Vines and Fig Trees

Hosea 2:11-13.

I will also cause all her mirth to cease, her feast days, her new moons, and her sabbaths, and all her solemn feasts.

And I will destroy her vines and her fig trees, whereof she hath said, These are my rewards that my lovers have given me: and I will make them a forest, and the beasts of the field shall eat them.

And I will visit upon her the days of Baalim, wherein she burned incense to them, and she decked herself with her earrings and her jewels, and she went after her lovers, and forgat me, saith the LORD.

As Hosea continues to describe Israel’s doom, as well as Gomer’s, we have to stop and consider why all these dire warnings seemed to fall on deaf ears. Is it because we’re so comfortable in the right now that we can’t conceive of a time when we won’t have it?

Gomer believed that her lovers would continue to provide for her, giving her gifts that would feed and clothe her and keep her safe. But her lovers were not faithful to her, just as she was not faithful to Hosea—just as Israel was not faithful to God, and the idols they followed gave them no comfort.

Why are we just as much at fault as Israel was? As Gomer was? Are we any different, really, as a nation and as individuals? Why do we believe we will escape judgment, and place our faith in the false promises of politicians whose only loyalty is to self?

This is not the first time in scripture that we read of the vine and the fig tree mentioned together, and it made me curious. I did a little research, and discovered some interesting things I didn’t know. I love that! Love learning, always learning, and especially when what I learn illuminates scripture.

In Hosea’s time, the fig tree was often planted among the grapevines, or along one side of a vineyard. The grape vines would climb the fig tree, and thereby gained the strength and protection of the tree. Grapes mature earlier than figs, so they would be harvested and used both as table fruit and as wine. Later in colder weather, the figs would be mature.

The first use we hear of the fig tree is in the Garden of Eden, when Adam and Eve used the large leaves of a fig tree to cover themselves after eating of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.

Figs have long been used as food. Today, we think of figs mainly as a sweet treat in items such as Fig Newton cookies.

Figs have long been believed to be useful as a medicine, addressing digestive problems such as constipation and diarrhea, as well as diabetes, high cholesterol and some skin conditions. I couldn’t find any reliable evidence, scientifically, that there is any real value in such uses, but there is a lot of anecdotal evidence of the benefits of figs.

Fig trees provide shade and shelter, and have long been seen as a sign of wealth and comfort.

All of those things would be destroyed. No more holidays, feast days, new moons and sabbaths. All gone. The fig trees and vines would be devoured by wild beasts, and the days of Baalim would fall upon Israel. Baal worship was ubiquitous in the time of Jereboam II, King of Israel during Hosea’s ministry. The country was economically well off, but spiritually it was a desert. Instead of worshiping God, they burned incense to Baal. The women dressed up in jewels and fine clothing, but they forgot the God of Israel, through Whom their wealth had come.

The women of Israel, like Gomer, would be naked and destitute, with no man to rescue them from their suffering.

Judgment Will Come

Hosea 2:9-10.

Therefore will I return, and take away My corn in the time thereof, and My wine in the season thereof, and will recover My wool and My flax given to cover her nakedness.

And now will I discover her lewdness in the sight of her lovers, and none shall deliver her out of Mine hand.

Israel’s judgment by God will be severe. She had been warned over and over, but persisted, just as Gomer did, in returning to her idolatrous, sinful behaviors. She left the One Who loved her most, just as Gomer did, and ran after her adulterous lovers, believing they would take good care of her.

But God said there would be no harvest, neither of corn (wheat) nor wine (grapes); nor of wool from the sheep or linen from the flax. Nothing to eat, drink, or wear.

Israel (Gomer) would be left naked, deserted, hungry and thirsty, with no protection, if she persisted in her sin.

Even the lovers who had used her in adultery would see her lewd character, and would not protect or defend her.

It was a bleak, desert-like future that God promised Israel unless she repented of her sin and returned to Him. And still, Israel did not hear Him. So determined was she to continue in her perversity that she closed her heart, her ears, and her mind to His pleading and His promise of judgment.

And again, I can’t help but see America in Israel’s place. So intent are we on having our own way that we have left God’s way, and yet we pray and sing, “God bless America!” as if He MUST do as we ask, even though we have turned, every one of us, to our own way. Any small appearance of revival is soon lost in political rhetoric and financial gain.

God’s mercy and compassion will not last forever.

