Hosea

Hosea 14 Restored To Bear Fruit.

Throughout this prophetic work has been the constant refrain of covenant lawsuit judgment upon leaders and people who have rebelled against their covenant LORD. In this concluding chapter the call is to repent, to return to the LORD their God. Again, the reason being that they had stumbled because of their iniquity. To this end he told them to “take words” when they turned to the LORD in prayer (v. 2a). It was very important for them, and for all the people of the LORD throughout the ages, to pray the scriptures, for in so doing we are expressing our desire to pray about those things which the LORD has deemed important enough to reveal to us.

First and foremost they (and we) needed to acknowledge their sin-“Take away all our sin.” Note well, not just some sins, but “all our sin.” Secondly, we must acknowledge that we need to be received “graciously” (v. 2b Cf. 12:6; Joel 2:13). We cannot be received, not even with confession of sin, unless it is by His grace toward us. Only then can we “offer the sacrifices (or fruit) of our lips” (v. 2c Cf. 6:6; Ps. 51:16-17; Heb. 13:15). All good works are only those born from grace. The specific sins which they had to renounce were, firstly, trusting in their own strength, and that accruing from pagan alliances (v. 3a Cf. 7:11; 10:13; 12:1).

Secondly, and closely associated with the former, must be the repudiation of their pagan man-made religions, manifested in the idols associated with them-monuments to their own foolish futility (v. 3b Cf. Ps. 33:17; 68:5). In being gracious to them, the LORD would heal their backsliding and “love them freely” (v. 4 Cf. Jer. 14:7; Eph. 1:6). The LORD’s blessing would be like morning dew, water for His people to be fruitful and deep rooted (vv. 5-7 Cf. Gen. 27:27; Job 29:19; Pss. 52:8; 128:3; Prov. 19:12; Is. 26:19; Dan. 4:12). Ephraim, the largest representative tribe in the nation, would abandon their idols and return to the LORD and be fruitful (v. 8 Cf. Jn. 15:4).

“Who is wise? Let him understand these things. Who is prudent? Let him know them. For the ways of the LORD are right, the righteous walk in them. But transgressors stumble in them” (v. 9 Cf. Ps. 111:7-8). “The way of the LORD is strength for the upright, but destruction will come to the workers of iniquity” (Prov. 10:29). It is only the unregenerate who object to the way of wisdom, which is ultimately the practical application of the law. What is a light to the righteous, is a stumbling block to the wicked. “Every morning He brings His justice to light; He never fails, but the unjust knows no shame” (Zeph. 3:5).

 

Hosea

Hosea 13 Ransom Is The Only Hope.

Ephraim, the largest of the northern tribes, exalted themselves, and as with all of sinful pride, they were brought low and died, like the Baals they worshipped-monuments to that sinful pride (v. 1). This progressed to “molded images” and “idols of silver…the work of craftsmen,” in other words, a man-made religion (v. 2). All non-biblical religion is man-made. It is all superficial, useless, and fleeting, like the morning dew, chaff from the threshing floor, in other words the waste that is left over after one has sifted out the good. It is also as fleeting as smoke, not the fire of true religion itself, but the pretentious claim to the same, and those who practice such are themselves as fleeting as the smoke, till no trace of them can be found (v. 3 Cf. Ps. 1:4; Is. 17:13; Dan. 2:35). Yet, the covenant LORD was their God, from the time the covenant was renewed with their forefathers delivered from Egypt. He was the only God they knew, the One who was their Saviour (v. 4 Cf. Is. 43:11; I Tim. 2:5).

The LORD knew them in the wilderness, “in the land of great drought” (v. 5), and He preserved them, but they forgot Him all the more (v. 6 Cf. Dt. 2:7; 8:12-15; 32:10-15; Jer. 5:6-7). For this abandonment of their covenant LORD, He would come upon them and devour them like a wild beast (vv. 7-8 Cf. 5:14; II Sam. 17:8; Prov. 17:12; Lam. 3:10). The whole purpose of this destruction was that they might realize that God would be their king, but instead they wanted a human king like all the pagan nations, so in anger He gave them a king and took him away in His wrath (vv. 9-11 Cf. Dt. 32:34-38; I Sam. 8:5-7; 10:17-24). They lacked wisdom in storing up their sin (vv. 12-13 Cf. Is. 13:8; Mic. 4:9-10). The covenant LORD alone can redeem a sinner from death by paying the ransom price, and in so doing, for the redeemed death is destroyed (v. 14 Cf. Jer. 15:6; I Cor. 15:54), which would take the blowing away of every man-made construct which they depended on and took pride in. Those who continued to rebel would, out of pride, die in their sin (vv. 15-16 Cf. Gen. 41:6; II Kgs. 15:16; 18:12; Jer. 4:11-12; Ezek. 17:10; 19:12).

