall be utterly cut off.

In some ways Hosea will seem like a broken record, picking up themes he has presented before.  The overall point is that judgment is certain and it is imminent.  One last time Hosea appeals to them “Sow for yourselves righteousness; reap steadfast love; break up your fallow ground, for it is the time to seek the LORD, that he may come and rain righteousness upon you” (10:12) but it would not happen.  The people would not listen.

Again, Hosea will point out two geographical sites—Bethel (called Beth-aven or Aven, cf. on 4:15) and Gibeah (cf. on 9:9) just as the prior section, 9:10-17, turned on the events at Baal-Peor (9:10) and Gilgal (9:15).

David Hubbard notes:

Hosea is keen on naming time and place in his documentation of Israel’s history of sin.  His conviction seems to be that Israel will understand neither the genesis of their rebellion nor its gravity unless they will see themselves as extensions of their past. (Hosea, p. 181).

Thomas Constable summarizes:

The allusion that opens this series of messages is similar to the ones in 9:10, 10:9, and 11:1, in that it refers to Israel’s early history.  A mood of loss of confidence and protection marks this section.  As so often occurs in Hosea, evidences of covenant unfaithfulness begin the section followed by announcements of punishment for unfaithfulness.  In this one: announcement of the fate of the nation’s cultic symbols (altars, idols, sacred standing stones, and high places) gives way to announcement of judgment on Israel’s political symbol (the king).

The two primary themes from Hosea’s concern in this chapter are (1) broken altars (10:1-8) and (2) a broken nation (10:9-15).

As in 9:10, Israel is initially presented as a surprise and delight.  9:10 pictured Israel as “grapes in the wilderness” and “first fruit on the fig tree in its first season.”  Here in 10:1 Israel is pictured as a “luxuriant vine that yields its fruit.”

The grapevine was a common figure for Israel.  Yahweh had planted Israel in Canaan as a vine and had blessed it with fruitful prosperity (cf. Ps. 80:8-10; Jer. 2:21; Ezek. 19:10-11).  This example suits Hosea’s repeated pattern that Israel got off to a good start but then went wrong.

Isaiah, too, would describe Judah as a vine.

1 Let me sing for my beloved my love song concerning his vineyard: My beloved had a vineyard on a very fertile hill. 2 He dug it and cleared it of stones, and planted it with choice vines; he built a watchtower in the midst of it, and hewed out a wine vat in it; and he looked for it to yield grapes, but it yielded wild grapes. 3 And now, O inhabitants of Jerusalem and men of Judah, judge between me and my vineyard. 4 What more was there to do for my vineyard, that I have not done in it? When I looked for it to yield grapes, why did it yield wild grapes? 5 And now I will tell you what I will do to my vineyard. I will remove its hedge, and it shall be devoured; I will break down its wall, and it shall be trampled down. 6 I will make it a waste; it shall not be pruned or hoed, and briers and thorns shall grow up; I will also command the clouds that they rain no rain upon it.

Jeremiah, a later prophet, used the same figure of speech, as he described the nation as a “ degenerate vine.”  Ezekiel, on four or five occasions, used the symbol of the vine, and that in most remarkable ways.  Describing Israel as a “luxuriant vine” would at first seem quite flattering to Israel, but sarcasm dripped from Hosea’s mouth.

Israel and Judah (together in the exodus account) should be before Yahweh as a nation alive and vibrant and growing, that would produce the good fruit of righteousness and devotion to Yahweh.  Instead, Israel and Judah both produced bad fruit—wild grapes, poisonous fruit.  Israel produced fruit for himself, not for the Lord.

Duane Garrett explains:

“A vinter does not look for a vine to yield fruit for the benefit of the vine but for the benefit of the harvest he will receive.  A vine that yields fruit “for itself” is only taking up space that should be used by productive plants, as Jesus’ parable of the fig tree in Luke 13:7.  Thus Israel is a destructive vine in that it takes up valuable soil, crowds out productive plants, and gives benefit only to itself and not to its owner” (Hosea-Joel, p. 206).

The emphasis of verse 1 in chapter 10 seems to be that God blessed Israel to produce fruit in the sense of material prosperity and that prosperity caused them to multiply and improve “altars.”  The prosperity of this age is reflected not only in the prophetic literature of Amos and Hosea, but also in the historical narratives of 2 Kings and in archaeological discoveries.

But these altars were not locations of true, genuine worship of Yahweh, but rather places where they would devote their worship and their wealth to the Baals.  These altars to false gods proliferated and took people’s hearts away from worshiping the only true God, Yahweh.

Here, as in most sin, Yahweh and Israel are at cross-purposes—Yahweh’s abundant grace is squandered and misused to sin.

Hubbard translates verse 1b

As God multiplied Israel’s fruits

Israel multiplied (cf. 8:11) [their pillars] at their altars.

As Yahweh multiplied good to His land.

Israel made the pillars better.