Sunday Morning Coffee: Church!

I’m going to church today! I’m so pleased that I can finally, after missing at least five Sundays, look forward to being in the services this morning.

I got the injections I needed on Thursday. It’s not perfect, but it’s SO much better. There’s still some foot pain, but the doctor said it would take longer for that to settle down.

So, some people may wonder what on earth is so exciting about church?

I’ll tell you: Being with other like-minded believers; enjoying the music; hearing good Bible preaching; fellowship before and after; feeling at home!

Do you understand what a privilege it is to be able to attend the church we choose, rather than whatever the government dictates? Do you realize that we don’t have to hide, holding meetings in secret, fearing at every moment that we’ll be discovered? Are you aware that these are freedoms we could easily lose? If your answers are “Yes!” to all of the above, then please join me in prayer that we will see repentance, revival, and the power of the Holy Spirit once again sweeping over our land and around the world.

Please pray for Americans and others who are deserted, stranded in Afghanistan, losing hope as each day passes. Christians are already being targeted for death. The chances of being rescued seem less likely with every passing hour.

Please pray for the families who lost sons, brothers, and boyfriends in the bombing attack last week at the Kabul airport. It’s going to happen again. There is no fear of America at this point. Human life is not held dear in a country where God is ignored, and that human life includes the lives of their own people.

Satan is busy here in America, too. Babies are sacrificed by the millions every year. Even here, human life is not valued.

The next attack that happens on our own soil will send people back to church in droves, just as it did after 9/11. It’s too bad that it takes something so horrifying to make people seek God for a few weeks, and then go right back to the way they lived before the towers fell.

Go to church; find a church where the Bible is the foundation of belief and practice, and pay attention to the preaching and teaching.

“This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it!” Psalm 118:24.

“I was glad when they said unto me, ‘Let us go into the house of the Lord.'” Psalm 122:1.

Gomer’s Wandering

Hosea 2:6-8.

Therefore, behold, I will hedge up thy way with thorns, and make a wall, that she shall not find her paths.

And she shall follow after her lovers, but she shall not overtake them; and she shall seek them, but shall not find them: then shall she say, I will go and return to my first husband; for then was it better with me than now.

For she did not know that I gave her corn, and wine, and oil, and multiplied her silver and gold, which they prepared for Baal.

Gomer, the picture of Israel, had willfully declared her intention to go after her lovers, who gave her food and clothing. God would not make it easy for her to follow after them, however. He set thorny bushes, hedges, all along her pathway. The thorns were long, hard, and very sharp. It was painful to try to step through them.

When we are walking in sin, we need to understand that the barriers God sets in our way are signs of His love for us. Instead, we become angry and rail against Him, seeing His protective love for us as evidence that He actually hates us and wants to give us pain.

Did you ever put a baby gate at the top of stairs in your home? If so, you have most likely seen a toddler pulling at the gate, perhaps crying in anger that he can’t get past it and go down the forbidden stairs. That’s how I see Israel in this passage. Protected by a compassionate Father, she rages against the barrier He has put in her way.

Because of the thorny hedges that were in the way, Gomer (Israel) could not find her lovers, could not access the road that would take her to them. In despair, perhaps angry, perhaps yearning for what she can’t have, she decided to go back to her husband because there, at least, she would be better off than she was when she was wandering alone and lost.

I’m thinking of a client I had in my counseling office who desperately wanted to leave her husband. He had. trusted the Lord and become a Christian not too long after they were married, and she was angry and rebellious at his attempts to establish a godly home. “I don’t even know him now!” she declared. “He’s not the man I married! All this religious stuff? It’s ruining all my fun!”

She did leave him, although he would not agree to a divorce. So she continued to live the life she knew, and ran into some serious barriers, including becoming pregnant with a child whose father could have been one of several different men. In despair, she returned to her husband. It took time, and a lot of love and patience, but eventually she, too, became a Christian. As far as I know, they are still happily married.

This was Gomer, the picture of Israel. “Maybe I’ll go back to Hosea,” she thought, because she didn’t understand that it was Hosea (God) who was still providing her with food and money, even as she lived with another man. She probably thought Hosea was a fool for providing for her, and it would seem that she and her lover used at least a part of what he provided for her as an offering to Baal.

