Sunday 24th July 2022

HOSEA 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13 and 14

God continues in the book of Hosea, alternately reminding Israel of the times that he rescued them and led them through danger to a place of rest – and then giving them analogies of what they are like as a rebellious people.  Some significant verses stand out:

“They sow the wind and reap the whirlwind…” (8:7) which indicates that when Israel toyed with idol-worship, they ‘bit off more than they could chew’ – as the saying goes – and were about the encounter the whirlwind of Assyrian destruction! 

“Though Ephraim built many altars for sin offerings, these have become altars for sinning”.  (8:11)  It is a sad consequence of doing things our way – even if we think it is to please God – that we end up going against the Lord’s will more and more.  Obedience is as much a route as a destination, and we don’t want to get lost on the way!

“When I found Israel, it was like finding grapes in the desert; when I saw your ancestors, it was like seeing the early fruit on the fig tree…” (9:10)  God reminisces about his first love for Israel and how much he cared for them. 

“Sow righteousness for yourselves, reap the fruit of unfailing love, and break up your unploughed ground; for it is time to seek the Lord until he comes and showers his righteousness on you”.  (10:12).  (See also Jeremiah 4:3.)  It is pointless to sow seed onto the surface of hard-baked earth, which is, in effect, what Israel were attempting to do.  Repentance is the priority to prepare the good soil of our hearts in order to receive the seed of the Word with joy; then, and only then, will faith spring up, with all its related benefits in our lives.

“When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son”.  (11:1).  This verse is quoted in Matthew 2:15 where it depicts the return from Egypt of the boy Jesus after Herod had died – this action was seen by Matthew as one fulfilment of the Hosea verse – although not the only one, and not even the first meaning that God had in mind.  But the passage then goes on to say that “…the more they were called, the more they went away from me”.  God showed Israel such tenderness and kindness in those early days: “It was I who taught Ephraim to walk, taking them by the arms; but they did not realize that it was I who healed them.  I led them with cords of human kindness, with ties of love.  To them I was like one who lifts a little child to the cheek, and I bent down to feed them”.  However, like many children, there was no gratitude by Israel towards the Lord, and no respect to the one who had rescued them.

Even so, the Lord’s heart cried “How can I give you up, Ephraim?  How can I hand you over, Israel?”  Like a rejected lover, God was both angry and desirous of reconciliation.  Mixed emotions in heaven!

Later, in 13:14, he declares “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?”  The apostle Paul quotes this in 1 Corinthians 15:55, in proof of the Resurrection.

In the final chapter, he begins: “Return, Israel, to the Lord your God… Take words with you and return to the Lord”.  Reconciliation begins with repentance, which is itself a change of mind.  Actions may follow as proof of this, but it must begin with words.  The result is that God brings healing of our wayward hearts: “I will heal their waywardness and love them freely, for my anger has turned away from them”.  Until we exercise repentance towards the Lord, any exercise of faith is useless, since it lacks a goal that rests in the lordship of Christ.  Faith is only a means to an end – it evaporates as soon as the end result is seen and achieved – and our true goal and destination is Christ himself.

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