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. Their heart is false; now they must bear their guilt. The Lord will break down their altars and destroy their pillars.
Several chapters back in Genesis we read the story of the birth of Jacob and Esau. We heard God saying to Rebekah that Esau would serve Jacob, that Jacob would be the stronger and Esau would be the weaker. The reversal of the birth order would happen. This was a blessing upon Jacob that he would receive while still in the womb of his mother. What precipitated this blessing? Nothing but divine prerogative.
Then Jacob and Esau grew up and Jacob preyed on the weakness of his brother to get the birthright. Years later, Jacob lied to his father, pretended to be Esau, and managed to secure Isaac’s blessing and the conferral of the promises of Abraham to himself. And we are left thinking. Is God going to give him all these things and let him get away with all his deception and lies?
Then we see Jacob having to leave everything to leave home. A small setback because on the way God appears to him in a vision and encourages him and confirms the fact that he is the chosen one. Then he arrives and Rachel almost literally falls into his lap and he falls in love. Did God care about Jacob’s sin? Is he being rewarded for evil? Are there consequences for his sin? That’s what we find in the story today.
We look at our Western culture and we see the approval of sin that once was frowned upon. The sin was happening but it was more or less hidden. The culture decades ago, in general, said that what is happening today was immoral. And now they feel that they are throwing off the shackles of a backward and oppressive morality and are stepping into a more enlightened era. But is this true? Has culture evolved to a higher standard? No, that is foolishness.
The world has and always will be evil. The standards they live by, unless they coincide with God’s, are evil. And even living by God’s standards apart from faith in God is meaningless for it is only by faith that you can please God. Whether sin is practiced openly or in the closet, whether sin is given a month of national recognition or is still taboo to the culture matters little to the judge who sits on his throne and whose eye sees all.
Thankfully, for the child of God, he does not tread out his wrath on us, but he does discipline us as the unruly children that we are. Today we are going to see the Answer to Sin in verse 21-30 and the Blessing Amidst the Discipline in verses 31-35.
If we want to have a right view of holiness we must start with a right view of sin. Wrong views of holiness usually begin with wrong views of sin. Right knowledge of sin is at the root of the doctrine of salvation and its parts such as justification, regeneration, and sanctification. If you don’t know the nature and severity of the disease of your soul you can’t apply the correct remedy.
Rejoice not, O Israel! Exult not like the peoples; for you have played the whore, forsaking your God. You have loved a prostitute’s wages on all threshing floors. Threshing floor and wine vat shall not feed them, and the new wine shall fail them. 3 They shall not remain in the land of the Lord, but Ephraim shall return to Egypt, and they shall eat unclean food in Assyria. They shall not pour drink offerings of wine to the Lord, and their sacrifices shall not please him. It shall be like mourners’ bread to them; all who eat of it shall be defiled; for their bread shall be for their hunger only; it shall not come to the house of the Lord. What will you do on the day of the appointed festival, and on the day of the feast of the Lord? For behold, they are going away from destruction; but Egypt shall gather them; Memphis shall bury them. Nettles shall possess their precious things of silver; thorns shall be in their tents. The days of punishment have come; the days of recompense have come; Israel shall know it. The prophet is a fool; the man of the spirit is mad, because of your great iniquity and great hatred. The prophet is the watchman of Ephraim with my God; yet a fowler’s snare is on all his ways, and hatred in the house of his God. They have deeply corrupted themselves as in the days of Gibeah: he will remember their iniquity; he will punish their sins. 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. Ephraim’s glory shall fly away like a bird— no birth, no pregnancy, no conception! Even if they bring up children, I will bereave them till none is left. Woe to them when I depart from them! Ephraim, as I have seen, was like a young palm[a] planted in a meadow; but Ephraim must lead his children out to slaughter.[b] Give them, O Lord— what will you give? Give them a miscarrying womb and dry breasts. 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. 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. My God will reject them because they have not listened to him; they shall be wanderers among the nations.
What is love? How do you define love? If you were to ask most people it would have to do with feelings. The phrase “love is love” has been offered by our culture suggesting that feelings of affection toward anyone or anything is love. All of these feelings of affection are equally valid and good. One expression of affection is indistinguishable from another. Of course, this is complete nonsense because no one actually thinks or acts according to this idea. The world’s definition of love is completely meaningless and worthless.
Love is found in the God who is love. All other loves are subservient to his love and always reference back to His love. I would argue that everyone knows this and does this even though they cover the truth with a lie. God’s love is original and exhaustive and so if any other love exists it must reflect God’s love. It is unavoidable.