While Yahweh outdid Himself in working for the betterment of the land, all that excess bounty was poured by Israel into the adornment and decoration of the pillars whose purpose in Hosea’s time had become largely pagan (cf. on 3:4).

Judgment is anticipated in Hosea’s play upon the Hebrew participle translated here as “luxuriant.”  It would appear that the prophet is employing a double entendre here, for the more normal understanding of the Hebrew word carries with it meanings such as “barrenness” or “emptiness.”  Accordingly, Hosea emphasizes the fact that although Yahweh blessed His people abundantly, they have consumed His benefits on selfish ends.  Worse, they have attributed their successes and prosperity to Baal.  Therefore, their commitment toward these ends has violated the covenant with the Lord again and again, and they can expect His judgment.  They have been “abundantly blessed” but will now be made “barren” due to God’s judgment (vv. 1). (Richard Patterson, Hosea 10 at bible.org)

Thus, Yahweh swears to tear down those altars…

2 Their heart is false; now they must bear their guilt. The LORD will break down their altars and destroy their pillars.

Like the Philistine god Dagon falling down before the Ark of the Covenant, so the altars and pillars dedicated to the worship of Baal will be torn down and desecrated.

Although Israel’s prosperity had abounded, it had also been abused.  Their hearts were false, so their worship turned in the wrong direction—to Baal rather than Yahweh.  Through the law, Israel had received a sense of what was right, but that sense was met by an overwhelming love for doing what was wrong.

Israel’s altars had become places of sinning (Hosea 8:11) so that Amos would indicate Yahweh saying, “I hate, I despise your feasts, and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies” (Amos 5:21).

The heart is the control center of our life.  It is the place, biblically speaking, where our thoughts, affections and decisions take place.

Hosea describes their hearts as “false.”  This is a word that can mean “divided” or “slippery” in the sense of deceptive.  David, in Psalm 86:11, cries out for an “undivided heart.”  He asks God to “unite my heart to fear your name.”

Jeremiah said,

17:9 The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?

Hubbard notes:

The false heart, whose working will be amplifies in verse 4, underscores the depths of the sin—not accidental but premeditated.

Anderson and Freeman note that “Hosea, unlike Elijah, does not find in Israel indecision, a ‘limping between two different opinions’ (1 Kings 18:21).  The people had quite made up their minds, as vv. 3 and 4 show.  They had formally renounced Yahweh, and given allegiance to another god” (Hosea, p. 552).

This is not to say that the Israelites deliberately set out to misuse and abuse worship, but their hearts were “slippery” and “smooth,” and their religious activities became warped and twisted.

J.Vernon McGee applied this to our worship today when he said:

“My friend, you cannot go to church on Sunday and sing, ‘Praise God from whom all blessings flow,’ then walk out, and on Monday morning go to your work and take His name in vain—lose your temper and use His precious name to damn everything that irritates you.  That kind of divided living is exactly the same kind of divided heart that brought judgment upon Israel.”

Honeycutt explains…

Doubtless, worshipers of Hosea’s generation saw nothing wrong with combining features of Baalism with the worship of the Lord; no more than contemporary persons deliberately set out to compromise and adulterate contemporary religious life.  But thoroughly sincere persons may be thoroughly wrong. (Hosea and His Message, p. 68).

Hear that last sentence again, for it bears repeating: “Thoroughly sincere persons may be thoroughly wrong.”

That is just as true with religious experiences today.  They must be tested against the authority of the Word of God instead of against the whims of experience.  Anything can “feel good,” at least for a moment, but true worship is defined by the Scriptures.

As Solomon reminds us:

There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.  (Prov. 14:12)

It was just as Moses had warned in Deuteronomy 8:11-14

11 Take care lest you forget the LORD your God by not keeping his commandments and his rules and his statues, which I command you today, 12 lest, when you have eaten and are full and have built good houses and live in them, 13 and when your herds and flocks multiply and your silver and gold is multiplied and all that you have is multiplied, 14 then your heart be lifted up, and you forget the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery…

A theme of Hosea is that Israel had forgotten Yahweh, they did not think of Him.  The paid Him no attention.  When it came to their blessings, they thought Baal had given them.  The more blessings Yahweh gave them, the more they worshiped Baal.

Abundance is risky; God’s people could not handle it.  That is why Agur wisely prayed (cf. Prov. 30:7–9)…

7 Two things I ask of you; deny them not to be before I die: 8 Remove far from me falsehood and lying [the kind of hearts that Israel presently had]; give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with the food that is needful for me [my daily bread], 9 lest I be full and deny you and say, “Who is the Lord?” or lest I be poor and steal and profane the name of my God.

Paul warns against the same sin in Galatians 5:13: “For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.”

Sometimes as Christians we take the liberty and blessing God gives and use them in ungodly ways.

Israel had this divided, insincere heart and expressed it on the altars of idolatry.  Now, He will break down their altars.

