Hosea continues his message against the northern kingdom of Israel. They love wickedness, and they are unrepentant. But God’s overwhelming desire is to heal and restore Israel to her right relationship with Him. However,Israel was filled with liars, thieves, and bandits. They may have thought the Lord was unaware of their sins but He was watching them. Hardened sinners do not often consider that God will hold them accountable for their deeds. God saw every single thing the Israelites did. The background for verses 4-7 is the political turmoil of the northern kingdom. During a 20 year period from 752-732 B.C. four Israelite kings out of the last seven were assassinated. The dangerous, uncontrolled perpetrators of these crimes are described here. They were like a large bakers oven that has been heating up for several hours while the bread dough rises. By morning, the flaming fire within can be quite destructive. Hosea did not record the name of the king but most believe it was Hoshea, the northern kingdom’s last monarch. Kings were supposed to promote justice and be appalled by wickedness but Israel’s rulers approved of their people’s sins. Typically Hosea used the term adulterers to describe the people’s apostasy but here it refers to those who were disloyal to the king. The people kept killing their kings, one after another as they desperately attempted to save their nation from the invading Assyria army. The problem was, they were relying on their own plans and plots. They never even thought to cry out to the Lord, their only true source of help.
Instead of depending on the Lord for political stability Israel formed alliances with surrounding nations. The destructive outcome from this is compared to bread that has been placed over a fire and left unturned. That would mean the bread would burn on the bottom and be undone on the top. They were like a half baked bread and therefore worthless. Israel had relied on foreign nations rather than God for security and Hosea tells them they resemble silly, witless doves who had flown back and forth in a frenzy between Assyria and Egypt, the major powers of the day. They tried in vain to make treaties and alliances that would save their land. And their political involvement with foreign nations had greatly harmed their spiritual well being. Again Hosea used a picture for Israel. They were like an old man with grey hairs. Typically that happens gradually and Israel didn’t even realize their power was declining and their freedom slipping away. The Lord would be like a Fowler hunting birds. He would throw His net over the silly, witless Israel to punish them. You can almost hear the anguish in the Lord’s voice as He says “I wanted to redeem them, but they have told lies about me.” The Hebrew here is used to indicate paying a fee to bring back someone who was a slave. This is typically used when talking about the Lord rescuing Israel from slavery in Egypt.
What sorrow awaits those who have deserted me! This word was used at funerals to mourn the dead. Israel was as good as dead in God’s eyes because of their rebellion. If rebellion against a human king was a capital crime how much worse was rebellion against the Lord? Instead of coming to the Lord for help they sat around and cried. And they cut themselves. Self multinational was a vital part of Canaanite worship but it was prohibited in Israel. Think back to Elijah and the prophets of Baal who began to cut themselves when Baal would not answer them. The story is in 1 Kings 18:18-30. The Lord mourns that He had trained Israel and made them strong in terms of their armies, but now they could only plot evil against Him. Now they resembled a crooked bow, or loose bow. Neither of these could propel an arrow to any sort of target. This depicted the futility of Israel apart from the Lord. And to add insult to injury, the Egyptians to whom the Israelites had turned for help, would mock them and make fun of Israel.
Because of their disobedience and idolatry Israel would reap a whirlwind. Just as an eagle swiftly swoops down and snatches its prey, so Assyria would invade Israel and take its people into captivity. The alarm was sounded but it was way too late. The Assyrians were coming and God would use them to execute His judgement on the Israelites. No longer would God fight for them because they had broken the covenant. But now they were pleading with the Lord, telling Him He was their God. Still it was too late. God is the source of everything good but they had completely rejected Him. They appointed kings without consulting the Lord. They went from one king to the next, quickly disposing of them. This points us back to the previous chapter where we see that Israel had 7 kings in 20 years, 4 of whom were assassinated. All of this because they thought it might save them from the enemy. But in all of this they never once turned to the Lord. Instead they made gods out of silver, gold and wood. When Jeroboam became the first king of the northern kingdom he established places of worship in Dan and Bethel so the people wouldn’t have to travel to Jerusalem. At each site he made a golden calf for the people to worship. Now Hosea called for these handmade idols to be smashed to bits because they were not God. When Hosea proclaimed divine judgement the punishment fit the crime. Through their idolatry and political intrigue, the Israelites had planted the seeds of their own destruction. Morally speaking Israel had planted wind, symbolizing her moral bankruptcy, and they would reap a whirlwind symbolizing the coming judgement. Israel would be swallowed up into the Gentile, pagan world. This is a picture of the effects of Israel’s foreign alliances which drained the nation economically.
Israel was like a wild donkey. She had a free spirited attitude and a desire to live unrestrained by God’s standards. Hosea compared Israel’s worship of the Canaanite fertility gods to an animal in heat that was desperate to mate. Verse 10 sounds like good news. God would gather his people together. Normally this would be for deliverance but in this context God is gathering His people for judgement. Israel has built many altars but none of them were for worshiping the Lord. They were all for worshiping idols and false gods. Israel did not have an obedient lifestyle and in fact they treated God’s law as something strange and foreign to them. Any sacrifices they made to the Lord now He would not accept. Instead Hosea told the Israelites God would remember their iniquity and punish their sins and they would return to Egypt. Egypt symbolizes both exile and slavery. In truth they would be taken to Assyria. The purpose of this divine judgement was to restore Israel to the status they had when they came out of Egypt. This would allow them to have a new beginning once again. Verse 14 presents one more charge against the Israelites. They have forgotten their Maker and they have built temples for idol worship. We also get a glimpse of what may happen to the southern kingdom of Judah. They have fortified cities but they are trusting in them more than they are trusting in the Lord. Eventually God will send judgement on Judah as well. God’s judgement is often described as fire and Hosea promises that fire of judgement will fall on the cities and palaces of Judah. In 586 B.C. it does.
In His Grip
Pastor Matt W