Category Archives: Hosea

Hosea 13 & 14 – Our Ultimate Salvation: God Will Deliver Us From Death

These last two chapters of Hosea are more of the same, but with a verse that seems to come out of nowhere, and that expresses something I’m pretty sure we haven’t seen yet to this point. For the first 13 verses of chapter 13 the Lord again recounts Israel’s sin and coming judgment, then this incongruous verse:

14 “I will deliver this people from the power of the grave;
    I will redeem them from death.
Where, O death, are your plagues?
    Where, O grave, is your destruction?

Then right back to judgment, “I will have no compassion . . . ” Actually, I was mistaken. I went back and looked at all the references in the prophets and the Psalms, and there is one that comes from the same time of Hosea in Isaiah 25. Our ultimate salvation is victory over death itself:

On this mountain the Lord Almighty will prepare
    a feast of rich food for all peoples,
a banquet of aged wine—
    the best of meats and the finest of wines.
On this mountain he will destroy
    the shroud that enfolds all peoples,
the sheet that covers all nations;
    he will swallow up death forever.
The Sovereign Lord will wipe away the tears
    from all faces;
he will remove his people’s disgrace
    from all the earth.
The Lord has spoken.

In that day they will say,

“Surely this is our God;
    we trusted in him, and he saved us.
This is the Lord, we trusted in him;
    let us rejoice and be glad in his salvation.”

And Paul quotes these two verses together in I Cor. 15:

54 When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.”

55 “Where, O death, is your victory?
    Where, O death, is your sting?”

56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Sometimes (all the time?) this is hard to believe when we have to actually go through death, experience its horror, its ugliness, its loneliness, its uncertainty, to achieve this victory over death God promises us. But we hold firm, nonetheless, because of what Paul is defending in this chapter, the resurrection. Jesus, who himself had to go through death, and a more horrible death than any of us will ever face, to experience his own resurrection. Thank God that, as Luke tells us at the beginning of Acts:

After his suffering, he presented himself to them and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God.

He gave them “proofs” so they, and we, could know what our own resurrection bodies would be like, that we too will one day be “alive” like him.

Then chapter 14 in contrast to 13 ends the book with hope, and the Lord having mercy on them, healing “their waywardness.” They will no longer worship objects their hand have made, and the true and living God will make them fruitful. The book ends with a verse that speaks to the offense of the gospel Paul writes about elsewhere in Corinthians. I will first quote from Hosea, and then Paul:

Who is wise? Let them realize these things.
    Who is discerning? Let them understand.
The ways of the Lord are right;
    the righteous walk in them,
    but the rebellious stumble in them.

And Paul:

but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles,

And I remembered Peter quoting the Psalms:

and, “A stone that causes people to stumble and a rock that makes them fall.” They stumble because they disobey the message–which is also what they were destined for.

So this theme of God’s grace and mercy being a stumbling block is a theme in Scripture. Sinful human nature wants to depend on its own righteousness, even though it has none. It wants to justify itself based on the law, and thus put God in its debt. Doesn’t work that way. All we can do, like the tax collector, is beat our breast, not even look up to heaven and ask, “God, have mercy on me, a sinner.”

 

 

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Hosea 11 & 12 – God’s Promises His People’s Hope

In chapter 11 the Lord expresses his love for Israel, and how out of Egypt he called his son. Then chapter 12, right back to another recitation of Israel’s sin. He says in the former that even though they rejected him and worshiped false gods he loved them anyway. And think about it. If Moses lived around 1500 to 1400 BC, and we’re now in the 700s BC, by any measure that can be described as patience. But that will not last forever, and the Assyrians will bring God’s judgment for their continual sin.

Then we see what looks like a prophecy of coming mercy and grace:

“How can I give you up, Ephraim?
    How can I hand you over, Israel?
How can I treat you like Admah?
    How can I make you like Zeboyim?
My heart is changed within me;
    all my compassion is aroused.
I will not carry out my fierce anger,
    nor will I devastate Ephraim again.
For I am God, and not a man—
    the Holy One among you.
    I will not come against their cities.

The prophecy is that they will come back from exile and live in their homes again, which happens, but the Lord then says he will not carry out his fierce anger and devastate Ephraim again. That happened in AD 70 when Rome destroyed Jerusalem. So this obviously points beyond national Israel. Only in Christ could God’s anger and wrath be appeased, or as Paul says, propitiated. And in verse 10 he says “his children will come trembling from the west.” But that makes no sense because Assyria where they will go is east of Israel. So clearly this points to something bigger.