“Now GOD will do in judgment what they should have done in contrition, ‘break down their altars, and spoil their images’” (Adam Clarke)

Israel will “bear their guilt” and pay for their sins.  How thankful we should be that we do not have to bear our guilt, for Jesus “bore our sins in his body on the tree” (1 Pet. 2:24) and “became a curse for us” (Galatians 3:13) so that all our sins could be forever forgiven.

And let’s carry the image of chapters 9 and 10 further into our lives today.  Are we bearing fruit, good fruit, for Jesus Christ?  He is the Vine and we are the branches.  We only bear fruit as we stay attached to Him, as we consistently trust His promises and obey His commands.  We stay connected to the Vine by fellowship with Him in the Word and prayer and then allow Him to live His obedient life through us by faith.

Galatians 2:20 says…

I have been crucified with Christ.  It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.  And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.

Trust Jesus to live His life through you as you offer your body to Him and renew Your mind in His Word (Romans 12:1-2).

Israel Reaps the Whirlwind, part 7 (Hosea 9:11-17)

Over the last seven weeks we’ve heard Hosea tell Israel how they had sown the wind and they were about to reap the whirlwind.  Hosea gives example after example of how God was reversing the blessings of the covenant and they would be experiencing its curses.  We noted last week how they may have wanted so much more, but were settling for less.

So let’s dive back into Hosea 9, starting back in v. 10

10 Like grapes in the wilderness, I found Israel. Like the first fruit on the fig tree in its first season, I saw your fathers. But they came to Baal-peor and consecrated themselves to the thing of shame, and became detestable like the thing they loved. 11 Ephraim’s glory shall fly away like a bird– no birth, no pregnancy, no conception! 12 Even if they bring up children, I will bereave them till none is left. Woe to them when I depart from them! 13 Ephraim, as I have seen, was like a young palm planted in a meadow; but Ephraim must lead his children out to slaughter. 14 Give them, O LORD– what will you give? Give them a miscarrying womb and dry breasts. 15 Every evil of theirs is in Gilgal; there I began to hate them. Because of the wickedness of their deeds I will drive them out of my house. I will love them no more; all their princes are rebels. 16 Ephraim is stricken; their root is dried up; they shall bear no fruit. Even though they give birth, I will put their beloved children to death. 17 My God will reject them because they have not listened to him; they shall be wanderers among the nations.

Of course, one of the reasons Israel worship Baal is that he was a fertility god—promising fertile crops and wombs.  Therefore, listen to Yahweh’s judgment against them…

11 Ephraim’s glory shall fly away like a bird– no birth, no pregnancy, no conception! 12 Even if they bring up children, I will bereave them till none is left. Woe to them when I depart from them! 13 Ephraim, as I have seen, was like a young palm planted in a meadow; but Ephraim must lead his children out to slaughter. 14 Give them, O LORD– what will you give? Give them a miscarrying womb and dry breasts.

In ancient near Eastern cultures, it was considered a curse to be barren and devastating to lose one’s children.  Glory means “weighty, substantive,” and can be a name for Yahweh himself, the departure of which is surely a supreme disaster.  But here it refers to their children, the glory of parents.

The glory of the Ephraimites, in this case their numerous children, would fly away like a bird, suddenly and irretrievably.  They will experience both barrenness and bereavement.  Ephraim is receiving the proper punishment for falsely crediting her fertility to Baal.

The text emphasizes the departure of Yahweh in order to make the point that it is he, not Baal, who has given them successful pregnancies and healthy, thriving children.  Without God’s aid their children will languish (Duane Garrett, Hosea-Joel, p. 200).

First, barrenness.  Stated in reverse order, there would be “no birth, no pregnancy, no conception!”  None of the steps necessary for national survival will work.  Calvin notes that Yahweh’s judgment did not come all at once, but by degrees, with Yahweh’s vengeance at last reaching the highest point.

This is an ironic play on the name “Ephraim” here, which sounds somewhat like the Hebrew word meaning “twice fruitful.”  The Ephraimites had looked to Baal for the blessing of human fertility, but Yahweh would in turn withhold it in judgment. Ephraim, the doubly fruitful, would become Ephraim, the completely fruitless.

Then, in v. 12, “even if they bring up children, I will bereave them till none is left.”  No children, no future.  Ultimately, extinction.  As Deuteronomy 32:25 forewarned, the death of living children would occur through the ravages of war.

Whereas v. 11 is unclear as to the cause of their barrenness, their bereavement is definitely from the hand of Yahweh himself, “I will bereave them till none is left.”

To seal this threat Yahweh adds a brief “woe,” which contains no mention of the crime (v. 10 has taken care of that), but announces the grief in store for Israel—the felt and final departure of Yahweh.

The Prophet means by these words, that men become miserable and accursed, when they alienate themselves from God, and when God takes away from them his favour. (John Calvin)

It is an expression of ultimate judgment because Yahweh has departed from them.  When Israel departs from Yahweh, He departs from them.

