Deciding on Discipline

I.  Chapter 5 continued its account of the just anger of God upon each level of society in Israel with a withering assurance of intent to punish. Priest, Kings, and the whole house of Israel were guilty (1, 2) and so entrenched in sin that they are in bondage to it 3, 4. Not only will Israel fall, but  Judah, in the future, will fall also (5). God has withdrawn from them, and though they may seek him in a moment of desperation (6), or try to find security in foreign alliance (13), their sin is so pervasive and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. 10, 11, 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

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, seek his face, and “In their distress earnestly seek me.”

They acknowledge that their punishment is just.

They see punishment as a manifestation of his intent to restore them.

They recognize Him as faithful thought they have been unfaithful.

They put the knowledge of God as the greatest of blessings, which according to 4:6 has been lacking.

A return to Him is a return to the source of all life and blessing

III.  In spite of such a hypothetical scene, God finds Israel as fickle in even the slightest of devotions (6:4 cf w/ 7:14), and its transgression so ancient and continuous that he connects it with Adam’s (6:7) covenant unfaithfulness [See Romans 5 12:-21]. There will be no return by repentance (6:8-10) and God’s wrath will stay on them (6:5).  Verse 11 is one of those quick, puzzling, strange mixtures of judgment and promise. 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.

V.  Chapter 8 –Judgment is about to be announced. The trumpet set to the lip means that the declaration of the beginning of the battle against Israel by God is commencing.

A.  The vulture about to descend is Assyria. Though Assyria is brutal and unjust, and though God will hold it accountable for its arrogant pursuit of destruction, he used it justly in his case against Israel. The Assyrian attack on Judah under Sennacherib ended in a terrible disaster for the army and the eventual assassination of Sennacherib by his own sons (2 Kings 19:35-37).

B. They have transgressed the covenant, even since their establishment by rebellion under Jeroboam I. This pick up the theme also mentioned in 6:7, where their covenantal unfaithfulness extends as far back as Adam. This shows that the message here in Hosea gives warning to us all that, As children of Adam, both naturally and covenantally, the spiritual waywardness of Israel lies within our heart. We must recognize, “There but for the grace of God go I.”

C. The law of God has not governed them as seen in many places [eg. 4:2; 4:6]. “O how I love thy Law!” is the sigh and heartfelt desire of every justified person. If we have no regard for God’s Law then we have no foundation on which the cherish the righteousness of Christ. We do not abolish the Law by faith; rather we establish it.” Romans 3:31

D. In their completely disastrous view of religion, they profess that they know God though they have neither covenant faithfulness, knowledge of the Law, nor any aspect of pure worship.

D. They have spurned the good, and just discipline now comes. Not knowing the “good” is an indication of an absence of the Spirit of God in one’s life ; compare Ephesians 5:9; Romans 12:2

E. They will not find deliverance in their unwarranted contrivance of a national government 8:4a

F.  They will find that their idols have no power  (4-6)

G.   their alliances with other nations (8-10), their sorry attempts at worship (11-13), aggravate the holy wrath of God against them

H,  There is now no reason for them to anticipate compassion from God (13b-14), but only a fiery display of judgment.

VI.  Chapter 9

A.  9:1-6 – The continuous abominations of both religious life and moral life had made the case of Israel hopeless. The former source of their pleasures shall fail them, their attempts at worship shall only reveal their destitution both in piety and in provision. They return to captivity [Egypt and Memphis are use symbolically of their original captivity]. They profited nothing from their freedom, so God returns them to that former state, the oppression of a cruel and greedy people.

B.  9:7-9 –This focus text reiterates the determination of Yahweh to punish these people. 9:7a. and 9:9b. The attempt of their prophets to given any meaningful message is utterly ludicrous. They only mouth the words of folly and push the nation toward ways that certainly will ensnare them. All their external attempts at religious display have no meaning for they are filled with hate, lawless in unrepentant hearts, and increasing corruption. Look at Judges 19: 22-30 for the reference to the moral abandonment in the event at Gibeah. That this is one of the symbols that God used to show their continuity with such deformed practice see 10:9.

C.  9:10-17–Though God had shown favor to Israel, from its earliest existence it has shown its tendency to whoring as in the events at Baal Peor in Numbers 25. The severity of the discipline at that time halted a plague that God had sent among the people, but did not rid them of their propensity for a religion that justified the pursuit and fulfillment of lust [“They became detestable like the thing they loved.” 10c]. A large part of God’s infliction of punishment, therefore, focuses on the loss of the fruit of the womb {“no birth, no pregnancy, no conception;” “I will bereave them till none is left; Ephraim must lead his children out to slaughter;” “miscarrying womb and dry breasts;” “they shall bear no fruit, even though they give birth, I will put their beloved children to death” and then in 10:14 “Mothers were dashed in pieces with their children.”)  Why this startling severity? “My God will reject them because they have not listened to him.” They violated the first institution that God established in human society, marriage, and the physical and emotional seal that bound the man and the woman together. Their complete disregard for God was shown in this intolerable and destructive corruption of this divinely bestowed gift intended to display the unity of a couple in indivisible and unbreakable affection and mutual pleasure. In addition, they did not indicate any care for the lives and property of their own countrymen, so the symmetry of punishment by lawless destruction from outsiders is striking.

