Further Evidences of Faulty Repentance (Hosea 6:7-7:16)

In Hosea 6 we’ve seen an apparent, though shallow, repentance of Israel, seeking God’s healing.  However, God’s appraisal of their repentance is that it was “like a morning cloud, like the dew that goes early away.”  He wanted “steadfast love,” something that would not only last, but would also express a deep and real change in their hearts.

Starting in 6:7, Hosea again enumerates the sins of Israel and Judah, illustrating why they were ripe for judgment.  Verse 7 begins with a strong contrast from what God desired from them.  He wanted “steadfast love” and “knowledge of God”…

7 But like Adam they transgressed the covenant; there they dealt faithlessly with me. 8 Gilead is a city of evildoers, tracked with blood. 9 As robbers lie in wait for a man, so the priests band together; they murder on the way to Shechem; they commit villainy. 10 In the house of Israel I have seen a horrible thing; Ephraim’s whoredom is there; Israel is defiled. 11 For you also, O Judah, a harvest is appointed, when I restore the fortunes of my people.

Aside from the brief dramatization of the nation’s return to God pictured in 6:1-3, we pick up the detailing of Israel’s sins and Yahweh’s leveling of judgments against Israel that began in chapters 4 and 5.

The section begins with the charge that Israel had “transgressed the covenant” (6:7a).  That is, they had broken some covenant, the breaking of which was said to be “like Adam.”

This could refer to the literal, historical father of the human race, who “broke covenant” by disobeying God’s direct order not to eat from the fruit of the “tree of the knowledge of good and evil.”  If it is a reference to Adam, it just represents the first in an endless stream of human beings who have broken covenant with their God.

Also, it would highlight the high place of blessing that Adam occupied, as God’s crowning creation in the garden, only to turn away from God’s blessing.

And, as Adam was driven from God’s presence in the garden because of his sin, so Israel would be driven from their homeland.

Another possibility is that this refers to some unknown covenant betrayal at a place called Adam.  References to other place-names in verses 8 and 9 may support this view.

Map showing Adam and Gilead

The town of Adam was on the east bank of the Jordan River in Gilead, about one-third of the way north between the Dead Sea and the Sea of Galilee, near the Jabbok tributary.  It is mentioned in Joshua 3:16 as the place where the waters stood in a heap when the Jordan parted.

In this case, it could refer to the Mosaic covenant, which was broken at that place.

Duane Garrett suggests that, although it is the place that is focused upon here, the prophet is also making a pun based on the name of the original transgressor.  His meaning is, “Like Adam (the man) they break covenants; they are faithless to me there (in the town of Adam).”

The result is that they “transgressed the covenant,” the agreement between them and their sovereign and “dealt faithlessly with me.”  That last statement, along with 8:1 (“they have transgressed my covenant and rebelled against my law”) makes it virtually certain that the “covenant” in view is the Mosaic covenant.

In addition, the kinds of sins and curses pronounced in the Sinai covenant dovetail precisely with the warnings of the prophet: the end of agricultural prosperity, military disaster, foreign exile, the demise of their offspring, and a return to slavery in Egypt.  In sum, the crisis in Israel was Israel’s failure to keep covenant.

Israel’s sins are worse than simply violating the code of law: they repudiate the gracious covenant that is the foundation of their life and hope and relationship with the living God.

But what is the treachery to which he refers?  Hosea 6:8–9 might provide the answer, if we understand verse 8 as referring to Adam—which was in the region of “Gilead”—as the “city of evildoers” and verse 9 as describing the act of evil committed there: priests murdering Israelites on their way to Shechem.  This would indeed be treachery against the covenant under which Israel lived (Ex. 20:13).

Gilead, mentioned in v. 8, is another of Hosea’s allusions to former glories (Judg. 10:17–11:11).  It is the mountainous area extending north and south of the river Jabbok east of the river Jordan.  There was also a city in that region, east of Mizpeh, often called Ramoth-Gilead.  The name Gilead first appears in the biblical account of the last meeting of Jacob and Laban (Genesis 31:21-22), which Laban accused Jacob of treachery.

The Bible records the war, during the time of the judges, between the Gileadites and Ammon, under the leadership of Jephthah the Gileadite (Judg. 11), which resulted in bloody conflict between the Gileadites and the Ephraimites (ibid. 12:1–6).

from the Satellite Bible Atlas

Garrett points out that the word “evildoers” in v. 8 is awen, which is sometimes used as a word play on Bethel, Beth-awen,” instead of the house of God, the house of evil.

Bethel was the place where Jacob had fled Esau in Canaan, and met God (Genesis 28:11-22).  Gilead, therefore, as the place where he was caught by Laban as he returned to Canaan, and as the region where he met the angel of God while preparing to face Esau, corresponds to Bethel as the end of Jacob’s flight corresponds to its beginning.

Bible Atlas

It is evident, therefore, that Hosea is working the story of Jacob into his prophecy; he will return to this story in 12:2-4.  The point here appears to be that the Israelites have taken on the worst characteristics of Jacob—selfishness and cunning—without having his redeeming experiences—encounters with God. (Duane Garrett, p. 163).

Jacob’s descendants, instead of being transformed into Israel, into people of God, remained Jacob, so that they remain “tracked with blood.”

On the road to Shechem, the primary religious and political center of Israel, the priests became involved in a conspiracy to assassinate defenseless people.  Whether this is actual or hyperbole, it expresses how degraded the priesthood had become.

Again, there is telling history there, for it was at Shechem that Dinah was raped and her brothers avenged her by having the men of the city circumcised and then slaughtering them (Genesis 34).  The assertion that the priests carry out a wicked plan appropriately describes the deceit of Simeon and Levi at Shechem.

The word for villainy (Hb. zimmah) is a powerful term for human depravity.  Elsewhere it refers to the vilest of sexual sins (e.g., Lev. 18:17; 19:29; Judges 20:5-6; Job 31:9-11).

Shechem and Ramoth-Gilead were cities of refuge where people could supposedly flee for safety (cf. Josh. 20:1-2, 7-8), but instead they had been contaminated by blood.  Those fleeing for refuge were being cut down on the road before they reached safe haven.  Shechem stood on the route between Samaria and Bethel, therefore many pilgrims traveled through Shechem.

“The times were so evil, in fact, that even the religious leaders joined hands with the robbers to plunder and murder the helpless population.” (David Garland, p. 51).

The Lord had observed a horrible thing.  The Israelites as a whole had practiced harlotry by going after pagan gods and had thus made themselves unclean.  Religious apostasy combined with sexual immorality, so both forms of harlotry are doubtless in view.

Whenever the first table of the law is broken, men justify breaking the second.  If God is practically dead, anything goes.

There action validates God’s amazement expressed in vv. 4-6.  What can God do with a people who affirm repentance (vv. 1-3), but act in such vile, inhumane ways…violating covenant with God and man?

All of this seems to have been current events, since Hosea gives so little information about them and there are no antecedents in biblical history.  David Hubbard believes it encapsulates “a momentous event in which priests collaborated in a conspiracy, perhaps against the royal family,  Gilead was remembered as the launching site for at least one such plot: in his coup d’état against Pekahiah, Pekah was joined by “fifty men of the Gileadites” (2 Kings 15:25).  He believes that this event connects with the Syro-Ephraimite war and the references in 7:3-7 of the baker’s oven.

Hubbard also believes that the “whoredom” of Ephraim mentioned in v. 10 is more likely, in this context, to refer not to their worship of the Baals, but rather their failure to trust Yahweh for protection, expressed by courting other nations as allies.

In Hos. 6:11 a harvest is appointed.  Expressed in such a way, it was as sure as the judgment against Ephraim mentioned in 5:9.

A harvest, which is supposed to depict joy will instead depict tragedy.  Thus it is a “harvest” of judgment (cf. Joel 3:13Rev. 14:18–19).

Yet the hope of eventual restoration was clear, as v. 11 ends with “when I restore the fortunes of my people.”  This would be another type of harvest, a harvest marked by blessing and restoration, and that is the one primarily in view here.  Like most of the prophets, messages of judgment are mixed with, or concluded with, messages of hope.  Yahweh’s longing to show mercy is expressed in his desire to return Israel, his battered and beleaguered people (5:10-14), i.e., the entire land (cf. on 1:9-2:1; 2:23; 4:1, 6, 8, 12) to a robust state of social, spiritual, and material health.

God’s desire is to “heal Israel,” as expressed in Hosea 7:1, to bring them back to life again.

Although there was a partial fulfillment in the return of the Jews to Judah after the Babylonian captivity, the fuller fulfillment awaits the return that will occur during the tribulation and millennial kingdom.

When those judgments are completed, at some future time a convicted and purged nation will once more be deserving of the title “My people.”

God is warning Judah to learn from history, to learn from the sins and judgments against Israel.  But Judah had not learned any lessons and would soon head down the same path to judgment.

Scholars agree that v. 11b, “whenever I restore the fortunes of my people” goes with 7:1 “whenever I would heal Israel.”  It speaks of the merciful heart of God who will one day accomplish these miracles, but could not at the moment.

