Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Hosea 12: 1-6

Hosea 12

Ephraim Reminded
 1 Ephraim feeds on wind,
And pursues the east wind continually;
He multiplies lies and violence.
Moreover, he makes a covenant with Assyria,
And oil is carried to Egypt.
2 The LORD also has a dispute with Judah,
And will punish Jacob according to his ways;
He will repay him according to his deeds.
3 In the womb he took his brother by the heel,
And in his maturity he contended with God.
4 Yes, he wrestled with the angel and prevailed;
He wept and sought His favor.
He found Him at Bethel
And there He spoke with us,
5 Even the LORD, the God of hosts,
The LORD is His name.
6 Therefore, return to your God,
Observe kindness and justice,
And wait for your God continually.

The earliest books of the Old Testament provide some of the richest details, if one chooses to read through them: the creation of the Tabernacle, for instance--from the precise materials used to the skilled craftsmen who would construct it. God provided details in His Word to help people live righteous lives, and He expected this Word and the stories of the people who either embraced or didn't embrace His Word to carry forward throughout the generations.

We should not be surprised, then, this week, to see Hosea evoking the name of a "hero" of Israel. God purposed the life story of Jacob to transcend his time. Hosea reminds the lost nation, in Chapter 12, that it is time to recall those early days--days of walking with God--and those who walked that path.

But, first, verses 1 and 2, remind us reading now of why Israel is in the trouble it is. The nation has allied itself with ungodly neighbors, and it seeks after the East wind. The direction from which the wind blows is significant in Scripture.

"The east wind or the 'scorching wind' (James 1:11) from the desert. It is a hot, gusty wind laden with sand and dust.... The heat and dryness wither all vegetation (Genesis 41:6). Happily the wind seldom lasts for more than three days at a time. It is the destructive 'wind of the wilderness.'"
--International Standard Bible Encyclopedia

We know that God is going to punish Israel. But, in verse 2, 'Jacob' is used instead of 'Israel'. The two are interchangeable. Hosea then brings to mind significant events of Jacob's life story as we read verses 3-6. Remembering, through quick hops of the latter chapters of Genesis, Jacob was the son of Isaac and Rebekah, and came into the world grabbing the heel of his twin brother, Esau. Being the second born, Jacob did not have the birthright privileges of his older brother--but he came out on the fairer side of a trade, receiving the birthright from a hungry Esau for a bowl of red stew. Later, with help from his mother, Jacob would also receive his father's blessing in an interesting story of deception with provision. The incident would put Jacob on the run from his brother--and into the hands of God.

Hosea recounts how Jacob contended with God and wrestled with "the angel." In Genesis 32, we read that Jacob wrestled with "a man." But Hosea uses not only 'angel' but, much more specifically, "the LORD, the God of hosts," as the wrestler. It is at Peniel--which means "face of God"--where Jacob receives his new name, Israel. Verse 4 also mentions Bethel, which has been mentioned in Hosea throughout the chapters as a place of worship turned to idol worship. For Jacob, Bethel is the place of his true spiritual awakening, when God spoke to him of His promises--passed down from Abraham--in a dream.

Why Jacob? What are the lessons for the pre-exilic Israelites of Hosea's time? The prophet helps us understand, again in verse 5: "The Lord is His name" or, otherwise translated as "the Lord is his memorial." For Jacob, Bethel represented a sacred anointing moment between him and God. At Peniel, not just a moment, but an entire new movement through his new name.

"He said, 'Your name shall no longer be Jacob, but Israel; for you have striven with God and with men and have prevailed.'”
--Genesis 32:28

"'Memorial' as the translation of 'azkarah' is a sacrificial term, that which brings the offerer into remembrance before God, or brings God into favorable remembrance with the offerer...."
--International Standard Bible Encyclopedia 

Jacob named these places so he would remember what God had done, and so his children and his descendants would remember what God had done. Life-changing moments upon which he could remember the favor of his Lord, the provision and love of his Lord. In Hosea's time, there was little Israel could look to, memorial-wise, to remember the favor of the Lord upon His people. What Israel hadn't completely marred, God would destroy. Yet....

"Therefore, return to your God, observe kindness and justice, and wait for your God continually."
--vs. 6

Even when their memorial landmarks would be taken away, Israel could still draw direction from Hosea's words, and remember Jacob's perseverance and faithfulness. They certainly did not have the strength or fight to prevail over "the man," much less any man. But, God had not abandoned them, either. Their charge? To "wait...continually." The Hebrew word means "to bind expect, gather, look patiently...." [Strong's]
"The most important and frequent use of the word wait, however, is to define the attitude of a soul God-ward. It implies the listening ear, a heart responsive to the wooing of God, a concentration of the spiritual faculties upon heavenly things, the patience of faith, 'the earnest expectation of the creation' (Romans 8:19)."
--International Standard Bible Encyclopedia

And, Israel is reminded that God has been God for a long time. More from Chapter 12.... 'Til next Wednesday!


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Next week: Hosea 12: 7-10

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).


Carmen said...

It's amazing how things unfold, even in Scripture. Jacob, receive the birthright from a foolish brother, and then the blessing by fooling his father (along with his mother). Yet, God allowed it all. It brings David and Bathsheba to mind as well,though they paid a price by the loss of their firstborn. It's all so very interesting, and brings hope that many of God's ways are past finding out. Enjoyed this, Sue!

Carmen said...

The word 'that' should read 'because'