Hosea 5:1-15 The Waiting God
1. We entered the second part of Hosea as of chapter four. The words at the very beginning of it started with "Hear the word of the Lord," (4:1). Coming into chapter five the word "hear" is repeated again. The scriptures speak so as to press upon them with [the commands to] "Hear, listen with your hearts, incline your ears to me." God keeps on speaking to the Israelites [though] they hardly listen no matter how much God speaks to them. God is still concerned for the people who won't listen unto obedience but in a certain sense they do listen for a word from God but they do things like seek for solutions to immediate problems and an easy salvation and "seek for oracles at the tree and receive instruction at its branches," (4:12). We must listen to what the Lord is continuing to say [to them] with his love and patience, and we ought to think hard about what it means for us.
You Have Been Snares
2. We are beginning our reading [at] verses one and two.
"Hear, o priests.
Listen with your hearts, o house of Israel.
Incline your ears, o house of the king.
Judgment is coming down on you.
You are become a snare at Mizpah
You are become a net set at Mt. Tabor
You have become a pit dug deep at Shittim.
I will punish you all," (5:1-2).
4. The ones being addressed in this message are "the priests," "the house of Israel," and "the house of the king." It is believed that since it appears along with the priests and the royalty, this case [of] "the house of Israel" is pointing to the ruling class made up of those like the elders rather than saying the entire body of people of the northern kingdom. As [the Lord} calls out to each one of the three groups given above, he says in the scripture "you are become a snare," "you are become a net," and "you have become a pit [or hole]." For this, the announcement is made that judgment is coming down upon them.
5. Please notice here that it doesn't say of them that they "got trapped in a snare," "they were caught in a net," or "they fell into a pit." The problem was not that they had just gotten away from the way of the Lord. The problem was that they themselves became the snares, the nets, and the holes to fall into. Their being like that meant that there were people who were always getting trapped and falling into their snares. It was the masses of Israel [who were falling into their traps]. In consequence, all of Israel had succumbed to going astray from the Lord.
6. When a person goes against God, the truth is it doesn't just affect that person alone. The unbelief of one will always come to have an influence upon another. When one becomes a snare, the other will fall right in. If the king and the priests are lost, the people will also be lost. The way one generation is will always sway the walk of the next generation.
7. Last week, the whole church had camp together. One of the themes given during that time was inheriting the faith. It is truly a duty filled with honor that we pass along [as in inheritance] to the next generation the faith we were given. But, when we speak of inheritance the problem then always comes to "What is it we are supposed to pass on to them?" In other words, we will be asked our own selves the questions, "What do we believe?" and "Why do we believe it?" Unless we have responded with assurance to the gospel that has been transmitted to us we can't expect to be able to hand it down to the next generation. We can become for the next generation either the gospel or a snare. Israel's priests, elders, and royalty were all supposed to be those who bore the responsibility to correctly preserve and pass on God's law and the traditions as the people of God. But, when they did not accomplish this [task] properly, they became "a snare." They became "a net." They became "a pit." I would like for us as well to respond in all sincerity and gravity to this truth.
I Will Punish Them
8. The Lord was still concerned for those who became a snare and for the entire body of Israelites who fell into the snare and said to them, "I will punish you all." The word "punish" also means "to discipline, chastise, teach, train." His purpose was not to destroy them. It was to make them come back. The reason the Lord is speaking in this way is that the Lord knew full well the real world of his people. Please look beginning at verse three.
"I know Ephraim inside out.
Israel can't hide from me.
Truly, Ephraim is indulging in adulteries
Israel is soiling himself.
Because of their bad deeds, they can't go back to God.
The spirit of adultery is in them
For they are unable to know the Lord," (5:3-4).
10. Israel did things in the name of the Lord. Most certainly, they held festivals in the holy places and practiced their daily religious lives as well in the name of the Lord. But, the Lord looked at what was behind [all this]. Nothing was hidden from God. He knew that it was not the Lord himself that they were in pursuit of, but a good crop and prosperity, and it was not a relationship based on truth and love for the Lord that they were hoping towards but only the satisfaction of their desires. The real world of their indulging in adulteries and just polluting themselves was not hidden from the eyes of the Lord. And now they couldn't even go back to the Lord due to these evil deeds and because they were taken in by a spirit of adultery.
11. The phrase, "they couldn't go back," is found repeatedly in books like Jeremiah. This is a dreadful phrase. It is a big mistake for us to think that we can repent whenever we want to or that we can always turn back if we feel like it. Because we don't see the true dreadfulness of sin we may speak too easily about this matter of repentance. The Lord certainly sees the fearsome reality that sin brings. He sees the world in which a person is no longer able to come back to God. Therefore, the Lord says, "I will discipline you." The Lord could not avoid chastising those people. Because the way they were, they could never go back to the Lord at all. A person trapped in sin can not turn to the Lord unless there is a work done on him or her by the Lord.