Why, look at the secret, hidden sins of Israel which were being thrust out into the open:

1 When I would heal Israel, the iniquity of Ephraim is revealed, and the evil deeds of Samaria; for they deal falsely; the thief breaks in, and the bandits raid outside. 2 But they do not consider that I remember all their evil.  Now their deeds surround them; they are before my face. 3 By their evil they make the king glad, and the princes by their treachery. 4 They are all adulterers; they are like a heated oven whose baker ceases to stir the fire, from the kneading of the dough until it is leavened. 5 On the day of our king, the princes became sick with the heat of wine; he stretched out his hand with mockers. 6 For with hearts like an oven they approach their intrigue; all night their anger smolders; in the morning it blazes like a flaming fire. 7 All of them are hot as an oven, and they devour their rulers.  All their kings have fallen, and none of them calls upon me. 8 Ephraim mixes himself with the peoples; Ephraim is a cake not turned. 9 Strangers devour his strength, and he knows it not; gray hairs are sprinkled upon him, and he knows it not. 10 The pride of Israel testifies to his face; yet they do not return to the LORD their God, nor seek him, for all this. 11 Ephraim is like a dove, silly and without sense, calling to Egypt, going to Assyria. 12 As they go, I will spread over them my net; I will bring them down like birds of the heavens; I will discipline them according to the report made to their congregation. 13 Woe to them, for they have strayed from me!  Destruction to them, for they have rebelled against me!  I would redeem them, but they speak lies against me. 14 They do not cry to me from the heart, but they wail upon their beds; for grain and wine they gash themselves; they rebel against me. 15 Although I trained and strengthened their arms, yet they devise evil against me. 16 They return, but not upward; they are like a treacherous bow; their princes shall fall by the sword because of the insolence of their tongue.  This shall be their derision in the land of Egypt.

Israel’s domestic sins is the focus of the first seven verses of Hosea 7.  The Lord longed to heal Israel, but when He thought about doing so, new evidences of her sins presented themselves.  The prophets He had sent to them were mainly ineffective in stemming the tide of rebellion.  The response had largely been rejection and hardening of hearts.

Verse 1 indicates that they were lying to one another and stealing from each other, thus breaking covenant with one another.

They hoped (v. 2) that God wouldn’t notice and hold their sins against them, but their wickedness is flaunted before His face and He couldn’t ignore it even if He wanted to.  Whatever direction He turned, their sins were “in His face.”

God cannot “forget” our sins until they are forgiven.  There is a precious promise for those who come to God under the New Covenant: For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more (Jeremiah 31:34).  We often wish that time would make God forget our sin, but it doesn’t.  Only the atoning substitute of Jesus, crucified in our place under the New Covenant makes God forget our sin.

The political leaders, who should have encouraged the people to act in justice and kindness, and led the way in behaving thus, instead rejoiced that the people were sinning because it made it easier for them to get away with sinning.

This phrase, together with princes have made him sick (Hosea 7:5) and all their kings have fallen (Hosea 7:7) probably all refer to one of the successful assassination plots against the throne of Israel during the ministry of Hosea.  Since there were four kings violently overthrown during his ministry, it’s hard to exactly know which one he means.

Verses 4-7 indicate that Israel’s heart was still inflamed towards their idols.  They are compared to an oven, first heated to cook, but left untended, grows into an uncontrolled fire.  Paul used the same image of “burning with lust” in 1 Corinthians 7:5.

“Like every revolutionary state that has no faith in anything beyond itself, Israel was burning up in its own anger” (James Luther Mays, Hosea: A Commentary, pp. 106-107).

The princes eagerly plotted to overthrow the king.  Their anger with him smoldered for a long time and was not obvious to him, like a fire hidden in an oven (v. 4), but at the proper time it flared up and consumed him and his supporters.  Hosea saw this happen four times.  Shallum assassinated Zechariah, Menahem assassinated Shallum, Pekah assassinated Pekahiah, and Hoshea assassinated Pekah (2 Kings 15:10, 14, 25, 30).

A continuing dynasty, as existed in Judah, never succeeded in the North.  The reason was that none of the Israelites sought the Lord.  Even though they offered sacrifices (5:6), it was empty ritual.

Since this prophecy is undated, we do not know when Hosea gave it, but it must have been during the tumultuous times when Israel’s final kings reigned (ca. 752-722 B.C.).

Yahweh compares Ephraim to an “unturned cake” in v. 8.  Ephraim had mixed itself with the pagan nations like unleavened dough mixed with leaven, so she was like a pancake that the cook had not turned over, all burnt and black on one side, and soggy and runny on the other.  In other words, she was only half-baked, worthless, not what God intended or what could nourish others.  She was hard and crusty toward Yahweh but soft and receptive toward other nations and their gods.

Foreign alliances had sapped Ephraim’s strength rather than adding to it, but the Israelites were ignorant of this.  Like the first showing of gray hairs, they live in ignorance and denial.  Therefore, v. 10, they in their pride would not go to Yahweh for help.  Instead, like a silly dove, they flit about from one nation (Egypt—2 Kings 17:3-4) to another (Assyria—2 Kings 15:29).  So (v. 13) the Lord pronounced doom on the Israelites because He would judge them for straying from Him like sheep from their Shepherd.

The final verses of Hosea 7 indicate that Israel returned, but not to the Lord.  They recognized their plight, but instead of confessing their sin and seeking Yahweh, they turned to other nations for help.

When God’s hand is against man, he easily sees he has a problem but often does not see it as sin against the LORD.  So when Israel had problems, they wailed upon their beds, but not to the LORD.  They sought remedies, but not from the Most High.

They try every trick they know, every new self-help fad, every new idea from a talk show host or television doctor — but they dismiss God as useless and irrelevant.

Thus, Yahweh says that Israel is like a “treacherous bow” which can no longer shoot straight.  Rather than being able to shoot at their enemies, they “shot” their own leaders, assassinating their kings.

How about you, are you a flaming oven of passion for the wrong things?  Are you a flitting bird, moving from one “solution” to another instead of turning to God?  Are you an unturned cake, hard towards God but soft towards the world?  Are you a treacherous bow, harming those you should be protecting?

Yahweh’s Exasperation Over Israel’s Disloyalty (Hosea 6:4-6)

In many ways grace is what the book of Hosea is about.  Although Israel is consistently unfaithful and turns to idols and other nations for help instead of turning to their God, His heart is broken and He longs for their true return.

Our problem is that we don’t take sin seriously enough and our repentance, therefore, is insufficient.  We heard the words of Israel’s repentance last week.  They certainly sounded good.

1 “Come, let us return to the LORD. He has torn us to pieces but he will heal us; he has injured us but he will bind up our wounds. 2 After two days he will revive us; on the third day he will restore us, that we may live in his presence. 3 Let us acknowledge the LORD; let us press on to acknowledge him. As surely as the sun rises, he will appear; he will come to us like the winter rains, like the spring rains that water the earth.”

In these verses they express their intention to turn back to God for healing, expecting that He would revive them.  They believed that if they pressed on to know Him, He would return to them.  But, alas, their repentance never addressed their sin.  Sure, they wanted healing, but didn’t ask for forgiveness.  They wanted their circumstances fixed, but left their sin intact.

Listen to Yahweh’s response to this seemingly good repentance:

4 “What can I do with you, Ephraim?  What can I do with you, Judah?  Your love is like the morning mist, like the early dew that disappears. 5 Therefore I cut you in pieces with my prophets, I killed you with the words of my mouth— then my judgments go forth like the sun. 6 For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings.

In this text Yahweh speaks of his frustration with the transitory devotion of Israel (v. 4).  He then declares this is the reason for issuing judgments against them (v. 5) and proclaims that what He really wants is loyal love, not outward shows of religious zeal (v. 6).

You can hear the frustration, the cry of exasperated love in Yahweh’s voice.  G. Campbell Morgan calls this paragraph “The Difficulty of God.”

“What can I do with you, Ephraim?  What can I do with you, Judah?

One must not miss this outburst of emotion, like an anguished father not knowing what to do with his wayward child, or a husband agonizingly frustrated with his promiscuous bride (cf. 11:8Luke 15:20).

Campbell Morgan notes how startling this question is:

I can understand a man saying, What shall I do to be saved?  But here is God saying, What shall I do to save him?  This is not the cry of the human soul seeking after God.  It is the cry of God seeking after the human soul.  This is not the picture of a man in difficulty because he cannot find God.  It is the picture of God in difficulty because He cannot deal with man.

Both kingdoms were equally exasperating to God.

It is as if God should say, I have done my utmost, as in Isaiah 5:5 (where Yahweh expresses his consternation over a vineyard, a symbol of Israel, that produces only rotten grapes), Micah 5:3, and now am I at a standstill, and can scarce tell what to do more.  Again, it is like Jesus’ cry in Matthew 23:37…

37 “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing.

As the loving hen is always caring for her chickens, and calling them about her, that she may gather and guard them from the mischief of all predators; but they will persistently be straggling, and so perish; so if God’s people will not listen to his voice, if Israel will have none of him, what can he do less than give them up to their own hearts’ lusts?

He is perturbed at their seeming inability to acknowledge their sins and truly return to Him.  Because they were ungrateful of His blessings, they failed to love Him in return; instead loving other gods.

Your love is like the morning mist, like the early dew that disappears.

They declared their love, and they showed it…but for a brief moment.  Then they were on to their next sin, their next love affair with another god.  Like us, it was not that there was no faithfulness at all, just barely any at all.

As John Trapp says…

In a word, they were both false and fickle, unsteady and unstable, constant only in their inconstancy.  Hence this pathetic complaint of them; God knew not where to have them, and therefore not what to do with them.

This pathetic pattern of loyalty-disloyalty-punishment had lodged in Israel’s psyche since the days of the Judges.  Now, however, this malignancy of disloyalty had spread throughout the nation.

