Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Hosea 2: 8-13

"For she does not know that it was I who gave her the grain, the new wine and the oil,
And lavished on her silver and gold, which they used for Baal.
9"Therefore, I will take back My grain at harvest time
And My new wine in its season.
I will also take away My wool and My flax
Given to cover her nakedness.
10"And then I will uncover her lewdness
In the sight of her lovers,
And no one will rescue her out of My hand.
11"I will also put an end to all her gaiety,
Her feasts, her new moons, her sabbaths
And all her festal assemblies.
12"I will destroy her vines and fig trees,
Of which she said, 'These are my wages
Which my lovers have given me '
And I will make them a forest,
And the beasts of the field will devour them.
13"I will punish her for the days of the Baals
When she used to offer sacrifices to them
And adorn herself with her earrings and jewelry,
And follow her lovers, so that she forgot Me," declares the LORD.

"For she does not know...." Lost in her sin, too far gone for most to see, Israel is facing punishment from the Lord. God's words through Hosea in our passage today are as descriptive as they are clear.

Israel would learn, as we know, that God is the sole provider of all that we have. My church recently experienced a break-in, with thousands of dollars of equipment being stolen. Even as I know there were earthly thieves involved, I also have to say that God allowed for this event to take place. We have felt violated with the invasion. But, we have also turned to God in prayer, not putting aside our worship, and reaching out to our community for support. As the song says, "You give and take away. My heart will choose to say, 'Lord, blessed be Your Name!'"

But, here in Hosea, Israel has not recognized her Father. And God is in a mode of taking away. That with which He blessed Israel in making her the nation of His children, He would remove from sight, that she might, once again, turn to Him. Ezekiel, Chapter 16, begins with a gorgeously rich passage of God's grace upon Israel--a nation of feeble begininngs, yet, with God's personal hand-dressing, a nation that would grow into extreme beauty. But, affirming our Hosea passage, it would not last.

"But you trusted in your beauty and played the harlot because of your fame, and you poured out your harlotries on every passer-by who might be willing....Then it came about after all your wickedness ('Woe, woe to you!' declares the Lord GOD),that you built yourself a shrine and made yourself a high place in every square."

--Ezekiel 16:16, 23-24 [Look at that interjection by God in the middle of His own message--'Woe, woe to you' Israel. Wow!]

If you read all of that Ezekiel chapter, you will understand how verse 9 of Hosea fits in so beautifully with Israel's story. "I will also take away My wool and My flax given to cover her nakedness." Before Israel was a chosen nation, she was bloodied and naked. God's grace would serve as a "skirt" (Eze. 16:8) to cover her. "But you trusted in your beauty," says Ezekiel 16:16, and God had no choice but to remove His grace for a time. Linen, a material so desired, that even to manufacture linen was a dream job. Linen and wool symbolize purity and whiteness. But God would remove the garments He placed upon Israel, once again, leaving her in nakedness--meaning, "disgrace, blemish, unclean, shame." [All references here, Strong's].

God is putting an end to Israel's "party", as it were, (vs. 11) their focus on prosperity at their own hands and their worship of idols, notably Baal. The nation's creation of their own worship festivals and holidays was not celebrated by God, but, rather, condemned. Hosea is not the first to mention this practice.

"I hate, I reject your festivals, nor do I delight in your solemn assemblies.... You also carried along Sikkuth your king and Kiyyun, your images, the star of your gods which you made for yourselves."
--Amos 5:21, 26

Back to Hosea 2:12, God will destroy the nation's food source, notably, fig trees. We may not talk much about figs outside of Newtons or ingredients on cooking shows, but fig trees are often mentioned in the Bible and had enormous significance--both literally and figuratively--back in the day. The fig was a very important, reliable crop, especially for trade. The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia also says, "Plenitude of fruitful vines and fig-trees, specially individual ownership, thus came to be emblematical of long-continued peace and prosperity." Israel would know the deep loss of relationship with God. Note the credit of the giving of the fig trees as wages from Israel's lovers, or false gods. Praise God from Whom ALL blessings flow--not so much, Israel. [Not to forget that Adam and Eve's first garments were created from fig leaves, getting back to the nation's soon-to-be state of "nakedness".]

Today's passage concludes with God punishing Israel for its worship of Baal. Baal was a Phoenician sun god who courted Israel through the evil Jezebel when she married King Ahab. The prophet Elijah comes to the forefront when looking at Jezebel's story and influence. Remember how he fled following Jezebel's threats to kill him? His pleading with God at the cave to be finished with his work? God would strengthen Elijah, as there were important leadership changes that he would help bring about. God also issued this word through His prophet:

"Yet I will leave 7,000 in Israel, all the knees that have not bowed to Baal and every mouth that has not kissed him."

--I Kings 19:18

There's a lot of back and forth in the messages of Hosea. But isn't that how it goes with studying the dynamics of a relationship? Having concluded an "Unfaithfulness" section, and reading God's Word as documented I Kings, we begin anew with "The Restoration of Israel".... 'Til next Wednesday!;

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Next week: Hosea 2: 14-18

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).