A. Sowing idolatry, reaping exile.
1. (1-6) Casting off God and embracing idols.
“Set the trumpet to your mouth!
He shall come like an eagle against the house of the LORD,
Because they have transgressed My covenant
And rebelled against My law.
Israel will cry to Me,
‘My God, we know You!’
Israel has rejected the good;
The enemy will pursue him.
They set up kings, but not by Me;
They made princes, but I did not acknowledge them.
From their silver and gold
They made idols for themselves;
That they might be cut off.
Your calf is rejected, O Samaria!
My anger is aroused against them;
How long until they attain to innocence?
For from Israel is even this:
A workman made it, and it is not God;
But the calf of Samaria shall be broken to pieces.”
a. Set the trumpet to your mouth! Trumpets were used to assemble God’s people and to call troops to battle. Here, God commands the trumpet to sound to gather the mighty Assyrians against Israel for judgment, because they have transgressed My covenant.
b. Israel will cry to Me, “My God, we know You!” But their cry is not sincere, because Israel has rejected the good. They set up rulers and princes against the Lord, and were steeped in idolatry.
i. My God, we know You! But they didn’t really know God. It will be the same way for many church-goers today. Jesus said, “Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’” (Matthew 7:22-23).
ii. They set up kings, but not by Me: “To choose leaders without the direction of God is not only sinful, it is foolish. Those who follow their own wisdom in the choice of leaders inevitably get what they deserve” (Boice).
c. The calf of Samaria shall be broken to pieces: Israel made beautiful idols out of silver and gold, but they will not stand. In judgment, God will break them to pieces.
i. Your calf is rejected “is literally ‘your calf stinks.’” (Wood) That’s what God thought of their idols!
2. (7-10) Israel judged and regathered.
“They sow the wind,
And reap the whirlwind.
The stalk has no bud;
It shall never produce meal.
If it should produce,
Aliens would swallow it up.
Israel is swallowed up;
Now they are among the Gentiles
Like a vessel in which is no pleasure.
For they have gone up to Assyria,
Like a wild donkey alone by itself;
Ephraim has hired lovers.
Yes, though they have hired among the nations,
Now I will gather them;
And they shall sorrow a little,
Because of the burden of the king of princes.”
a. They sow the wind, and reap the whirlwind: It will seem to Israel that the judgment they receive is worse than the sin they committed. This isn’t true in the sense of God being worse to us than our sin deserves, but it is true in how judgment feels. This is usually because our sin is sown over a long period of time, but often reaped in a contracted period of judgment.
b. Now they are among the Gentiles… now I will gather them: God promised that Israel would face the conquering Assyrians and exile, but also that He would one day gather them again. This note of mercy is sprinkled through the song warning of judgment.
B. Why God will not accept their offerings.
1. (11-13) Israel considers God’s word a strange thing.
“Because Ephraim has made many altars for sin,
They have become for him altars for sinning.
I have written for him the great things of My law,
But they were considered a strange thing.
For the sacrifices of My offerings they sacrifice flesh and eat it,
But the LORD does not accept them.
Now He will remember their iniquity and punish their sins.
They shall return to Egypt.”
a. They have become for him altars for sinning: Israel foolishly built many altars for sin. So it is no surprise that those altars became altars for sinning. When we give ourselves opportunity and occasion for sin, it is never surprising when we end up sinning.
b. I have written for him the great things of My law, but they were considered a strange thing: In their sin and idolatry, Israel also rejected the Word of God. God had great things for Israel, but they seemed like a strange thing because their hearts were far from God.
c. I have written for him: This tells us the author of the Bible – God Himself. Spurgeon said it well: “This volume is the writing of the living God: each letter was penned with an Almighty finger; each word in it dropped from the everlasting lips, each sentence was dictated by the Holy Spirit.”
i. “If this be the Word of God, what will become of some of you who have not read it for the last month? Most people treat the Bible very politely… When they get home, they lay it up in a drawer till next Sunday morning; then it comes out again for a little bit of a treat and goes to chapel; that is all the poor Bible gets in the way of an airing. That is your style of entertaining this heavenly messenger. There is dust enough on some of your Bibles to write “damnation” with your fingers.” (Spurgeon)
d. The great things of My law: This tells us the content of the Bible – great things. The Bible speaks of the greatest and most important things of both life and eternity.
i. “The Bible treats of great things, and of great things only. There is nothing in this Bible which is unimportant. Every verse in it has a solemn meaning, and if we have not found it out yet, we hope yet to do it.” (Spurgeon)
e. But they were considered a strange thing: This tells us the way the Bible is received by the natural man. Paul expressed the same idea in 1 Corinthians 2:14: But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. The Word of God and the things of the spirit are great things, but seem like a strange thing when man is in sin and idolatry.
i. Sometimes people reject the Bible because they think “science” is superior. “But the science of Jesus Christ is the most excellent of sciences. Let no one turn away from the Bible, because it is not a book of learning and wisdom. It is. Would ye know astronomy? It is here: it tells you of the Sun of Righteousness and the Star of Bethlehem. Would you know botany? It is here: it tells you of the plant of renown-the Lily of the Valley and the Rose of Sharon. Would you know geology and mineralogy? You shall learn it here: for you may read of the Rock of Ages, and the White Stone with a name graven thereon, which no man knoweth, saving he that receiveth it. Would ye study history? Here is the most ancient of all the records of the history of the human race. Whatever your science is, come and bend o’er this book; your science is here” (Spurgeon).
f. But the LORD does not accept them: Sure, they still brought sacrifices to the LORD. But it was all just an outward ceremony because they were still steeped in sin and idolatry. Therefore their sin remained uncovered, and God will remember their iniquity and punish their sins.
2. (14) When God’s people forget their Maker, there is no refuge.
“For Israel has forgotten his Maker,
And has built temples;
Judah also has multiplied fortified cities;
But I will send fire upon his cities,
And it shall devour his palaces.”
a. For Israel has forgotten his Maker: Israel built temples, but not unto the LORD who made them. Therefore, the judgment described in this chapter is coming upon them.
b. Judah also has multiplied fortified cities: While Israel practiced outright idolatry, Judah was guilty of a more subtle sin. They trusted in the fortified cities they built against the Assyrians. Those cities would be of no help (I will send fire upon his cities), and the only the LORD would preserve Judah from total destruction (Isaiah 37:33-36).
i. Perhaps we can capture some of the ungodly heart of Israel and Judah by examining our own attraction to grandness and nice facilities. What could be wrong with success and nice buildings? They easily become idols if our hearts turn away from God. If God brings size and great buildings, it is wonderful – as long as we don’t turn our eyes off Him, making those things idols.
©2018 David Guzik – No distribution beyond personal use without permission