Hosea Week 8: Unfaithful Israel

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As we get started I want us to remember where we are the overall structure of the book of Hosea.  We are just over halfway done, and if you think back to the video we watched at the beginning of our study, Hosea has three main sections.  The first section is chapters 1 through 3, where we focus on the story of Hosea’s marriage to unfaithful Gomer.  The second and third sections are very similar in that they share the same pattern of accusations and warnings to the Israelites, followed by hope for the future.  On your tables you will find copies of the drawing from The Bible Project video.  Today, we are at the conclusion of that second section.  What we see here in Chapter 9:10 through chapter 11:11 is a two-part emphasis.  The first part is almost a recap and overwhelming expose of Israel’s idolatry and rebellion, and the second part ends the section with a reminder of hope for the future.

In this section, we find Hosea using four images to convey his message.  The first three reveal the state of Israel’s rejection of God’s love and the very severe, yet fitting, consequences.  The  fourth image helps reveal the state of God’s lavish, redemptive love for Israel.  That is going to be the outline for today, if you are taking notes.

  1. Israel’s rebellion and rejection of God warrants severe consequences.
  2. God’s love and mercy are poured out still.

 

Israel’s rebellion and rejection of God warrants severe consequences.

We are going to look at the three images found in verses 9:10 through the end of chapter 10.  Hosea has used three images in these verses.  The first, in verses 10-17, he talks about Israel being like grapes in the wilderness.  Now, I am not a farmer, nor am I a particularly green-thumbed.  However, I do know that grapes found in the wilderness are two things – 1)They are probably a surprise to whomever comes across them just growing out in the middle of harsh territory, and 2)Grapes that grow in hotter climates tend to be sweeter, less acidic than grapes that mature in a milder climate.  (Thank you Google.)  This section is meant to remind us of the beginnings of Israel, with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob.  A time where the people of God’s family were a sweet delight to God.  They loved God, they obeyed God (not always perfectly), they repented and sought reconciliation.  They were like the first –I was going to say apple, but maybe that’s not the right fruit to use here?  My friend Judy has an orchard on her property, and some of the trees are Asian Pear trees.  The first fruit of the season is often the choicest fruit.  That sensation of taking a bite from a juicy, sweet pear is what we are meant to think of here, I think.  That was the delight God felt.

And then Israel rebelled, rejected, and forgot who God is and what he had done for them.  Hosea mentions Baal-Peor.  This was where, in Numbers chapter 25, we read about Israel joining in with the Moabites in worshiping their fertility god and sacrificing to him.  This was on the tail end of them being protected from the Moabite king’s efforts to curse them through Balaam.  They become as detestable to God as the idol they were serving.  Their rejection of God in favor of this fertility idol was so detestable, the consequences are drastic.  Hosea says that what is waiting for them is extinction!  No more births, pregnancies, or even conceptions.  Did you notice the reverse order here?  It’s a reversing of the blessing.

I imagine this section was difficult for some of you.  Infertility and miscarriages are something that tend to not get discussed too much in some circles.  It is a topic rife with pain, suffering, doubt, and fear.  Because children are linked in so many places in the Bible with God’s blessing, women who struggle through this might be tempted to think that their infertility is somehow God’s curse upon them.  There is so much I could say on this topic, but let me reassure you that this instance, here in Hosea, is not meant to be a blanket pronouncement of curse on every woman suffering from infertility.  This was a particular consequence in response to a specific rebellion of the nation of Israel, for a specific purpose.

If you are someone who has or still is suffering from infertility and would like to talk with someone about it, please let me, or Mary-Alice, or one of your table leaders know.  We would like to love you and walk with you through this.  Know that you are valued and loved by the God who created you, and by the people he has surrounded you with.  You do not have to suffer this in silence or seclusion.  I really wish I could just camp here and open a dialogue on this topic because it is so important that truth be declared in all circumstances and I think this is one we shy away from because of the pain and perceived shame.  There is no shame here.  Grace and love abound.

But I do need to get back to the passage.  This is a very serious, dramatic consequence for the nation of Israel.  But note, they have spent all this time in pursuit of a fertility idol and rejecting the only one who can and does hold all things together in his hands.  God asserts his supremacy by removing that which they are attempting to secure from a source other than him.  And not only is he going to remove their fertility, in verse 15 we read “ I will drive them out of my home.”  This is the same language used when Israel was commanded to drive the Canaanites out of the land!  Now, Israel is being threatened with the loss of their place as God’s people in God’s land because they have rejected God’s rule.

What about us?  What do we do with this other than shake our heads in somewhat self-righteous wonder that Israel had gone so far astray? I think we need to examine our lives, and ask in what ways are you or I seeking to secure our future to the exclusion or demotion of God’s supremacy?  Are you trying to make sure you are checking off the list and doing all the right things?  Are you trying to strategize or manipulate your finances?  What about ways we try to control the outcomes for our children?  I confess to trying to talk my kids into faith.  I talk, and talk, and talk, and sometimes my husband lovingly will tell me it is time to stop talking!  In those moments, I am trusting myself more than God for the future faith of my children.  What are you trusting more than God for your hope?