It is good to have mountain top experiences, those moments of ecstasy, but what God wants is the slow, constant producing of fruit in our lives.  When we trust in those brief, beautiful moments, then God says, “What else can I do with you?”

Growing out of verse 3, there is a striking contrast between Yahweh’s hesed, which rises like the sun, and Israel’s, which disappears like the morning dew.

The word “love” in v. 4 is hesed, the word that describes loyal love, covenant faithfulness, devotedness.  It is not the presence of sin that so perturbs Yahweh, but the absence of love.

Whatever faithfulness and devotion there was, quickly evaporated like the morning dew in summer.  It is as ephemeral as a cloud, quickly blown away.  Yes, both can be beautiful, but neither is constant.

Genuine repentance has an abiding element.

The only real hope for Israel is their Messiah, Jesus Christ.  But before Yahweh would send His Son, He sent His prophets.

5 Therefore I cut you in pieces with my prophets, I killed you with the words of my mouth— then my judgments go forth like the sun.

Throughout history God had sent them prophets to turn them back to Yahweh.  The priests had failed them, now the prophets have been sent to them.  God’s judgment goes out as a light, exposing their sins and idolatries.

The prophets would come, wielding the Word like a sword, bringing judgment and hope.  Hosea probably had in mind those earlier prophets of Israel, such as Elijah, Ahijah, Micaiah ben Imlah—prophets whose words were a sword.

The words of verse 6 take us back to the time of Samuel, while the “cutting in pieces” fits the time of Elijah.  It merely shows that faithfulness has been a longstanding problem with Israel.

By the way, the statement “my judgments go forth like the sun” is ironic, given the fact that Israel’s promise of return in vv. 1-3 depended upon Him coming to them “as the sun rises.”  What they hoped would bring healing, would instead bring judgment…at least for the immediate future.

The prophets would preach the word.  It is the Word of God that is powerful.  Hebrews 4:12 says…

12 For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.

Just as a surgeon’s scalpel lays bare the flesh and organs, in order to bring healing, so God’s Word penetrates even deeper, into the soul and spirit, able to “judge the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.”  It exposes our motives behind our actions.

Jeremiah spoke of God’s Word as like a hammer; breaking the rock in pieces, like a winnow, separating wheat and chaff; like a consuming fire, destroying the chaff (Jere. 23:28ff).  The Word of God itself is performative (or in the words of Andersen and Freedman, “almost autonomous”), carrying within itself the power to transform.  Isaiah 55:10-11…

10 As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, 11 so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.

All we must do is preach the word, and it will do the work.  Martin Luther, the leader of the Protestant Reformation, once said…

“Take me, for example.  I opposed indulgences and all papists, but never by force.  I simply taught, preached, wrote God’s Word: otherwise I did nothing.  And then, while I slept or drank Wittenberg beer with my Philip of Amsdorf the Word so greatly weakened the papacy that never a prince or emperor did such damage to it.  I did nothing: the Word did it all.  Had I wanted to start trouble…. I could have started such a little game at Worms that even the emperor wouldn’t have been safe.  But what would it have been?  A mug’s game.  I did nothing: I left it to the Word.”

Isaiah goes on to describe the kind of transformation that the Word of God can effect:

13 Instead of the thornbush will grow the juniper, and instead of briers the myrtle will grow.  This will be for the LORD’s renown, for an everlasting sign, that will endure forever.”

It is impossible for a juniper to come from a thornbush, or a myrtle from thistles, but God’s Word can change the very nature of things, or people.  All we have to do is preach it.

Paul David Tripp, encouraging (and admonishing) pastors in his book Dangerous Calling, says,

The picture here is of fundamental, specific, and personal transformation.  When the Word of God, faithfully taught by the people of God and empowered by the Spirit of God, falls down, people become different.  Lusting people become pure, fearful people become courageous, thieves become givers, demanding people become servants, angry people become peacemakers, complainers become thankful, and idolaters come to joyfully worship the one true God (p. 51).

So God had sent Israel prophets.  Unfortunately, the words of the prophets sent to Israel were more judgment than transformation.  Their words were “deadly” and possibly refer to the covenant curses of Deuteronomy 30.

Yet what Israel found refuge in was religion, religious practices.  But Yahweh is always more concerned with reality over ritual, with relationship over religion.  Hosea 6:6 says…

6 For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings.

Andersen and Freedman note that the emotional verb “I desire” matches the early emotional expressions of disappointment and anguish (v. 4).

It is not that God wanted to do away with the sacrificial system (that would come later), but He is illustrating the higher importance of what goes on in the heart.  As Yahweh looked at their multiple sacrifices He saw no “loyal love” (this is the same word used in v. 4) and no real “acknowledgement” of God.

Sacrifices were meaningless, even offensive, unless offered out of a heart of love that demonstrated obedience to God’s Word (cf. 1 Sam. 15:22; Isa. 1:11-17; Amos 5:21-24; Mic. 6:6-8; Matt. 9:13; 12:7).

Jesus twice quoted this passage of Hosea to the religious leaders of His day (Matthew 9:13 and 12:7).  They also missed the heart of God, focusing on the wrong and superficial things.   Israel brought animals for sacrifice, but they never brought themselves as a living sacrifice (Rom. 12:1).  They missed what God really wants: a deep, close relationship with Him.

God wanted steadfastness over sacrifice and faithfulness over formality.  What they were doing, practicing rituals without real devotion, was meaninglessness and hypocritical.

Both Isaiah and Malachi called a stop to such sacrifices, because they were nauseating to God.  In Isaiah 1, Isaiah says…

11 “The multitude of your sacrifices— what are they to me?” says the LORD. “I have more than enough of burnt offerings, of rams and the fat of fattened animals; I have no pleasure in the blood of bulls and lambs and goats. 12 When you come to appear before me, who has asked this of you, this trampling of my courts? 13 Stop bringing meaningless offerings! Your incense is detestable to me. New Moons, Sabbaths and convocations— I cannot bear your worthless assemblies. 14 Your New Moon feasts and your appointed festivals I hate with all my being.  They have become a burden to me; I am weary of bearing them. 15 When you spread out your hands in prayer, I hide my eyes from you; even when you offer many prayers, I am not listening.  Your hands are full of blood!

Isaiah’s next words were a call to urgent repentance.

David recognized the greater value of a repentant heart over ritual sacrifices when he wrote (Psalm 51):

16 You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. 17 My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise.

Again, the prophets are not opposed to acts of worship, but merely recognizing that without a heart of loyal love behind it, it is worth nothing.

As Duane Garrett says…

In modern language one might appropriately rephrase this verse as: “I desire devotion and not hymn-singing, service and not sermons,” without thereby concluding that hymns and sermons were evil.

Or, in the words of Andersen and Freedman, “sacrifice is not denigrated; it is simply put in second place.”

Think about that as you worship this Sunday.  Whether you sing hymns or praise songs, is your heart engaged?  Are you singing from a heart that is deeply in love with Jesus, deeply grateful for all that He has done for you?  Are you singing from a heart ecstatic that your sins are forgiven?

Can you sing “I Surrender All” and really mean it?

This is what Yahweh looked for in Israel and Judah, and what Jesus looks for in us today.  He wants us to worship Him “in spirit and truth.”

Henry and Richard Blackaby, in their Experiencing God Day-by Day devotional, say…

No amount of activity for God will ever take the place of a heart that is right with Him.  Through the ages God’s people have been persuaded that they could please Him through their service and their offerings, regardless of their heart condition.  King Saul offered generous sacrifices, hoping God would overlook his disobedience (1 Samuel 15:22-23).  David may have assumed that after all he had done on God’s behalf, God would overlook his sin (2 Samuel 12:7-15).  Ananias and Sapphira thought that their generous gift to the church would compensate for their deceitfulness (Acts 5:1-11).  Paul was certainly one who had thought his zealousness would please God.  After his conversion, however, he concluded that even if he had faith to remove mountains, gave all he had to feed the poor, and offered his body to be burned for the sake of God, and yet had a heart that was not right, it would all be for nothing (1 Corinthians 13:1-13).

We are susceptible to the same misunderstanding as all of these people were.  We can be deceived into assuming God is more interested in our activity for Him than He is in the condition of our heart.  But His desire is that we devote ourselves to knowing Him and loving Him with all of our hearts.

Israel’s Faulty Repentance (Hosea 5:14-6:3)

Thank you for joining me again in our study of this great book of Hosea—this tragic love story played out on the human level between Hosea and Gomer, a story which is heartbreaking in itself—but also a story which illustrates the relationship between Yahweh and Israel, a much deeper betrayal in the spiritual realm.

Throughout Hosea we see Yahweh’s heart revealed—a heart that deeply desires to see genuine repentance from Israel, yet devastated by her continual unfaithfulness.  It reminds us how deeply God loves us as well, and how often He is disappointed by our own idolatries.

Today open your Bibles to the end of Hosea 5.  Yahweh has been predicting the destruction of Israel, judgment against their idolatries (turning to Baal rather than Yahweh for blessings and guidance) and their dependence upon other nations for protection rather than upon Yahweh.

Throughout chapter 5 it seems very obvious that Israel is on a path of destruction.  Despite many sacrifices, they would not longer be able to find Yahweh.  He would be to them the slow and gradual destruction illustrated by the “moth” and “dry rot” in v. 12 and the violent and ultimate death illustrated by being torn apart by a lion in vv. 14-15.