Hubbard says…

The threat to be active in depriving them of children (v. 12a) and to withdraw from them are one and the same act.  It is Yahweh’s vital presence that makes possible the cycles of life; for him to withdraw is a sentence of death (Hosea, p. 176).

Verse 13 again expresses the disappointment with Israel

13 Ephraim, as I have seen, was like a young palm planted in a meadow; but Ephraim must lead his children out to slaughter.

In the past, Yahweh had cared for them tenderly, but now their children will be led out to slaughter.  A pleasant meadow of peace will become a place of slaughter.

Calvin notes the dangers of such blessings of peace and prosperity when he says…

Hosea here confirms his previous statements that the Israelites in vain trusted in their present condition, for the Lord could reverse their prosperity whenever it pleased him.  Men, we know, harden themselves in their vices, when they enjoy their wishes and when they are sunk in pleasures; for prosperity is not without reason often compared to wine, because it inebriates men; nay, rather it dementates them.

These leads Hosea to a painful prayer in v. 14…

14 Give them, O LORD– what will you give? Give them a miscarrying womb and dry breasts.

“There comes a time, when the only thing left is drastic surgery” (Jacob M. Meyers)

Anderson and Freedom note:

Here the prophet is not holding back the wrath of God by intercession as Amos (Amos 7) and Jeremiah (15:11) did.  On the contrary, he is urging Yahweh to proceed with extreme penalties, endorsing what Yahweh says in vv. 12 and 16 about murdering children (Hosea, p. 544).

Hosea asks God to take away their children, that there would be no newborns among them.  But why?

Maybe Hosea had been poised to ask God to give them something else, something more desirable, something that would help them survive.  Instead, he asks that children would die in the womb and never be born.  Why is that?

Several suggest that what Hosea was asking for was mercy.  He was asking that no children would be born to suffer through the consequences of the judgment that was coming upon Israel.

How terrible is that?  But that is the plight of those who depart from God and turn to other gods, hoping that they will satisfy their desires, but end up settling for less.  We reap what we sow.  Israel, who had worshiped the fertility gods and allied themselves with other nations to avoid war, would face infertility and war, exactly what they hoped to avoid.

The combination of “womb” and “breasts” is a pairing that describes human fruitfulness (cf. Gen. 49:25).  It reverses the blessing of Jacob upon the Joseph tribes (Gen. 49:25).  It also hints back to the sexual nature of their idol worship.

They could have had so much more, but settled for less.  They would not become the glorious people of God’s elective race, but would become nothing more than castaways, “wanderers among the nations” (v. 17).

As we move into the last paragraph of Hosea 9, Hosea focused upon another piece of Israel’s geography—Gilgal.

15 Every evil of theirs is in Gilgal; there I began to hate them. Because of the wickedness of their deeds I will drive them out of my house. I will love them no more; all their princes are rebels. 16 Ephraim is stricken; their root is dried up; they shall bear no fruit. Even though they give birth, I will put their beloved children to death. 17 My God will reject them because they have not listened to him; they shall be wanderers among the nations.

Thomas McComiskey notes:

“The previous section (vv. 10-14) began with a tender expression of Yahweh’s love.  This section (vv. 15-17) begins with an affirmation of his hatred.  The previous section looked back to the wilderness; this section looks back to Gilgal.  Hosea views God as acting in history; thus historical events and the geographical sites where they occurred become vehicles of divine truth.  The events of the exodus from Egypt spoke volumes about God, as did the events that took place in the wilderness and at Gilgal.  To Hosea God’s response to the people at those places forever remains as crystallized truth about the nature of God.” (“Hosea.” In The Minor Prophets: An Exegetical and Expositional Commentary, 1:1-237. 3 vols. Edited by Thomas Edward McComiskey. Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1992, 1993, and 1998, p. 154).

What the Israelites did at Gilgal caused the Lord to hate them.  This is covenant terminology meaning He opposed them and rejected them; personal emotion is not the main point.

He did so because they practiced “every evil” there.  “Gilgal is the quintessential city of Israel—it contained every evil that the book of Hosea condemns” (Garret, Hosea-Joel, p. 202).  It was their “wickedness,” particularly their practice of the pagan fertility cult (cf. 4:15; 12:11) that God was driving them from “His house.”  They had disgraced God’s house by preferring the altars of Baal, thus they would be driven from the temple where Yahweh’s presence actually dwelt.

The decision to drive Israel from its land is presented under the imagery of being forced out of a house. Israel has forgotten that where they lived was God’s land where He, too, dwelled.  As Gomer was put out of Hosea’s house for a period of time (Hos. 2:7), so Israel will be driven out of the Lord’s “house” because of its infidelity and rebellious ways.

Yahweh would drive His people out of the land, as He had expelled Adam and Eve and the Canaanites, because they had sinned and had adopted the ways of sinners. He would love (choose to bless) them no more, as He had in the past, because all their leaders rebelled against Him.

