NOW Is the Time to Seek the LORD</>
Hosea 9:1 – 10:15
Herschel Ford has told a story of a man who committed suicide. He was rising higher and higher in a hot-air balloon. He took a knife and began to cut the three ropes holding the gondola to the fabric of the air-ship. A crowd below was watching. They shouted warning after warning. “Don’t cut it”, until he came to the third, and still they were shouting, “Don’t cut it”. He did not listen, and fell to his death.
When people persist in cutting off the strands that keep them in the way of God we commit spiritual suicide. Cutting the cords of God’s love ends in destruction. God continues to warn His people, giving us ample opportunity to turn from our sin and walk in His paths. This period of grace does not last forever. He does and will cut it off, and bring evil to an end.
“Rejoice not, O Israel, for joy, as other people: for thou hast gone a whoring from thy God, thou hast loved a reward upon every cornfloor. The floor and the winepress shall not feed them, and the new wine shall fail in her. They shall not dwell in the LORD’S land; but Ephraim shall return to Egypt, and they shall eat unclean things in Assyria. They shall not offer wine offerings to the LORD, neither shall they be pleasing unto Him: their sacrifices shall be unto them as the bread of mourners; all that eat thereof shall be polluted: for their bread for their soul shall not come into the house of the LORD. What will ye do in the solemn day, and in the day of the feast of the LORD? For, lo, they are gone because of destruction: Egypt shall gather them up, Memphis shall bury them: the pleasant places for their silver, nettles shall possess them: thorns shall be in their tabernacles.
The days of visitation are come, the days of recompence are come; Israel shall know it: the prophet is a fool, the spiritual man is mad, for the multitude of thine iniquity, and the great hatred. The watchman of Ephraim was with my God: but the prophet is a snare of a fowler in all his ways, and hatred in the house of his God. They have deeply corrupted themselves, as in the days of Gibeah: therefore He will remember their iniquity, He will visit their sins.” Hosea 9:1-9 (KJV)
How blind the children of the LORD tend to be when the LORD’S judgment and justice has come upon us. When the Bible speaks of judgment it often puts it in the present tense – as being here. Now!
There was no reason for joy in Israel due to the fact they had left God to walk in the harlotries of other nations. The “other people” were rejoicing in their idol worship – the licentious sexual behavior of Ashtoreth. God’s people were never called on to worship anything but God. To do so was “Whoredom” and wickedness in God’s sight.
The very idea of them actually worshipping Baal was proof of their unfaithfulness to God.
There are seven features of God’s judgment upon Israel listed in verses two through six:
- God would attack the heart of fertility worship by taking away the bountiful harvest (v. 2);
- He would remove them from His land (v. 3);
- He would place them in Assyria in Egyptian-like captivity (v. 3);
- God would bring an end to their wicked worship (v. 4);
- God would cut them off from their appointed feast days (vv. 5-6a);
- They would die in captivity (v. 6);
- God would desolate Israel’s fertility idols and shrines (v. 6).
In verse six “Memphis” is a place in Egypt where the dead are buried. They would die.
“What will ye do?” Hosea asked. How one responds to God’s warning determines one’s eternal destiny.
There is a story told of two brothers who lived in a sheep herding area of Europe. These two brothers were caught stealing sheep. The sentence the community gave them in judgment was that they be branded on their foreheads with the letters S T and understood to mean “Sheep Thieves”. These young men in later years met Jesus as their Saviour and their lives were radically changed. They became a credit to their community; giving help to people in need; aiding struggling city coffers when they possibly could. All the time bearing the marks on their foreheads “ST”. As the years went by one day a young boy with his mother saw these two godly men with “ST” branded on their foreheads; “What does that “ST” mean?” The mother answered her son and said, “I don’t know; but I suppose it means Saint.” There is hope and change for all who will believe God, trust His Saviour and His Word.
The people of Israel were guilty of rejecting God’s prophet, and accepting the foolish jibberish of the paid off cult and court prophets. Calling God’s man a fool. Hosea remained faithful to God, because he was certain of God’s calling and confident of God’s message. The sin and iniquity of the people causes them to hate the message of God and His messenger.
“I found Israel like grapes in the wilderness; I saw your fathers as the firstripe in the fig tree at her first time: but they went to Baalpeor, and separated themselves unto that shame; and their abominations were according as they loved.
As for Ephraim, their glory shall fly away like a bird, from the birth, and from the womb, and from the conception. Though they bring up their children, yet will I bereave them, that there shall not be a man left: yea, woe also to them when I depart from them! Ephraim, as I saw Tyrus, is planted in a pleasant place: but Ephraim shall bring forth his children to the murderer. Give them, O LORD: what wilt Thou give? Give them a miscarrying womb and dry breasts. All their wickedness is in Gilgal: for there I hated them: for the wickedness of their doings I will drive them out of Mine house, I will love them no more: all their princes are revolters. Ephraim is smitten, their root is dried up, they shall bear no fruit: yea, though they bring forth, yet will I slay even the beloved fruit of their womb. My God will cast them away, because they did not hearken unto Him: and they shall be wanderers among the nations.” Hosea 9:10-17
From the preceding verses we find Israel in persistent rebellion, and judgment will sweep them away.
In verse 10 Israel is likened to a fruitful vine found in the wilderness- and what a magnificent find that would be to a weary and thirsty traveler. They are also likened to a first ripened fig – the best. Made this way by God in His bountiful grace they have chosen to leave this condition in God to serve idols, and destroy their land, their homes, their kingdom, and their relationship with God, who placed them in His glorious position.