Let’s pick up our text in Hosea 5:14…

14 For I will be like a lion to Ephraim, and like a young lion to the house of Judah. I, even I, will tear and go away; I will carry off, and no one shall rescue. 15 I will return again to my place, until they acknowledge their guilt and seek my face, and in their distress earnestly seek me.

1 “Come, let us return to the LORD; for he has torn us, that he may heal us; he has struck us down, and he will bind us up. 2 After two days he will revive us; on the third day he will raise us up, that we may live before him. 3 Let us know; let us press on to know the LORD; his going out is sure as the dawn; he will come to us as the showers, as the spring rains that water the earth.” 4 What shall I do with you, O Ephraim?  What shall I do with you, O Judah?  Your love is like a morning cloud, like the dew that goes early away. 5 Therefore I have hewn them by the prophets; I have slain them by the words of my mouth, and my judgment goes forth as the light. 6 For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.

Verse 14 adds another dimension to the judgment Yahweh would bring upon Israel.  Not only was there the slow, hidden, gradual process of destruction represented by the moth and dry rot, but there is also the ferocious and purposeful attack of a lion.

As a lion, He would tear them to pieces and carry them away in judgment, and there would be no one who could deliver them.  Egypt couldn’t.  No one could.

Israel fell to the Assyrians, in 722 B.C., after two previous Assyrian invasions (in 743 and 734-32 B.C.).  Judah escaped Assyria in 701 B.C., due to King Hezekiah’s trust in the Lord, but Babylonia finally fulfilled this prophecy to her in 586 B.C.

In verse 15 Hosea describes the lion retreating to its lair to finish off Israel.  All is lost.  All is hopeless.  No one and nothing could rescue them from this fate.  Just as no one could rescue an animal from the lion’s den, so Israel’s fate was sealed.

But notice that God’s judgment is not punitive, but restorative.  What is God’s purpose, God’s desire?  It is “until they acknowledge their guilt and seek my face, and in their distress earnestly seek me.”

Now, the big question in this passage is whether Hosea 6:1-3 expresses a genuine return by Israel?  Verses 4-6 show God’s disappointment in how shallow and transient it would be.  Does that mean it is not genuine, or just that it was short-lived?  I believe that it was genuine, at least among a remnant, but that, like us, their faithfulness was short-lived and shallow.  It was genuine, but not permanent.

Their return to Yahweh, pictured in vv. 1-3 of Hosea 6, seems to lack an acknowledgement of guilt.  They sought Yahweh to relieve them of their distress, but did not admit their sins and curry His forgiveness.  Many today want Jesus to fix their problems—to save their marriages, restore fulfillment in their jobs, to recover from sickness, but don’t come to Jesus desiring forgiveness for sins.

Some believe that vv. 1-3 represent the encouragement of the priests to the people.  They had failed to instruct the people in righteousness, which would have kept them from judgment, and now that judgment was upon them they urgently appeal to the people to turn back to Yahweh.  It would be too little, too late.

Again, the focus seems to be upon their wounds and seeking relief from national disaster, rather than focusing upon their sins and seeking forgiveness for their sins.  As David Garland says, “It did not reach to the real problem, sin, which could not be cared for in the healing and binding up.  It could only be cared for through genuine repentance.”

They do believe, however, that God can do what no one else could do.  No one could rescue them or help them, but Yahweh will heal them and bring them back to life.

Like us, they wanted this healing to come in a relatively short time “after two days…and on the third…”  They believed that God would speedily restore their former status.

This will eventually happen, but not so speedily as they hope.  This national resurrection, for resurrection is what they ask for…”he will raise us up that we may live before him” would also be prophesied by Ezekiel in the famous vision of the valley of dry bones and Daniel’s prediction…

12:1 “At that time shall arise Michael, the great prince who has charge of your people. And there shall be a time of trouble [the 7-year tribulation period], such as never has been since there was a nation till that time.  But at that time your people shall be delivered, everyone whose name shall be found written in the book. 2 And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.

That passage is speaking about a general resurrection at the end of the millennial kingdom.

Ezekiel 37 begins with Ezekiel seeing a valley full of bones, but they were dry as dust and really, fully dead.  There was no flesh upon them.

When Ezekiel prophesied to the dry bones, they began to come together and then be clothed with sinew and flesh and then skin.  But they were still dead bodies because they had no breath, no life in them.  Ezekiel then called for the Holy Spirit, the breath of God, to fill these still dead bodies, and they would come to life.

Yahweh interprets this vision for Ezekiel, saying…

11 Then he said to me, “Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel.  Behold, they say, ‘Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are indeed cut off.’ 12 Therefore prophesy, and say to them, Thus says the Lord GOD: Behold, I will open your graves and raise you from your graves, O my people. And I will bring you into the land of Israel. 13 And you shall know that I am the LORD, when I open your graves, and raise you from your graves, O my people.

The nation of Israel will someday come to life and return to the land of Israel.  At this time, God will forgive them their sins.  Although a partial fulfillment occurred in 1948 when the Jews returned from around the world to live in Israel, the fullest fulfillment of these verses will come in the end times when Israel en masse returns to the Lord through genuine repentance and spiritual cleansing.

The reference to three days, although not a direct reference to the resurrection of the Messiah, Jesus Christ, seems to be the only place Paul could be referring to when he says that Jesus rose “on the third day, according to the Scriptures” (1 Cor. 15:4).

Just as Christ rose and we will rise, so Israel will one day rise.  We will rise to eternal life in new resurrection bodies.  Israel will rise to endure the tribulation period (although seven years a relatively brief time) and then reign with their Messiah in the millennial kingdom of Christ.

Verse 3 contains the exhortation to “press on to know the Lord.”  The desire was there: “Let us know” and the recognition was present that it required personal effort, “let us press on to know the Lord.”  This makes up for what was previously lacking (any real life-changing knowing of God) and displaces their previous passionate pursuit of the Baals.

This, of course, was the essential element that was lacking in Israel’s corporate life at this time.  Back in 4:6 Hosea had said that they “rejected knowledge,” which verse 1 had clarified was “no knowledge of God in the land.”  With no knowledge of God—in other words they banished God from their thoughts, they had plunged into moral chaos, just as our culture has reaped the consequences of the “death of God” as proclaimed by Nietzsche.

Romans 1 indicates that when we deny God—His existence and His authority over all—then we reap the consequences of immorality, homosexuality and a depraved mind that readily excuses any and every sin.  We live in that culture today.

Although we may not be able to turn the tide in our culture, we certainly can pursue the knowledge of God in our own lives.  This is what Paul prayed for the Colossian when he made “increasing in the knowledge of God” (Col. 1:10) one of his prayers for them.

A.W. Tozer once said that “What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.”

What we believe about God has practical impact on our lives here and now, and throughout eternity.  In fact, the very essence of eternal life is “that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent” (John 17:3).

As Steve Altrogge probes…

When you go through a hard time, what you think about God will affect how you do.  Do you think God is sovereign and loving and good?  Do you think God is in control and always faithful?  Do you believe he loves you and is using this for your good?  Or do you think he’s uninvolved and uncaring?

When you’re tempted to sin, what you think about God will affect how you respond.  Do you believe God knows your every thought and sees your every action?  Do you believe he is holy and hates sin?  Or do you believe God doesn’t really know or care?

See, it makes a difference what we know and believe about God.  It would have made a difference in the way Israel had lived as well.  There is nothing more important than knowing God.  Jeremiah said…

23 Thus says the LORD: “Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, 24 but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the LORD.”

In life and on our deathbeds, it doesn’t matter what we know, how powerful or how rich we are, if we know not Jesus Christ, we have everything to lose.  Paul was willing to give up all the former advantages he had inherited or achieved in Judaism, everything that had made him who he was, for the sake of knowing Jesus Christ.  Listen to his impassioned words in Philippians 3:

7 But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. 8 Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith–10 that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.

All the trophies of his past life—things to really be proud of—he tossed in the trash.  They were worthless now, compared to knowing Jesus Christ.  Graham Kendrick wrote a song, entitled Knowing You.  It goes like this:

All I once held dear, built my life upon
All this world reveres, and wars to own
All I once thought gain I have counted loss
Spent and worthless now, compared to this

Knowing you, Jesus
Knowing you, there is no greater thing
You’re my all, you’re the best
You’re my joy, my righteousness
And I love you, Lord

Now my heart’s desire is to know you more
To be found in you and known as yours
To possess by faith what I could not earn
All-surpassing gift of righteousness

Oh, to know the power of your risen life
And to know You in Your sufferings
To become like you in your death, my Lord
So with you to live and never die

So let us press on to know the Lord.  And let it be our lifelong pursuit, seeking every day to know Him better and deeper so that our present lives are shaped and conformed by what we know and our eternity is enriched by what we have begun.

Nothing brings us more pleasure, joy and delight both now and throughout eternity than knowing Jesus Christ.

As we pursue Him, He comes to us.  Hosea says, in verse 2 “his going out is sure as the dawn.”  Although it is a difficult sentence to translate, the use of “light” or “dawn” is surely positive in this context and it matches our pursuit.  Before, he had drawn away into his lair, now he comes out—not to tear again, but to heal.

The words “is sure” matches the certainty of the judgment that would come first.  Back in 5:9 the day of punishment upon Ephraim “is sure.”  Both the impending judgment and the ultimate reconciliation are sure and certain.  Thus as the dawn arises every morning, so He is sure to come.