Hosea

Hosea 12 The Prophets Bore Witness To The Covenantal Infidelity.

Ephraim, as has been noted, was the largest of the ten northern tribes, and by the continued reference to them, leads one to surmise that they also led the nation in wickedness. In pursuing the east wind we are told that they pursued influences from the east, i.e., paganism, which was fleeting, and as useless as the idols associated with it. In making a covenant with the Assyrians they were breaking the one they had with the LORD, and as a consequence the curses followed (v. 1 Cf. 8:7-9; II Kgs. 17:4; Job 15:1-6). This is the charge which the LORD brought against them and Judah also (v. 2 Cf. Mic. 6:2).

Jacob grasped his brother Esau’s heel coming out of the womb, and it was said that the older would serve the younger. He would also later wrestle with the Angel, a pre-incarnate appearing of the Messiah to come. He would also later have a vision of the heavenly throne room and angels descending and ascending a ladder to where he was, and for this reason that place was called Bethel-the house of God (vv. 3-4 Cf. Gen. 25:26; 28:12-19; 32:24-28; 35:9-15). The LORD God of hosts spoke to the patriarch at Bethel in the vision of the heavenly court as he sought the LORD’s favour.

Now was also a time when they ought to appeal to that “memorable name,” one that spoke to the covenant and the awesome power of their God ruling the whole earth (v. 5 Cf. Ex. 3:15). If they sought the LORD, waiting on their God continually, as Jacob did when He wrestled with the Angel, with true repentance seeking His help, they would then find “mercy and justice” (v. 6 Cf. 14:1; Mic. 6:8). Instead, like the cunning Canaanite, Ephraim and Israel were using unjust scales, so that one of the sins they had to repent of was cheating others in their commerce (vv. 7-8 Cf. 13:6; Ps. 62:10; Prov. 11:1; Amos 8:5; Mic. 6:11; Rev. 3:17).

For their sins they would again become wanderers in the wilderness, and be taken captive to serve another king (v. 9). It was not as though they were without a witness, for besides the law and the wisdom literature, they had the prophets, including Hosea himself (v. 10 Cf. II Kgs. 17:13; Jer. 7:25). It is also important to note that these prophets are referred to as witness bearers, for they were indeed witnesses to this covenant lawsuit which the LORD had against His people. In judgment their idols, which were but monuments to their own vanity, and their altars, would be destroyed (v. 11 Cf. 6:8; 9:5).

What Jacob had worked so hard for would quickly disappear (v. 12 Cf. Gen. 28:5; 29:20, 28; Dt. 26:5). Through the prophet Moses they were brought out of Egypt, “and by a prophet he was preserved” (v. 13 Cf. Ex. 12:50-51; 13:3; Ps. 77:20; Is. 63:11-12; Mic. 6:4, 16). So it was not only through a prophet that they were delivered, but it was also through a prophet that they were preserved. It was because they rejected the LORD, and the word of His prophets, that judgment was coming (v. 14 Cf. Ezek. 18:10-13). However, Moses also spoke of another prophet to come whom all must hear, even the Messiah (Dt. 18:15 Cf. Acts 3:22).

Hosea

Hosea 11 A Remnant Is Called.

The mercy and righteousness of 10:12 would ultimately only come to Israel through calling out of the house of bondage in Egypt, one who would be called God’s ‘Son,’ the LORD’s Messiah (v. 1 Cf. My. 2:15). It would be a deliverance based upon a renewal of the covenant (Ex. 4:22-24). However, of those who were called most turned to sacrificing to the Baals, “and burned incense to carved images” (v. 2 Cf. II Kgs. 17:13-15). It was the LORD who raised up the people from their infancy as individuals and as a nation, preserving and healing them along the way, “with gentle cords, with bands of love, but because they refused to repent, they would be taken captive by Assyria, whose king would be their king (vv. 3-5 Cf. Ex. 15:26; 16:32; Lev. 26:13; Dt. 1:31; 32:10-11; Ps. 78:25). They decided to follow their own counsels instead of the word of the LORD (v. 6).

