Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Hosea 8: 1-7

Hosea 8

Israel Reaps the Whirlwind
1 Put the trumpet to your lips!
Like an eagle the enemy comes against the house of the LORD,
Because they have transgressed My covenant
And rebelled against My law.
2 They cry out to Me,
“My God, we of Israel know You!”
3 Israel has rejected the good;
The enemy will pursue him.
4 They have set up kings, but not by Me;
They have appointed princes, but I did not know it.
With their silver and gold they have made idols for themselves,
That they might be cut off.
5 He has rejected your calf, O Samaria, saying,
“My anger burns against them!”
How long will they be incapable of innocence?
6 For from Israel is even this!
A craftsman made it, so it is not God;
Surely the calf of Samaria will be broken to pieces.
7 For they sow the wind
And they reap the whirlwind.
The standing grain has no heads;
It yields no grain.
Should it yield, strangers would swallow it up.

The blast from a trumpet is a sound of warning. When God is showing the demonstrative side of His character, He brings the appropriate accompaniment. Again, we understand the basic message of our text from Hosea: Israel minus healthy one-on-one, covenant relationship with God equals discipline (i.e., captivity). How is God telling His message to us in Chapter 8? Loudly, to start!

Verse 1 says, "Like an eagle...." Not to be confused with the reference to eagles' wings in Isaiah 40 as the renewal of strength by the Lord, my study Bible says, more literally, an eagle here should be a vulture. The reference is to the pending attack by Israel's future captive holders, Assyria.

“The LORD will bring a nation against you from afar, from the end of the earth, as the eagle swoops down, a nation whose language you shall not understand, a nation of fierce countenance who will have no respect for the old, nor show favor to the young.... It shall besiege you in all your towns until your high and fortified walls in which you trusted come down throughout your land, and it shall besiege you in all your towns throughout your land which the LORD your God has given you."
--Deuteronomy 28: 49, 50 & 52

Verse 1 continues with the reminder that Israel has been unfaithful. "Transgressed My covenant and rebelled...." Remember the framework of this book: the marriage covenant. Israel cries out in verse 2: "My God, we of Israel know You." Of course if that were true, their behavior, attitude, mindset, focus, allegiance, honor, worship, service would be directed toward God and not to themselves and their foolish attempts to make themselves sufficient without Him. Such platitudes were not ignored. Israel's words and God's response should make us all sit up and take notice. How faithful are we? "And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting." (Psalm 139: 24, King James Version)

Verses 4 and 5 revisit Israel's sins in the areas of unethical behavior and spiritual wrongdoing at the highest levels of the kingdom's leadership structure--the kings as well as the priests. Verse 5 calls out their worship of the calf, which is a heinous thing to the Lord. After the incredible disgrace suffered by the Israelites at the hands of Aaron, when Moses was en route to receive the Ten Commandments, it's hard to believe such rampant worship of the bull could exist. In reading my study Bible notes and cross-references, it appears we will revisit calf worship in Hosea 10. More on this later.

I do find God's rhetorical question to be quite powerful: "How long will they be incapable of innocence?" The Message paraphrase puts it this way: "How long before they shape up? And they're Israelites!" When the favored home team is on a losing streak, you wonder what it will take to snap them out of it. We say, "They can't do anything right." We've watched our favorite baseball team lose players, coaches, managers, front office people. We're still losing. How long before they come together and recognize their issues? God knows Israel's issues, and He's sending them off--not to the bargaining table but to the special training camp. Clean slate management. He's the only One who can make this team favored again.

Verse 7 is yet another wonderful metaphor from God--a gardening one, yet--to illustrate the situation of Israel. The kingdom has planted a dangerous seed amongst its own--the wind! What happens when you plant the wind? It yields a whirlwind. What's one of the definitions of a whirlwind, according to "Any circling rush or violent onward course." Why is God lovingly concerned with the state of His people? They have chosen to follow a violent onward course. Praise Him for loving His people enough to take such drastic measures to start bringing them home!

We just had Hurricane Irene pass through Virginia and much of the eastern coast of the United States. The large circular storm was, indeed, massive in its coverage. Violent? Just ask anyone whose boat was thrown up by the wind or the folks in Vermont who can only be reached by helicopter, at the moment. Might there be a few wind seeds planted on American soil? Not saying that God is punishing America specifically, necessarily, but.... Creation is in His hands as is how He uses it. We do live in a post-man's Fall era. I might suggest that this country is following a violent onward course. But, I digress... a bit.

"Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap."
--Galatians 6:7

Can you picture the next part of verse 7? Imagine a stalk of wheat. The standing grain is something that rises up, like wheat, on a stalk. But, if there is no head of grain on the stalk, there is merely a stick. Nothing of fruitfulness grows on the stalk. Thus, the next line, "it yields no grain," or no "meal," no "flour." (King James Version) And, if by some reason the stalk did yield grain, "strangers would swallow it up." It would not be the choice spiritual food that God would have planted. No, there is nothing fruitful and productive in what is being grown in Israel.

"He who sows iniquity will reap vanity,
And the rod of his fury will perish."
--Proverbs 22:8

Though He wrote 10,000 precepts, Israel looked upon His word as 'strange'. More trouble in the whirlwind as Chapter 8 concludes.... 'Til next Wednesday!


* * *

Next week: Hosea 8: 8-14

Note: I read from the New American Standard Bible translation,
specifically, The MacArthur Study Bible (NASB).
I will quote other sources if used in a post.

I also use
Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible
(with notes from the King James Version).

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Hosea 7: 13-16

13 Woe to them, for they have strayed from Me!
Destruction is theirs, for they have rebelled against Me!
I would redeem them, but they speak lies against Me.
14 And they do not cry to Me from their heart
When they wail on their beds;
For the sake of grain and new wine they assemble themselves,
They turn away from Me.
15 Although I trained and strengthened their arms,
Yet they devise evil against Me.
16 They turn, but not upward,
They are like a deceitful bow;
Their princes will fall by the sword
Because of the insolence of their tongue.
This will be their derision in the land of Egypt.

In this last part of Hosea 7, I am picking up on the strong emotion that Carmen alluded to in comments on the post from two weeks ago. "God seems so sad here, none care, none seek Him," she wrote. It is quite obvious from the tone of the text this week that the fallen relationship with Israel is a personally hard-hitting blow to God, and He is angry about it.

God recalls the gifts of preparing His people--"trained and strengthened their arms" (vs. 15). Yet Israel used those gifts for evil purposes rather than godly ones. God would like to redeem His people, "but they speak lies against Me." (vs. 13) Where there was grace, in return, there was disrespect, injustice and self-righteousness. Even Jesus lamented over Israel's condition, in this cross-reference from Matthew:

“Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were unwilling."
--Matthew 23:37

But, Israel's list of wrongs is overbearing to God in light of His patience, grace, mercy and love:

  • "Strayed from Me" (vs. 13)
  • "Rebelled against Me" (vs. 13)
  • "Do not cry to Me [but] for the sake of grain and new wine they assemble themselves" (vs. 14)
  • "Turn away from Me" (vs. 14)
  • "...Turn, but not upward" (vs. 16)

My study Bible notes in verse 14 that many ancient translations use "gash themselves" rather than "assemble themselves." Gashing refers to ritualistic behavior that came with idol worship. If you want to read a cool story of faith--and understand this gashing behavior--read I Kings 18, starting with verse 20, about how Elijah showed the people the difference between God and Baal. Trust me, you'll be fired up after you read it--LOL!

Actually, the princes of Israel have much in common with the prophets of Baal. They will be short-lived. The "insolence" on their tongue will be "their derision." 'Insolence' means rude, insulting or disrespectful speech or behavior. The King James Version uses "the rage of their tongue." [Strong's] What does James say about the tongue?

"So also the tongue is a small part of the body, and yet it boasts of great things. See how great a forest is set aflame by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, the very world of iniquity; the tongue is set among our members as that which defiles the entire body, and sets on fire the course of our life, and is set on fire by hell."
--James 3: 5 & 6

In the end, Egypt, former home of the enslaved Israelites, will mock the princes of Egypt ("their derision"), as their words, their deeds, their hearts would lead them back into captivity.

“But no one says, ‘Where is God my Maker,
Who gives songs in the night,
Who teaches us more than the beasts of the earth
And makes us wiser than the birds of the heavens?’"
--Job 35: 10 & 11

"Israel Reaps the Whirlwind"--You know Chapter 8 is up to no good.... 'Til next Wednesday!


