Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Hosea 13: 4-8

4 Yet I have been the LORD your God
Since the land of Egypt;
And you were not to know any god except Me,
For there is no savior besides Me.
5 I cared for you in the wilderness,
In the land of drought.
6 As they had their pasture, they became satisfied,
And being satisfied, their heart became proud;
Therefore they forgot Me.
7 So I will be like a lion to them;
Like a leopard I will lie in wait by the wayside.
8 I will encounter them like a bear robbed of her cubs,
And I will tear open their chests;
There I will also devour them like a lioness,
As a wild beast would tear them.

The beginning and end of our passage in Hosea today reflect material that has clearly been covered in the prophet's message to Israel. We have seen, especially in these closing chapters, the recalling of Israel's history and its covenant with God the Father. Should there have been any gods before the Father, or any gods at all? Of course, the Ten Commandments--Numero Uno--says NO! Yet, we find God saying, once again, that not only is there no other God, but there is no other Savior (vs. 4):

“'Declare and set forth your case;
Indeed, let them consult together.
Who has announced this from of old?
Who has long since declared it?
Is it not I, the LORD?
And there is no other God besides Me,
A righteous God and a Savior;
There is none except Me.'"
--Isaiah 45: 21

In all ways, God led His people out of slavery, out of the wilderness because he "cared" (vs. 5). Other translations, like the King James Version, use 'knew', which we know means a deep and intimate love. He is the only One who had known His people "since the land of Egypt," and before, with a righteous and everlasting love. It is an understanding of this sacred relationship that Hosea has been trying to re-communicate.

But, we know, too, that God is at a breaking point with Israel: an "I say tomato and you, Israel, say tomahto. Let's call the whole thing off" kind of impasse. This makes reading the last two verses of today's passage difficult. "So...," God begins, which is as if saying "Therefore," in other Scripture verses, God becomes as an animal on the prowl, hungry and intentional. According to my study Bible, the lion, the leopard and the bear were all native to Israel. But, now, these would become attack animals instead of mere indigenous creatures. The language is downright brutal.

"...And I will tear open their chests."
--vs. 8

When you start digging into the phrase "open their chests," you come across Hebrew words meaning "enclosure or encasement" [Strong's], and not of the chest so much as of the heart. God is not "attacking" for the sake of violence or to demonstrate outright strength. He is trying to get at the literal heart of why this relationship has failed. He wants to get at the heart of Israel to claim it, again, for Himself. He is certainly angry, but we know that He will withhold the ultimate in His wrath for a time yet to come. Still, His people will know that He is God!

What really caught my attention in preparing for today's passage was the verse in the middle, verse 6: 

"As they had their pasture, they became satisfied, and being satisfied, their heart became proud; Therefore they forgot Me."
--vs. 6

In last week's teaser for this week's blog, I mentioned this oft-misquoted proverb: "Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall." (Proverbs 16:18, New International Version) The book of Proverbs is full of references to the dangers of pride and the importance of wisdom. Indeed, it is pride that led to Satan's fallen angel status. (Ezekiel 28; Isaiah 14) But, here in Hosea, we see that there is something that comes before pride--satisfaction.
To be satisfied is to have one's desires, needs, expectations, demands, etc., fulfilled, so as to put an end to want. At its basic Latin root, it means "to do enough." [] If we are satisfied--content--then we recognize that there is no need to do more. When you read verse 6 in the King James, you begin to see the problem: "According to their pasture, so were they filled; they were filled, and their heart was exalted; therefore have they forgotten Me." (emphasis mine)
At issue--and Mick and the boys said this perfectly--"I can't get no satisfaction." God supplied all of their needs, even their demands, at times. (Remember manna vs meat?) But, was Israel ever truly satisfied? No! There was always something else, something more--greener pastures! Once you start to feel secure with what you have, you look to the next thing, and you do so with the self-confidence that says you can have it!! But, in the end, it's not what you want. It's like another Stones' smash: "You can't always get what you want....and, if you try sometimes, you just might find..." that you DON'T get what you need! If you truly believe in God as Lord, walking in obedience and faith, then you understand that HE gives you what you need, and the Lord is your shepherd and you shall not have need! (Psalm 23)

“'Beware that you do not forget the LORD your God by not keeping His commandments and His ordinances and His statutes which I am commanding you today; otherwise, when you have eaten and are satisfied, and have built good houses and lived in them, and when your herds and your flocks multiply, and your silver and gold multiply, and all that you have multiplies, then your heart will become proud and you will forget the LORD your God who brought you out from the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.'"
--Deuteronomy 8: 11-14

What a statement of Truth and wisdom! God called it, right from Deuteronomy days! Israel had forgotten. And God knew them! If Israel had only remembered His Word from those days, Hosea might have had a very different ministry.

"Otherwise, you may say in your heart, ‘My power and the strength of my hand made me this wealth.’ But you shall remember the LORD your God, for it is He who is giving you power to make wealth, that He may confirm His covenant which He swore to your fathers, as it is this day. It shall come about if you ever forget the LORD your God and go after other gods and serve them and worship them, I testify against you today that you will surely perish. Like the nations that the LORD makes to perish before you, so you shall perish; because you would not listen to the voice of the LORD your God."
--Deuteronomy 8: 17-20

There are enormous lessons for us all who struggle with pride in our lives. I can certainly reflect on my own life and see the many times I have tried to one-up myself in going beyond the boundary of contentment. I see my struggles with pride and my lack of contentment over my circumstances. The world we live in does not make fighting this any easier. But, that's temptation! It is when we choose to turn away from how the world lives, walking in what we know to be true, that even in our earthly dissatisfaction, we can live contently. 

"And He has said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.' Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.'"
--II Corinthians 12: 9 & 10 

Thankful to be a work in progress on the Potter's wheel!

The painful outcome of being a dissatisfied Israelite, as Chapter 13 continues.... 'Til next Wednesday!


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Next week: Hosea 13: 9-13

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).