They called on the LORD, but because their hearts were divided they were backsliding and did not exalt Him as LORD (v. 7, 12a; Jer. 3:6-7; 8:5). However, the thought of abandoning the totality of the nation was something which stirred up the LORD’s sympathy for a remnant. The nation may have forsaken the bond of the covenant, but the LORD could not nullify His promise to the seed in His own commitment to the covenant (vv. 8-9 Cf. Nu. 23:19-20). “Restoration, not destruction, is the goal of God’s judgment of His covenant people” (NGSB. p. 1376). The remnant would “walk after the LORD,” who would roar like a lion against their enemies, they would “come trembling from the west” (v. 10 (Cf. Is. 31:4; Joel 3:16), to once again dwell in their place in the promised land (v. 11 Cf. Ex. 28:25-26; 34:27-28; Is. 11:11; 60:8), Judah with “the Holy One who is faithful” (v. 12b).

Hosea

Hosea 10 Divided Hearts.

The more Israel prospered the more they gave themselves over to idolatry (v. 1), and because their hearts were divided they would be held guilty and their altars and pillars destroyed (v. 2). They mourned not having a king, but didn’t think that would make any difference anyway (v. 3). They swore the covenantal oath falsely, therefore their judgement would be like a harvest of hemlock (v. 4). They also mourned for their idol calf, because of their plight they assumed that its glory had departed from them (v. 5), and it would eventually be taken by King Jared of Assyria, to the shame of Ephraim (v. 6). Samaria’s king was also cut off, and their high places destroyed, the ground yielding only thorn and thistle (vv. 7-8). To remember the sins of the nation from the time of Gibeah was to remember the gang rape of the Levite’s concubine, and the war which followed (v. 9 Cf. Jud. 19-21).

When it was the LORD’s desire, He would chasten them “and bind them for their two transgressions” (v. 10), “swearing falsely in making a covenant,” and worshipping their idols instead of the one LORD their God (Cf. Jer. 2:13). They would be given over to forced labour because of their rebellion (v. 11). They needed to seek the LORD’s mercy, that He might rain down righteousness upon them (v. 12). They had plowed wickedness and reaped iniquity, eating the fruit of their lies, bearing false witness, trusting in themselves and their own ways (v. 13). Tumult was in their immediate future when their fortresses would be plundered, mothers dashing their children in pieces (v. 14). The place that was called Bethel, the house of God, would become the object of judgment for wickedness, and Israel’s king would be cut off, excommunicated from the covenant (v. 15).

Hosea

Hosea 9 Israel Abandoned.

There was nothing for Israel to rejoice about (v. 1 Cf. 10:5; Is. 22:12-13; Jer. 44:17). They would suffer loss of land and produce (vv. 2-4a Cf. 7:16; 8:13; Lev. 25:23; Jer. 2:7; 6:20; Ezek. 4:13). No more sacrifices would be made (v. 4b Cf. Amos 5:22), as they would be taken away captive (vv. 5-7a Cf. 10:8; Is. 5:6; 7:23; 10:3; Jer. 10:15; Mic. 7:4; Lk. 21:22). The people considered “the prophet is a fool, the spiritual man is insane,” and as a result the iniquity and enmity of the nation was great (v. 7b Cf. Lam. 2:14; Ezek. 13:3, 10; Mic. 2:11). Leaders and people together were corrupt (vv. 8-9 Cf. 10:9; Jer. 6:17; 31:6; Ezek. 3:17; 33:7).

Instead of being the firstfruits of the LORD’s planting (Cf. Ps. 106:28; Is. 28:4; Jer. 2:2; Mic. 7:1), “they became an abomination like the thing they loved” (v. 10 Cf. Nu. 25:3). The largest of the tribes of the north, Ephraim, would see their glory disappear-“no birth, no pregnancy, and no conception” (v. 11). They would also be bereaved of the children they had, as the LORD departed from them (vv. 12-14, 16 Cf. 5:11; 7:3; Dt. 31:17; Ezek. 26-28; Lk. 23:29). They would be driven from the presence of the LORD because of their rebellion, left to be wanderers (vv. 15, 17 Cf. Lev. 26:33; II Kgs. 17:20; 4:15; 5:2; 12:11; Is. 1:23; Zech. 10:6).

Hosea

Hosea 7:11-16 A Deceitful Bow.

Despite having a corrupt heart, exposed by the word of the prophet, Israel was like a silly bird just seeking some place to find refuge (v. 11), but like a bird they would be caught by a net (v. 12). They were destined for destruction for fleeing from the Most High, transgressing the law, and speaking lies about their covenant LORD. They may have spoken words to Him, along with their religious exercises, but their hearts were not with Him (v. 14). He sought to discipline them as His children, but in their hearts they devised evil against Him. Rather than repent from the heart, turning from their wicked ways, their words became words of cursing, as they bore false witness concerning the LORD (v. 15). They became like a bow that could not shoot straight, not to be trusted (v. 16).

