Today is the end of our read through Hosea and we have seen before there are charges against Israel and Judah. Hosea focused on the nations social injustice and foreign alliances. Israel’s wicked behavior would lead nowhere, but they would continue to seek help from foreign nations like Assyria and Egypt. God will judge His people according to their deeds. Not only will the Lord judge Israel but He would judge Judah as well. Hosea would draw a life lesson from the life of Jacob, the father of the nation. Jacob was greedy, self reliant, and deceitful from birth. Even before he was born Jacob grabbed the heel of his brother, Esau. The climactic event in Jacob’s spiritual growth was his wrestling match with God the night before he was reunited with his brother. At that time Jacob acknowledged his dependence on the Lord, begged for divine favor, and received a blessing. The angel that Jacob wrestled with may well have been God Himself. It was after the wrestling match that the Lord changed Jacob’s name to Israel. Just as Jacob had come to his senses and recognized his dependence on God, so too Israel was to repent, return to the Lord, reestablish justice in society and wait on the Lord. The Lord admonished Israel to live no longer as Jacob did but instead return to God and act with love and justice.
The word Canaanite also means merchant and here it may be a reference to Israel’s dishonest economic activities, especially where weights and measures were concerned. During the reign of Jeroboam II Israelite merchants became fabulously wealthy and most of it had to do with faulty business practices. They used faulty scales, weighing heavy if the merchant was selling and weighing light if they were buying. Canaanite traders were notorious in the ancient world for their crafty dealings. Once again, the Israelites were imitating their pagan neighbors, both in religion and commerce. God threatened to make the people live in tents again. God’s judgement on the wealthy Israelite merchants was for them to return to the humble dwellings of Exodus. In the midst of all this there is hope. God’s plan of salvation for Israel would begin anew in the wilderness. Moses is referenced here because God had used
Him to bring Israel out of slavery in the land. And, Hosea contrasts Hosea and Moses. Moses was faithful and obedient but Israel was just the opposite. They were not faithful or obedient.
At the height of its power, Ephraim evoked terror among other Israelites. That sealed their destruction and Ephraim literally died. Because of their idolatry they had cut themselves off from the Lord who is the only true source of life. The Hebrew word translated idols here is the same one used of the golden calf in Exodus. Not only did they worship idols but they kissed them. Kissing idols was a part of the Canaanite religious rituals. They kissed the images as a sign of homage. God’s judgement on idolatrous Ephraim was that they would disappear, much like the early dew that burns off, chaff from a threshing floor that blows away, and smoke from a chimney. All these things are very much impermanent. Hosea also reminded the people that there is no other savior and because of that God expected the people’s undivided loyalty. The Lord had proven to the Israelites His loyalty during the Exodus and the wilderness wandering. Israel did not rely on the Lord for security. Instead they turned to their earthly kings, armies, and economic prosperity.
God had executed judgement on Israel through the Assyrian army, His instrument of punishment. The description of God’s attack speaks of the Assyrians cruelty to those they conquered. And instead of turning to the Lord for help, they had turned to Assyria at one time for help. But God is their only true helper. Israel’s sin had turned their helper into their destroyer. Next the Lord asked where Israel’s king was. The Israelites had relied on their armies and kings to save them rather than on the Lord, and now there was no one to save them. Israel had crowned her kings with out consulting the Lord and now He would take them away in anger. God had carefully stored up the record of Israel’s sin and guilt. She could not escape her punishment. Hosea even referred to Israel like a child in the womb who refuses to be born. Israel would rather stay in the womb rather than receive life from the Lord. The term here translated the grave, in Hebrew Sheol, refers to the realm of the dead. But the Lord is sovereign even over Sheol, and He could choose to redeem Israel if He wanted to. But the Lord would not take pity on the Israelites. The Lord even called upon death to punish them. In 722 B.C.Assyria captured the northern kingdom of Israel and her capital Samaria. Thousands died during the 3 year siege, and thousands more were sent into exile. All of this because they rebelled against God.
However, destruction was not God’s last word to His covenant people. Although judgement had to come, God’s healing, restoring grace is always more powerful than human sin. Verses 2-3 of chapter 14 are a prayer of confession to help his people return to the Lord. God’s prophets not only identified with God in His outrage over Israel’s rebellion, they also identified with the people in their broken condition. Hosea told the people they should throw themselves upon Gods mercy and grave, freely acknowledging their many sins. Once they had confessed their sins it was time to praise the Lord. But, God had made it very clear that He did not want sacrifices for their sins. This was not what God wanted. He wanted genuine repentance instead. The Israelites were to renounce their idols, foreign alliances, and their own military strength. And although they were God’s own children they had made themselves orphans because of their behavior. When they had sincerely and completely repented, they could again find mercy. Once that happened, God promised to heal His people. Healing by God is the only solution for the disease of sin, physical and spiritual.
Hosea goes on to describe the effects of God healing love on repentant Israel. God promised to provide the fertility that Israel had sought from the Baals. He promised to be like a refreshing dew. In the arid desert dew was a source of life giving moisture. Roots would grow deep with the blessings of the Lord. Further more, when Israeli lived in faithfulness to their covenant with the Lord they would be solid and stable like the majestic cedars in Lebanon. Being under the Lord’s shade was a place of safety and relief. Finally, Hosea exhorted Israel one last time to a stay away from idols. Israel’s life comes only from the Lord. He is the evergreen tree that always bears fruit. The final verse of the book commends Hosea’s words to wise and discerning believers of every generation.
In His Grip
Pastor Matt W