They bring shame and their glory flies away as a bird. Their children shall die. The wombs of the women will be fruitless, those who do conceive will never hold a live child in their arms (v. 14). The greatest tragedy of sin is found in verse 12 “…Woe also to them when I depart from them!” For God to depart, to hold back His mercy and grace is catastrophic to His people. They get what they deserve. The blessings they had before was God’s mercy on display.
Verse 15 makes a bold statement of God’s hatred for sin and evil. Israel had given themselves to evil, were bound to evil, and could not get free. The “Wickedness of Gilgal” is a reference to Saul’s rebellion in 1 Samuel 13. King Saul determined to not wait for Samuel, and to offer sacrifice himself. In this he showed much pride, impatience, and rebellion toward the laws of God. He also tried to sacrifice to justify his disobedience (1 Samuel 15), which is also seen of Israel in Hosea’s day.
God would cast them out to be strangers and foreigners in other countries. God loves His people so much He will not allow us to live in unrepented sin.
“Israel is an empty vine, he bringeth forth fruit unto himself: according to the multitude of his fruit he hath increased the altars; according to the goodness of his land they have made goodly images. Their heart is divided; now shall they be found faulty: He shall break down their altars, He shall spoil their images. For now they shall say, ‘We have no king, because we feared not the LORD; what then should a king do to us?’ They have spoken words, swearing falsely in making a covenant: thus judgment springeth up as hemlock in the furrows of the field. The inhabitants of Samaria shall fear because of the calves of Bethaven: for the people thereof shall mourn over it, and the priests thereof that rejoiced on it, for the glory thereof, because it is departed from it. It shall be also carried unto Assyria for a present to king Jareb: Ephraim shall receive shame, and Israel shall be ashamed of his own counsel. As for Samaria, her king is cut off as the foam upon the water. The high places also of Aven, the sin of Israel, shall be destroyed: the thorn and the thistle shall come up on their altars; and they shall say to the mountains, ‘Cover us;’ and to the hills, ‘Fall on us.’
O Israel, thou hast sinned from the days of Gibeah: there they stood: the battle in Gibeah against the children of iniquity did not overtake them. It is in My desire that I should chastise them; and the people shall be gathered against them, when they shall bind themselves in their two furrows. And Ephraim is as an heifer that is taught, and loveth to tread out the corn; but I passed over upon her fair neck: I will make Ephraim to ride; Judah shall plow, and Jacob shall break his clods.” Hosea 10:1-11
Now, God says, that, they are an “Empty vine”. This is a drastic contrast to what we found in verse 10 of chapter 9.
Israel had a heart condition. No electrocardiogram would be able to detect the problem. Nevertheless, they had a bad heart. Their heart was divided. God cannot use divided hearts. This compares with the “Double-minded man” of James 1:8 – unstable and unfit for service to God.
The people of Israel had two institutions which were highly esteemed by them; their kings (politics, military, and democracy for us), and their religion. Their kings were unjust and greedy, and their religion was empty and separated them from God, because they were more concerned with ritual sacrifice and offerings rather than a personal relationship with God.
Kings make promises, but do not fulfill them (v. 4). The graven images which they have worshipped will lose their glory – no one will be able to protect them. Who needs a god that needs protection anyway? God is having their idols carried away shows the futility of trusting in them (Isaiah 46:1-5).
“Aven”, mentioned in 10:8 means deception. It has been a place of deception because the people were deceived by their own desires and they strayed from God’s paths. God says, that, He will destroy their sin. The power of sin has been ultimately destroyed by the blood of Jesus shed on the cross, and overcoming sins power by His resurrection from the dead. All who refuse God’s way suffers eternal judgment.
Instead of crying out to God for mercy they cry out for the rocks and mountains, “Fall on us” (v. 8; Revelation 6:16).
Because of their stubborn and rebellious hearts they would be as a heifer yoked to hard labor whereas, before their labor had been light and blessed.
“Sow to yourselves in righteousness, reap in mercy; break up your fallow ground: for it is time to seek the LORD, till He come and rain righteousness upon you. Ye have plowed wickedness, ye have reaped iniquity; ye have eaten the fruit of lies: because thou didst trust in thy way, in the multitude of thy mighty men. Therefore shall a tumult arise among thy people, and all thy fortresses shall be spoiled, as Shalman spoiled Betharbel in the day of battle: the mother was dashed in pieces upon her children. So shall Bethel do unto you because of your great wickedness: in a morning shall the king of Israel utterly be cut off.” Hosea 10:12-15 (KJV)
The “Fallow ground” of verse twelve is land that had previously been plowed, but now left unused. God’s Word and His Spirit is the plow that is needed to break up the soil of a hard heart (See Matthew 13:3-9, 18-23). Hard hearts cannot yield crops of righteousness and mercy.
It is a prominent theme in Hosea that the children of Israel will reap exactly what they have sown. It is a law of God’s created order to reap what we have sown – and that, no matter the timeline, culture or society which we may live.
Hosea gives us three steps to heal the land:
- Break up your fallow ground (v. 12);
- Put God’s Word in your heart – “sow with a view of righteousness” (NAS v. 12);
- “Reap in accordance with kindness (NAS) referring to the breaking of their hard hearts through repentance and sowing the seed of God’s Word in their lives.
God gives Israel every opportunity to repent. It is God’s desire then to cleanse them, and make them a vessel of His grace. Judgment would come.
“Hosea 9 – 10 reinforces the basic lesson that persistent sin eventually leads to destruction.” Traylor. This is also true for people of the 21st century as well. God’s people (Christians) need to open their eyes and know that the Lord, though He has provided a way into His presence, still calls for His people to repent.
We need to keep this thought in mind; “God loves us the way we are; but He loves us too much to leave us the way we are.” He will do whatever it takes to make us holy.
There is only hope for all through the shed blood of Jesus on the cross of calvary – the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ; Son of the Living God.
-Tim A. Blankenship