Israel understood the benefits of this personal, intimate relationship with Yahweh.  It would be “as the showers, as the spring rains that water the earth.”  Adam Clarke remarks, ““The first, to prepare the earth for seed; this fell in autumn: the second, to prepare the full ear for the harvest; this fell in spring.”

And this is just God’s way.  He doesn’t just give us grace, he “lavishes us with grace.”  He wastes grace upon us like the prodigal’s father did.

One of the judgments, or figures of judgment that was soon to come was “drought.”  Certainly, without both the Fall and Spring rains, the early and latter rains, crops would dry up.  As significant as rain was for crops, so the coming of Yahweh would be for them—blessing and fruitfulness.

But, as David Hubbard reminds us, “They have faced their woundedness (v. 2; cf. 5:12-13) but not their waywardness.  Healing is sought, even resurrection, but not specific sin is mentioned.  This absence of repentance and failure to confess sins by name contrast with Hosea’s closing song of penitence (14:1-3).  And God’s complaint (vv. 4-5) seems to indicate His dismissal of the song as inadequate, whereas Israel’s final song is followed by Yahweh’s promise of love and healing and then by his own love song (14:4-7).

As noble as were the exhortations and encouragements found in 6:1-3, an essential factor was missing.  There was no clear word of repentance.  Though they may have intended their actions to convey an attitude of repentance, they seem to have reflected no more than sorrow and regret because they had suffered….Their only concern was with being healed and bound up—restored to their former wholeness.  There were not interested in being restored to a proper relationship with Yahweh. (David Garland)


M’Cheyne Bible Reading Plan, April 2

Today’s Bible readings are from Leviticus 5, Psalm 3-4, Proverbs 20 and Colossians 3.

Leviticus 5

The relationship of 5:1-13 to chapter 4 continues to be the subject of some debate. Wenham summarized this section well:

“The purification [sin] offering dealt with the pollution caused by sin.  If sin polluted the land, it defiled particularly the house where God dwelt.  The seriousness of pollution depended on the seriousness of the sin, which in turn related to the status of the sinner.  If a private citizen sinned, his action polluted the sanctuary only to a limited extent.  Therefore the blood of the purification offering was only smeared on the horns of the altar of burnt sacrifice.  If, however, the whole nation sinned or the holiest member of the nation, the high priest, sinned, this was more serious.  The blood had to be taken inside the tabernacle and sprinkled on the veil and the altar of incense.  Finally over the period of a year the sins of the nation could accumulate to such an extent that they polluted even the holy of holies, where God dwelt.  If he was to continue to dwell among his people, this too had to be cleansed in the annual day of atonement ceremony (see Lev. 16).”

Matthew Henry was one commentator who understood this section of instructions (5:1-13) as dealing with the cost of forgiveness:

“… the expense of the sin-offering was brought lower than that of any other offering, to teach us that no man’s poverty shall ever be a bar in the way of his pardon. No man shall say that he had not wherewithal to bear the charges of a journey to heaven.”

Thomas Constables notes:

Under the New Covenant, the blood of Jesus Christ cleanses the believer from all sin (cf. Heb. 9—10; 1 Pet. 1:2; 1 John 1:7; Rev. 7:14).  Thus this offering is now obsolete for the Christian.  However, sin in the believer’s life can grieve the indwelling Holy Spirit (Eph. 4:30).  Furthermore, the New Testament reminds us that judgment is still proportionate to responsibility (cf. Luke 12:48; James 3:1).  For us, confession is a prerequisite to cleansing for fellowship (1 John 1:9), even though Christ’s death has brought purification from sin’s defilement and condemnation.  Confession of particular sins also had to accompany the sin offerings in Israel (5:5).

The trespass offering (5:14-6:7) removed the guilt of certain sins that involved trespassing against God.  Trespassing means going beyond the limits of what is right.  The Hebrew word ‘asham, translated “guilt,” also means “reparation.”  It may be helpful to think of this offering as a “reparation” or a “compensation to repay God,” since other sacrifices also deal with guilt.

Both Psalms 3-4 speak of being able to sleep, even in the midst of danger.

Psalm 3:5 I lay down and slept; I woke again, for the LORD sustained me. 6 I will not be afraid of many thousands of people who have set themselves against me all around.

Psalm 4:8 In peace I will both lie down and sleep; for you alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety.

David trusts in God for safety and protection.  He says ‘You are my shield’.  He knows he’ll be OK.  He remembers how Abram had fought off 5 great kings.  After battle God spoke: “I am your shield” (Gen. 15:1).

If you have trouble sleeping tonight, remember that God is a “shield about you” (Psa. 3:3).

Proverbs 20 is a continuation of wisdom sayings.

Verse 1 presents wisdom proven out in experience–when one is given to alcohol, anger is exacerbated and fights happen.

1 Wine is a mocker, strong drink a brawler, and whoever is led astray by it is not wise.

“A man who drinks too much on occasion is still the same man as he was sober. An alcoholic, a real alcoholic, is not the same man at all. You can’t predict anything about him for sure except that he will be someone you never met before.”

–Raymond Chandler, The Long Goodbye

“Alcohol ruined me financially and morally, broke my heart and the hearts of too many others. Even though it did this to me and it almost killed me and I haven’t touched a drop of it in seventeen years, sometimes I wonder if I could get away with drinking some now. I totally subscribe to the notion that alcoholism is a mental illness because thinking like that is clearly insane.”

–Craig Ferguson, American On Purpose

Verse 3 says…

3 It is an honor for a man to keep aloof from strife, but every fool will be quarreling.

To which Waltke says…

“The wise are more concerned to bring peace than a desire to be right, but the fool cannot restrain himself and at the first opportunity explodes and shows his teeth.”

“An unexamined life is not worth living” said Socretes, but who really knows himself?

5 The purpose in a man’s heart is like deep water, but a man of understanding will draw it out. 6 Many a man proclaims his own steadfast love, but a faithful man who can find? 9 Who can say, “I have made my heart pure; I am clean from my sin”? 24 A man’s steps are from the LORD; how then can man understand his way?”

It takes great discernment and wisdom to understand one’s heart (v. 5).  We might proclaim to be one way, but act the other (v. 6) and rarely evaluate our righteousness accurately (v. 9).  We rarely comprehend the directions we take in life (v. 24).

Colossians 3 picks up Paul’s argument that self-discipline of the body, observing special days, or mystical experiences do not sanctify, but rather remembering of unity with Christ, in His death and resurrection (vv. 1-4).  This is the foundation and power of our sanctification.  This is what is called definitive or positional sanctification.  United with Christ, we have His righteousness and power residing within.

But we must with practical righteousness by putting off those habits which do not belong to Christ (vv. 5-11).  Verse 12-17 describe the lifestyle of the “new man.”

12 Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14 And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. 15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. 17 And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Verse 12 gives a command to those who already have been chosen, made holy (positionally) and are beloved of God.  God doesn’t love us because of what we do or don’t do, but because of what He has done.

Because these commands and virtues are played out in relationships (not alone), Paul explains how they affect marriages, families and work relationships (3:18-4:1).

The Consequences of Rejecting Yahweh (Hosea 5:8-14)

8 “Sound the trumpet in Gibeah, the horn in Ramah. Raise the battle cry in Beth Aven ; lead on, Benjamin. 9 Ephraim will be laid waste on the day of reckoning. Among the tribes of Israel I proclaim what is certain. 10 Judah’s leaders are like those who move boundary stones. I will pour out my wrath on them like a flood of water. 11 Ephraim is oppressed, trampled in judgment, intent on pursuing idols. 12 I am like a moth to Ephraim, like rot to the people of Judah. 13 “When Ephraim saw his sickness, and Judah his sores, then Ephraim turned to Assyria, and sent to the great king for help. But he is not able to cure you, not able to heal your sores. 14 For I will be like a lion to Ephraim, like a great lion to Judah. I will tear them to pieces and go away; I will carry them off, with no one to rescue them.

The setting has turned from a courtroom to a battlefield, as Benjamin is called to battle.

In this passage three consequences emerge from their rejection of Yahweh: (1) civil war with Judah (vv. 8ff; 5:8-6:6); (2) reliance upon international allies (v. 13) and (3) the chastening presence of God (vv. 14ff).

Notice first the certainly of this judgment upon Israel.  In verse 9 Hosea says, “I proclaim what is certain.”  It will definitely happen.

The war being presented in this passage was the Syro-Ephraimite war.  It was the war between Judah and Israel (with Syria as their ally).  It was the north against the south.

Image result for syro-ephraimite war

The Syro-Ephraimite War was a conflict that would be the catalyst for the prophesied scattering of Israel.  Choices made within the war led to the total destruction of Syria, the later fall of Israel, and to the subsequent captivity and deportation for most of Judah.

This war is spoken of in Isaiah 7:1-2…

1 When Ahaz son of Jotham, the son of Uzziah, was king of Judah, King Rezin of Aram and Pekah son of Remaliah king of Israel marched up to fight against Jerusalem, but they could not overpower it. 2 Now the house of David was told, “Aram has allied itself with Ephraim”; so the hearts of Ahaz and his people were shaken, as the trees of the forest are shaken by the wind.

Judah was one of the few states that retained her independence from a rapidly expanding Assyrian kingdom.

Pekah, king of Israel, and Rezin, king of Syria, endeavored to enlist Judah in a coalition to fight the Assyrians. When Ahaz, the king of Judah, refused to join their coalition, Pekah and Rezin combined their forces against Judah in an effort to replace Ahaz with a king more favorable to their cause.

