Hosea 8:1-8; 9:7-8; 10:10-12.
Love's Discipline

Copyright 2013 (c) American Journal of Biblical Theology 
www.biblicaltheology.com     Scripture quotes from KJV


Hosea is a member of a small remnant of ancient Israelites who are still faithful to the LORD, YAHWEH, despite their immersion in a nation that has turned its back on God.  Though the nation of Israel was founded with a deliberate allegiance to the LORD, it was quickly drawn away from that allegiance by the sensual and immediate gratifications found in the pagan world in which they were immersed.  Though there were a few leaders through the years who attempted to bring the nation to faith, their influence was limited and temporal.  Following the split of the nation of Israel into a northern and southern kingdom, no faithful leadership remained in Hosea’s northern nation.  Though Israel maintained an appearance of Judaic faith, the faith in YAHWEH that founded Judaism had been long forgotten.  Few people passed their faith to their children, and by the time that Hosea proclaims God’s message to the nation, all meaningful references to the LORD had been replaced with pagan and secular beliefs.

This is not unlike the pattern we have seen in western cultures in the last few generations.  The United States of America stands as a stark example of this form of apostasy.  The nation was founded upon Christian principles with abundant references to the LORD in virtually every facet of life and government.  The Bible and Christian hymnals served as the primary texts that were utilized in early American educational institutions.  Even the constitution of the nation was written to prevent the government from making any law that would restrict the practice of faith.

Like Israel, America saw a decline in the communication of the faith from generation to generation.  The church once served as the primary social influence on the family, with church buildings becoming the most common structure in every populated area of the country.  Now, many of those church buildings that remain are either abandoned or used for other purposes.  As a spirit of apostasy entered the culture, the government turned away from God, and in the name of “separation of church and state,” those who no longer carry the gospel in their hearts have succeeded in removing the influence of the Holy Spirit from virtually every government entity, including its schools and universities.  Those who still hold to a sincere and dynamic faith in the LORD are an ever-decreasing population, a remnant that has a continually decreasing influence on society. 

What has filled the void left by the practice of faith?  Apostasy results in the filling of that void with that which is not godly.  Is it any surprise that society is becoming more self-centered and violent?  We have seen an economy that was once driven by supply and demand to one that is greed-based.  The lord of society is quickly becoming the lord of death.

This is Hosea’s world.

Hosea 8:1.  Set the trumpet to thy mouth. He shall come as an eagle against the house of the LORD, because they have transgressed my covenant, and trespassed against my law.

The context of the grammar of this passage reveals that we are observing the LORD’s command to Hosea: set the trumpet to thy mouth.  When used in the context of a biblical message, the trumpet is often used as a metaphor for a loud and clear message, with the emphasis on “clear.”  The LORD is calling upon Hosea, a member of that small remnant of faithful believers in Israel, to rise up and speak to the apostate nation, and to do so with force and clarity. 

 

How does the community of faithful lose its influence in a society?  Probably the most common deterrent to influence among others is silence.  The ever-diminishing community of faithful has continued to remain relatively silent, and by so-doing has failed to encourage one another, failed to propagate the faith to their peers and their children, and failed to be a voice of spiritual reason and prophetic alarm in a nation and world that is falling ever-more quickly into the hands of the lord of death.

The consequence of apostasy is dramatic and swift.  The LORD uses the metaphor of an eagle that will descend upon the once-faithful community.  The eagle was a common Israelite metaphor for the nation of Assyria.  The LORD is revealing to Hosea that Assyria will come against Israel, and the reason for this conflict is simple:  the nation has turned its back upon their covenant with the LORD and His Word.  By doing so, the nation has placed its trust in the alliances it has made with the other nations of the world.  Israel is looking to the world and its resources as the source of its security instead of looking to the LORD who has promised to provide for them, and to protect them as they reside in the land of promise.  Because of their apostasy, because of their desire to be like the world, they will be consumed by it.

To leave the protection and promise of the LORD is to immerse one’s self in this ungodly world.  Like plunging one’s self into a muddy mire, such an act of immersion will result in one’s not only being both stained by it, but without repentance, ultimately consumed by it, eternally separated from a relationship with the LORD and the resources that He promises to give to those who have faith in Him.

Hosea 8:2.  Israel shall cry unto me, My God, we know thee.

Immersion in the sin of this world brings with it no shortage of conflict.  We suffer from the consequences of other’s sins as well as our own.  People are caught up in addictions, greed, lascivious behaviors, violence, and other destructive behaviors.  It is these that fill the void left when one lacks faith in the LORD.  We cry out when we are immersed in suffering, and a common cry is “Why would God do this to me?”  We blame God for mankind’s inhumanity to one another.  This response is a natural one for those who do not know God. 

