When they shall go, I will spread my net upon them; I will bring them down as the fowls of the heaven; I will chastise them, as their congregation hath heard.
Woe unto them! for they have fled from Me: destruction unto them! because they have transgressed against Me: though I have redeemed them, yet they have spoken lies against Me.
God says He will bring them down and chastise them, as “their congregation hath heard.” They were warned, over and over again, that if they didn’t turn from their idolatry and return to God, they would suffer. But they loved what they were doing, and even went so far as to turn to Assyria for help–the nation that would persecute them horribly. I am reminded of England’s prime minister, Chamberlain, waving the paper he had signed with Hitler, saying “Peace for our time!” How foolish we are!
Whenever God declares Woe! to His people, He is deadly serious. In spite of many warnings, many opportunities to repent, they have refused. They fled from God; they sinned against Him; they even lied against Him. And all that after He had redeemed them, showed them grace and mercy time after time, and promised them healing and restoration if only they would forsake their sin and return to Him. Their woe would be their destruction at the hands of the Assyrians, who were infamous for their horrendous mistreatment of their captives.
I believe that God spoke to people like Moses, Abraham, and others in the Bible. He even spoke to Saul on the Damascus Road. I believe He spoke to the prophets. But today, we have the complete, total, inspired Word of God–the Bible. So, if I did hear God speak to me, audibly, unmistakably, I’d think I was hallucinating. I believe that He has already given the answers we seek through His Word. I also believe that sometimes we need a little help to find those answers, which is one reason I became a counselor in a Christian counseling office. So that’s the direction I’m going to take for this story.
One of the things I enjoyed about being a counselor for 18 years was that there was never one day just…
And the pride of Israel testifieth to his face: and they do not return to the LORD their God, nor seek Him for all this.
Ephraim also is like a silly dove without heart: they call to Egypt, they go to Assyria.
Israel has gone so far away from God that, in their pride, they don’t even see their own folly, or the danger looming over them. They are silly, like doves, with no courage or determination. They fly off to other nations, seeking refuge or protection. So silly are they, indeed, that they even appealed to Assyria for help– perhaps a treaty of some sort to deliver them from the catastrophe that loomed over them.
It either does not occur to them to seek God, or they simply do not care to seek Him because of everything they would have had to give up.
There have been many who have resisted coming to God because they were afraid they’d have to give up the lifestyle they loved. What they finally come to understand, often, is that God changes the desires of the heart, and places a new heart within them–a heart that seeks Him, and delights in Him, and no longer desires the things of the world that they thought they couldn’t do without.
Many years ago, my dad, who had become a Christian when he was about 14 but had never really been discipled, felt the pull of God’s call on his life. He had been through WWII, had a wife and two little girls, and a good job. But he was a weekend beer drunk, and he smoked a lot–both of those skills he learned in the Navy. He struggled against giving up things he enjoyed.
One day, as he was driving out in the countryside, waging a mental battle with the Lord, he was about to pull another cigarette from the pack in his pocket. He realized he was sick of the battle, hated smoking, and he pulled the pack out of his pocket, crumpled it up and tossed it out the window. That was it. He never smoked again, and never craved it. Yes, he was guilty of littering. Doing so was not typical of him. He was a very neat man who liked everything in its place. Tossing that pack of cigarettes was significant of the battle he was waging against giving in to God’s call on his life. He gave up drinking, too, and went to Bible college to become a pastor. In doing so, he also gave up his desire to be a college-level history teacher, but he never gave up his love and interest in history, and passed it along to his children.
Why do I share this story with you? Because, in a way, Dad was like Israel in his resistance against God, wanting to go his own way and not really having a clear idea of what that way would be. He was stubbornly resisting God’s call, just as Israel resisted God’s pleading for them to repent and turn to Him.
Ephraim, he hath mixed himself among the people; Ephraim is a cake not turned.
Strangers have devoured his strength, and he knoweth it not: yea, gray hairs are here and there upon him, yet he knoweth not.
In turning to the worship if idols, Ephraim (Israel) was like a “cake not turned.” Often, bread was prepared like a pancake; it was cooked on both sides. If you, as I, have ever become distracted while making pancakes, you know how quickly they can burn on one side but are still runny on the other. Not appetizing at all. So was Ephraim in the eyes of God. Like an unturned pancake, it wasn’t pleasant to Him.