As mentioned before in Hosea 4:15, God despised the city of Gilgal as a center of idolatry in Israel.  At one time, Gilgal was a place where prophets were trained under Elijah and Elisha (2 Kings 2:1; 4:38).  But in Hosea’s day it had become a center of false worship (Hosea 4:15, 12:11; Amos 4:4, 5:5).

Gilgal had been the place where, in rebellion, the Israelites had chosen a human king to be “like the nations” (1 Samuel 11:14-15; cf. 1 Sam. 8:7; Hos. 3:4; 8:3-7; 8:4; 10:3, 7, 15) and it had become the place for a shrine to Baal (4:15; Amos 4:4; 5:5; cf. Hos. 12:4).  Thus, this place symbolized a double rejection of divine sovereignty and true, divine worship.  Notice that the end of verse 15 emphasizes “all their princes are rebels.”

Amos, with barbed mockery (Amos 4:4), cries out…

4 “Come to Bethel, and transgress; to Gilgal, and multiply transgression; bring your sacrifices every morning, your tithes every three days;

Roy Honeycutt reminds us that Yahweh’s rejection of Israel “had its beginning as early as Gilgal.  Sin is no temporary and relatively insignificant occurrence; it is deeply ingrained in historical existence, reaching far back into the realm of the community of faith.  This is not to excuse a given generation.  But it is to suggest that one wrestles with powers far greater and farther reaching than a personal failure.” (Hosea and His Message, p. 65)

Thus, God would drive them out forcefully.  In most places where this term garash is used, aside from in the book of Genesis, it describes what God did to the inhabitants of Canaan when Israel entered the land.  It was a reversal of the glorious conquest under Joshua.

Thus, Hubbard says…

There is a quiet irony about Yahweh’s threat, I will drive them out, since it echoes the promises given to Israel at the exodus and conquest (Exod. 23:29-30; Joshua 24:18; Judges 2:3; 6:9) and reverses them. (Hosea, 178).

In the book of Genesis, it parallels with Adam and Eve being driven out of the Garden of Eden for their sin (Gen. 3:24) just like Israel would be driven out of the “pleasant meadow” (9:13) that God had planted for Ephraim.

A second parallel is found in the correspondence between verse 15 and the request of Sarah that Abraham would drive out Hagar and her son Ishmael (Gen. 21:10).  Like Hosea’s son Lo-ammi (“not my people”), Israel would be driven out from the presence of God’s love.

Achtemeier expresses the situation well: “From the first, as a political entity among other nations, the Israelites spurned their God.  God therefore now spurns them, and the people shall become “wanderers among the nations,” verse 17, without homeland, without God, without future” (Minor Prophets,1:83-84).  They would be reverting to their original status as wanderers.

David Hubbard notes:

There may be a hint that Yahweh, an aggrieved husband, is banishing his faithless wife (cf. on 9:1-3).  Yet another metaphor possibly implied in God’s rejection of Israel from my house is that of an offended Host, who has offered impeccably generous hospitality to his guest only to have the guest prove ungrateful, abusive and disloyal.

This picture of Yahweh as host is expressed in Psalm 23:5-6

5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. 6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever.

This is what Israel was forfeiting by putting their trust in pagan gods and kings.

Verse 16 emphasizes once again that one of the severe judgments Israel would face would be the loss of a generation—they would be unable to give birth to children and what children they did have would be taken away from them.

In the language that began back in v. 10 and will be picked up again in verse 1 of chapter 10, Israel is pictured as a vine—one that was given all the resources it needed to bear good fruit, but instead bore poisonous fruit in wickedness and idolatries.

So now they would be fruitful no more.  “Their root is dried up; they shall bear no fruit” repeats the judgment from verse 11, whereas “Even though they give birth, I will put their beloved children to death” hearkens back to v. 12.

Hubbard makes reference to the presence of child sacrifice in Israel at the time and says that “God’s judgment may have been a gesture both to condemn it and to forestall it.  The children belonged to Him; He would go to any length to prevent their consecration to the gods of Canaan” (Hosea, p. 179).

That word “beloved” emphasizes just how precious their children were to them and how devastating their loss would be.  It also reminds me that God did not spare His own beloved Son to die in our place so that we would not have to endure eternal separation from God.

As an outcast, Ephraim, the doubly fruitful plant, would dry up and bear no more fruit.  She had tapped into the wrong source of nourishment and would therefore wither and die.

David Hubbard acknowledges

Again, God reverses the historic meaning of Ephraim’s name which spoke of the fruitfulness (Heb. root prh) promised by God to Jacob (Gen. 48:3-6) and by Jacob to Joseph (Gen. 49:22).  Hosea enjoyed punning on Ephraim’s name both as a sign of judgment (cf. here and 8:9) and restoration (cf. 14:8) (Hubbard, Hosea, pp. 178-179)

A final parallel use of garash may be found in the relation between verse 17 and the story of Cain in Genesis 4:14.  Just as God drove out Cain from His presence and caused him to be a fugitive in the earth, so also God decreed that Israel would be driven out and “shall be wanderers among the nations” (v. 17).  They had already wandered from Him (7:13) by seeking help from Egypt and Assyria; now wandering among the nations (cf. 7:8), whose pagan practices they had aped (9:1) was to become their way of life (cf. “wild ass wandering alone,” 8:9).  From the time of Hosea’s threat until the present the vast majority of Israel’s daughters and sons have listed Diaspora as their address.