We see more history recounted in chapter 12, but Israel took God’s blessing to be something it was not:

Ephraim has said, “Ah, but I am rich;
    I have found wealth for myself;
in all my labors they cannot find in me iniquity or sin.”

Yet in recounting Israel’s sin with no transition at all God declares his mercy:

I am the Lord your God
    from the land of Egypt;
I will again make you dwell in tents,
    as in the days of the appointed feast.

The message? Judgment for sin must come, but God’s plans for his people, his covenant promise of blessing (Genesis 12 and 15, among others) will be fulfilled. This is why we always look back, always recount God’s promises, his faithful action on behalf of his people. Specifically what he did for us in Christ. Our sin was judged in him, our past, present, and future sins, and the promised blessing we see given to Israel over and over again, is also found in Christ. He alone is our hope. Amen!

Hosea 10 – Israel Reflects the Human Heart’s “Idol Factory”

We see in this chapter that the heart of Israel’s sin is religious. It’s not that the Israelites do bad stuff, and they do plenty as we’ve seen, but they do it because they worship false gods. They look for their guidance and fulfillment in something other than Yahweh.

Israel was a spreading vine;
    he brought forth fruit for himself.
As his fruit increased,
    he built more altars;
as his land prospered,
    he adorned his sacred stones.
Their heart is deceitful,
    and now they must bear their guilt.
The Lord will demolish their altars
    and destroy their sacred stones.

The altars and sacred stones were all to false gods. The Lord brought them into a land flowing with milk and honey, and told them to push out the heathens lest they be ensnared by their (false) gods. They didn’t obey him in this, and ended up completely embracing a religion of lies. Their lives and society reflect what happens when people exchange the truth of God for a lie. A sort of humorous example is seen by this verse:

They make many promises,
    take false oaths
    and make agreements;
therefore lawsuits spring up
    like poisonous weeds in a plowed field.

Kinda sounds familiar. When integrity is thrown to the wind there can be no trust. We read of a “calf-idol” in the following verse, “wooden idols” in the next, and “high places of wickedness” after that. Hosea then says, “it is the sin of Israel,” this idolatry, this worship of false gods, this spurning of the Lord their God who brought them out of slavery in Egypt. For what? To prostitute themselves to other gods? As Calvin said, by nature the human heart is an idol factory. Israel is a 1500 year object lesson in this reality.

They are told what they should do:

12 Sow righteousness for yourselves,
    reap the fruit of unfailing love,
and break up your unplowed ground;
    for it is time to seek the Lord,
until he comes
    and showers his righteousness on you.

They just can’t or won’t do it, and don’t. The reason is a couple verses later, that they Have depended on their own strength, and on their many warriors. Self-sufficiency is ultimately death. But how can they be implored to “sow righteousness,” and at the same time God promises to shower “his righteousness” on them. I guess this could be interpreted as reaping and sowing, doing good and getting good, or God’s blessing in return. We live in a cause and effect universe, and true righteousness will result in unfailing love. In other words, true righteousness doesn’t turn into legalistic pride, but an orientation toward others, and rightly ordered passions.

But I prefer to see the gospel here because as Jesus said, the whole OT points to him. Paul gives us a hint at how this can be seen when he tells us a “righteousness from God” has been revealed, and is available through faith in Christ to all who believe. The contrast is stark. Either we trust in our own strength, our own ability to keep the law, or on an alien righteousness, one not of our own effort. The Lord himself came, in Christ, and he has and does shower his very own righteousness on us. 

 

Hosea 9 – Israel’s Punishment is Ours Without Christ

Hosea 9 is more of the same. Because of their unfaithfulness to Yahweh, they will be taken away and the land become desolate. It got so bad that here is what happens to God’s messengers:

Because your sins are so many
    and your hostility so great,
the prophet is considered a fool,
    the inspired man a maniac.

As I’ve said, being a prophet in ancient Israel was a tough job. It almost cost Jeremiah his life, several times. But that’s how upside down a people’s perceptions and judgments can become when they reject the source of all life, the Creator who not only made them, but determines by his very nature what is and is not, what is right and wrong, what is good and evil. Paul tells us in Romans 1 what happens when people spurn the knowledge of God:

28 Since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done. . . . 32 Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.