In our text today, we have the beginning of a love story between Jacob and Rachel. If it is truly love then we should see much of God’s love mingled in the affections and actions of these sinful people.
As we consider the story, we will reflect on the love of God and the love of people. In verses 1-8 we will look at the providence of God in the journey of Jacob to Haran. In 9-12, we have love at first sight as Jacob meets the lovely Rachel. Finally, in 13-20, we will see Jacob’s discipline for love and how Jacob is disciplined for love.
To advance the cause of scriptural holiness.
Every Christian who loves Christ and desires to advance the kingdom of God should work in holiness.
The Need for a Holy Life
Practical holiness and the desire to live a life consecrated to God is something that is missing in the lives of many professing Christians. Worldliness, politics, infighting, fear of man, etc. have eaten the heart of the Christian life. The standard of the Christian life is miserably low. In Titus 2:10 Paul, speaking to the Christian slaves says that ought to be, “showing all good faith, so that in everything they may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior.” Christians don’t get this. People complain about Christians being hypocritical or selfish or they are no different from non-Christians and that, in many places, is a fair assessment. But sanctification is as important as justification. Good and sound doctrine is useless unless it is accompanied by a holy life. We need a revival of scriptural holiness.
Hosea chapter 8 is like the chapters that have come before in that it describes both the sins of the people and the punishment that will come upon them. The badness of their sin is shown to them that they might see it, be repulsed, and repent. And the prediction of the consequences of their sin is likewise given by God so that they may see what awaits them, fear, and repent in order to avoid the destruction that awaits them. This had immediate implications upon the people that the prophet Hosea was raising the trumpet call to. Israel was on the verge of destruction and they were pretending all was okay. We live in a culture that has followed reprobate Israel. The accusations leveled at Israel could easily be taken up by God against us. We must pay attention and learn from these words or we may suffer the same end. I’ve followed the paragraph division in the ESV translation to help us break this chapter down so that we might digest these warnings and consequences. In verses 1-3, we find a false confidence in the people because it is in themselves. In 4-6, there is a description of more sin and we are hit with the question can Israel attain innocence? In verses 7-10 we find the imagery, which may be familiar to you, of sowing wind and reaping the whirlwind which is a description of the foolishness and consequence of sin. And finally, we will examine 11-14 where, above all these other sins, Israel has disregarded God’s word, his law, and treats it as a strange thing.
We have been navigating our way through the life of Jacob over the past few weeks. Before his birth, his mother was informed by God who Jacob would be. “Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples from within you shall be divided; the one shall be stronger than the other, the older shall serve the younger.” Jacob would receive from the hand of God blessing. This was a promise made by God. Like his father before him, Jacob would receive the promises and the blessings not because of who he was or because of his own works. These divine privileges would come to him because of God’s own will and plan. Grace is the unmerited favor of God. Jacob’s father was told flat out that he received because of the faith of Abraham. Jacob would be the recipient of God’s invading grace. Before Jacob was born we are told that he would receive more than what he deserved. As the second-born, he would not be entitled to the birthright or the blessings. As the second, his rightful place was to be subservient to his older brother. That is the natural order. That is the cultural expectation. The double portion should go to Esau. But God often does not conform to our expectations and will often challenge those expectations head-on. Jacob has lived up to his name. He took advantage of his brother’s weakness and convinced him to trade his birthright for a bowl of stew. He was willing to let his mother take a curse for him. He masqueraded as Esau to try and trick his father. He told bald-faced lies to his father. When asked directly if he was Esau he said, “I am.” His treachery would drive his brother to thoughts of murder. And now he is fleeing his home and leaving behind all that he had gained from his lies. What thoughts go through the mind of Jacob as he travels across the land of Canaan? Is he afraid? Is he angry? Does he doubt the promises of God are true? Is he thinking of God at all? The story before us is the beginning of Jacob’s journey in faith and it is quite the beginning. In the 10-12, we find the setting. Where is Jacob and what does he see? In the next section of the story, we hear God speak a message to Jacob that he needs to hear. And finally, we will see Jacob’s response to this momentous occasion.
While nearly all of Revelation concerns the Great Tribulation and the New Heavens and the New Earth, the most explicit text about the Millennial Kingdom is found here in Revelation 20. This must be the primary text for anyone studying the millennium. We also see the devastating depth of human depravity, as 1,000 years of Christ’s glorious reign have not persuaded the majority of the nations to repent and believe in the King.
Hebrews 10:24-25 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.