“My God” at the beginning of verse 17 captures both the prophet’s intimate relationship with Yahweh and the people’s distance from Yahweh (cf. 8:2; 9:8)

McComiskey rightly points out that the judgment associated with verses 15-17 reflects the punishment for sin and covenant violation expressed in the law:  “This section of the prophecy (9:15-17) appears to be a crystallization of Deuteronomy 28:62-64.  That passage affirms the diminution of the population should they fail to obey God…. The concept of wandering among the nations occurs in Deuteronomy as well…. (v. 64, NRSV). Hosea had the unhappy task of announcing to his people that the curses of Deuteronomy were soon to overtake them (McComiskey, “Hosea,” 157).

The rejection which is called for here in v. 17 harks back to Samuel’s denunciation of Saul in 1 Samuel 15:23, “Because you have rejected the word of the Lord, he has also rejected you from being king.”  The tie in with Saul is strengthened by the fact that they “have not listened” to Yahweh.

“As has been true in any generation, those today who fail to hearken unto the voice of the Lord will walk alone into the misery of eternal separation from God.  Spiritual and physical death await such persons!” (H. Ronald Vandermey, Hosea-Joel, p. 60).

Like Hosea with Gomer, the only hope for restoration was first to judge Ephraim, to drive them out so that eventually they would return.

This is exactly what the Lord promised under the terms of the Old Covenant (Deuteronomy 30:24-28).  Thankfully, we can come to God by faith in a new covenant, where He promises to forgive us and remember our sins no more.

Hebrews 10:16-17

“This is the covenant that I will make with them
after those days, declares the Lord:
I will put my laws on their hearts,
and write them on their minds,”

then he adds,

“I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.”

Israel Reaps the Whirlwind, part 6 (Hosea 9:10)

For several weeks now we have listened to Hosea telling Israel that they will soon reap what they have sown.  This week, like last week, we will see that Israel’s apostasies and idolatries are actually rooted way back in their history.  Their deviancy from God’s will was not a recent, sudden habit, but one that percolated below the surface and shot up regularly throughout their history, like the geyser Old Faithful.  So this section of Hosea’s prophecies takes a look back into Israel’s history…

10 Like grapes in the wilderness, I found Israel. Like the first fruit on the fig tree in its first season, I saw your fathers. But they came to Baal-peor and consecrated themselves to the thing of shame, and became detestable like the thing they loved. 11 Ephraim’s glory shall fly away like a bird– no birth, no pregnancy, no conception! 12 Even if they bring up children, I will bereave them till none is left. Woe to them when I depart from them! 13 Ephraim, as I have seen, was like a young palm planted in a meadow; but Ephraim must lead his children out to slaughter. 14 Give them, O LORD– what will you give? Give them a miscarrying womb and dry breasts. 15 Every evil of theirs is in Gilgal; there I began to hate them. Because of the wickedness of their deeds I will drive them out of my house. I will love them no more; all their princes are rebels. 16 Ephraim is stricken; their root is dried up; they shall bear no fruit. Even though they give birth, I will put their beloved children to death. 17 My God will reject them because they have not listened to him; they shall be wanderers among the nations.

Following 9:1-9, which describes famine conditions, this text goes a step further and foresees not just the ruin of crops but the obliteration of the next generation of Israelites.

In the next four sections of Hosea’s prophecies, Israel is presented as a nation which had such promise, such potential, but all in all it had not materialized.  These four main divisions, as noted by David Hubbard, are signaled by metaphors that describe Israel’s past relationship with God.  They were as…

  • Grapes in the wilderness (9:10-17)
  • A luxuriant vine (10:1-10)
  • A trained heifer (10:11-15)
  • A beloved child (11:1-11)

In each section, the tone of nostalgia and hope is offset by shock at Israel’s apostasy.  It is a tragic reversal, a grave comparison between the fruitful intimacy that once was (even for a brief time) and the barren apostasy which now existed.  Thus, announcements of judgment dominate these sections.

The agricultural imagery of the first two sections (9:10-10:10) link it back to Hosea’s dominate metaphor of “sowing the wind and reaping the whirlwind.”  Israel’s early innocence is pictured as grapes and figs, but those are replaced by a withered root (9:16) and weeds (10:4) and thistles (10:8; cf. 9:6).