Many people today think they know God, choosing to define Him in their own terms, based upon man’s created ideas and traditions.  The truth is that when they reject the One true God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, they do not know God, and their cry is not a cry of faith and repentance, but rather a self-centered and angry cry against circumstances, against others, and against their view of God, a view that has actually replaced the LORD with their own powerless and mythical gods that are no different than the gods of the ancients.

Hosea 8:3.  Israel hath cast off the thing that is good: the enemy shall pursue him.

God is not to be blamed for the conflict that Israel is about to face.  Israel cast off God like they would cast off an undesired piece of clothing.  Israel willfully and systematically cast the LORD YAHWEH out of their lives, out of their beliefs, and out of their culture.  Such an act leaves them at the mercy of the lord of death who is as a “roaring lion seeking whom he would devour.”[1]  It is the evil one from whom the LORD protects us.  When we turn away from God, we cast off that protection, and will be pursued by death itself.

Hosea 8:4.  They have set up kings, but not by me: they have made princes, and I knew it not: of their silver and their gold have they made them idols, that they may be cut off.

God created mankind with the simple purpose that He would have a relationship with us.  The ability of an individual to have a personal relationship with the Creator of the Universe is an astounding, if not a reasonably impossible concept, one that makes no logical sense to the secular mind.  That relationship with the LORD is established simply by placing our sincere faith and trust in Him as our LORD.[2]  Therefore, if God is our LORD, then He is also the primary authority figure in our lives, a position that by His nature, He deserves. 

A “litmus test” of faith is the presence of God’s lordship in one’s life.  If God is not one’s primary authority, then their faith is not real.  If such an individual is convinced that their relationship with Him is real, they are dangerously misled, destined to remain separated from God until they do, indeed accept Him as their LORD, or they enter eternity in that same separated state.

It is God’s plan that nations would be led by godly men who would be subject to Him as their own LORD.[3]  By “setting up kings,” and “princes” starting with King Saul,[4] the nation of Israel made its announcement that the LORD would no longer be the King of Israel.  The rise of King Saul was not God’s plan or purpose for Israel.  In a desire to “be like the world”[5] Israel replaced God as the leader of their nation with a man who was not subject to the LORD.  This is not unlike the declarations that our governments make today when they deliberately remove the name and authority of God from their platforms.  This national secularism is not God’s purpose for national leadership, and will serve only to move the nation away from the LORD.

The LORD then refers the largess of blessings that He has given to mankind in order to provide for them.  Not only did the Israelites turn to a man as their authority, they also gave their “silver and gold” a form of authority over themselves.  The things of this world became more important to the people than God.  An idol is anything that replaces our need for God in our lives.  Those who “cast off” God give authority to objects of their own creation rather than the Creator.  Generosity that is a fruit of true agape love is replaced by greed as property becomes more important to us than people.  When this happens, that property becomes an idol. 

Hosea 8:5.  Thy calf, O Samaria, hath cast thee off; mine anger is kindled against them: how long will it be ere they attain to innocency?

The initial clause in this passage utilizes two Hebrew words that can be accurately translated, “your calf stinks!”[6]  This clause refers to the placement by the Israelite leadership of golden calf idols in both Bethel and Dan, previously the primary Israelite altars that were built to honor and worship the LORD.  The burning of incense and the burning of sacrifices were understood by the ancients to raise an odor that would be “savored” by God.[7]  This phrase states the LORD’s response to idol worship: to Him, “it stinks!”  The pagan worship that they are engaged in are intended to please their mythical gods.  We do not honor God when we give honor to the things of this world that belongs to Him.  When we idolize our possessions by giving them authority over us (by forcing our decisions), the LORD receives this behavior as a foul odor.  An example of this form of idolatry in today’s culture would be our submission to a debt load that services our desire for the big house, the cars, the boats, etc.  Subject to this load we believe that we have no resources from which to draw to support the LORD’s work through tithes, offerings and gifts that God both deserves and demands.  We will receive great pleasure as we observe the object of our desire, but God receives it as a foul odor.  We also demonstrate this form of idolatry when we allow ourselves to get swept up by worldly ideologies that are contrary to God’s purpose for mankind.

