Hosea Week 7: No Worship in a Foreign Land

cristina-gottardi-192989

 

Hosea starts out – telling people not to rejoice. It’s not just a command. It’s an anti-command. Don’t rejoice.

Lots of Bible passages – the command to rejoice – Psalms alone – over 40 times – and that’s not counting synonyms. Hearing passages in your head. “Rejoice in the Lord”

Idea of rejoicing – often accompanies good news – most notable example angel announcing birth of Christ – “I bring you good news of great joy” Rejoicing and good news go together.

How many passages can you think of with command – “Don’t rejoice” It’s not common. It is significant.

Hosea tells the people not to rejoice because he has no good news for them. In fact, he has bad news.

I want us to think together about how Hosea has structured his message of bad news in these 9 verses. I think it’s helpful to think about the structure of a passage because if we understand the structure we will be well on our way to understanding the meaning of the passage.

We’ve already talked about the fact that Hosea starts out this passage with a command – Do not rejoice. He then repeats this sentiment using similar words “exult not like the peoples”

We then see the word “for” what follows is the reason the people should not rejoice. The word “for” often functions like the word because. In fact, we could just substitute it. Try reading it again, substituting the word because.

We will better understand why the people shouldn’t rejoice if we think about the image of the threshing floor. We know, because of our study in Ruth, that the threshing floor was where the grain was brought. On the threshing floor the good grain was separated from the chaff. We also remember from Ruth that once the hard work was done there was a party at the threshing floor. Hosea may have even spoken these words during the harvest when the people were celebrating a bountiful harvest. They may have been in the midst of a harvest festival.

Harvest festivals were actually commanded by God. The Fall harvest festival is more commonly know as the Feast of Booths. We learn about this festival in the book of Deuteronomy when God was telling the people how to order their lives. It’s found in Deuteronomy 16:13-15.

13 “You shall keep the Feast of Booths seven days, when you have gathered in the produce from your threshing floor and your winepress. 14 You shall rejoice in your feast, you and your son and your daughter, your male servant and your female servant, the Levite, the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow who are within your towns. 15 For seven days you shall keep the feast to the Lord your God at the place that the Lord will choose, because the Lord your God will bless you in all your produce and in all the work of your hands, so that you will be altogether joyful.

So a party at the end of the harvest is commanded by God. And the people are actually told to rejoice. This “party command” in Deuteronomy comes after God brought the people out of slavery in Egypt. He was going to give them their own land. He was going to be their God. Just as he gave them manna in the desert he’s going to give them fruitful harvest in the land. The image of that blessing was the threshing floor where the great harvest, given by God was brought in.

We saw a picture of that in Ruth. A time of famine. But there is food once again in Israel. Harvest is plentiful. The threshing floor became a place of celebration. A place of celebrating God’s goodness to his people. They had a party and a love was born. A love that will result in the birth of our Savior.

There are other images of threshing floor in OT. After the Philistines captured the ark and God forced them to return it, the oxen brought the ark back to Israel and they stopped at a threshing floor. David built an altar on that very threshing floor, worshiping God for his continued care for his people. Solomon later built the temple on that very threshing floor. The temple of God is built on a threshing floor. The temple is built on the symbol of God’s provision for his people – the threshing floor

Unlike Deuteronomy, in which the people are commanded to rejoice at the threshing floor celebration, we talked about how Hosea tells the people not to rejoice. So what’s gone wrong?

He tells them not to rejoice “for (or because) you have played the whore, forsaking your God. You have loved a prostitutes wages on all threshing floors.”

Rather than remembering that God is the one who provides for them – the people think they have provided for themselves. They’ve also been looking to foreign powers to provide for them. We have seen this theme again and again in Hosea.

Hosea sums this up by saying, “for you have played the whore, forsaking your God.” They went after other lovers. They looked to Egypt and Assyria to take care of them. When the harvest was good, they congratulated themselves.

The threshing floor became a place where people congratulated themselves for providing for themselves or they have celebrated the provision of foreign powers. It is the exact opposite of what God intended.

Furthermore, rather than celebrating God’s provision as enough, they have looked to idols to satisfy them. Hosea says “You have loved a prostitute’s wages on all threshing floors.” God was not enough. They wanted the wages of a prostitute as well. Therefore, they adopted the idols and wicked practices of the nations around them.

How do threshing floors relate to us today? As we’ve talked about, the threshing floor is an image of God’s provision for the people in the promised land. God has provided for us completely in Christ. We forget that don’t we?

We look elsewhere for provision. We fantasize about having a nicer house.  I fantasize about having a cleaner, more well-ordered house. About having more money, a more loving husband, more obedient children, a more exciting life. We think if we had those things we would be satisfied. We are not content with God’s provision.

We think we need to provide for ourselves. So, we worry and we agonize. We plan and strategize and, if you’re like me, we get angry when our plans don’t work out. We do this because we’ve been trying to provide for ourselves rather than looking to the Lord to provide for us. When things are going well, we forget God and congratulate ourselves. We are less regular at church, less regular in prayer or in his Word.

What I need to do, what we need to do, is repent of trying to provide for ourselves, acknowledge that God has perfectly provided for us, and trust in that provision.