* * *

Next week: Hosea 8: 1-7

Note: I read from the New American Standard Bible translation,
specifically, The MacArthur Study Bible (NASB).
I will quote other sources if used in a post.

I also use
Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible
(with notes from the King James Version).

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Hosea 7: 8-12

8 Ephraim mixes himself with the nations;
Ephraim has become a cake not turned.
9 Strangers devour his strength,
Yet he does not know it;
Gray hairs also are sprinkled on him,
Yet he does not know it.
10 Though the pride of Israel testifies against him,
Yet they have not returned to the LORD their God,
Nor have they sought Him, for all this.
11 So Ephraim has become like a silly dove, without sense;
They call to Egypt, they go to Assyria.
12 When they go, I will spread My net over them;
I will bring them down like the birds of the sky.
I will chastise them in accordance with the proclamation to their assembly.

Last week, the oven was too hot because the baker wasn't attending it. This week, the hot oven that is Israel (Ephraim) is now a "cake not turned." Who's running this kitchen? [Who said Gordon Ramsey? Be nice!]

Hosea 7:8 begins with a reference to Israel's poor leadership, "mixing" with other nations. This goes beyond trading and other economic relationships. Israel was indulging itself in other nations' culture and religion, as well as administrative practices. Is it any wonder Israel's devotion to God and His meeting of their needs fell by the wayside? So many other influences when One would have more than sufficed. Perhaps their "batter" contained a few too many foreign "ingredients"?

Given how ovens back in the day would have heated, a cake not turned would have baked thoroughly on only one side. Half burned, half raw. Paula Deen couldn't have saved this cake with butter if she tried!

Verse 9 paints an unsettling picture. If Israel thought itself a stronghold, it was in denial. "Gray hairs also are sprinkled on him, yet he does not know it." How much time do people spend in front of the mirror evaluating how much gray hair they have, among other things? One report says that, globally, we spend $38 billion a year on hair care products. Not enough to cancel out the U.S. deficit, but a good chunk. Somebody's noticing. Israel didn't, and gray hair was highly honored by the Jews. (International Standard Bible Encyclopedia "...A crown of glory...found in the way of righteousness," Proverbs 16:31). Israel wasn't looking at itself in the mirror. What wisdom it had was not noticed. Why not?

"...the pride of Israel testifies against him...."
--vs. 10

Pride said, "No! We don't need to look in the mirror. We know we're successful. We've adapted all these wonderful things from all our neighboring new friends. We're getting to be like them in so many ways. Isn't this great? We don't need anybody else, now. We know what we're doing."

"The highway of the upright is to depart from evil;
He who watches his way preserves his life.
Pride goes before destruction,
And a haughty spirit before stumbling.
It is better to be humble in spirit with the lowly
Than to divide the spoil with the proud."
--Proverbs 16: 17-19

Pride had taken up residence in Israel's heart, and as spoken of last week, there was no true lifeblood flowing from there. Israel was so deep into itself that it could not see how truly desperate a nation it was. Remember those verses we read about the corruption, the unholy religious practices, the bloodshed. Yet, no one could see what was going on around them. And, most importantly, "they have not returned to the Lord their God, nor have they sought Him, for all this." (vs. 10)

Verse 11, Israel moves from being a cake to a "silly dove." Captivity would provide Israel the opportunity to finally look at itself and to realize its foolishness. Instead of "without sense," older translations suggest "without heart." Exactly! Israel would call for help from Egypt and Assyria. Egypt, of course, was the original place of captivity for the Israelites--the place from which God called them that they might be in a new covenant relationship and not slavery. Assyria is the next place for Israel's captivity, with God Himself, spreading "My net over them," that they might be chastised for their waywardness.

There are penalties for disobedience. (Feel free to read one of the cross-references for verse 12--Leviticus 26: 14-39. OH MY!) Even though it isn't stated as boldly as in other places in the Bible, God's grace was clearly covering Israel through His amazing patience with their sin and prideful heart. But, God has limits, and early withdrawal from the covenant comes with substantial penalties.

God's rejected offerings lace the conclusion of Chapter 7.... 'Til next Wednesday!