They cheer those who do evil, and mock those who do good, especially those who have the temerity to proclaim the name of the Lord. Look at the upper reaches of secular American culture in the 21st Century. Those of the household of faith are mocked at best, and can be put in jail and their lives ruined if they don’t toe the secularist line, especially in matters of sexual morality.

The final verse of the chapter is specifically written to the people of Israel, but as Paul indicates this applies to all who reject God:

17 My God will reject them
    because they have not obeyed him;
    they will be wanderers among the nations.

God has to reject everyone because, “There is no one righteous, not even one.” By nature not only do we not obey God, we don’t even want to! Ironically, we think obeying God by being “good” is no big deal, and that God should accept us. But the more we rely on the law to try to curry favor with God, the more we heap up our own condemnation. No, the answer to acceptance before God is not obedience because perfect obedience is impossible for sinners; Christ is the answer. Paul tells us this explicitly in that same chapter :

21 But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. 22 This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. 

If we are willing to clothe ourselves in Christ’s righteousness we don’t have to be wanderers wondering what the heck life is about (stuck with just puzzle pieces and no puzzle), or wanderers wondering if God accepts us or not. We simply believe and trust that “the righteousness of God” is ours. Thus we have peace with God depending on what he did for us in Christ, and not on anything we do or don’t do, can’t or can’t do, could or couldn’t do, would or wouldn’t do, should or shouldn’t do. Period.

Hosea 8 – Those Who Sow the Wind Will Reap the Whirlwind

In chapter 8 we read the following words that speak to the utter futility of the idolatry Israel continues to commit:

“They sow the wind
    and reap the whirlwind.
The stalk has no head;
    it will produce no flour.

In the previous verses the Lord tells them that the idols they make of silver and gold will only lead to their destruction. He has to tell them, as he has over and over and over again, that something a craftsman has made “is not a God.” Duh!

How can something that human hands make transcend those hands and be worthy of worship and supplication. It makes no sense! But human beings do it all the time. Our idols today are much more slick and enticing, and of course we don’t call them idols, so it’s much easier to worship them without feeling like a religious fool. Nonetheless, these idols (wealth, money, fame, power, sex, sports, thrills, entertainment, hobbies, career, another person, etc.) are as empty as planting wind, and in due course all we’ll get is a whirlwind of destruction.

Prior to these verses the Lord says:

Israel cries out to me,
    ‘Our God, we acknowledge you!’

And this is followed by a “But.” They talk a good game, but their lives are idolatry in action. Later verses in the chapter confirm this:

11 “Though Ephraim built many altars for sin offerings,
    these have become altars for sinning.

The name Ephraim is basically another name for Israel. The people go through the religious motions, but instead of truly being repentant for their sin, they use the altars to seek foreign gods. The next verse tells us why:

12 I wrote for them the many things of my law,
    but they regarded them as something foreign.

The true people of God yearn for God’s law, for his words. Their lives reflect what the Lord commanded back in Deuteronomy 11:

18 Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads.19 Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. 20 Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates,21 so that your days and the days of your children may be many in the land the Lord swore to give your ancestors, as many as the days that the heavens are above the earth.

Unfortunately Israel (and Judah) did not do this, but did what the Lord warned against in the same chapter:

16 Be careful, or you will be enticed to turn away and worship other gods and bow down to them. 17 Then the Lord’s anger will burn against you . . . 

They can’t say they were not warned. Life, abundant life, as Jesus promised, is in the words of the living God. We seek and know him through those words because, “In the beginning was the Word . . . “

Hosea 7 – They do not cry out to me from their hearts, but wail on their beds.

In this chapter we find a theme that is common in Isaiah, Israel seeking the help of Egypt and Assyria, instead of the Lord their God. And again we find a litany of Israel’s sins, seemingly ad infinitum, and definitely ad nauseam. One verse stands out to me among the litany:

14 They do not cry out to me from their hearts
    but wail on their beds.
They slash themselves, appealing to their gods
    for grain and new wine,
    but they turn away from me.