But that Israel had betrayed that early intimacy is evident through a litany of places of sin: Baal-Peor (9:10; cf. Num. 25:1-9)), Gilgal (9:15; cf. 1 Sam. 11:14-15), Bethel (called Aven in 10:8; cf. on 4:15), Gibeah (10:9; cf. on 9:8), Admah and Zeboiim (11:8; cf. Gen. 10:19; 14:1-17; Deut. 29:23).

The section begins with the tender reminiscence of Israel’s past, with Yahweh saying, “I found Israel.”

In the early days of Israel’s history in the wilderness, the Lord took great delight in His people, as one rejoices to find grapes in a desert or the first figs of the season.  These delights, whether unexpected or expected, were Yahweh’s experience with early Israel, which both Jeremiah (2:2-3) and Ezekiel (16:6-14) remember so ardently.

Grapes speaks of refreshment.  One does not expect to find edible grapes in the desert.  Found in the wilderness connotes both joyful surprise at finding such delight in an unlikely place and his provision for Israel in that desolate setting.

Adam Clarke says…

“While they were faithful, they were as acceptable to me as ripe grapes would be to a thirsty traveler in the desert.”

Remember that for Hosea, the wilderness represents both the picture of coming judgment and the exodus honeymoon that Yahweh anticipates with Israel in the distant future.

Likewise, the figs stand for refreshment.  Hubbard notes “Waiting all winter and spring is difficult but waiting for the five or six years necessary for a tree to bear delectable fruit cannot help but put an edge to the farmer’s appetite when the first ripe figs appear.  So God recalls His delight at His new covenant relation with Israel’s ancestors” (Hosea, p. 174).

But like Hosea’s marriage to Gomer, that cherished relationship was disappointingly cut short.

Both metaphors point to the belief that great things would come from this new find—a prospect what would soon be dispelled.  This same movement from joy to despair is found in the Song of Moses (Deut. 32).  Both Moses and Hosea disclose the treacherous way in which the people of Israel abused the love of God and both announce that such idolatry and harlotry will be punished by exile and death (H. Ronald Vandermey, Hosea, p. 58).

But the mood of the verse quickly turns, from delight to deep disappointment.

When they came to Baal-Peor, where they worshipped Baal and committed ritual sex with the Moabite and Midianite women (Num. 25), they became as detestable to Yahweh as the idols they loved.  They failed to reach their potential.

This first instance of Baal worship set the pattern of Israel’s idolatry that followed in the land and resulted in her present judgment.

Baal-Peor holds a prominent place in Israel’s “geography of shame” (Hubbard). Israel was right on the edge of the land that Yahweh had promised to them, encamped at Abel-shittim.  Baal-peor refers to the mountain in Moab from which Balaam, at Balak’s repeated request, was supposed to curse Israel (Numbers 23:27-28).  Unable to accomplish this, Balaam finally suggested to Balak a plan that did work.

bibleatlas.org

biblicalgeographicdotcom

[The plains of Moab (Shittim) would be the dark area in the middle, while Baal-Peor would be on the mountain heights to the right.]

Numbers 25 records this event…

1 While Israel lived in Shittim, the people began to whore with the daughters of Moab. 2 These invited the people to the sacrifices of their gods, and the people ate and bowed down to their gods. 3 So Israel yoked himself to Baal of Peor. And the anger of the LORD was kindled against Israel.

“It was not only the Moabite women but their local Baal that had seduced the men of the exodus; and we have already heard Hosea’s protests against the same two levels of adultery in his day” (Derek Kidner, The Message of Hosea, p. 88).

That chapter ends with Yahweh telling Moses to take vengeance upon the Midianites:

16 And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 17 “Harass the Midianites and strike them down, 18 for they have harassed you with their wiles, with which they beguiled you in the matter of Peor

The only reason the plague stopped was because Phineas rammed his spear through an Israelite man and a Midianite woman caught in the act (Numbers 25:7-15).

Reference to this event served two purposes:  First, it reminds that reader that Israel had already begun its apostasy to Baal before it even entered into the land.  Second, it shows the kind of drastic action that had to be taken to put this kind of immorality to a halt.

Psalm 106:28-29 recounts:

Then they yoked themselves to the Baal of Peor,
and ate sacrifices offered to the dead;
they provoked the Lord to anger with their deeds,
and a plague broke out among them.

Furthermore, the psalm goes on to describe the child sacrifice that would be involved with the Baal cult:

36 They served their idols, which became a snare to them. 37 They sacrificed their sons and their daughters to the demons; 38 they poured out innocent blood, the blood of their sons and daughters, whom they sacrificed to the idols of Canaan, and the land was polluted with blood.

As Duane Garrett says…

The psalm brings out the hideous paradox of the fertility cult: a major objective of the cult was to enable women to give birth to many healthy children, but that same cult consumed children in ritual sacrifice (Hosea-Joel, p. 200).

To me this sounds very similar to our current culture, which glorifies sex without either marriage (through pre-marital sex and adultery) or children (through abortion), thus sacrificing those very children, the blessing of their womb, so they can continue to flaunt God’s instructions about sex.