Ephraim had given all her strength to idol worship, and had become weak and open to destruction. The sad thing is, the people didn’t even know how far they had fallen. They had begun to show grey hair, but were not aware of this sign of aging and its accompanying weakness.
They were truly ripe and ready for the Assyrian harvest.
In the day of our king the princes have made him sick with bottles of wine; he stretched out his hand with scorners.
For they have made ready their heart like an oven, whiles they lie in wait: their baker sleepeth all the night; in the morning it burneth as a flaming fire.
They are all hot as an oven, and have devoured their judges; all their kings are fallen: there is none among them that calleth unto me.
The kings of both Israel and Judah had become weak, just as involved in idolatry as everyone else. Their own sons, as well as other courtiers, knew their weaknesses and catered to them, keeping them drunk and unable to rule. During this period of time prior to being taken captive by Assyria, there were kings who were slain by their own sons as they vied with each other over ascension to the throne. Power, wealth, lust–these were the operative motivations for their behavior.
While they were consumed with idolatry and the lustful activities that idolatry entailed, they could not and did not even think about calling on God. It was a time of complete forsaking of the holiness and purity of the worship of Jehovah. The hearts of the people were stirred not by awe of God, but by lustful desires and their own selfish appetites for power.
What a sad comedown for a nation whose history was filled with the miracles of the God of heaven!
They make the king glad with their wickedness, and the princes with their lies.
They are all adulterers, as an oven heated by the baker, who ceaseth from raising after he hath kneaded the dough, until it be leavened.
Continuing on the theme of the wickedness of Israel and Judah, God, speaking through Hosea, tells the people that they are pleasing the kings and princes of their nation with their wicked lies, their ungodly behavior. It is indeed a very sad thing when the leaders of any nation are pleased with the sinful behaviors of the people.
I was a bit confused with v. 4. I’ve baked bread for most of our 52 years of marriage, and I’m very familiar with the process–at least, when I’m using an electric or gas oven. Once the bread has been thoroughly kneaded, it is set to rise until it doubles in size. When it neared that point, I would preheat the oven so that the bread did not go into a cold oven and rise too much. It takes a little practice to get this right, but after a while it is second nature. You just develop a “feel” for when the dough is ready to bake.
Verse 4 describes a baker who used a wood- or coal-heated oven. It would burn very hot at first, so the baker could set his bread to rise and then not bother to get up again until the yeast had worked its way all through the dough. Keep in mind that most bread-baking was done very early in the morning, and was done on a daily basis.
The hearts of the people are compared to this raging hot oven, hungry for the wickedness and idolatry of the world. Only they didn’t wait for the fire to burn down; they jumped into the inferno of sin and rebellion without giving a thought to what would happen to them as a result.
When I would have healed Israel, then the iniquity of Ephraim was discovered, and the wickedness of Samaria: for they commit falsehood; and the thief cometh in, and the troop of robbers spoileth without.
And they consider not in their hearts that I remember all their wickedness: now their own doings have beset them about; they are before My face.
All down through Israel’s history, God has stood ready to show them grace and mercy, pardon, forgiveness, and restoration. And even if we are not a part of Israel, we still stand in the same place they do in regard to falling away from God, allowing ourselves to be idolatrous, turning our backs on the very idea of holiness and purity in our lives and behavior. We cannot stand in judgment on anyone else, for surely we are just as guilty.
I suspect that the persecuted believers in Asia and the Near East have a more true idea of what it is to serve God in body, soul and spirit than we do, those of us who are safe–we think–from physical persecution and suffering. Since I am an American, I cannot speak for other countries, only my own. I can tell you that what used to be considered inappropriate has become not only acceptable, but normal. I know I’m beating an old drum, but we cannot ignore the influence of movies and TV on our culture. The violence, nudity, bedroom scenes, constant use of alcohol, and laughter at ribald and filthy jokes proliferates amongst believers. What we used to refer to as “social drinking” is now accepted as “normal” especially among younger believers. Someone once said to me, “Linda, your generation is so STODGY! You won’t go to hell just because you had a drink!”
I replied, “Yes, that’s true. However, when your children observe that your behavior is no different than the unsaved people around you, THEY may choose to ignore Christianity, God’s Word, and living always with Him in mind. Are you willing to risk that? I am not!”
There was a student many years ago who was forced by his parents to come to our Christian school. He made no effort to conceal his disgust with being there, and he made very few friends. I sat with him on several occasions, encouraging him to read the scriptures I’d given him, and talking about salvation and the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. To his credit, he listened attentively, but refused to make any decisions for Christ.