12. Then the Lord goes on to say:
"It is their arrogance that makes Israel fall into sin.
Israel and Ephraim
Stumble by their unrighteousness
Judah also stumbles with them.
They inquire of the Lord bearing sheep and cattle but
They can't find him.
The Lord has left them.
They have betrayed the Lord,
They gave birth to sons of foreigners.
Therefore, the festivals of the new moon
Will consume both them and their possessions," (5:5-7).
14. I notice that the appearing here of the word "arrogance" is a bit abrupt. But, when you really get down to think about it, isn't human arrogance and haughtiness always at the root to the sinful world of humanity? Some have said that "Arrogance is the first sin of humanity and it will be the last sin," and I would agree with that. The arrogance spoken of here could be defined as seeking glory all for oneself.. Pridefulness brings glory back on one's own self and not to God. Human desire truly reaches its extreme here. All kinds of occupations of persons might be said to be directed towards the gratification of these desires. It doesn't even matter how foolish the things we do are or even if it tramples on someone else, or hurts others, people aspire to bring glory to themselves and for their fulfillment. Often times, even the worship of God turns into a tool and means for this.
15. Therefore, they could no longer find God. They sought for God bringing their sheep and cattle. They recited the name of the Lord and offered up worship. However, their interests were not on the glory of God. Their concerns were not towards God, but ultimately were only for themselves. Being like that they can not find the Lord. Oh, it even says here that "The Lord left them"! It's that the Lord is no longer with and among the worshipping people.
16. As long as they are like that, they cannot find the Lord or even know the Lord. As long as they are arrogant, they cannot come back to the Lord. As a result, God's discipline is needed. God's discipline is for the self glory that people don't ever quit seeking after. The disciplining hand of God moves in order to smash the haughty hearts of human beings.
To Admit Sin and Inquire After The Lord
17. How does that come to pass specifically? The Lord says the following. I am reading from verses eight to fourteen.
"Sound the trumpet in Gibeah
Blow the horn in Ramah.
Shout a war cry in Beth Aven.
O Benjamin, warn the rear.
Whenever the day of punishment comes
Ephraim will turn to ruins.
I have informed the various tribes of Israel what will surely take place.
Judah's generals are become those who move boundaries.
I will pour out my indignation on them like water.
Ephraim will be devastated
They will be trodden down by judgment.
For they keep pursuing vain [idols].
I will be a devouring insect against Ephraim
I will be decaying bones to the house of Judah.
When Ephraim saw his sickness
And Judah its own sores
Ephraim went to Assyria
Judah sent messengers to the great king.
But, he could not heal them
He could not take away their sores.
I am becoming a lion against Ephraim
I am become a young lion to the house of Judah.
I will tear them, and go on
I will carry them off, there will be no one to save them," (5:8-14).
19. Hosea saw a realm wounded by war. [He saw] an Ephraim where all its prosperity had been lost and which had come to ruins. The names of the places of Gibeah, Ramah, and Beth Aven are listed going from south to north. Here we have depicted the conditions in which the South, Judah, invaded the North, Israel. In 733 B.C.E. a war took place between the allied forces of Syria and Israel against Judah. It was called the Syro-Ephraimic War. They say that behind Hosea's prophecy which is given here lies this Syro-Ephraimic War.
20. But the important thing here is the fact that the real enemy for Israel was not Judah and the real enemy for Judah was not Israel. It says that the one who is engaged in hostility with them and is [shaking and] moving things is God himself. In verse twelve it puts it like this, "I will be a devouring insect against Ephraim. I will be decaying bones to the house of Judah."
21. They didn't know this. Therefore, during the crisis situation they sought the help of a bigger country. They went to Assyria and sent messengers to the great king. Our position of always depending on humans and going for the easy solution so overlaps that of [Judah and Israel]. But, the real crisis for them was not in that they were at war. The real problem lied in the fact that they had lost a righteous relationship with God. The biggest crisis was in the fact that they were in sin. Thus, to depend on Assyria would never amount to a final solution. Verse thirteen [says], "He [the king of Assyria] could not heal them He could not take away their sores."
22. God would move as a lion against this Ephraim and like a young lion against Judah. As a lion tears up its game, God would tear them. How dreadful! But, it was not for their destruction. The Lord did not abandon them altogether. What God wishes for is that people would return to Him. Because a person gets to the point that he or she can not turn back [to God] any more, God crushes his or her arrogance through his work of chastisement and sets the way for him or her to turn so that he or she is enabled to admit his or her sin.
23. Therefore, the Lord spoke as follows:
"I will leave and go back to my place.
Until they admit their sin, inquire after me,
and find me in their suffering," (5:15).
25. If God places a person into suffering, that suffering holds meaning. For those put into a suffering [situation] the purpose of it is so that they would come to be able to admit their sins. The Lord wants more than anything that a person come seeking and searching for Him from that place [of suffering]. Carrying in his hands the gracious gift of forgiveness of sin the Lord is waiting.