We may form any number of rationalizations to defend our bent to idolatry, and we may even devise mechanisms to make it appear that our idolatry is godly.[8]   Secular society will always come to accept sinful behavior as normative when it has been accepted by that society for a long time.  As an example, we can observe western culture’s current drive to accept the sinful lifestyle of homosexuality in all areas of life, including its promotional introductions into children’s educational curriculums.  We fabricate euphemisms to hide the sinful nature of what, in truth, is are egregious transgressions from God’s Word.  For example, the wanton murder of unborn children is given a positive sounding name: “pro choice.”  Genocide is defended as “ethnic cleansing.”  By employing such euphemisms we declare that which is sinful to be normal and acceptable.  However, the LORD is angered by our idolatry, and there will never be a time when such behavior is not sinful.  There will never be a time when one is innocent when practicing that which is acceptable to man’s word, but contrary to God’s Word.

Hosea 8:6.  For from Israel was it also: the workman made it; therefore it is not God: but the calf of Samaria shall be broken in pieces.

In the same way, ancient Israel (and Judah) replaced God’s Word with man’s word.  When we ignore the Word of God we can easily replace its truths with any form of religion and ideology that we choose, and by so doing, wander far away from the One True God.  Devoid of a knowledge of Jesus, most of this world’s population is devoted to man-made religions, systems of belief that are based upon an individual’s or a group’s ideas of what is religious and/or righteous.  These face a deliberate and continued separation from a relationship with YAHWEH throughout their lives and into eternity.  However, we should note that theirs is a position that is based upon ignorance, an ignorance that is continually assured by a silent church. 

There is a difference in the relationship that ancient Israel has with the LORD and the relationship that the near-eastern pagan nations have with Him.  Unlike the ignorant, pagan nations, whether ancient or modern, Israel was granted an opportunity that no others were given when God revealed Himself to them through Abraham, through the patriarchs, prophets, and through their history.  However that background and ancestry does not serve to make their idolatry acceptable, and they will suffer the same separation from God that is realized by their pagan neighbors.  Where their neighbors are not concerned with a separation from a God who they do not know, the Israelites have great reason to be concerned about a judgment from God.  Though they do not know Him, they know of Him.  They know their history, a narrative that is filled with God’s miraculous intervention in the life of Israel.  A knowledge of the LORD brings with it a greater responsibility to respond to Him in truth.[9]

Likewise, much of Christian culture today has left the Word of God and replaced it with anything from a compromised faith to one that is entirely cultic and denies even the deity and Lordship of Jesus Christ.  And, similar to the Israelites, they are convinced that they are secure in the hands of God, ignoring His Word and the words of the prophets who are shouting out the warnings.  The “calf of Samaria” is a reference to the idolatrous altars that had been set up by the Israelites, altars made of silver, gold, and stone; altars that are temporal and will not last.  It is evident that those altars no longer exist today, though archeological explorations of Jewish settlements in Canaan reveal the common use of idols to the pagan gods throughout their culture.  Such idols simply will not last.  They are not eternal.  They will all be lost.

Hosea 8:7.  For they have sown the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind: it hath no stalk: the bud shall yield no meal: if so be it yield, the strangers shall swallow it up.

Those who place their faith in the things of this world, have invested their lives in that which has no foundation and no permanence.  The metaphor that is used here describes a farmer who takes his precious seed and, instead of placing it in the fertile soil of the earth and nurtures its growth, throws that seed into the wind with some form of an expectation of receiving a full harvest in return.  One can explore this metaphor and realize the fruitlessness of one’s placing their trust in the temporal things of this world.  Without soil, the seed is blown by the whirlwind, taken away and scattered.  Without a solid foundation of truth, the beliefs that people place in lies are subject to every wind of doctrine that blows by.[10]  There is no foundation in truth, and consequently, there is no growth of the seed.  Spiritual growth is found only in one’s growing relationship with the LORD, the foundation of faith.  When one ignores the LORD, one is not engaged in that relationship at all, and so there is no opportunity for the production of real fruit.

Another point in this metaphor describes the state of that seed that does fall to the ground after being swept away by the whirlwind:  it grows among the weeds in the fields of strangers.  Those who sew their faith in the wind will not see it yield fruit.  Any gain found in their efforts, though carnal and temporal, will be realized and consumed by others who are also driven by self-centered arrogance and greed.

Hosea 8:8.  Israel is swallowed up: now shall they be among the Gentiles as a vessel wherein is no pleasure.

Israel is quite satisfied with its current state, enjoying its carnality and the gratification that is found in its addiction to the things of this world.  The nation does not even realize its carnal state, thinking that as children of Abraham they are the only righteous ones in the world.  In truth, the nation is already lost.  Hosea does not need to point to a future time when Israel will be consumed by the world in which it has chosen to immerse itself.  It is already consumed.  Faith in God is all but lost in the nation.  The hand of protection that the LORD provides to people of faith has been removed, and the miracles or rescue that Israel experienced from His hand have been long forgotten.