Instead of calling out to God in their need, which they obviously realize, they complain. Instead of turning to God in humility, they go through radical religious ululations to their (false) gods. The phrase “They slash themselves” in some Hebrew manuscripts and the Septuagint could simply mean “They gather together,” but the sense is definitely of their imploring these (false) gods earnestly.

You have to wonder how ignorant these people have to be to think that they could find help or satisfaction from these (false) gods rather than the true and living Creator God of their fathers. I have to believe they don’t know anything about this true God. How could they if they think these (false) gods more powerful. Do they know nothing of their history? Do they think these prophets are just liars? Or maybe they do know, but just refuse their God:

15 I trained them and strengthened their arms,
    but they plot evil against me.

Again the thought comes to me, how pathetic it is that a people would write a book about themselves and their great religion, and cast themselves in such a pathetically horrible light. It’s as if the metanarrative, the big picture story, is that you guys have a very serious problem and no solution for it. The solution seems to be, obey, live a life that honors God, seek him, return to him, but they can’t do it.

This is why the OT ends and the Jews must wonder, that’s it? The story is finished? What about God’s promises of salvation? I suspect that the most pious Jews (well, it’s a human nature thing) think this salvation is in obedience to the law. But the 1500 plus year message of the Jewish people is, they can’t do it! Even worse, they, we, don’t want to do it! We need a radical relational reversal, as I’ve come to call it, from God’s side. From him being our judge, jury, and executioner, to our Father.

There are 186 instances of the word “father” in the OT, and only two of these instances refer to God. One in Psalm 89 is clearly Messianic in context:

26 He will call out to me, ‘You are my Father,
    my God, the Rock my Savior.’

The “He” is the one who will sit on the throne of David and rule forever, and thus not to us. And the other is Isaiah 9:6, where the child is to be born will be called, “Everlasting Father.” Yet God planned all along that he would to us one day become Abba, Father. John tells us in the first chapter of his gospel:

12 Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— 13 children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.

And Paul in Romans 8:

The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.”

How incredibly thrilling is this! It is our right having been legally adopted in the perfect justice of God that he is now our daddy. From Strong’s:

5 Abbá – “Father,” also used as the term of tender endearment by a beloved child – i.e. in an affectionate, dependent relationship with their father; “daddy,” “papa.”

So it is clear to me that the message of Israel’s history is that living according to the law can never change the nature of the relationship to our holy, Creator God. This is all made abundantly clear by the NT. God grants to us what is required, perfect righteousness (apart from the law), and he himself accomplishes this for us. Apart from humbly accepting his gift of his own righteousness, we are stuck with trying to live up to an impossible standard, knowing we can’t, but deluding ourselves in thinking we can. Then we think God owes us, captured perfectly in the verse (14) above. That’s a sad treadmill to live on, and the gospel is the answer to get us off. Amen!

Hosea 6 – God Will Restore His People, But Not Through Religious Ritual

Chapter 6 starts with what appears to be Hosea imploring the people to return to the Lord, although some commentators think it’s the people of Israel themselves. Then we read these words:

After two days he will revive us;
    on the third day he will restore us,
    that we may live in his presence.

Some commentators think this refers to the resurrection, and others do not because using numbers of days like this could be trope (a figurative or metaphorical use of a word or expression) to express a short passage of time, as we see elsewhere in the OT (although with different numbers). The phrase “third day” is very common in the OT as well, and just the word “third” is too. It’s not surprising, though, that given the prominence of third, that Jesus predicted and actually did rise on the third day.

But I’m inclined to think the meaning is the latter. Either way, the message is to always let us return to the Lord because it is he who restores us that we may live in his presence. And we, unlike OT saints, can do that knowing what Christ did for us, that “there is now therefore no condemnation for those who Christ Jesus,” ought we to “live in his presence.” In fact, his presence is in us! 

But alas, the rest of the chapter tells us that Israel will do no such thing, at least prior to the Assyrians and Babylonians dragging them away and destroying their country. In the midst of more judgment we read this:

For I desire mercy, not sacrifice,
    and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings.

As is typical of sinful human beings, the people of Israel thought they could buy off God with their religious rituals. The Lord would rather have their lives reflect mercy in their relationships (we see throughout the prophets that their relationships reflect everything but mercy) because love is the summation of the law. And instead of acknowledging God, they sought idols. But I suppose the people thought they could do whatever they want, go through the religious motions, and God would save them. It doesn’t work that way.