Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Hosea 11: 1-7

Hosea 11

God Yearns over His People
 1 When Israel was a youth I loved him,
And out of Egypt I called My son.
2 The more they called them,
The more they went from them;
They kept sacrificing to the Baals
And burning incense to idols.
3 Yet it is I who taught Ephraim to walk,
I took them in My arms;
But they did not know that I healed them.
4 I led them with cords of a man, with bonds of love,
And I became to them as one who lifts the yoke from their jaws;
And I bent down and fed them.  5 They will not return to the land of Egypt;
But Assyria—he will be their king
Because they refused to return to Me.
6 The sword will whirl against their cities,
And will demolish their gate bars
And consume them because of their counsels.
7 So My people are bent on turning from Me.
Though they call them to the One on high,
None at all exalts Him.

Chapter 11 may make you think bankruptcy, but be assured that with Israel and God, there is perennial hope, even in the bleakest of circumstances. With this chapter, we begin to see a shift in the tone and text of Hosea. Mind you, even with all that we have read over these months, God still loves His people. Amidst His anger with them, we also see that love.

Verse 1 says that God loved Israel, His people, in its earliest days. Then, look at the glimpse into the future we see in the second part of the verse--"out of Egypt I called My son." Even when Israel was not a safe place in which to be, God would call His Son back, so He could be among His people.

"Now when they had gone, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, 'Get up! Take the Child and His mother and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is going to search for the Child to destroy Him.' So Joseph got up and took the Child and His mother while it was still night, and left for Egypt. He remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet: 'OUT OF EGYPT I CALLED MY SON.'" 
--Matthew 2:13-15

Verse 2 recalls Israel's current state. More easily understood for me are the translations that use 'the prophets' rather than 'they'. The more the prophets called on Israel, the more Israel ran away from the prophets. God's frustration shows, again, in verse 3, as He recalls having taught Israel (Ephraim) "to walk" or, "to go" in the King James, both having their literal meanings, but, also, figurative meanings, such as "to behave oneself." [Strong's] When we know the word of God, when we are taught how to walk and go and behave according to His way, how can we turn away and still claim we are in a relationship with Him? Our personal history with God goes back before time began. How can we stand? This is the position in which Israel found itself as Hosea ministered to them.

"The LORD your God who goes before you will Himself fight on your behalf, just as He did for you in Egypt before your eyes, and in the wilderness where you saw how the LORD your God carried you, just as a man carries his son, in all the way which you have walked until you came to this place. But for all this, you did not trust the LORD your God, who goes before you on your way, to seek out a place for you to encamp, in fire by night and cloud by day, to show you the way in which you should go."
--Deuteronomy 1: 30-33

Verse 4 is God's beautiful testimony of His love. Leading with cords of a man implies tight-knit strength. Bonds, or bands, of love. (There's that reference to the marriage covenant. With this ring--with this band--I thee wed.) "Lifted the yoke" and "bent down and fed them." Last week, we read about the yoke being put on. Today, we remember that He had lifted that yoke of slavery, came down to be before His people, and fed them of Himself, that they would want to walk in His ways. Israel has forgotten its time in Egypt, its time in the wilderness, the way once learned.

"Moreover, I will make My dwelling among you, and My soul will not reject you. I will also walk among you and be your God, and you shall be My people. I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt so that you would not be their slaves, and I broke the bars of your yoke and made you walk erect."
--Leviticus 26: 11-13

Verses 5 and 6 return to speaking of Israel's punishment over their disobedience, with verse 7 noting the nation's acknowledgment of God, yet its utterly unfaithful exultation of God for who He is.

"No man repented of his wickedness,
Saying, ‘What have I done?’
Everyone turned to his course,
Like a horse charging into the battle.
'Even the stork in the sky
Knows her seasons;
And the turtledove and the swift and the thrush
Observe the time of their migration;
But My people do not know
The ordinance of the LORD.'"
--Jeremiah 8: 6b-7

Fully into Fall, now, the geese migration is on regular audible and visual display! The geese know its time to fly, because the One who created them endowed them with the knowledge of their migratory season and pattern. But Israel does not obey His ordinances. God says, "...My people are bent on turning from Me," or, from the King James, "And my people are bent to backsliding from me...." 'Backsliding' is a wonderfully descriptive word. The Hebrew word translates "stubborn" or "rebellious," which we certainly know to be true of Israel. But the visual picture of sliding backwards is so strong--and active.

"In all places the word is used of Israel forsaking Jehovah, and with a reference to the covenant relation between Jehovah and the nation, conceived as a marriage tie which Israel had violated. Jehovah was Israel’s husband, and by her idolatries with other gods she had proved unfaithful (Jer 3:8,14; 14:7; Hos 14:4). It may be questioned whether Israel was guilty so much of apostasy and defection, as of failure to grow with the growing revelation of God. The prophets saw that their contemporaries fell far short of their own ideal, but they did not realize how far their predecessors also had fallen short of the rising prophetic standard in ideal and action."
--International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (italics, mine)

This is a very interesting commentary. As God should have been becoming bigger in the hearts and lives of the Israelites, instead, He was reduced in significance--a name upon which to refer, but not to exalt; a "club" to which to belong, but not to heed its code of conduct or membership rules. They failed to grow in the plan God established for them. They failed to see His goodness, mercy, grace and provision in light of themselves. They failed to understand that the provision of His law was to help them, not to burden them. They should have been taking steps forward, as they did with Him leading them through the wilderness--but, they slid backwards. And they became bent on doing it.

"I am God..." Hear Me roar!.... 'Til next Wednesday!


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Next week: Hosea 11: 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).