Hosea

Hosea 7:1-10 Heart Disease.

Just when it appeared that Israel might be healed, more sin is uncovered, that of fraud and robbery (v. 1 Cf. 5:1; Ezek. 23:4). Sinful humanity is very skilled in self-deception, not knowing what it is in our own hearts, things open before the LORD, wicked deeds (v. 2 Cf. 8:3; 9:9; Jer. 14:10; 17:1; Amos 8:7). These were deeds and lies that pleased their pagan political leaders, but were a breaking of God’s law (v. 3 Cf. Mic. 7:3; Rom. 1:32). Their hearts, their core itself, was corrupt, stoking their sin like a hot oven, devouring their judges who might have warned them from the word, of their critical condition, both people and leaders (vv. 4-7 Cf. Is. 64:7). “A royal celebration became an occasion for drunkenness, which in turn fuelled wickedness (1 Kin. 16:9, 10; Prov. 31:4, 5; Amos 6:5)” (NGSB. p. 1369). Ephraim broke covenant, and joined with pagans who drained them of their strength (vv. 8-9 Cf. 8:7; Ps. 106:35; Is. 1:7; 42:25). “Israel is compared to a useless half-baked cake because she refused to turn to the LORD” (Ibid. 1369). Pride kept them from true repentance (v. 10 Cf. 5:5; Is. 9:13).

Hosea

Hosea 6:4-11 Hewing Words.

Even Judah’s faithfulness was fleeting. Both Israel and Judah are torn apart by the LORD’s word from the prophets, which is light shining in a dark place (v. 4). Mercy and a knowledge of God are more important than religious activities of sacrifice and burnt offerings. It is always the way with sinful humanity to try and place God in a box of religious exercises, while greed, oppression, and injustice reigns. This is one reason why some people are opposed to the word of the prophets, not just for personal sin, but from corporate irresponsibility (vv. 5-6 Cf. Is. 1:12-13; Jer. 23:29; Mic. 6:6-8; Mt. 9:13; 12:7). This is sinful humanity trapped in the sin of Adam’s revolt in the covenant of creation (v. 7). This rebellion is treachery. These were persons who never were real members in the covenant of grace. They were evildoers, guilty of bloodshed and robbery, including the priests, so that leaders and people were together lewd, defiled, and guilty of harlotry or spiritual idolatry (vv. 8-10 Cf. 2:10; 4:2; 5:1; 10:11; Cf. Jer. 7:9-10; Ezek. 22:9; 23:27). Those trapped in the rebellion of that first covenant would be opposed by a faithful remnant of the covenant of grace, in a harvest of judgment to come (v. 11 Cf. Jer. 51:33; Joel 3:13; Mt. 13:39-43).

Hosea

Hosea 6:1-3 Repentance, Revival, And Living For The LORD.

Once again the LORD issues a call to repentance through Hosea, but Hosea says “let us” so that he joins with them urging them to join with him in the return (v. 1a Cf. Is. 1:18; Acts 10:43). There is a double edge reason for returning-the first is the acknowledgement that it was the LORD who had “torn” them through various means, but secondly, that this same LORD would heal them if they repented of their sin, returning to Him (v. 1b Cf. 5:14-15; Dt. 32:39). If they truely repented, turning from their sin, then after two days there would be revival, and on the third day they would rise, and all this for the purpose that ultimately they would “live in His sight” (v. 2).*

Again, he joins with his audience and urges them to join with him in pursuing “the knowledge of the LORD” (v. 3a Cf. Is. 54:13). This knowledge had gone forth or “established” to humanity from the beginning, dawn or “morning” of history (v. 3b Cf. II Sam. 23:4). This blessing of repentance and the consequent revival, and the raising up of His people to live in His sight, would be like “the latter and former rain to the earth” (v. 3c Cf. Ps. 72:6; Joel 2:23; Job 29:23). Even so today, we need a call to repentance because of sin, that among the nations of the world the true people of God, the remnant, would come to repentance, be revived, and rise up to live before the LORD.

* “This may simply denote a short period of time. Some, who view this as a prediction of Christ’s resurrection, understand Paul to allude to this verse in 1 Cor. 15:4 (Cf. Lk. 24:46; Acts 10:40)” (NGSB. p. 1368).