Though given the opportunity to place their faith in God, the Israelites have chosen to live as the Gentiles, and the consequence of that choice will be great.  Hosea now refers to the future when he states that they will be a vessel among the Gentiles.  The word, vessel, refers to something that is intended to be used for a specific purpose.  Israel has the capacity to remember when they were once a vessel of the Pharaoh of Egypt, and this word would serve to remind them of their history of bondage in a foreign land.  Hosea’s statement is a reference to a return to that same status as they will be taken into a similar bondage in Assyria.  However, unlike their Egyptian (or Babylonian) experience, they will not be gathered into bondage as an identifiable nation, but scattered among the Assyrian people and among the nations that Assyria governs.  The nation will, indeed, be destroyed as its people will lose their identity when removed from the land and removed from one another.

Hosea 9:7-8.  The days of visitation are come, the days of recompense 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. 8The 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.

Israel’s choice to cast off the LORD will not escape His just judgment.  Hosea refers to a coming day when Israel will be required to “pay” for the ride they have taken, a ride that was maintained through the persecution of those who brought them the truth of God’s Word.  During the days of their apostasy, the Israelites systematically rejected the message of the prophets who, like Hosea, declared God’s Word among them, continually and consistently exposing their sinful idolatry, and prophesying of the impending consequences of their rejection of the LORD. 

Because of their message, the Israelites despised the prophets, discrediting the LORD’s message by declaring them to be fools and madmen.  In truth, the prophets served as the watchman of Israel,[11] one who stood with the LORD YAHWEH.  As the LORD’s prophet, those godly messengers of truth should have been respected and listened to by a people who sincerely desired to learn more of the LORD who loves them and seeks to provide for them.  However, because of their self-righteous and sinful nature, the Israelites could not bear to listen to the words of the prophets, for to do so would have been to admit their sinfulness and require their repentance.  The prophets found themselves hated in what was to be the one place and among the one people on this planet where the LORD would show His loving presence.

Hosea 10:10-12.  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. 11And 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. 12Sow 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.

It is the LORD’s desire that the people would repent of their sin and turn back to Him.  However, they cannot repent of a sin that they will not recognize.  Israel must know for certain the seriousness of their state.  Like a parent who will take an errant child aside and use times of disobedience as teaching moments, the LORD will, without hesitation or compromise, discipline an errant Israel and Judah.  This chastisement would come upon them in the form of their dissolution as a nation at the hands of the nations that surround them.  Like a farmer who prepares the land for his crops, both Israel and Judah have dug the furrows in which each has made its investment.  Israel is like a heifer that has been trained to work the plow, but becomes bloated and consumed when it eats itself to death when it rejects its teaching and consumes the bounty of grain that it finds on the threshing floor.

Like this heifer, though Israel has chosen to bring itself to the throes of death, the LORD promises to give His people the opportunity to repent.  The LORD would place His yoke on the neck of this heifer.  Though the yoke is pulled by the heifer in the work of breaking the furrow on fresh ground, the heifer is able to maintain a straight line only because the farmer provides guidance.  It is this metaphor that the LORD uses to describe His purpose for Israel that, though they will experience the work of the plow, they have the opportunity to follow His guidance as they complete the work, so that through it they would repent of their apostasy and return to the LORD.  It is only through that repentance of their sin and turning in faith to the LORD that true righteousness will be found.

The state of god’s people today is similar to that of ancient Israel in many ways.  Many have left the provision and protection of the LORD by turning from Him and immersing themselves in the secular and pagan world in which they are immersed.  Their apostasy will bring the LORD’s just judgment.  Hosea describes two possible paths for those who have forgotten the LORD.  The first is that of total destruction as they are consumed by the world that they have come to love.  The second is restoration to the LORD through repentance and renewed faith that will be met by the LORD’s promise of complete forgiveness and the restoration of a relationship with Him.

As we look at our own lives, we will probably find ourselves standing at some finite point somewhere on a spectrum of relationship with the LORD between complete dedication to Him and complete rejection of Him.  The LORD desires complete dedication to Himself, and anything that we embrace that holds us back from that calling is idolatry.  Let each of us look into our own lives and determine what it is that is holding us back from a complete dedication that comes from a sincere love for God, understand its idolatrous nature, and turn away from it, turning back to the LORD who deserves our love, our worship, and our all.
 


[1] 1 Peter 5:8

[2] Romans 10:9-10.

[3] Romans 13:1-6.

[4] 1 Samuel, Chapter 9, ff.

[5] 1 Samuel, 8:5,20.

[6] Wood, p. 201

[7] Exodus 29:18, e.g.

[8] Mark 7:11.

[9] James 3:1.

[10] Ephesians 4:14.

[11] Ezekiel 3:17; 33:1-8.