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!


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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).