When Ephraim spoke, there was trembling; he was exalted in Israel, but he incurred guilt through Baal and died. 2 And now they sin more and more, and make for themselves metal images, idols skillfully made of their silver, all of them the work of craftsmen. It is said of them, “Those who offer human sacrifice kiss calves!” 3 Therefore they shall be like the morning mist or like the dew that goes early away, like the chaff that swirls from the threshing floor or like smoke from a window. 4 But I am the Lord your God from the land of Egypt; you know no God but me, and besides me there is no savior. 5 It was I who knew you in the wilderness, in the land of drought; 6 but when they had grazed,[a] they became full, they were filled, and their heart was lifted up; therefore they forgot me. 7 So I am to them like a lion; like a leopard I will lurk beside the way. 8 I will fall upon them like a bear robbed of her cubs; I will tear open their breast, and there I will devour them like a lion, as a wild beast would rip them open. 9 He destroys[b] you, O Israel, for you are against me, against your helper. 10 Where now is your king, to save you in all your cities? Where are all your rulers— those of whom you said, “Give me a king and princes”? 11 I gave you a king in my anger, and I took him away in my wrath. 12 The iniquity of Ephraim is bound up; his sin is kept in store. 13 The pangs of childbirth come for him, but he is an unwise son, for at the right time he does not present himself at the opening of the womb. 14 I shall ransom them from the power of Sheol; I shall redeem them from Death.[c] O Death, where are your plagues? O Sheol, where is your sting? Compassion is hidden from my eyes. 15 Though he may flourish among his brothers, the east wind, the wind of the Lord, shall come, rising from the wilderness, and his fountain shall dry up; his spring shall be parched; it shall strip his treasury of every precious thing. 16 [d] Samaria shall bear her guilt, because she has rebelled against her God; they shall fall by the sword; their little ones shall be dashed in pieces, and their pregnant women ripped open.
We’ve been in Hosea for a while now and it is easy to forget that Hosea is a man that has been called to preach to a bunch of stiff-necked, self-righteous, and just plain wicked people. They have heard the warnings of God and God has given them many prophets over the years. Can you imagine the task that Hosea has? Hosea has must call out these warnings to a people that have rejected God. One might be tempted to despair. Why keep calling out to these people when they are so far gone? Why have mercy on a people that are so wicked? Why would God rescue any of these people? It is tempting to look at our own nation and think: God, why would you save any of this? I’ve seen some give up on people and have grown calloused toward others. Those who call themselves Christians have labeled others as racists or phobics, etc and then write others off. As Christians, are we a people of no hope? Are we to look at others and say “there’s no hope,”? I think Hosea would say otherwise. He knew with God there is always hope. We saw in chapter 11 this growing idea of restoration and hope and it will continue until the end of the book. In chapter 12 we see Hosea explain the state of the nation and then he uses Jacob, the originator of the nation of Israel, as a hope restoring picture.
We finally made it to chapter 11. This chapter is like coming up for a breath of air when you’ve been under the water for a while. We have heard the repeated warnings. The descriptions of all the sins of the nation of Israel. And in this chapter, we have some good news. It’s like seeing the first rays of the morning light after a very dark night. The answer to all these problems all of this sin is on the horizon, but it is coming. In this passage, we have a verse that is quoted in the New Testament and so we must go there to see the significance of what Hosea is doing writing these words. So let’s dive in.
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.
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.
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.
“Those that are treacherous and deceitful in their dealings with God, and passionate and outrageous in their conduct towards men, will justly be made a derision to their neighbors, for they make themselves ridiculous.” Matthew Henry. This is a very true statement and one we must pay attention to. Now, we know that history is cyclical. It’s tempting to look at the state of our culture and nation and think that the end is near or that this is the worse it’s ever been. It might be the worse it’s been in our lifetime, but if we are careful students of history we know that things can get a whole lot worse. Some of the vile and horrific things that have occurred in the past would make our culture seem godly in comparison. It’s true. When we examine the nation of Israel at this time, we see a nation more depraved than our own. Now, do I believe our country has become more treacherous and deceitful in our dealings with God as of late? Yes, absolutely. Have we reached Israel’s level? No. We are nowhere near it. But passages like the one we have before us are a warning. They were a warning to the people of Israel and they are still a warning to us. If we continue down this path we will be made a derision to our neighbors and we will make ourselves ridiculous.
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.”
Hear this, O priests! Pay attention, O house of Israel! Give ear, O house of the king! For the judgment is for you; for you have been a snare at Mizpah and a net spread upon Tabor. And the revolters have gone deep into slaughter, but I will discipline all of them.
As we begin Hosea chapter 4, you’ll notice that we have moved into a new section of this book. We have left behind the drama that is Hosea’s life and move into the rest of the book which is the word of the Lord given through Hosea. The first three chapters described God’s view of Israel through a picture: the marriage of a man to an evil and unfaithful wife. Even the children that resulted were used by God as a visible demonstration of the peoples’ guilt and shame, but also of God’s amazing love. Starting in chapter four until the end, we have recorded God’s message, mainly to Israel, the northern tribes, but also to a lesser degree to Judah. Judah will be called to look at their own sin and take warning in light of the sin and impending judgment upon Israel. As we work our way through the rest of the book we will be confronted with the sinfulness and depravity of the people but we will hear also of God’s love for his people and his mercy as he calls his people to return to him, to leave their evil ways and to come back to him.