Though often enemies, previous successful military coalitions between Syria, Israel, and Judah provided a powerful precedent for uniting against Assyria. Syria and Israel’s reaction to Judah’s refusal to join their coalition resulted in the Syro-Ephraimite War.  The downfall of these three countries stemmed from decisions made during this war.  Therefore, acknowledgement of this war is crucial to understanding the scattering and gathering of Israel.

Animosity between Syria, Israel, and Judah began before the death of Solomon and the separation of his kingdom (see 1 Kings 11:23–25; 1 Kings 12:4).  Solomon’s son Rehoboam became king of the Southern Kingdom of Judah while Jeraboam became king of the Northern Kingdom of Israel.  War quickly ensued between the two and Solomon’s vassal territories took the opportunity to establish independence.  The early kings of Israel and Judah were continually at war (see 1 Kings 14:30; 1 Kings 15:7, 16).

Many of the wars between Israel and Judah centered on their bordering territories—essentially the land of Benjamin.  Though Rehoboam’s successor, Abijam, at one point gained an upper hand, neither country gained clear lasting control over the area.  After King Baasha of Israel regained much of the land captured by Abijam, Asa, Abijam’s successor as king of Judah, removed the treasures from the temple.  He then gave them to Ben-Hadad I, the king of Syria, and entered into a treaty with him.  Ben-Hadad I accepted and then attacked Israel from the north.  The first coalition between these countries had favorable results. The attack diverted Israel’s attention from its conflict with Judah in the south to Damascus in the north giving Judah an opportunity to regain control over its borders.

Meanwhile to the east, Assyria was nearing the end of a century-long period of political and cultural stagnation.  Assyria began to expand under Adad-Nirari II and Ashurnarsipal II.  Recognizing this growing threat, many of the kingdoms within Lebanon, Palestine, and Syria formed a coalition to defend against Assyrian invasion.

Shalamasnesar III turned his forces to conquest in the West in 853 B.C. but was initially stymied at the Battle of QarQar.  Traditional enemies such as Ahab of Israel and Ben Hadad of Syria had become allies to resist the Assyrians.  It is also possible that Judah joined them.

After the death of Jeraboam II, king of Israel, in 746 B.C., the throne passed to five different kings within ten years. Jeraboam’s son, Zechariah, was killed by Shallum who was in turn murdered by Menahem.  Menahem gained stability and spared Israel from Assyrian conquest by voluntarily paying tribute and becoming a vassal state to Assyria.

In 737 B.C., Pekah, a captain in the Israelite army, usurped the throne of Pekiahah, who had inherited the throne of his father Menahem only months earlier.  Pekah distinguished his reign by rejecting Israelite vassalage to Assyria and joining with Syria in revolt.  They realized that individually or combined, neither of their countries had the military capability to successfully withstand the Assyrian army.  Thus, they sought to follow precedent in fighting Assyria by creating a coalition of nations.

Nearly all of the nations in the area sympathized with Syria and Israel’s views, since they also felt the yoke of Assyrian oppression.  Philistia and Edom both joined their effort.  Judah was the one essential nation that refused membership from the anti-Assyrian coalition.

The coalition apparently felt that to enlist Judah in their cause they would need to replace Judah’s king with a more cooperative ruler.  They chose the son of Tabeal, a member of Judah’s aristocracy who was governor of Gilead.  In Isaiah’s warning to Ahaz he explains Syria and Israel’s intention:

5 Aram, Ephraim and Remaliah’s son have plotted your ruin, saying, 6 “Let us invade Judah; let us tear it apart and divide it among ourselves, and make the son of Tabeel king over it.”

The coalition attacked Judah on three fronts.  Rezin and Pekah, along with the son of Tabeal, attacked northern Judah.  2 Chronicles 28:5, 6, 8 and 2 Kings 16:6 indicate that the casualties were substantial.

Rezin and Pekah then laid siege to Jerusalem. The Philistines and the Edomites, both traditional enemies of Judah, took advantage of Judah’s war in the north by attacking towns in the southeast and southwest.

Surrounded by enemy forces, Ahaz reacted by allying himself with Assyria. He took the silver and gold from the temple and the royal treasury and sent it to Tiglath-pileser with a pledge to serve him and a plea for his help against the coalition (2 Kings 16:7-8; 2 Chronicles 28:20-21).

In 733 B.C. the Assyrians sacked Damascus.  The Assyrians killed Rezin and deported many people from Damascus to Assyria.  In addition to taking Damascus, Tiglath-Pileser destroyed Rezin’s birth city, Hadara, and 520 other cities in the area making them “ like mounds after a flood.”  The independent kingdom of Syria was decimated.  The Assyrians provincialized Syria, splitting it into four provinces.  Damascus became a capital city of one of the provinces.

When Tiglath-Pileser attacked Israel he took much of its northern territory but did not proceed into the hill country and attack Samaria.

Hoshea offered tribute to Assyria and killed Pekah; thus Tiglath-Pileser recognized Hoshea as a cooperative ruler and officially accepted him as the king of Israel.

For its rebellion, Tiglath-Pileser deported many of Israel’s northern inhabitants and made provinces of Israel’s northern territory.

Not long after Tiglath-Pileser’s death in 727 B.C., Hoshea refused to pay his tribute. Shalamaneser V, Tiglath-Pileser’s son, rose up against Israel and imprisoned Hoshea.  He found that Hoshea had been in league with Egypt against Assyria.  For Hoshea’s defiance, Shalamaneser V began a three-year siege of Samaria (2 Kings 17).  In 722 B.C. his successor, Sargon II, completed the siege and deported its inhabitants.

Judah and Benjamin would be brought to their knees in 701 B.C. narrowly escaping, only to collapse a little more than a century later.

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Sennacherib’s Prism, , in which we find his account of his campaign into Judah.

Getting back to Hosea, we see in v. 8 that the danger is directed to three cities: Gibeah and Ramah in northern Judah and in Beth-aven (Bethel) in southern Israel.

The alarms were to be set off to warn of invaders, which seem to be from the south.  The enemy is portrayed as advancing along the main mountain road from Jerusalem through Bethel and thereafter into the heart of Ephraim.  Gibeah, only three miles north of Jerusalem, is the first to be attacked; then Ramah, five miles north of Jerusalem; and finally Bethel, eleven miles north of Jerusalem, on the northern border of Benjamin.

Allocations of the 12 tribes of Israel.

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Rather than leading Ephraim into battle, as the tribe of Benjamin did in Deborah’s day (Judg. 5:14), the invader would pursue Benjamin as it did Ephraim.

When the Lord rebuked Ephraim for his sins (v. 9), he would become desolate throughout his tribal territories.  The Lord promised that this would surely happen (cf. Lev. 26:32-35).  This desolation, although effected by Assyria, was directed by Yahweh, as verses 12 and 14 point out.

Judah is not spared.  Their leaders “are like those who move boundary stones.”  It was a reprehensible deed in ancient Israel to mess with people’s property lines (Deut. 19:14; 27:17).   Constable says: “Judah had re-annexed Benjamite territory, thus violating the terms of the Mosaic Covenant regarding tribal allotments (cf. Deut. 19:14; 27:17).

What the leaders were doing was “like” this sin.  The leaders of Judah had moved the boundaries between right and wrong, true and false religion, and the true God and idols.

Ephraim is again addressed in v. 11.  Two verbs express their judgment: “oppressed, trampled in judgment,” while the end of the verse again points out their sin…“intent on pursuing idols.”

Israel would be destroyed, as we saw in our history lesson, and disintegrated.  The silent, but certain effects of God’s judgment are appropriately compared to both moth and dry rot in v. 12, destroying the political fabric (stability) of the land, as seen in the quick succession of kings in the latter days of Israel.

The Queen Mary was the largest ship to cross the oceans when it was launched in 1936.  Through four decades and a World War she served until she was retired, anchored as a floating hotel and museum in Long Beach, California.

During the conversion, her three massive smokestacks were taken off to be scraped down and repainted.  But on the dock they crumbled.  Nothing was left of the 3/4 inch steel plate from which the stacks had been formed.  All that remained were more than thirty coasts of paint that had been applied over the years.  The steel had rusted away.

That is the process of sin.  Most of the time, we don’t even realize that what we are doing is heaping up judgment, or discipline until it actually happens.  In Screwtape Letters, C. S. Lewis has Screwtape telling his nephew Wormwood…

“Indeed the safest road to Hell is the gradual one–the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts…

Let that be a warning to us.  While we think we are getting away with sin, even little sins, there will come a point when God just discipline us.

Verse 13 identifies the signature sin of this section of Hosea—pursuing other nations for help in battle.  Its not that alliances are always inappropriate, in this case it revealed that neither Ephraim nor Judah was trusting in God’s help.  This is the opposite of the confidence in God expressed by the Psalmist (Psalm 20):

7 Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God.

Both Israel and Judah appealed to the king of Assyria for help, but he was unable to save them. King Ahaz of Judah did this (2 Kings 16:5-9), and so did King Menahem of Israel (2 Kings 15:19-20) and King Hoshea of Israel (cf. 2 Kings 17:3).  Rather than assisting, the Assyrians attacked both nations.

King Jareb (“The Avenging” or “The Great”) probably refers to Tiglath-Pileser III, with whom both Israel and Judah made alliances.

Honeycutt notes:

The implications are obvious: national character is more likely to produce stability than a foreign policy which flits from one another to another seeking international support (cf. Hos. 7:11).