All that we have is provided by God. When we take what He has created and use it to satisfy ungodly desires, even sacrifices for idols, doing so is spiritual adultery against Him. And still He loves us, and calls us back to Himself. Hosea’s efforts to restore Gomer to his side are a picture of God’s mercy, patience, and eternal love for Israel.

I Will Go After My Lovers

Hosea 2:4-5.

And I will not have mercy upon her children; for they be the children of whoredoms.

For their mother hath played the harlot: she that conceived them hath done shamefully: for she said, I will go after my lovers, that give me my bread and my water, my wool and my flax, mine oil and my drink.

Have you ever wondered how hard it must have been for Hosea to bare his soul before the whole nation? He was living out his prophecies in his personal life with a wife who repeatedly betrayed his love, mercy, and forgiveness. Her heart was drawn to material rewards instead of the devoted love of a godly man.

Gomer, the mother, represented the nation as a whole. Her children, then, were the individuals who made up the nation. Unless they turn to the Lord, they will suffer the same judgment as their mother.

Israel’s justification for her sin was to list all that she gained from her harlotry. “I’m getting what I need! Look, I have bread and water; I have wool and flax; I have oil and wine! What can be so wrong when my rewards are so great?”

She had no understanding of the passing pleasures of sin (Hebrews 11:25). She was not lookiing to the future, when her youth and beauty would fade, and she would no longer attract men.

Israel’s Unfaithfulness Condemned

Hosea 2:1-3.

Say ye unto your brethren, Ammi; and to your sisters, Ruhamah.

Plead with your mother, plead: for she is not my wife, neither am I her husband: let her therefore put away her whoredoms out of her sight, and her adulteries from between her breasts;

Lest I strip her naked, and set her as in the day that she was born, and make her as a wilderness, and set her like a dry land, and slay her with thirst.

2010 2 21 Seeking God Part 2

In this chapter, we have the beginnings of the message that God told Hosea to preach to Israel. No one could have been more qualified than Hosea was, having lived as God directed, taking an unfaithful wife and loving her only to have her fling his love carelessly away.

God even speaks of the children of Israel in the positive sense: “My people, my loved ones.” He is always willing to restore, forgive, redeem His people when they are willing to return to Him.

The words God tells Hosea to speak in v. 2 seem harsh, until we remember that God had been merciful; He had offered restoration, on the condition of Israel’s obedience, but Israel had ignored His pleas, His mercy, His forgiveness.

Israel was not behaving as a wife, but as an harlot. She walked away from all that God offered, putting a lewd and adulterous expression on her face that invited the lust of ungodly men.

Her unfaithfulness was “between her breasts.” I looked at this phrase in several different commentaries and lexicons, and found nothing that expressly addressed this phrase, so I’m going to share my own thinking, which may or may not reflect what is actually meant here.

First, a woman’s breasts are a source of sexual attraction and, in this case, lust. An ungodly woman will display her breasts, attracting the wrong kind of interest.

Second, a woman’s breasts are a source of nourishment and comfort for her children. A harlot removes such comfort from her children, leaving them to satisfy her own lusts.

Third, “Between her breasts” may be a reference to the location of her heart, which is full of of adulterous thoughts and desires.

Please understand that I offer the above ideas only as possible interpretations.

God’s judgment of Israel, His warning, is dire. It is shameful to be stripped naked. It is a fearsome thing to be like a newborn baby, helpless and totally dependent on someone else. It is frightening to be like a wilderness, a desert, where there is no water, and no relief from the hot sun and the danger of desert creatures. This is the warning of what will come to Israel unless Israel repents and turns to God.

Day of Jezreel

Hosea 1:11. “Then shall the children of Judah and the children of Israel be gathered together, and appoint themselves one head, and they shall come up out of the land: for great shall be the day of Jezreel.”

Jezreel is both a valley and a city, situated between Mt. Megiddo and the Jordan River. The next photo is an aerial view of the top of Mount Meggido, where the Jews made their last stand when Rome finally managed to build a ramp that carried their horses, chariots, and their army to the top of the mountain. That’s an exciting story!

The beautiful Valley of Jezreel, in the top photo, lies south of the Sea of Galilee. It is also called the valley of Armageddon, and it includes both Mount Megiddo and the city of Megiddo. There is so much history in this area that it would take a whole book just to write it, and I’m sure someone else already has done so. Many believe that this area is where the Battle of Armageddon will be fought.

