Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Hosea 14: 8 & 9

8 O Ephraim, what more have I to do with idols?
It is I who answer and look after you.
I am like a luxuriant cypress;
From Me comes your fruit.
9 Whoever is wise, let him understand these things;
Whoever is discerning, let him know them.
For the ways of the LORD are right,
And the righteous will walk in them,
But transgressors will stumble in them.

Hosea comes to a thoughtful conclusion today. This has been a longer book in its examination, but, that's because Hosea reads like more than one book. His opening chapters--setting up the unfaithful marriage metaphor of God and Israel through his very own life story of his relationship with Gomer-- is powerful. Painstakingly working through the chapters that followed--Israel's sin, punishment, banishment and the promise of redemption through God and God alone--he truly provided us with the means for understanding the Father's grace and mercy.

"The way of the LORD is a stronghold to the upright,
But ruin to the workers of iniquity."

--Proverbs 10:29

In our text today, verse 8, God speaks with finality that He has nothing to do with idols, nor should His people. They have brought Israel to ruin. "It is I...," He says who provides exactly what comes. Ephraim is not a "luxuriant vine," (Hosea 10:1) but God is a "luxuriant cypress" bearing fruit, shade and shelter. A cypress tree was noted for being a useful tree for wood (from building construction to instrument making); a great and expansive tree (shade and shelter); and, an evergreen tree--green, flourishing, prosperous [Strong's]. For ever! Wonderful choice for God.

Hosea had a long course of ministry, and it no doubt must have frustrated him to have not seen Israel turn from its ways. Yet, God revealed that there would come a time when those who believed would return home. Those who took refuge "in his shadow" under the safety of THE cypress tree would know His mercy and would, as we read in verse 7, "again raise grain" and know prosperity through Him.

Finally, verse 9, which reads like a verse in Proverbs. Those who are "wise" and "discerning" would know what the Lord was saying through Hosea. More than once, Hosea appealed to Israel's history, drawing upon its past in the hopes that the people would remember the presence of God in all that they did.

"I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. So choose life in order that you may live, you and your descendants, by loving the LORD your God, by obeying His voice, and by holding fast to Him; for this is your life and the length of your days, that you may live in the land which the LORD swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give them."
--Deuteronomy 30: 19 & 20

But Israel did not "choose life," as obedience and giving up His ways for their ways led to their unfaithfulness in the covenant that God had established with their forefathers. Rather than 'discerning', the King James Version uses 'prudent'. The word probably still brings a smile, if not a chuckle, as we remember former President George H.W. Bush's using the word (and Dana Carvey recklessly overusing it in his impersonations). Prudent means not only being wise in current decision-making, but making decisions with foresight as to their outcome. Israel thought they were doing what was best for themselves at the time, not recognizing that each self-made, self-directed decision was bringing them further and further away from anything resembling goodness, success and prosperity.

"The conclusion, when all has been heard, is: fear God and keep His commandments, because this applies to every person. For God will bring every act to judgment, everything which is hidden, whether it is good or evil."
--Ecclesiastes 12: 13 & 14

"For the ways of the LORD are right...."
--Hosea 14: 9

Introduction to Isaiah.... 'Til next Wednesday!


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Next week: An Introduction to Isaiah

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).