Verse 14 adds another dimension to the judgment Yahweh would bring upon Israel.  Not only was there the slow, hidden, gradual process of destruction represented by the moth and dry rot, but there is also the ferocious and purposeful attack of a lion.

As a lion, He would tear them to pieces and carry them away in judgment, and there would be no one who could deliver them. Israel fell to the Assyrians, in 722 B.C., after two previous Assyrian invasions (in 743 and 734-32 B.C.). Judah escaped Assyria in 701 B.C., due to King Hezekiah’s trust in the Lord, but Babylonia finally fulfilled this prophecy to her in 586 B.C.




M’Cheyne Bible Reading Plan, April 1

Today’s Bible readings are from Leviticus 4, Psalm 1-2, Proverbs 19 and Colossians 2.

Leviticus 4 is about the sin offering (which stretches to 5:13).

DeCanio says…

It is important to recognize, as Lindsey (1985:180) points out, that although the sin offering and the guilt offering, subsequently discussed, are distinguishable, they clearly have some definite similarities.  This is especially the case with regards to their primary function as both can best be described as expiatory offerings.

Not all sins could be atoned for by means of a sin offering.  Only sins committed unintentionally (these could be sins of omission as well as sins of commission; see, for example, Num 15:22-23) could be atoned for with a sin offering.

The sin offering, however, did not cover were sins committed with a defiant attitude (see, for example, Num 15:30 which literally means “with a high hand”)—that is, sin with a purpose of being disobedient to God.

For such cases as these, no sin offering could be brought by an individual (Lindsey 1985:180).

The only hope for cleansing from such sins lay in the Day of Atonement ritual which provided yearly cleansing from “all their sins” (16:20), “so that they will be clean from all [their] sins” (16:30).

The sin offering, therefore, was applicable only for sin not done in a spirit of rebellion against Yahweh and His covenant stipulations, whether they were sins of ignorance (Lev. 4), sins without conscious intent (Lev. 5), or intentional but non-defiant sins (such as for manslaughter where the act is committed without premeditation).

The book of Psalms is the prayer book of Israel.  It is divided into five books.

Psalms 1 and 2 serve as introductions to the entire book of Psalms and Psalm 150 serves as a doxology for the entire book of Psalms.

Psalms 1-2 introduce the book’s main emphases:  the struggle to honor God and His greatness.  Psalm 1 contrasts the conduct and fate of the righteous and wicked.  The key difference is meditating on God’s law (1:3).  If we don’t meditate, we will naturally follow the way of the world (vv. 1-2).

What is meditation?  It is not the eastern concept of emptying one’s mind, but rather filling one’s mind with Scripture.  It represents a slow turning over and over of the Scripture in one’s mind, gazing at it from various angles, living with it, soaking in it.

We will only meditate on it if we love it.  Psalm 119:97: “Oh how I love your law! It is my meditation all the day.”

The wicked will never accept God’s sovereignty over their lives and will rebel (2:1-3).  God laughs at their feeble rebellion because He rules the earth and has established David’s throne forever.  Powerful earthly rulers come and go, God’s rule stands forever.  Thus, they should bow to David’s authority (2:10-12) and the ultimate “Anointed One,” Jesus Christ.

Proverbs 19 gives us some lessons about poverty and wealth:

1 Better is a poor person who walks in his integrity than one who is crooked in speech and is a fool.

Looks can be deceiving.  It is naturally assumed that a rich man is rich because of God’s favor and a poor man is poor because God is against him.  In reality, it is the integrity of the heart that makes a person really wealthy and blessed.

4 Wealth brings many new friends, but a poor man is deserted by his friend.

6 Many seek the favor of a generous man, and everyone is a friend to a man who gives gifts.  7 All a poor man’s brothers hate him; how much more do his friends go far from him! He pursues them with words, but does not have them.

This, again, is what naturally happens.  But of course, those “new friends” are there because of what they can gain, not give.  The proverb anticipates the Lord’s teaching to use of money to win friends and an eternal reward in the kingdom of God (Luke 18:1-9).

One of my favorite verses is 19:11

11 Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense.

There are some sins we can overlook (cf. 1 Peter 4:8), chalk them up to human error or common mistakes.  Those we cannot, however, still need to be forgiven and not held onto.  It is a glory to be a person who is not easily offended.

In Colossians 2 Paul warns the Colossians about man-made philosophies that would undermine the gospel.  All these philosophies are nothing compared to Christ.  He alone is sufficient for our salvation, sanctification and glorification.

  • In Him “are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (2:3)
  • “In him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily” (2:9)
  • “you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority” (2:10).
  • We have died to sin and been raised to life with Him (2:11-14).

6 Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, 7 rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.

Thomas Constable has these charts:

 The Christian’s Walk

“Walk … worthy of the Lord” (1:10) “Walk in Him” (2:6)
·      Bearing fruit (1:10) ·      Firmly rooted (2:7)
·      Growing like a tree (1:10) ·      Being built up like a building (2:7)
·      Gaining strength (1:11) ·      Established (2:7)
·      Giving thanks (1:12) ·      Giving thanks (2:7)

 Summary of the believer’s completeness in Christ in 2:11-15

·      The domination of our flesh has been broken. (2:11)
·      Our former manner of life has ended. (2:12a)
·      We have been raised from spiritual death. (2:12b)
·      We have been given new life. (2:13a)
·      Our transgressions have been forgiven. (2:13b)
·      Our debt to God has been paid. (2:14)
·      Our spiritual enemy has been defeated. (2:15)

Verses 16-23 indicate that they were trying to overcome the flesh through asceticism and through mysticism.  Neither are effective.

Constable summarizes:

Four harmful teaching emphases of these false teachers are still with us today. The first harmful teaching is “higher” knowledge (Gnosticism).  Some examples are: so called scientific, archaeological, or paleontological “facts” that contradict Scripture, so called revelations that claim to be on a par with Scripture, and teaching that directly contradicts biblical revelation.  The second harmful teaching is the observance of laws to win God’s love (legalism).  Some examples are: salvation by works, teaching that puts Christians under the Mosaic Law, and teaching that says sanctification comes by keeping man-made rules.

The third harmful teaching is the belief that beings other than Christ must mediate between people and God (mysticism).  Some examples are: teachings that certain beings (e.g., angels, “saints,” ancestors) or experiences (e.g., glossolalia, hearing voices) can improve our relationship with God.  The fourth harmful teaching is the practice of abstaining from things to earn merit with God (asceticism).  Some examples are: fasting to force God’s hand, living in isolation to avoid temptation, and self-mutilation to mortify the flesh.

Jesus is ALL WE NEED.

God Knows Your Faithlessness (Hosea 5:3-7)

In the passage we’re looking at today, Israel’s apostasy is described through five basic areas of conduct.

3 I know all about Ephraim; Israel is not hidden from me. Ephraim, you have now turned to prostitution; Israel is corrupt. 4 “Their deeds do not permit them to return to their God. A spirit of prostitution is in their heart; they do not acknowledge the LORD. 5 Israel’s arrogance testifies against them; the Israelites, even Ephraim, stumble in their sin; Judah also stumbles with them. 6 When they go with their flocks and herds to seek the LORD, they will not find him; he has withdrawn himself from them. 7 They are unfaithful to the LORD; they give birth to illegitimate children. When they celebrate their New Moon feasts, he will devour their fields.

Whereas God’s infinite and intimate knowledge of us is normally a comforting thought, here it is terrifying.  David, for example, exulted in God’s knowledge of him.  In Psalm 139:1-6 he says…

1 You have searched me, LORD, and you know me. 2 You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. 3 You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. 4 Before a word is on my tongue you, LORD, know it completely. 5 You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me. 6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain.

Thus, later David invites God’s all-seeing eye to peer into his heart, even to see the darkness within him…

23 Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. 24 See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.

Thus A. W. Tozer, in his little book The Knowledge of the Holy, says…

That God knows each person through and through can be a cause of shaking fear to the man that has something to hide – some unforsaken sin, some secret crime committed against man or God.  The unblessed soul may well tremble that God knows the flimsiness of every pretext and never accepts the poor excuses given for sinful conduct, since He knows perfectly the real reason for it.  “Thou hast set our iniquities before thee, our secret sins in the light of thy countenance.”  How frightful a thing to see the sons of Adam seeking to hide among the trees of another garden.  But where shall they hide?  “Whither shall I go from thy spirit? or whither shall I flee from thy presence?… If I say, Surely the darkness shall cover me; even the night shall be light about me.  Yea, the darkness hideth not from thee; but the night shineth as the day.”

On the other hand, Tozer goes on to point out the positive side of God’s complete knowledge of us…

And to us who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope that is set before us in the gospel, how unutterably sweet is the knowledge that our Heavenly Father knows us completely.  No talebearer can inform on us, no enemy can make an accusation stick; no forgotten skeleton can come tumbling out of some hidden closet to abash us and expose our past; no unsuspected weakness in our characters can come to light to turn God away from us, since He knew us utterly before we knew Him and called us to Himself in the full knowledge of everything that was against us.  “For the mountains shall depart, and the hills be removed; but my kindness shall not depart from thee, neither shall the covenant of my peace be removed, saith the Lord that hath mercy on thee.”

The idea of God knowing us and our deeds is carried into the final book of the New Testament, in Revelation 2-3 God says several times…I know you.

In Revelation 2 and 3, Jesus communicates individual messages to seven different churches. Each message begins with the same two words: “I know.”  He is the first and the last, the Amen, the holy and true one who walks among his churches, and he knows.