The second image is that of a luxuriant vine, found in chapter 10, verses 1-10.  This is a vine, presumably a grape vine again, that is bursting forth with an abundance of fruit.  Israel was a faithful, growing nation.  Especially under King David and Solomon.  These men were not perfect, but God used them mightily to grow Israel and to lead them in faithfulness.  But the more they grew and prospered, the less they felt they needed God or a king.  They continued to swear faithfulness and allegiance to God, but Hosea says their oaths were empty and their covenant was useless.

The consequences of their rejection of their need for him is his turning them over to the surrounding nations.  They will be overturned by their own seeking of the favor of the nations.  What I mean is, they will be trying so hard to be their own advocate to the other nations, they will undo themselves and find that they have been made subject to them.

Do I do that?  Do you?  When things are going well, am I remembering my need of Christ?  Do I hold whatever prosperity I have loosely in my hands?  We don’t want to grasp at that good so tightly or selfishly for fear of losing it, but we should be joyfully recognizing who has ordained our moments and serve him with whatever prosperity he has blessed us with!

Our third image is of a trained calf in verses 10:11-15..  How remarkable is a calf that loved to thresh, that did not need to have direction or correction given because it was willingly doing what it should!  This is what Israel used to be – a nation that willingly obeyed.  But now, they will need to be corrected, disciplined, retrained.  They will need to be intentional about seeking the Lord.  Hosea uses farming imagery because Israel would be familiar with the terminology of sowing and reaping.  God put this action/reaction concept into nature and uses it to help us understand.  We get out of something what we put into it.  At this point in her history, Israel has been pursuing sin, and will reap the consequences of injustice and lies.  This is going to lead to conflict, war, and defeat.  So much so that their king will die because of it.

So again, I am made to ask myself, am I joyfully, willingly seeking to serve the Lord?  Am I seeking to be trained by his Word?  Do I resist, grumble, or complain when I am faced with correction? Am I trusting in my own strength and ability to achieve salvation?  If I am, I will be faced with a failure of such magnitude and consequences eternal.

This is serious!  Last week, we saw that their rebellion and wickedness had descended to the level of Sodom and Gomorrah again.  Being compared to that story in Judges 19-21 was disturbing.!  Israel is so far gone!  What hope do they have?  What hope do you and I have?

God’s love and mercy are poured out still.

This is where we move into our last image in verses 11:1-11 – that of a toddler.  How many of you mothers can relate to verse 11:2a?  The more they were called, the more they went away.  How about bath time?  Trying to get everyone out the door?  At the grocery store?

We all know our toddlers are going to misbehave.  God knew Israel would too.  Moses said it in Deuteronomy 31:29.

“For I know that after my death you will sure act corruptly and turn aside from the way that I have commanded you.  And in the days to come evil will befall you, because you will do what is evil in the sight of the Lord, provoking him to anger through the work of your hands.”

This was before they entered the land to begin with.  He knew they were going to disobey and he was going to have to correct them.  Why did he bother?

With the tenderness of a father, he recalls in verses 3 and 4 how he cared for them, provided for them, even when they did not know it was him.  And he knows he needs to discipline them.  So the consequences of their rebellion will be severe, but not so severe that they will be destroyed.  He says in verses 8 and 9 that he has compassion on them, and his love for them causes him to show restraint.  Admah and Zeboiim are two cities  that were blotted out with Sodom and Gomorrah.  So, Israel had descended to that level of wickedness and rebellion again, but God would hold back some punishment so that they would be brought back from destruction.  Verse 10 points forward and gives hope for the end of the exile and a reconciliation between God and his people.

But we know that this reconciliation would only be partial.  The exile would be over, and they would return to the land.  However, when they return and rebuild the temple, God’s presence does not descend to live among them again.  So how and when will reconciliation be made possible?  Because God would come again to live with his people, this time in the form of Jesus Christ.  They were still a sinful, disobedient people, but Jesus came and lived a perfectly obedient, sinless life.  And then, in order to satisfy the wrath that God said he would hold back in Hosea, Jesus died a death he did not deserve, and bore our punishment for our sin.  God’s wrath was satisfied.  We know this because three days later, Jesus rose from the dead!  This was God’s confirmation and declaration that Christ’s sacrifice was enough!  Now, by believing that that work was enough to satisfy the wrath we deserve, and placing our trust in Christ to sustain us, we can have that reconciliation – that reunion with God to a right relationship.  Christ gives us his righteousness, and we will stand before the Judgment Seat clothed in the blamelessness of Jesus.  Our reconciliation with him is not based on our righteousness, for we have none apart from Jesus.  It is based solely on the holy character of Christ and his life and love for us.

If you are here and you do not understand yourself to be a believer, a Christian, any one of the table leaders or teachers would greatly love to discuss this with you and tell you more about the freedom that can be found by trusting in Jesus.

I pray you are encouraged and strengthened by the reminder of how lavishly God loves you, the restraint he has shown and the lengths to which he has gone to pursue you.  May we ever be reminded to trust in Christ alone for our hope and salvation.

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