* * *

Next week: Hosea 7: 13-16

Note: I read from the New American Standard Bible translation,
specifically, The MacArthur Study Bible (NASB).
I will quote other sources if used in a post.

I also use
Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible
(with notes from the King James Version).

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Hosea 7: 1-7

Hosea 7
Ephraim’s Iniquity
1 When I would heal Israel, the iniquity of Ephraim is uncovered,
And the evil deeds of Samaria,
For they deal falsely; The thief enters in,
Bandits raid outside, 2 And they do not consider in their hearts
That I remember all their wickedness.
Now their deeds are all around them; They are before My face.
3 With their wickedness they make the king glad,
And the princes with their lies. 4 They are all adulterers,
Like an oven heated by the baker who ceases to stir up the fire
From the kneading of the dough until it is leavened.
5 On the day of our king, the princes became sick with the heat of wine;
He stretched out his hand with scoffers,
6 For their hearts are like an oven as they approach their plotting;
Their anger smolders all night,
In the morning it burns like a flaming fire.
7 All of them are hot like an oven, and they consume their rulers;
All their kings have fallen. None of them calls on Me.

Iniquity, evil deeds, bandits and thieves. If we weren't studying Hosea, you'd think I was talking about "Cowboys and Aliens" or some other summer blockbuster. Chapter 7 reviews the sinful circumstances of Israel (i.e., Ephraim, listed here with its capital, Samaria).

"...They do not consider in their hearts that I remember all their wickedness...."
--vs. 2

God's frustration in His relationship with Israel is that the very basic premise of the relationship--the covenant He made with His people--is no longer respected, spoken of, obeyed. Remember, the book of Hosea is built around the concept of a marriage covenant in a broken state. Do folks reading this book these days appreciate that God and Hosea are both working to re-establish a covenant relationship, a promise that was made to be upheld? Our divorce-prone, quick-answer society may not see the depth of covenant in dealing with its marital woes. God, however, gets right to the point in verse 2: It's a heart issue.

And when your heart is in the right place? Well.... We can go to Proverbs for support of that wisdom. "Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life." (4:23) There is nothing resembling life flowing from the heart of Israel, and God, again, attacks the kings and princes, in Chapter 7, for their leading the people astray--committing adultery under a holy promise.

"...And although they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, they not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them."
--Romans 1:32

What stood out most in today's passage for me is yet another metaphor fashioned to make us see the severity of Israel's situation. It's a baking metaphor, no less! God compares Israel's heart to an oven. (see above) But, not just any oven. This is an oven that the baker has left unattended.

My husband bakes, and he's wonderful at it! Going gluten-free has certainly put a damper on his baking, as it's not as fun to bake (and eat) for yourself. But, he still makes mean pizzas for himself and the girls, and he loves a hot, hot oven! Crispy crust bottoms and perfect melting come when the pizza stone has been heated in the hottest oven you can have. But, other baking requires careful control of the heat. He also makes delicious sourdough loaves, and they are best left inside a turned-off oven to finish their baking.

The baker in Hosea 7 is not tending his fire in the oven all night, as he would do if preparing baked goods for selling in the next day's market. There is a time to knead, a time to leaven (add the rising agent), and a time to heat up the oven so the dough cooks at its proper temperature.

"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."
--Verses 6 & 7 in the King James Version

Flames are for Whoppers, not for baking! The heart of Israel was consumed with an out-of-control burning passion for fulfilling its own destiny. The problem was, that wasn't their calling. That wasn't the agreement. In their trying to go it alone, they are in the vicious cycle of "devouring" their leaders, and fanning into flame the fire of self-preservation and self-importance. And God's not stopping them this time! What Israel needed to understand is what the church of Ephesus was told in Revelation 2:4--"But I have this against you, that you have left your first love."

“She will pursue her lovers, but she will not overtake them; And she will seek them, but will not find them. Then she will say, ‘I will go back to my first husband, for it was better for me then than now!’"
--Hosea 2:7

Better than now, when it's too darn hot, Israel!

Cakes, gray hairs and silly doves, oh my.... 'Til next Wednesday!


* * *

Next week: Hosea 7: 8-12

Note: I read from the New American Standard Bible translation,
specifically, The MacArthur Study Bible (NASB).
I will quote other sources if used in a post.

I also use
Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible
(with notes from the King James Version).