“I know where you dwell.”  Jesus described Pergamum as “where Satan’s throne is.” It’s hard to imagine how bad the situation in that city had to be to warrant such a diagnosis and yet, there were saints–men and women who were holding fast to Jesus’ name and refusing to deny his faith. Wherever you are today, Jesus knows.

“I know your works.”  Christians sprinkled throughout Asia were faithfully serving, toiling on, patiently enduring.  In the eyes of the world, they had “little power,” but Jesus would continue to set before them open doors of opportunity.  “Do not fear.”  “Hold fast.”  “Be faithful.”  “I am coming.”  Wherever you are serving today, Jesus knows.

“I know your love.” Some had abandoned the love they had at first.  Others were lukewarm. Some had the reputation of being alive, but they were dead.  Jesus spoke hard-to-hear, straightforward rebukes to many.  “Wake up.”  “You are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked.” “Repent.”  But notice the heart behind the rebukes: “Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline.”  However you have stumbled, Jesus continues to patiently stand at the door and graciously knock with love in his heart for you.

“I know.” Jesus knows how to grant me the right to the tree of life. Jesus knows how to clothe you in white garments, give you a new name, and confess you before his Father.  Jesus knows how to keep us from being hurt by the second death.

The emphasis in Hosea 5 is on God himself, “I, I have known…”  It is the plaintive cry of a husband, one who deeply and intimately knows his wife, and yet here he sees in her the black treacherous heart.  God’s knowledge is never perfunctory and cold, but deep and emotive.

Here God says, “I know all about Ephraim; Israel is not hidden from me.”  Nothing escapes God’s attention, no outward pieties can cover over the blackened hearts of unfaithful Israel.  His knowledge is all-comprehensive.  Hebrews 4:13 says,

13 Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.

Derek Kidner reminds us:

To Hosea, of all the prophets, this was crucial; and elsewhere in the Old Testament the deep thrust of God’s knowledge, however painful it may initially be, is seen as something to be welcomed, for it means that He knows the worst, and yet persists with us.

Yahweh knew Israel well; He had not been deceived and fallen into a trap, as the Israelites had.  Though they may no longer know God (v. 4), He knows them through and through.

Of course, Israel did not seem to even be trying to hide their harlotries anymore, practicing them on hills and under trees.

Ephraim, you have now turned to prostitution; Israel is corrupt.

Ever since Jeroboam I had installed calf-idols Dan and Bethel, the institutions of Israel had been guiding the people into apostasy and immorality, with the result that they had all become defiled—loathsome to God.

Instead of humbling themselves before Yahweh, they flaunted their worship of false gods.  Due to their spirit of whoredom, the Israelites are incapable of either knowing or pursuing their covenant partner.

Theologically speaking, this may be labeled “total depravity,” in the sense that no aspect of the people’s collective personality is untouched by the spirit of spiritual apostasy.  Their inner minds lead to visible deeds, which make impossible any sense of repentance or turning to God.  It is this state of reprobation that they cannot change and, apart from an act of providential grace on God’s part, can never change.  At this stage, no simple appeal to listen will be heard, for they cannot listen.  In other words, the call to hear in verse 1 stands as a rhetorical witness against the people.  Their inability to heed is part of the complex of hardened rebellion.  It is as if they were criminally insane, psychopaths with no conscience, unable to function normally.  It takes more than prophetic appeal to reason with such people.  Other measures are required to wake them from their deathly stupor.

That near impossibility of return is expressed in these words in Hosea 5:4

4 “Their deeds do not permit them to return to their God.  A spirit of prostitution is in their heart; they do not acknowledge the LORD.

The Bible hold two truths in tension, as it does so often.  First, that repentance is always a possibility, and second, that corruption can so enslave a soul that repentance becomes a practical impossibility.  This verse focuses on that latter truth.

This “spirit of prostitution” (idolatry) had been first mentioned back in chapter 4:12…

A spirit of prostitution leads them astray; they are unfaithful to their God.

Something deeper is going on than merely the acts of spiritual harlotry.  Their very hearts, their inner spirits, had been given over to evil spirits who prompted and promoted, biasing and inclining them to a worship loathsome to Yahweh.  They were so ensnared, so addicted to sin, that their hearts were taken over.

Yahweh had been forgotten (2:15); they are totally ignorant of Him; the idea of returning to Him no longer enters their minds.  It cannot.

The word Paul used to describe such a condition is “hardening”; and that is exactly what had happened to northern Israel and would in time happen to the southern Israel also.  It would happen again when Jesus came.  He was rejected by His own.

Speaking of Israel as it existed at this juncture, Smith wrote that, “According to Hosea, return for Israel is now no longer a human possibility.”  He also elaborated the basic reasons why this was true: (1) sin robs a man of his faculty for God and of the strength of will to obey God; (2) the whole fabric of the nation’s social, economic, political, and religious life was interwoven with the lustful indulgences of paganism; and (3) there was no longer any true knowledge of God among the people.  Without that knowledge, it was impossible to achieve either any communion with God or any kind of human conduct consistent with the terms of their ancient covenant with Jehovah.

That they were unfaithful to “their God” makes the sin all the more grievous.  It amplifies their ingratitude.  He, whom they would not turn to, still owned them.  He, upon whom they turned their backs, still was good to them.  But they acknowledged it not.

Albert Barnes notes:

They did not turn to God,

(1) because the evil spirit held them, and so long as they allowed his hold, they were filled with carnal thoughts which kept them back from God.

(2) they did not know God; so that, not knowing how good and how great a good He is in Himself, and how good to us, they had not even the desire to turn to Him, for love of Himself, yea even for love of themselves.  They saw not, that they lost a loving God.

And John Trapp sounds this warning:

That is, they are so habituated and hardened in sinful practices, that they are not only disenabled to conversion, but evil affected thereunto: they stand across to all good; to their sinews of iron they have added bows of brass, Isaiah 48:4; to their sin they add rebellion, which is as bad as witchcraft, 1 Samuel 15:23; till at length they lose all passive power also of being converted, and so are transformed, as it were, into so many devils: having by custom contracted a necessity of sinning, they are become incurable; they neither will nor can return to their God

We do well to ask ourselves, “What is the dynamic, energizing power of my life—the reality of God’s Spirit, or an alien spirit hostile to the purposes and knowledge of God?”

Verse 5 points out the primary reason that their hearts are unwilling to turn back to Yahweh.  In addition to the spiritual forces of wickedness, it is their pride.  Proverbs continually warns us that pride comes before the fall and this is what we see illustrated in Israel’s history in verse 5:

5 Israel’s arrogance testifies against them; the Israelites, even Ephraim, stumble in their sin; Judah also stumbles with them.

Pride is the sin; stumbling is the consequence.  Whether intellectual pride, moral pride, or spiritual pride, the results are the same.  Through pride, we think of ourselves as “god” rather than man and do not bow down to Him.

Stumbling here is serious, meaning that they fell.  Not only did the Northern Kingdom fall to Assyria in 722 B.C. but they influenced Judah to follow in their footsteps.  Judah last another 150 years, but eventually fell to Babylon in 586 B.C.  Although Hosea seems to hope that Judah will avoid destruction, he realizes that his hope is vain.  This passage anticipates Ezekiel 23.

Their pride will “testify against them” in the court of national opinion as they fall to rival powers.

O, Israel would still be religious.  Verse 6 says…

6 When they go with their flocks and herds to seek the LORD, they will not find him; he has withdrawn himself from them.

Amos 5:4-5 contrasts authentic turning to Yahweh with pilgrimages to shrines.  There is evidence that the people were very religious during this era.  But no matter how many sacrifices they made (Micah speaks of “thousands of rams…ten thousand rivers of oil,” 6:7)…no matter how much they made sacrifice, ostensibly to “seek the Lord,” He would not be found.  They were not sincere in their seeking.  They didn’t come to Yahweh repenting of their sins.

Israel was treating Yahweh like Baal, redoubling their efforts to bend his will to theirs.  Instead of contrite heart, they brought gifts to their gods.

David noted that God didn’t want this.  In Psalm 51:16-17…

16 You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. 17 My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise.

God had withdrawn from them, not in the sense C. S. Lewis spoke of, where God withdraws in sense so that we might learn to trust Him and obey Him without any overt evidences of Him in the universe.

God had withdrawn because…

7 They are unfaithful to the LORD; they give birth to illegitimate children. When they celebrate their New Moon feasts, he will devour their fields.

Israel was faithless, turning their backs upon Yahweh, who had been so good to them, to pursue the Baals.  They were acting treacherously.  Isaiah 24:16b says it this way:

“The treacherous betray! With treachery the treacherous betray!”

Ultimate betrayal and disloyalty is what they had shown Yahweh.

Honeycutt says…

The repudiation of covenant bonds is akin to the rejection of national loyalty, as in the case of treason.  Israel’s action, or our own, was treasonable to the extent that it represented a basic betrayal of loyalty and commitment.

Israel’s treachery resulted in her giving birth to illegitimate children.  The metaphor looks back to the prostitution that 5:3 mentions.  It also implies that the apostasy of the Israelite culture and their leaders had given rise to a generation that could more accurately be called children of Baal than children of Yahweh.  They were “not my people” but Baal’s.  The term “illegitimate” is literally “foreign,” which can refer to sexual liaison outside of marriage or, as in the English, another nation or culture.  Hosea seems to employ both senses.  They were children of apostasy/adultery, and they were children of foreign gods.

They no longer acted like children of Yahweh, so He make that formal—that they no longer belonged to Him.