So, Hosea tells the people they shouldn’t rejoice and he tells them why they shouldn’t rejoice. Next, he tells them what will happen to him if they don’t listen.

“Threshing floor and wine vat shall not feed them,
and the new wine shall fail them.
They shall not remain in the land of the Lord,
but Ephraim shall return to Egypt,
and they shall eat unclean food in Assyria.

They shall not pour drink offerings of wine to the Lord,
and their sacrifices shall not please him.
It shall be like mourners’ bread to them;
all who eat of it shall be defiled;
for their bread shall be for their hunger only;
it shall not come to the house of the Lord.

What will you do on the day of the appointed festival,
and on the day of the feast of the Lord?
For behold, they are going away from destruction;
but Egypt shall gather them;
Memphis shall bury them.
Nettles shall possess their precious things of silver;
thorns shall be in their tents.

The days of punishment have come;
the days of recompense have come;
Israel shall know it.

He uses a number of different images to let the people know that exile is coming.

He says “They shall not remain in the land of the Lord”

“but Ephraim (meaning Israel) shall return to Epypt” – this is a symbolic returning to Egypt – in actuality they are going to Assyria – but it was in Egypt that they were in slavery and they will be slaves again so Hosea uses this image.

Two things are going to happen when they are in Exile.

Lack of food.

There will be a physical component.

We see this when Hosea says “Threshing floor and wine vat shall not feed them, and the new wine shall fail them.”

Right now they have plenty of food and are thanking idols for that food. In Assyria, when they are under God’s judgment there will not enough food.

God will not be spiritually present with them.

There is also going to be a spiritual component.

Hosea uses a lot of images to make this clear

“They shall not pour out drink offerings”

            Hosea then asks the rhetorical question “What will you do on the day of the appointed festival?” The implied answer is “nothing” because there is no place to celebrate the festivals.

There will be no way for them to worship God in Assyria. They won’t be able to sacrifice to God. There will be no place in which they can worship God. Even if there was a place where they could worship God, they would never be able to do so because they won’t be able to keep themselves ritually clean. Hosea tells them they will eat “unclean food” in Assyria.

Even though the people had perverted their worship of God, and their hearts were not in it, being able to sacrifice to God and keep themselves ritually clean was still a big deal. They thought they were truly worshiping God. So, not being able to worship God because they were in a foreign country would have been devastating to the people.

Hosea uses even more images to talk about exile. I wish we had time to talk about all of them.  Suffice it to say, these two things – lack of food and an inability to worship God – these should have been a serious wake up call to the people.

The people are headed to exile. Judgment is coming.

Sadly, the people are not listening. And Hosea knows they probably won’t listen because it’s not the first time they’ve been warned. Hosea makes this clear at the end of the passage.

He uses the image of the Prophet to do this. So, let’s think next about how Hosea uses the image of the prophet.

7b “The prophet is a fool; the man of the spirit is mad, because of your great iniquity and great hatred.”

Hosea is again using repetition here to emphasize his point – “the prophet is a fool, the man of the spirit is mad.” It’s not exactly clear whether Hosea thinks he is on a fool’s errand because the people have not received his message or if the people themselves are calling him a fool and a madman. It doesn’t actually matter because in both cases the prophet is treated as a fool. We then learn why the prophet is treated as a fool – “because of your great iniquity and great hatred.” The people were in sin, they liked being in sin and they didn’t want to listen to a message that confronted them on their sin.

Hosea reemphasized his point in verse 8 – “the prophet is the watchman of Ephraim with my God.” The watchmen were the men who stood on top of the walls. If they saw danger coming, they called out to the people so the people would be prepared when the enemy came. The prophets had a similar job – they were called to warn the people of danger they were in because of their ongoing sin. Well not only did the people not listen to the prophets but Hosea tells us that the people were actively against the prophet. “a fowler’s snare is on all his ways, and hatred in the house of his God.” In the house of God where the people should have been listening to the prophet, the prophet is encountering hatred from the people. The people are working to blot out the message by being against the prophet.

We no longer have prophets like Hosea who warn us when we are in sin, but we do still have the prophetic words of Scripture. Sometimes that word comes when we hear a sermon, sometimes it comes when we are reading the Bible on our own, and sometimes it comes in the form of a godly friend who asks an insightful question. How attuned are you to hearing the rebuke of Scripture in your life? We look at the people of Hosea’s day and think it’s ridiculous that they didn’t listen to him. But are we carefully listening to Scripture on a regular basis. Are we asking the Holy Spirit to apply the Scripture to our lives or are we busy thinking how well it applies to everyone else? I know I could grow in humbly allowing the word to penetrate my heart.

So, Hosea has told the people not to rejoice. He’s told them not to rejoice because of their great sin. He’s told them if they don’t listen to him they will be sent into exile. This message is not a new one. The prophets have been bringing this message for many years and the people have been ignoring them.

Of course, the great irony here is that if the people had listened to Hosea and not rejoiced there would have been hope for them. Remember when Jonah went to Nineveh with his message? The people immediately realized it was not a time for joy but for sadness. They put on sackcloth and ashes. And there was hope for Nineveh.

 

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