‘Reflections’ on the Writing Prophets 15
H O S E A
Hosea 9:1 to 10:15
“Do not rejoice, O Israel, with joy like other peoples”. That is suggestive of the fact that there may well have been ‘mirth’, but it was not joyful. No real satisfaction to be gained. Why? Because there was no future benefit or purpose to be seen. Only more of the same, and at great cost. Both personal and corporate. Our text this week continues in the theme of reminding the people what they had done to incur the wrath of God. It is of great regret that, because we know the end of this story, we have to acknowledge the futility of appeals and warnings which were given to this northern kingdom. It would be uplifting if everything was put right and they all lived “happily ever after” wouldn’t it? So why are we given this account of God’s dealings with them, which, on the face of it, ended in failure. Well, there are at least two reasons. The first is to show that God is a promise keeper. The people were left in no doubt what the outcome would be if they did not heed the warnings. The second reason is that all who read this account will have no doubt about God’s character, and His requirement of those with whom He makes a covenant. What He opens, no-one shuts, and what He shuts no-one opens.
So we are the beneficiaries of Hosea’s prophetic pronouncements, and there is much for us to learn as a result. Whereas Hosea made a statement “You have played the harlot against your God”. We might read it as a negative commandment, as in “Do not play the harlot with your God”. Because the results of so doing are catastrophic. For these Israelites the pronouncement was “They shall not dwell in the LORD’s land, but Ephraim shall return to Egypt, and shall eat unclean things in Assyria”. There are three important observations to be made here. We do well to note them. First the designation that the ‘land’ is the LORD’s. It was then, it is today. That land was designated, by the LORD, to be inhabited by a people who would be ‘different’ to the inhabitants of the nations around them. When the “spirit of harlotry’' took hold of the people, they were behaving no differently to the nations around them, and lost their privilege of occupancy. Second the return to Egypt, is a not a geographical relocation, but a reference to a return to slavery from which God had rescued their forefathers centuries earlier. Third the eating of unclean things in Assyria relates to a very different lifestyle change. God had specified, among other things, the dietary ‘laws’ applying to Jews. The literal meaning of ‘unclean’ is (phonetic Heb ‘Tawmay’ ‘foul’ or ‘disgusting’) But with that also is the estrangement from the familiar rituals which were part and parcel of their daily living. The ‘religious’ elements of worship they had already abandoned anyway. So their lifestyle choice came at a very high cost, physically and socially.
Almost like ‘rubbing salt into the wound’ the question is posed “What will you do in the appointed day, and in the day of the feast of the LORD?” In our ‘christian mindset’, that may not register as important. But to the Israelites, even in their idolatry, and syncretism, the observance of the Sabbaths and Feast days was still part of their religious ritual. The same applies today even in the midst of a largely secular society which is Israel. The rituals of observance are important links to their heritage and culture. What did they say, or by their actions, think? “The prophet is a fool, the spiritual man is insane”. It is a truth that very often one does not appreciate what one has until it is lost, or taken away. The true value of their relationship with YHWH Elohim was unappreciated. May God grant that we do not take His presence among us so lightly.
There are so many lessons for us to learn from the attitudes of these people of the northern kingdom. We have the insight of history, which they did not have to the same degree. In spite of that, many of us still fail to grasp the message so clearly presented. God is not to be trifled with. “All their wickedness is in Gilgal, for there I hated them. Because of the evil of their deeds I will drive them from My house”. Gilgal was a worship centre of their idolatry. (Note for today:- Not all idols are made of wood and stone. Selah! An “Idol” is defined as ‘an object of extreme devotion’, ‘ a representation or symbol of an object of worship’, ‘a false conception’, or ‘a false god’.) And God has the same attitude and reaction to idolatry today as He did in the days of Hosea.
Look at some more of the similes God used to show them what was before them as a result of their idolatrous ways.
Chapter 10:3,4. “We have no king because we did not fear the LORD”. All of their kings were ‘bad kings’. When the blind lead the blind, they all end up in the ditch Yeshua said in Mathew 15.
Chapter 10: 5,6. “because of the calf of Beth Aven”. Right at the beginning of their ‘independence’, they had worshipped the golden calves at Bethel and Dan. Take them with you into the coming Assyrian captivity as a gift to their king. Do not leave your emblems of idolatry in My land.
Chapter 10: 11. “Ephraim is a trained heifer that loves to thresh grain”. Then “I will make Ephraim pull a plow”. The first was unmuzzled and was free to eat while it worked. The second was harnessed and had to wait to be fed.
Chapter 10:13,14. “Because you trusted in your own way, in the multitude of your mighty men. Therefore tumult shall arise among your people”.
The descriptions in the text of our Bible are not recognised today because times and methods have changed. The message has not.