In today’s verse, God makes a wonderful promise. After Israel has suffered under Assyrian captivity, Israel would return to God. So great would be the restoration that the division between Israel and Judah, which lad lasted about 170 years, would be healed. Israel and Judah would once again exist as one nation, and they would once again be His people.

In this promise includes the redemption of the names of Hosea’s children. Jezreel, once judged by God and found wanting, would become great once again. Loruhama would be changed, redeemed, to “Mercy is Shown.” and LoAmmi would be redeemed to become “My People.”

God used Hosea and Gomer and their children as an object lesson to Israel. It is the picture of a merciful father who redeems his his wayward wife time after time, and still she chooses to go back to her sinful ways. Israel had been warned repeatedly that if they did not turn back to God, they would be judged; they would suffer; they would die.


Hosea 1:8-10.

Now when she had weaned Loruhamah, she conceived, and bare a son.

Then said God, Call his name Loammi: for ye are not My people, and I will not be your God.

Yet the number of the children of Israel shall be as the sand of the sea, which cannot be measured nor numbered; and it shall come to pass, that in the place where it was said unto them, Ye are not my people, there it shall be said unto them, Ye are the sons of the living God.

A third child was born to Hosea and Gomer. By this time, I think Hosea would be waiting with some degree of dread to hear what God would say about naming this child. Jezreel, Loruhamah, and. .. .

Loammi. Not My people. Jezreel: God sows (plants). And Loruhamah: No mercy.

Have you ever thought about Gomer’s reaction to the names God told Hosea to choose for their children? Women, would you want your child to be named No Mercy? Or Not My people? Or God sows?

We already know that Gomer’s character, at least at this point in her life, was not one of godliness. Still, she was a Jewish woman, and she had to have had some knowledge of God’s law. I wonder how much tension there was in that home, especially whenever Hosea or Gomer had to use one of the children’s names.

Put them together in order, and you have, “God sows no mercy, you are not My people!”

His message was crystal clear, but apparently it didn’t have much impact on Israel. Their doom was realized during Hosea’s lifetime.

Still, God softened the blow in v. 10, where the promise God had made generations ago to Abraham was repeated: You will be uncountable, as the grains of sand by the sea; You will once again be My People, the sons of the Living God. But before that can happen, you must go through a time of terror, of bondage, and of returning to the worship of Jehovah.

I can’t help comparing Israel’s fate to America’s future. I believe a time of persecution such as this country has never experienced before is coming to our shores. Like Israel, our hearts have become hardened and have been stolen away into the worship of many idols. Money, recreation, other religions that require very little of us, worldly pursuits that our parents and grandparents would have deplored. We have pulpits that preach social justice, but not sin, repentance and salvation. What we have forgotten is that there can be no man-made social justice when God’s way is watered down and served lukewarm. We have forgotten that where God is honored, where His Word is revered, other problems will be addressed as God would have them to be addressed, and not with man’s ideas of what should be.

Late Sunday Morning Coffee: Introspection

This is the fifth–and, I hope, the last– Sunday of my missing church. I have an appointment Thursday to get a steroid spinal injection that should ease, if not eliminate, the pain that has plagued me for over a month now. I’m tired. Really tired. Recovery from this one is going to take a while, I think.

BUT! I’ve been thinking all morning about how much I have for which to be thankful even during this past six to eight weeks of pain.

I am beyond thankful for Terry. No one could ask for a better caregiver. There’s nothing he won’t do for me. In spite of his own pain, he carries my work along with his own. He’s a godly man who spends hours, sometimes, reading his Bible. This is, I think, making up for the years of his life when he didn’t have much time to spend in daily Bible reading. Retirement does have some rewards.

I’m thankful for a church family and friends who have expressed their concern in prayer, cards, calls, meals, and just stopping by for a visit. I’m not someone who needs to have people around me ALL the time. I can be alone and be content. But knowing that people I’ve never even met are praying for me is just kind of–overwhelming, really. A Facebook friend in Ireland; many friends from a website I enjoy but may never meet in this life; these are gifts to me from God. I am thankful.

Even the doctors who take care of me have become friends, and that is truly something for which I am thankful. They listen to me. They hear me, take the time to understand, and never dismiss what I am saying. I know that I am just one of many in a very long line of people with back problems, but they always make me feel as if I’m the only one. Without them, I’m pretty sure I’d be immobile by now, living out my life in a wheel chair. I know that’s coming, sooner or later, but putting it off as long as possible is a goal. Keeping my pain level under a five on the pain scale is a goal.