There, they “consecrated themselves,” vowing their loyalty to false gods.  They yoked themselves to Baal, a thing of shame.  The prophets linked Baal with shame (bosheth).  They even transformed the name Ish-baal (the name of a man found in 1 Chronicles 8:33) into Ish-bosheth (“man of shame,” found in 2 Samuel 2:8).

The Lord labels the Israelites’ depraved conduct at Baal-peor with the word shame (Hebrew bosheth), which is the same term used to describe the effect of Baalism on the land of Israel (Jer. 11:13) (H. Ronald Vandermey, Hosea, p. 58)

Thus, when one worships idols (and we all do), it is an abomination to God and results in shame.  Thus Calvin says, “The Prophet, I doubt not, connects here the Israelites with idols and with Baal-peor itself, that he might strip them of all that holiness which they had obtained through God’s favour.”

Hubbard notes the significance of this event:

Biblical faith saw the Baal-Peor episode as far more than a causal dalliance.  It shook the structure of the covenant to its very foundations and for a reason that Hosea explains: the character of the one whom we worship rubs off on us. (Hubbard, Hosea, p. 175).

This truth is repeated in Psalm 115:8, speaking of idols, says…

Those who make them become like them; so do all who trust in them.

Likewise, Jeremiah plaintively asks a question which links the shame along with the reflective nature of our worship, in Jeremiah 2:5

5 Thus says the LORD: “What wrong did your fathers find in me that they went far from me, and went after worthlessness, and became worthless?

We are made to reflect God and His glory, not other gods in their shame. [https://www.tms.edu/blog/gods-glory-on-display/]

In Philippians 2:15 Paul likens us to shining stars, and the word shine means to reflect.  The scientific term is albedo.  It’s a measurement of how much sunlight a celestial body reflects.  The planet Venus, for example, has the highest albedo at .65.  In other words, 65 percent of the light that hits Venus is reflected.  Depending on where it’s at in its orbit, the almost-a-planet Pluto has an albedo ranging from .49 to .66.  Our night-light, the moon, has an albedo of .07.  Only seven percent of sunlight is reflected, yet it lights our way on cloudless nights.

In a similar sense, each of us has a spiritual albedo.  The goal?  One hundred percent reflectivity.  We, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord.  You cannot produce light.  You can only reflect it. (Mark Batterson, If: Trading Your If Only Regrets for God’s What If Possibilities (Baker Books, 2015), page 220)

We are made to reflect God and His glory.

That is why Yahweh commanded Israel to “have no other gods before me.”  Let’s pause a moment and see just how significant this is.

Greg Beale titled his landmark book We Become What We Worship.  His thesis is simple: “What people revere, they resemble, either for ruin or for restoration.”  We either revere the world and are conformed to the sinful patterns of the world, or we revere God and are progressively conformed into his likeness.

Ligon Duncan, in a sermon on Psalm 97 entitled, “You Become Like What You Worship,” notes that…

If you worship money, you will become greedy and stingy.  Now, nobody sets out to worship money.  You don’t sit down one day and say, ‘You know, I think I’ll worship money.’  But you might start out by worshiping self-security.  Or you might set out by worshiping finding material security in what you have, and it leads to the worship of money…which does not make you more human, it makes you less human.  It doesn’t make you more noble, it makes you greedy and stingy and ungenerous.

If you worship sex, you’ll become more and more self-obsessed and narcissistic.  Now nobody sits down one day and says, ‘I think I’m going to worship sex.’  But they may start out by saying, ‘I desire gratification for myself above other concerns,’ and suddenly they find themselves, whether they realize it or not, worshiping sex.  And they don’t become better people, they become self-absorbed people.

If you worship power, you’ll become scheming and heartless.  And we could go on and on down the list.  What you desire determines what you will become.  And if you set your desires on anything other than the true God, you will become like that, and it will not be pretty.  Desire that is set on the right object — the one true God — ennobles and grows a human being.  Desire set on the wrong thing corrupts us and debases us.

So be careful what you worship, for it will change you.  You will develop desires and habits which drive you farther and farther away from God’s design for you.

Kierkegaard, the Danish philosopher, told a story about a goose who was wounded and who landed in a barnyard with some chickens.  He played with the chickens and ate with the chickens.  After a while that goose thought he was a chicken.  One day a flight of geese came over, migrating to their home.  They gave a honk up there in the sky, and he heard it.

Kierkegaard said, “Something stirred within the breast of this goose.  Something called him to the skies.  He began to flap the wings he hadn’t used, and he rose a few feet into the air.  Then he stopped, and he settled back again into the mud of the barnyard.  He heard the cry, but he settled for less.”

Leighton Ford, “Hope for a Great Forever,” Preaching Today, Tape No. 96.

That is us.  When we worship other gods, we invariably settle for less.  Even though there is a yearning in our hearts to live differently, to rise above, we settle for less.  That’s our life, settling for less.