One day, I found him sitting in my classroom before the day started. He was visibly shaken, even had tears in his eyes. I asked him how I could help him, and he said, “I’m ready.” I was so surprised, I wasn’t sure what he meant. “I’m ready to be a Christian,” he confirmed. I asked what had happened to change his mind. He told me, “I’ve been here long enough to observe how these “Christian” kids behave outside of the classroom. They’re no different than my friends and I. They drink, they make out right in front of everyone, they curse, they watch the same garbage movies. But there are a few who live the way you do, and I have to respect them. They must really believe what they say, and that has changed my mind. Along with the Bible, and that you obviously really care about me. So I’m ready. What do I have to do?”
It was my pleasure to lead him to Jesus that morning. He prayed on his own, sincerely and with emotion. And there was a change. He was softer, smiled more. His walls began to crumble a bit. I don’t know what happened to him later in life, as we moved far away from that place, but I know his prayer was sincere, and I pray he continued to seek the Lord.
So why am I sharing that? Because the influence of so many professing believers was that it really didn’t matter. Their behavior was the direct opposite of their words. So it was with Israel, and so it is way too often with believers today, whose walk talks louder than their talk talks.
God stood ready to restore Israel way back in Hosea’s day, but they did not want restoration. That had to suffer first. I fear the same will be true for America. There are already those who blame conservative Christians for all the unrest going on in our country. If we don’t experience a true, Holy Spirit revival, I fear America, the America I grew up in, will be lost. There will be suffering. There will be persecution. Why? Because we have hardened our hearts, and turned our backs on God, on holiness, on purity and righteousness.
I have seen an horrible thing in the house of Israel: there is the whoredom of Ephraim, Israel is defiled.
Also, O Judah, He hath set an harvest for thee, when I returned the captivity of My people.
Do we ever consider that our sin is heartbreaking to God? That’s what I see in v. 10. God calls their sin a horrible thing, defilement, whoredom. Those are strong words, showing strong emotion. So the next verse comes as a startling contrast.
In spite of their sin, God promises that after Judah is restored and the people are no longer captives, He has planned for them a time of harvest, when their lives will be good again.
In an earlier post, I emphasized the importance of true repentance in order for restoration to occur. God is infinitely patient. He will wait until we have learned to be honest with Him. He knows our hearts, and He knows when repentance is real. When that moment comes, He will reward us by restoring our lives to a time of harvest that is immensely satisfying, beyond our hopes and expectations.
God doesn’t dole out His love in teaspoons. He sends it in showers from heaven, refreshing and renewing our love for Him.
Hosea 6:9. “And as troops of robbers wait for a man, so the company of priests murder in the way by consent: for they commit lewdness.”
Bands of robbers would often hide themselves along a more secluded stretch of a road, waiting for a lone traveller. Their intent was evil. If the traveller resisted, he was easily killed, being outnumbered.
Hosea compares false priests to these bands of robbers. Their intent was also evil, and more so if they purported to be legitimate priests of Jehovah. They led God’s people into idolatry. The word lewdness used in this verse is rightly translated as sexually immoral; however, it can also be interpreted as devious, malicious, planned for the purpose of doing harm.
Why, though, should men who were–or claimed to be–priests be guilty of such vile behavior. I think we can apply a more modern phrase here–just follow the money. It was for financial gain, or popularity with idolaters. The priests did not willingly give up their status, and hoped to maintain it by cooperating with the enemy.
But they like men have transgressed the covenant: there have they dealt treacherously against Me.
Gilead is a city of them that work iniquity, and is polluted with blood.
Israel, like other wicked people, had forsaken God. He used the word treacherously to describe their behavior. The meaning here is that they were faithless and deceitful in their behavior because their hearts were hard due to lack of knowledge of God. They continued to offer some sacrifices under the leadership of treacherous priests, but they did it in a feeble attempt to appease the holy God.
Gilead was representative, in this context, of all Israel. Gilead is a mountainous region on the east side of the Jordan, just below the Sea of Galilee. Their eastern border was the desert, and in the north they were bordered by idolatrous nations whose example they followed. Gilead was also a city, and it was full of iniquity and bloodshed.
I was immediately reminded, reading about all this, of the old song There is a Balm in Gilead. Jesus was that balm, that healing Presence that brought them, finally, back into His fold.