The book of Hosea sets forth with relentless consistency the rebellious spirit of both Israel and Judah. God’s specific command to Hosea (1:2 and 3:1) provided a living parable of the radical act of redemptive mercy that God himself would have to be willing to execute if he were to have for himself a people of his own possession (2:19, 20, 23). He betrothes an adulterous people to himself; in fact, his Son dies in order to ransom a bride for himself (Ephesians 5:25-27, 31, 32). That God’s mercy would extend to corrupt sinners under a sentence of righteous condemnation should shock us more that God’s requirement that Hosea take “a wife of harlotry” to himself and then go retrieve her when she proved unfaithful. The reality of moral and religious perversity couched in vivid images provokes a disturbing and energetic, but conceptually intriguing, literary onslaught. We can look at this book as a picture of God’s infinite grace and wisdom in his determination to redeem and marry those about whom he says, “They will play the harlot”(4:10), and “the spirit of harlotry has led them astray” (4:12, “you, Israel play the harlot” (4:15), “the revolters have gone deep in depravity” (5:2), “played the harlot … a spirit of harlotry is within them” (5:3, 4), “Ephraim’s harlotry is there” (6:10), an other places. Our text demonstrates that even the most informed words of spiritual duty have no correlation to moral reality without the sovereign grace of redemptive intervention according to God’s own covenant faithfulness.
I. Chapter 5 continued its account of the just anger of God—depicted graphically throughout chapter 4– upon each level of society in Israel with a withering assurance of intent to punish.
A. Priest, Kings, and the whole house of Israel were guilty of continual transgression (1, 2) and so continue to be entrenched in sin; they are in bondage to it (3, 4).
B. Not only will Israel fall, but Judah, in the future, will fall also (5).
C. God has withdrawn from them, and though they may seek him in a moment of desperation (6), they will find that God does not respond to their hypocrisy. Their desperation is transient, self-centered, unrepentant and in itself a treachery against the Lord (7). Fear of attack will penetrate their society so as to have no mental peace even when no harm is near (8).
D. When their feigned search for a saving God fails, they turn to a foreign alliance for security (13). Assyria and its king, however, have no balm for healing spiritual apostasy and adultery. They saw their sickness and their woundedness but saw it only in a shallow manner and related merely to temporal prosperity and safety. They did not understand the eternal gravity of departure from the living God. That they had forsaken the great privilege of being a covenant people formed no element of their lament. A temporal alliance cannot heal their disease or cure their wound.
E. Their sin is so pervasive and insistent (7, 10, 11) that they will find God Himself to be their enemy, their relentless pursuer into captivity: 9 (“the day of rebuke”), 10 (“pour out my wrath like water”), 11 (“crushed in judgment”), 12 (“like a moth”)14.
II. An invitation to repent and a suggested narrative of what repentance would involve.
A. 5:15 – God removes his covenantal presence from them and looks for an earnest turning of heart to Him. Since they have sought prosperity, safety, abundance, and religious satisfaction on their own terms and in accordance with their lusts, God will leave them to seek repentance on their own. Were they to have true and enduring earnestness in seeking him, they would be healed. Will they do it or is their corruption so deep that even repentance and seeking the Lord amount to seeking their own interest?
B. 6:1-3 – This is an admonition arising hypothetically from within Israel, containing the elements of what would be said if, indeed, they would acknowledge their guilt and “In their distress earnestly seek me.”
1. Corporately a spiritual dawning would direct them to “return to the Lord.” How were they a nation? God’s deliverance from Egypt and his miraculous sustenance of them formed them. His granting them their land was in faithful fulfillment of a promise to the father, Abraham. “Let us return to the Lord,” to the Yahweh of covenant faithfulness.
2. They acknowledge that their punishment is just (1). Their desperation comes not from unfortunate worldly circumstances, but from divine displeasure at their unfaithful lives, their perversions of worship, their corruption of marriage, and their irrational adherence to discredited and unresponsive fictional deities.
3. They see punishment as a manifestation of his intent to restore them. He will heal where he has torn; he will bandage where he has wounded. He has afflicted us so that we will see the greatness of his mercy in restoration (1).
4. They recognize Him as faithful though they have been unfaithful. When the time of desperation is ripe, the Lord will revive them. Just when it seems that punishment has won and has had the final word; just when it seems that nothing else can be said, “He will raise us up.” One cannot help but look at this as a prefiguring of Christ. After two days in the grace under the power of death, Jesus was raised on the third day after having accomplished fully the work of undergoing divine wrath and the curse of the law. He experienced the threatened death for Adam’s disobedience.
5. They put the knowledge of God as the greatest of blessings—“So let us know, let us press on to know the Lord.
- According to 4:2 and 6, this has been lacking. God’s controversy arose “because there is not faithfulness or kindness or knowledge of God in the land. … My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.” This is not for lack of revelation, or the absence of true prophets, but “because you have rejected knowledge.”