I am thankful that, at least to my knowledge, none of the people who know me are dismissive of my pain. It’s one of those conditions in which you can’t see what I don’t choose to show you. You can see the limp, and you can see my lack of energy when it’s really bad. But there are no other outward signs, and for some people, that means there’s nothing really wrong. “Oh, right, a bad back. I bet that gets her out of a lot of things she doesn’t want to do.” For anyone who feels that way, I wish you could live with my back for just an hour. It would cure you of your cynicism.

I’m so very thankful for my adjustable bed. Along with my meds, it gives me hours of good sleep. I don’t wake up hurting, and that in itself is a gift. I’m thankful for the meds, especially the one I take before bedtime. It’s an extended release med, and helps give me the relaxing sleep I need.

I’m thankful for music, and books, and even a few channels on TV that I can trust for good, clean programs and movies. Lots of people make fun of Hallmark movies, and I understand that. However, in spite of the fact that they are formula stories, they provide a get-away for me that so far has never jarred me with cursing, or bedroom scenes, or horror. And they always end happily ever after, never giving me nightmares 🙂

I’m thankful for the time to do prep work on the women’s Bible study I teach in the fall and winter. Also, I’m doing prep for the homeschool class I’ll be teaching on doing a research paper. Time is one thing I have right now, and I am trying to make the best of it.

There is more, and God knows my heart. I admit that I’ll be thankful when this period of pain is in my past, but I also know there will be more in my future. Not worrying about that, just trying to enjoy the pain-free periods that come between the painful ones.

Mostly, my own prayers include asking the Lord to help me be thankful ALL the time; to make a deliberate choice to find that for which I can be thankful.

Compassion on Judah

“Hosea 1:7.  But I will have mercy upon the house of Judah, and will save them by the LORD their God, and will not save them by bow, nor by sword, nor by battle, by horses, nor by horsemen.”

I rarely endorse authors or books here, but there is a really good series by Francine Rivers, The Restoration Chronicles, that is excellent for understanding the history of both Judah and Israel. I’m going to give you a very abbreviated sketch of the history behind today’s Bible passage. Rivers’ books, while admittedly fictionalized, do a great job of helping us understand the situation as it appeared to those who lived in the times in which her books are set.

Hosea began his work as a prophet after Jereboam II had become king of Israel. The nation was prospering politically and economically under his rule, but spiritually it was a desert. Often, when a nation prospers, it forgets about relying on God. As often happens, the depth of spiritual decline in Israel did not become obvious until after Jereboam’s death. Of the next six kings of Israel, four were violently overthrown, and one died in captivity. It was a terrible time in Israel, and was brought to a close when Assyria came rumbling into the nation and destroyed it, taking thousands into captivity, slavery, and death.

So why did God choose to bless Judah, while Israel was suffering such turmoil?

Assyria had intended to make a clean sweep of the Jewish nations. Their army was so numerous that they were easily able to attack both capitols (Samaria in Israel and Jerusalem in Judah) at the same time. Judah had taken pains to prepare for such a siege, and withstood the attacks against its walls. But finally, it became clear that it wouldn’t be long before the Assyrian army would pour into Jerusalem, attacking not only the people, but the sacred Temple that stood for Judah’s trust in God.

Prior to this moment in history, the weak and spineless King Mannasseh had permitted idolatry to invade the land, even to the use of the Temple as a center of idolatrous worship. His story is really rather amazing, as he finally turned back to God before he died, and began to restore the worship of Jehovah to its proper place. The people of Judah were terrified and resigned as they could see what seemed to be numberless soldiers camped all around Jerusalem. Their campfires could be seen stretching endlessly into the darkness of night, and the people knew they had to either find some way to leave, or face the horrendous slaughter that the Assyrian army so loved to inflict.

But God! II Kings 19:35 tells us that overnight, 185,000 Assyrian soldiers died! No battle, no explanation. They were dead, and those who lived through that night wasted no time at all in fleeing the devastation of 185,000 dead soldiers decomposing under the heat of the relentless sun. God kept His promise. The army was not killed by bow, sword, battle, horses, or horsemen. They had simply wrapped up in their cloaks, gone to sleep, and died.

And so Judah was preserved by God, at least for that time, It’s a great story, and you really should take the time to go back to II Kings and read as much of it as you can.