Hosea was a minor prophet, during the age that was leading up to the imminent exile of the northern kingdom. The book of Hosea covers the adulterous and idolatrous ways of Israel when they left God to worship Baal. Hosea writes that Israel had committed spiritual adultery, as God and Israel had entered into an intimate covenant with each other, that Israel had turned their back on. Israel’s unfaithfulness is displayed for us, as justification for the punishment God will bring. However God, in his grace, is using punishment as a way to bring his bride back to Him, and begin reconciliation.
In our chapter, Hosea 8, The Lord is trying to get Israel and Judah’s attention. He calls for a trumpet to sound out in warning that Israel’s enemies are near.
“Set the trumpet to your lips! One like a Vulture is over the house of the Lord, because they have transgressed my covenant and rebelled against my law.” (8:1)
God’s anger is no small thing in this chapter. He describes how Israel and Judah have turned against Him and paid him lip service claiming to know Him, while their actions speak louder than their words ever could.
“To me they cry ‘My God, we-Israel-know you’.” (8:2)
However, throughout the chapter, God puts on full display how far Israel and Judah are from knowing Him at all. They have made golden and silver idols, and disrespected God by eating the meat of their sacrifice (8:8, 13) and have become useless for the Lord:
“Israel is swallowed up; already they are among the nations as a useless vessel.” (8:8)
Israel has stopped being the servants of God, and have become the servants of themselves.Near the end of the chapter, God says this:
“As for my sacrificial offerings, they sacrifice meat 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.” (8:13)
The last line of this verse scares me, as it was meant to scare Israel and Judah. What “They shall return to Egypt” really means, is the imminent threat of being enslaved once more. This refers back to Exodus, when Israel, having just been brought out of Egypt by God, built and worshipped the golden calf; an idol.
And the Lord said to Moses, “Go down, for your people, whom you brought up out of the land of Egypt, have corrupted themselves. They have turned aside quickly out of the way that I commanded them. They have made for themselves a golden calf and have worshipped it and sacrificed to it and said, ‘These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!’” And the Lord said to Moses, “I have seen this people, and behold, it is a stiff-necked people. Now therefore let me alone, that my wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them, in order that I may make a great nation of you.” (Exodus 32:7-10)
And not only did they worship an idol in the wilderness, but sought to return to their slavery in Egypt:
“They refused to obey and were not mindful of the wonders that you performed among them, but they stiffened their neck and appointed a leader to return to their slavery in Egypt. But you are a God ready to forgive, gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and did not forsake them.” (Nehemiah 9:17)
Through Israel’s actions, they themselves have returned to slavery. Not of the body, but of the spirit. The whole nation of Israel has developed a cycle of sin that has blinded themselves to God, and that forged the spiritual separation that didn’t bring them anything but shackles. Israel went out and found other gods to be in covenant with, effectively damaging their marriage with God, by breaking the first commandment.:
“You shall have no other gods before me.” (Exodus 20:3)
Idolatry is too often a cause of destruction in the Bible. It speaks to our very sin nature as humans to want to place ourselves above God. One thing I especially have learned is that we are not so different from the people in Hosea, or Exodus, or any other book in the Bible, except for one thing: Jesus Christ.
“We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin”. (Romans 6: 6)
God has found Christ’s sacrifice for us on the cross sufficient for our sins to be forgiven, and has brought about a supreme reconciliation that Israel desperately needed, but never had. This is how precious the gift of Christ is, and why it is so important to understand what that gift means for us.
“For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23)
The gift of life, freely given to us. The gift of freedom from being a slave to our own sin. Praise the Lord! We’ve been set free.
Holy Lord, God almighty. You are worthy. You are great and just. I pray that we remember you as our God and our Saviour. Remind us when we forget, call us when we are distant. Open our hearts to you, and please be patient with us. Thank you for forgiving this insurmountable debt, and calling us your own. Lord, we need you. Amen.