- The knowledge of the Lord begins with cognition of truth and must be embraced through conformity of heart. God is not known through rote merely, but by delight in, love for, and obedience to whatever he reveals and all that he requires. We will not go beyond the truth of his word nor fail to perform the least of his commands. Adherence to the greatest commandments and belief of the most astounding truth requires an accumulation of conformity of mind and heart to those revelations of law and gospel that seem in themselves—isolated from the whole—tedious and puzzling.
6. A return to Him is a return to the source of all life and blessing for, unlike them, he is faithful. As sure as dawn begins each day, so is God faithful. As nurturing and necessary as rain that waters the earth in the spring, so absolutely necessary is God’s grace for his people to be fruitful and bountiful in the knowledge of God.
III. In spite of such a hypothetical scene, God finds Israel as fickle in even the slightest of devotions and still under the verdict of judgment.
A. God asked a rhetorical question for both Ephraim (Israel) and Judah indicating that nothing has changed. Their theoretical repentance and contemplation for restoration reached no lower than the vocal cords. Words disconnected from a serious engagement with their meaning only increased Israel’s culpability. The concept of their sin, their susceptibility to judgment, and the readiness of God to restore them was present in their vocabulary but alien to their spirit. Their contemplated loyalty was like the “morning cloud” or the “dew which goes away early” (6:4). In 7:14, God uncovered their feigning of spirituality by revealing that when they “wail on their beds” they “do not cry to me from their heart.”
B. In light of such hypocrisy and consequent increase of culpability, God does not remove the stern words of judgment from the prophets (5 in light of 2:8-13). Not relenting in the execution of justice, they will be “hewn to pieces” in accordance with what he has threatened through the prophets. Like light that goes forth, so sure and quick will judgment overtake them.
C. God despises all that is merely external show of heartless religiosity. Even the sacrifices mandated by God himself accomplish nothing in the way of true religion without conformity of affections accompanying the required action (6).
1. Drawing up an image of the disobedience and protracted hypocrisy of the first king of Israel, Saul, through Hosea, God pointed to Samuel’s words as a principle of true worship (1 Samuel 15:22, 23). Samuel asked, “Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold to obey is better than sacrifice.”
2. David, Saul’s successor, perhaps reflecting on Saul’s failure to repent of his disobedience, in confessing his own sins of adultery and bloodguiltiness (Psalm 51:3, 14) focused on the necessity of a “clean heart and a right spirit” (Psalm 51:10). The convicting power of the Spirt had broken his bones (8) but by the internal work of God he had been given a “broken spirit” and a “broken and contrite heart” (17). Without these, God does not desire our offering of a sacrifice or burnt offering (16).
3. The “knowledge of God” must be present if burnt offerings are to have any true spiritual significance. This knowledge refers to internal experience of God’s holiness and a joyful reception of his mercies. This knowledge presses beyond the immediate and sees the final solution in the promised seed of the woman. Like Abraham, they must see the day of Christ and rejoice (John 8:54-58). In John 17: 3, Jesus addressed his Father indicating the saving quality of a particular kind of knowledge of God, “And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.”
D. The transgression of the nation connects with transgression so ancient and continuous that it is described in the similitude of Adam’s (6:7) covenant unfaithfulness (See Romans 5:12-21). David pressed his own sin, without excusing himself or diluting his repentance, to the corruption received in the transgression of Adam. “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity and in sin did my mother conceive me” (Psalm 51:5). Native corruption of heart engendered in the race’s first sin in the person of Adam lies at the bottom of all rebellion. A recognition of and detesting of the guilt of Adam’s first sin, the corruption of the whole moral nature (original sin), together with all actual transgressions proceeding that corruption are recognized with both candor and deep sorrow in true repentance.
E. There will be no return by repentance (6:8-10) and God’s wrath will stay on them (6:5) and give them up to more grotesque crime as a due penalty for their moral and religious dereliction. God looks at them and sees even their priests—illegitimately appointed by Jeroboam (1 Kings 12:28-31; 13:33) leading in criminal activity (9).
F. Verse 11 is one of those quick, puzzling, strange mixtures of judgment and promise. Isaiah 51:33 described Babylon as a threshing floor that would be a point of punishment and purification for Judah. Their harvest is comprised of a winnowing and a gathering as announced by John the Baptist concerning Jesus. “His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into the barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire” (Matthew 3:12). Only in the events surrounding the death, burial, resurrection of Christ, the preaching at Pentecost, and the giving of the gospel to the nations can put these two elements in perspective.
IV.Chapter 7 – The idolatry of Ephraim (the name of one of the tribes to identify the entire Northern Kingdom, also called Samaria) has promoted gross crimes, heated pursuit of sin, treachery, sensuality, and brutal injustice (7:1-7). Of the 17 kings of Israel only 8 were not assassinated or killed treacherously or in battle. Their coming destruction is the direct judgment of God on their unfaithfulness in every aspect of life (8-16). Several images show the feigned, utterly unreliable devotion of Israel—a cake half-turned, like a dove silly and without sense, like a treacherous bow. They have neither knowledge of God nor knowledge of themselves and God himself will bring their deserved destruction on them. “They do not consider in their hearts that I remember all their wickedness” (7:2).