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Hosea 6: 6-11

6 For I delight in loyalty rather than sacrifice,
And in the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.
7 But like Adam they have transgressed the covenant;
There they have dealt treacherously against Me.
8 Gilead is a city of wrongdoers,
Tracked with bloody footprints.
9 And as raiders wait for a man,
So a band of priests murder on the way to Shechem;
Surely they have committed crime.
10 In the house of Israel I have seen a horrible thing;
Ephraim’s harlotry is there, Israel has defiled itself.
11 Also, O Judah, there is a harvest appointed for you,
When I restore the fortunes of My people.

I said in last week's post that we would return to the thoughts of Samuel with this week's post. Verse 6 echoes those thoughts completely--loyalty (obedience) over sacrifice and knowledge (knowing and revering God) over burnt offerings. God says, "But like Adam," Israel has sinned. Remembering how this book of Hosea has been fashioned--based on a marriage relationship--He says they have "transgressed the covenant." (vs 7) Remember what happened when Adam sinned? We're still dealing with the fallout from that transgression. Thanks be to God for His Son who keeps us from being eternally in that fallout!

"Now then, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be My own possession among all the peoples, for all the earth is Mine; and you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words that you shall speak to the sons of Israel.”
--Exodus 19: 5 & 6

This is God speaking to Moses in what is referred to as the Mosaic Covenant. God declared Israel to be His "own possession," in words that were to be spoken "to the sons of Israel" throughout the generations. Hosea is still relaying God's words, yet the context is completely different now, as Israel has broken its covenant with God through disobedience.

Once again, God rails on Gilead for the idol-worshiping/murder capital it has become. Verse 9 in the King James Version is slightly different, and, to me, more clearly understood: "And as troops of robbers wait for a man, so the company of priests murder in the way by consent: for they commit lewdness." God singles out the priests, again, and calls them murderers through the act of their allowing others to sin. 'Lewdness' in the Hebrew means "a 'plan,' a 'purpose,' so translated several times and then shading off into 'evil plan'; translated also 'heinous crime,' 'wicked purpose or device.'" (International Standard Bible Encyclopedia)

Israel's lewdness was compared to Gomer's harlotry back in Chapter 2:

“And then I will uncover her lewdness
In the sight of her lovers,
And no one will rescue her out of My hand."
--Hosea 2:10

Just to note, in verse 9 of the text, Shechem is a place in Palestine, or can refer, generally, to a ridge. [Strong's] The King James' does not mention that in its translation, but I didn't want to blow past a place name.

The chapter concludes with a final statement of the obvious concerning Israel: "a horrible thing"..."defiled itself." (vs 10) Before composing today's blog, I was working on music selections for our bell choir's upcoming involvement with the Christmas program at church. We are plugging into Christmas prophecy and combing through the reactions of characters in the Christmas story in encountering Jesus for the first time. More than once, I came across hymn text referring to Jesus as "undefiled."

"Gentle Mary laid her Child lowly in a manger;
There He lay, the undefiled, to the world a Stranger.
Such a Babe in such a place, can he be the saviour?"

--from the hymn "Gentle Mary Laid her Child"

The breaking up of the marriage covenant between God and Israel came about because Israel could no longer stand before God in a clean state. The people made murky the plans of God, preferring their own lewdness. Even when they claimed to be in relationship with Him, sacrifices and religious practices fouled the pure intent of God's way. Israel defiled itself.

Israel will not be the only one facing judgment, as God reminds Judah, in verse 11, that "there is a harvest appointed for you." And by that, God is not suggesting that they will come rejoicing, bringing in the sheaves. The harvest is one of judgment and captivity.

"Put in the sickle, for the harvest is ripe.
Come, tread, for the wine press is full;
The vats overflow, for their wickedness is great."
--Joel 3:13

But, after such a time, He will "restore the fortunes of My people."

Chapter 7 brings us back to "Ephraim's Iniquity." May seem familiar, so get ready to look at how God says what He says and what He means.... 'Til next Wednesday!


* * *

Next week: Hosea 7: 1-7

Note: I read from the New American Standard Bible translation,
specifically, The MacArthur Study Bible (NASB).
I will quote other sources if used in a post.

I also use
Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible
(with notes from the King James Version).