From Hosea 8-14
Some people give the appearance of knowing God and serving him. But things couldn’t be further from the truth. In today’s passage Hosea condemns the people of Israel. They claim to know God, but have bowed down to calves, transgressed the covenant and do not know his law. In the gospel, Jesus warns not everyone who calls him Lord will enter the kingdom of heaven.
This post is part of my bible in a year series.
Passage and Comments
Israel goes through the motions of worship. However on closer examination the they have abandoned him. They are actually serving another. The LORD predicts their eventual downfall.
8 Set the trumpet to your lips! One like a vulture is over the house of the LORD, because they have transgressed my covenant and rebelled against my law.
2 To me they cry, “My God, we—Israel—know you.”
3 Israel has spurned the good; the enemy shall pursue him. (Hos 8:1-3)
Vultures fly over places where they expect dead bodies to pile up. Battlegrounds. Hosea is predicting Israel will come under threat by an invading army.
The people claim to know God, ‘we Israel know you’ they say. But they have transgressed the covenant, rebelled against the law of Moses and spurned the good.
They deny the LORD by their works.
4 They made kings, but not through me. They set up princes, but I knew it not. With their silver and gold they made idols for their own destruction.
5 I have spurned your calf, O Samaria. My anger burns against them. How long will they be incapable of innocence?
6 For it is from Israel; a craftsman made it; it is not God. The calf of Samaria shall be broken to pieces. (Hos 8:4-6)
Both their king making and their idol worship are symptoms of their apostasy. Hosea plays on words: Israel has spurned the good (Hos 8.3); their calf-god, a human artifact, is spurned (Hos 8.5). Israel has made at least one other calf in her lifetime. Like the golden calf Moses made them drink, this one will be broken into pieces.
7 For they sow the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind. The standing grain has no heads; it shall yield no flour; if it were to yield, strangers would devour it.
8 Israel is swallowed up; already they are among the nations as a useless vessel.
9 For they have gone up to Assyria, a wild donkey wandering alone; Ephraim has hired lovers.
10 Though they hire allies among the nations, I will soon gather them up. And the king and princes shall soon writhe because of the tribute. (Hos 8:7–10)
Hosea uses powerful imagery. Sowing futility (the wind) they will reap calamity (the whirlwind). A proverbial saying reinforces the prophet’s somber warning of invasion and pillage to come.
Foreigners swallow up the corn; Israel is swallowed up by the nations. In a play on the Hebrew words, Ephraim is compared to a wild donkeys, restless for want of a mate. Thus does Ephraim seek for “lovers,” not this time fertility gods, but foreign allies, notably Assyria (Hos 8:9).
The animal imagery continues. The LORD will ‘gather them up’. The will be under the LORD’s control. When he does their kings and princes will regret giving the nations tribute.
11 Because Ephraim has multiplied altars for sinning, they have become to him altars for sinning.
12 Were I to write for him my laws by the ten thousands, they would be regarded as a strange thing.
13 As for my sacrificial offerings, they sacrifice meat and eat it, but the LORD does not accept them. Now he will remember their iniquity and punish their sins; they shall return to Egypt.
14 For Israel has forgotten his Maker and built palaces, and Judah has multiplied fortified cities; so I will send a fire upon his cities, and it shall devour her strongholds. (Hos 8:11–14)
Ephraim have made many altars to worship their gods. Their worship is sin. Idolatry. In a striking double entendre the prophet plays on two meanings of a single verb, “to sin” and “to make a sin offering.” Israel’s altars, destined for sin offerings, “have become altars for sinning”.
The reason follows. The LORD’s laws, even though in written form, are regarded as strange things, unknown and irrelevant. The result is disaster, a reversal of the exodus story (Hos 8:13) and fire (Hos 8.14).
Israel may have forgotten its maker, but the LORD will remember her sin.
The LORD cannot be bought off, as the prophets so often reminded their hearers, by ritual acts of worship. Sacrificial offerings cannot save, nor can massive fortifications protect (Hos 8.14).
Israel was in danger of abandoning God from her earliest days. The OT frequently warns against apostasy and identifies its likely consequences.
Israel committed apostasy in Egypt and in the desert (Ps 78:9-41). In Ex 32:25-29, 3,000 died after Aaron made the golden calf (Lev 17:7; 20:1-6; Nu 14:9-12). More abandoned the LORD in the time of the judges (Ps 78:55-64; Jdg 2:6-23; 8:27,33-34; Ne 9:26-31; Ps 106:34-39). There were people in both Israel (Hos 5:3-4; 2 Ki 17:7-20; Hos 1:2; 4:10-19; 7:4) and Judah (Jer 3:1-25; 2 Ki 23:26-27; 2Ch 29:6-9) who turned away from the LORD.
But some of their actions gave the appearance they were still the people of the LORD.
In the gospel, Jesus warns us there will be some who give the appearance of knowing God and worshipping him. But like the people we have just been reading about in Hosea, the LORD does not know them.
21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’ (Mt 7:21–23)
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