A. Israel’s sinful idolatry.
1. (1-3) Israel’s leaders are rebuked for the sinful state of the nation.
“Hear this, O priests!
Take heed, O house of Israel!
Give ear, O house of the king!
For yours is the judgment,
Because you have been a snare to Mizpah
And a net spread on Tabor.
The revolters are deeply involved in slaughter,
Though I rebuke them all.
I know Ephraim,
And Israel is not hidden from Me;
For now, O Ephraim, you commit harlotry;
Israel is defiled.”
a. Hear this, O priests: When God saw the sinful state of the nation of Israel, He saw that it was because the leaders did not lead in a godly way. It would be tempting for the priests to blame the people, but it was really the fault of the spiritual leadership (priests) and political leadership (house of Israel) of the nation.
b. The revolters are deeply involved in slaughter, though rebuke I them all: The real tragedy of Israel’s sin wasn’t so much that they stumbled. It was more so that they did not respond to God’s rebuke when they did stumble. If a man knows how to humbly respond to God’s correction, God can always work with him.
2. (4-9) Israel’s double desolation.
“They do not direct their deeds
Toward turning to their God,
For the spirit of harlotry is in their midst,
And they do not know the LORD.
The pride of Israel testifies to his face;
Therefore Israel and Ephraim stumble in their iniquity;
Judah also stumbles with them.
With their flocks and herds
They shall go to seek the LORD,
But they will not find Him;
He has withdrawn Himself from them.
They have dealt treacherously with the LORD,
For they have begotten pagan children.
Now a New Moon shall devour them and their heritage.
Blow the ram’s horn in Gibeah,
The trumpet in Ramah!
Cry aloud at Beth Aven,
‘Look behind you, O Benjamin!’
Ephraim shall be desolate in the day of rebuke;
Among the tribes of Israel I make known what is sure.”
a. The pride of Israel testifies to his face: Like all rebellion, Israel’s rebellion was centered on pride. They arrogantly thought that what God said didn’t really matter compared to their own opinions and desires.
b. They shall go to seek the LORD, but they will not find Him: When God promised to leave rebellious Israel alone (Hosea 4:17), it means that when they make superficial gestures of repentance, they will not find Him. Their repentance was superficial because they do not direct their deeds toward turning to their God.
i. In many ways today, people think they are seeking God when they really aren’t. It’s just a superficial investigation. For example, a man might say, “I grew up in the Baptist church and couldn’t find God there. So I went to the Methodist church and couldn’t find God there. Then I went to the Pentecostal church, but couldn’t find God there. Now I’m at the Presbyterian church and can’t find God” (paraphrased from Boice). You may imagine you have searched hard after God, but that is an illusion. The truth is that you are running away from God. When He started to get close to you at the Baptist church, you left it and became a Methodist. When He started to get close to you at the Methodist church, you became a Pentecostal. You’ve followed the same pattern – a superficial search for God that backs away when you really start getting close to God.
ii. He has withdrawn Himself from them: It can happen. We can be so set in our sin and rebellion that God just leaves us to ourselves. Usually we don’t even notice at first, but when we call upon the LORD and do not find Him, then we start to see the result of pushing God away.
c. Ephraim shall be desolate in the day of rebuke: Because God has withdrawn Himself from them, they will find no help or refuge when the Assyrian army attacks. They will be made desolate.
B. Israel’s sinful trust in man for deliverance.
1. (10-13) Israel and Judah looked to man’s wisdom.
“The princes of Judah are like those who remove a landmark;
I will pour out my wrath on them like water.
Ephraim is oppressed and broken in judgment,
Because he willingly walked by human precept.
Therefore I will be to Ephraim like a moth,
And to the house of Judah like rottenness.
When Ephraim saw his sickness,
And Judah saw his wound,
Then Ephraim went to Assyria
And sent to King Jareb;
Yet he cannot cure you,
Nor heal you of your wound.”
a. The princes of Judah are like those who remove a landmark: This means that the political leaders of Judah were corrupt and cheaters. They were the kind of men who would change property boundaries to their advantage if they thought they could get away with it. This reminds us that while Judah may have been better than Israel, they still had to repent.
i. “Judah’s leaders, however, were not shifting physical property lines but spiritual lines established by God, changing the boundary between right and wrong, between true and false religion, between the true God and the idols.” (Wood)
ii. We can imagine a citizen of Judah reading Hosea’s prophecy and being a bit smug that their neighbor to the north was so roundly rebuked. God reminds Judah that she has her own sin to deal with.
b. He willingly walked by human precept: Ephraim’s sinned by living by man’s standards and opinions instead of God’s. We can’t walk by human precept unless we first reject God’s precepts, and that was exactly what Israel did.
i. Ephraim went to Assyria: Israel was foolish enough to trust in man – her eventual conqueror – instead of trusting in God. Choosing a King Jareb instead of the LORD is always foolish and ends in ruin.
ii. “‘Jareb’ is not a known Assyrian’s name but means ‘warrior’.” (Wood)
c. Like a moth… like rottenness: God will be the one who eats away and corrodes what Israel and Judah have. They will not be blessed, and they will not increase.
2. (14-15) God’s judgment and the goal behind it.
“For I will be like a lion to Ephraim,
And like a young lion to the house of Judah.
I, even I, will tear them and go away;
I will take them away, and no one shall rescue.
I will return again to My place
Till they acknowledge their offense.
Then they will seek My face;
In their affliction they will earnestly seek Me.”
a. I will be like a lion: God’s judgment would come against Israel and Judah in subtle ways (like a moth… like rottenness). But it would also come in obvious, unmistakable ways. Both a moth and a lion bring destruction, just in different ways.
b. In their affliction they will earnestly seek Me: This was the goal of God’s judgment against Israel. The goal was not destruction, but restoration. Sadly, it is often only in our affliction that we earnestly seek the LORD. Why not seek the LORD now, before affliction forces you to?
©2018 David Guzik – No distribution beyond personal use without permission