VII. Chapter 10 –

A. 10:1, 2, 8  The blessings of God on Ephraim did not yield love and pure worship for God, but an infatuation with idolatry and increased attention to the false god that expressed the corruption of their hearts. Thus the places of their religious expression will be destroyed and rendered a wilderness.

B.  10:3, 4, 7, 15b – Their kings, false from the beginning, will do them no good in the day of God’s judgments through Assyria.

C. 10:5, 6 – In the greatest of ironies, they fear for the loss of their gods. Why could these gods not intervene and protect them? They had been so good to the Israelites in encouraging their adulterous ways, why do they not now rise and defeat the king of Assyria (‘the great king”) instead of serving as a monument to his superiority over their gods. One is reminded of the sarcasm of Isaiah in Isaiah 40:18-20.

D. 10:10-12 – The last focus text for this lesson,

Verse 10 reaffirms the determination of God to punish in accordance with his sovereign prerogative (“When I please, I will discipline them.”). The instruments he uses, as before emphasized, is the cruelty of pagan nations. God uses natural disaster, disease, miraculous intervention, bodily deterioration, and hostile militarism to bring his judgments. The ways that God visits his retributive justice in temporal matters are plentiful since the entire created order is at his disposal to use for his purposes, and his power of presently sustaining it means that he may alter its course suddenly by his power [the flood, fire from heaven on Sodom, the Red Sea destruction of the Egyptians army]. In eternity, he uses all the justly condemned people of the world as well as the devil and his gang of fallen angels to inflict each other with all the force of their fallen affections without any mitigation of common mercies. Every person in hell will learn what pure hatred and hostility from fellow creatures is like. In addition, the inhabitants of hell will know, far above all other miseries in hell, what the just and purely active wrath of the triune God is for they will feel it to the extent that his holy character requires. Thus the gathering of the nations against Ephraim, is only a small foretaste of those miseries that lie on the other side of the grave. It seems that her “double iniquity” is symbolized in the two calves, one at Dan and the other at Bethel, and consists of the two whoredoms mentioned frequently, both spiritual and physical.

Verse 11—God appeared to coddle them in their vices for they had life as easy as a calf trained to tread the corn, without muzzle and having free access to the ground corn. She wore no yoke [“I spared her fair neck”). But now, she will learn something of hardship and the cost of taking God’s blessing for granted, considering his abundant mercies as their due and attributing them to their own power (“you have trusted in your own way” 13) and the favor of Baal (“You have eaten the fruit of lies.”). He will put Ephraim to the yoke with a much more harsh and threatening labor before them. This is in contrast to the yoke that Christ invites us to take; for he is meek and lowly of heart, and in his yoke, we shall find rest to our souls. Judah, that would last for another 150 years, would nevertheless have trouble and learn many lessons about obedience, judgment, and their dependence on God through a number of difficulties. Eventually they too would be delivered to a time of exile.

Verse 12—Even under the clear threat of certain judgment, for so many sins and for so long a time, God still calls for righteousness and for heartfelt worship. If even now they would turn to the righteousness of God’s Law as the seed sown by their actions, they would reap the blessings of God’s steadfast love. “The one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption; but the one that sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.” (Galatians 6:8)  Break up your fallow ground—those affections that have lain dormant must be renewed and placed upon the only worthy object of al affection, “It is time to seek the Lord.” If you sow righteousness upon the newly plowed ground of love for God, then he will multiply your seed by raining righteousness upon you. This verse follows on the suggested way to seek the Lord in 6:1-3 and anticipates the suggested mode of repentance in 14:1-3.

E. Verses 13-15—But instead of seeking a harvest of righteousness, they have put iniquity in the forefront of their soil and sowing and have not sought any blessing from the Lord. Their unyielding hearts have gained for them the brutal and thorough destruction of the Assyrians, a method used by Shalmaneser when he employed the method of military execution upon the populace of those that he conquered in order to strike fear into the inhabitants of other cites to make their early surrender common. Hosea calls the northern kingdom by the name of Bethel, for the idol in residence there, symbolized the iniquity of the 10 tribes. When this takes place in will be virtually in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, that is, at dawn, when it appears danger is past, when a full day of light promises to shine, the king is utterly cut off. The existence of the Northern kingdom as a manifestation of the protected covenant people of God will come to an end. Their seed will be preserved only in mixture with the seed of the nations. This is a judgments but also becomes an avenue for the manifestation of divine mercy when Christ dies to save the children of God scattered abroad (John 11:52).

Tom has most recently served as the Professor of Historical Theology at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He previously taught at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School where he was Professor of Church History and Chair of the Department of Church History. Prior to that, he taught at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary. Along with numerous journal articles and scholarly papers, Dr. Nettles is the author and editor of fifteen books. Among his books are By His Grace and For His Glory; Baptists and the Bible, James Petigru Boyce: A Southern Baptist Statesman, and Living by Revealed Truth: The Life and Pastoral Theology of Charles H. Spurgeon.
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