Hosea 8:1-14 Defining The Real Crisis
1. The biblical passage given to us for today is Hosea chapter eight. This prophecy has to do with the closing period of the northern monarchy of Israel where Hosea was active. This historical situation is documented in Second Kings chapter seventeen as follows, "When the Assyrian king Shalmaneser came up and attacked, Hoshea submitted to him and paid him tribute. But, the Assyrian king found out that Hoshea had planned a rebellion, had sent an envoy to the Egyptian king So, and had stopped paying the yearly tribute to the Assyrian king, and [so] he took him captive and put him in prison. The king of Assyria went up against every land in that nation. He went up against Samaria, besieged it for three years, and captured Samaria in the ninth year of Hoshea's reign. He took the Israelites captive, took them to Assyria, and made them live in Halah, Habor, [by] the Gozan River, and the towns of Medes," (Second Kings 17:3-6).
2. In the reign of king Pekah of Israel, the kingdom still took up an anti-Assyrian policy. But, in the reign of Hoshea, when the might of Assyria had become a threat, Israel changed and changed to a policy of submission by paying tribute to Assyria. But, meanwhile, it sent secret messengers to the pharaoh in Egypt and had plotted to oppose Assyria with the power of Egypt behind them. However, he detected their plan. In consequence, Hoshea was taken captive and Samaria was eventually occupied [by the enemy] after being besieged by Assyria for three years. Thus, the northern part of Israel was destroyed.
Israel Rejected Blessing
3. It's hard to know exactly when the prophecy in Hosea chapter eight was given. But, since the text says in verse nine "[they] went up to Assyria and obtained lovers with tribute," they think it was when the monarchy was still outwardly submitting to Assyria. If that's the case, then at least it was probably a time when everyone was thinking that they had successfully evaded the impending crisis. But, the prophet Hosea had already at that time prophesied Israel's collapse and destruction.
4. Please look at verses one to three.
"Set the trumpet to your mouth.
There is an attacker like an eagle against the house of the Lord;
For, Israel has broken my covenant
And rebelled against my law.
They cry out to me.
They say, 'O our God
We are following you.'
But, Israel has rejected my blessing.
Let them be driven by their enemies," (8:1-3).
6. It is clear here that "attacker like an eagle against the house of the Lord" here stands for Assyria. Hosea forewarns that Assyria will be attacking. It would actually take place from a failure in political strategy. But, the Lord says through Hosea that the failure itself [in politics] was not essentially the cause for it. He says that the real reason for it, rather, was that Israel broke the Lord's covenant and rebelled against the law of the Lord. Because their relationship with the Lord had collapsed, Israel would collapse and be destroyed. This is a theme that repeatedly appears in this prophetic book. When they faced a political crisis, the people only understood it from the political situation. So, they were paying Assyria tribute and looking to Egypt for help. However, Hosea says that even by taking such action the country would be destroyed.
7. We must keep deeply in our hearts what this means. We too often think that the problems of this world are to be resolved according to the ways of the world. We go every which way looking for ways to solve things and finding help. In order to overcome a crisis that's right before us we try out any thing and every thing. But, if we were to express this according to the word of the Lord about the way we are, it would be like that of a foolish and senseless dove, (7:11). Often times the real crisis is in that even though our relationship with God is broken down, we don't even realize it most of the time. Even though the problem is human sin, our very own sins, we aren't willing to turn our attention to that. Because of this, we put the really important thing tucked away on the shelf and are only willing to deal with the immediate problem before us. Hosea's prophecy shows us this foolishness.
8. Of course, it doesn't mean that the Israelites had no concern at all for things pertaining to God. They were a religious people. In the temple their religious rites were elaborately performed. They said (verse two), "O our God, we are following you." If we translate this literally, it is the sentence "O our God, we know you." But, God says, "Israel has rejected blessing (or "rejected goodness"). They speak in quite orthodox language as far as language goes. We plan on knowing God. But as far as the reality of their every day lives, they live in rejection of his blessings. That's the same as rejecting God himself.
O Samaria, Abandon Your Calf
9. In addition the prophet continues his message even more severely. Please look at verses four and so forth.
"They set up kings.
But, they never came from me.
They set up officials.
But, I wasn't involved.
They made idols with silver and gold
But they will be beaten and broken.
O Samaria, abandon your calf.
My wrath burns against you.
Will you ever be pure?
It is what Israel did.
It is what a worker made, it is not God.
The calf of Samaria will surely be smashed to pieces," (8:4-6).
11. Here the phrase "the calf of Samaria" appears in the text. We see that an idol of a calf was enshrined in Samaria, the capital of the northern kingdom. When the northern and southern kingdoms were first split about two hundred years before Hosea's time period, Jeroboam I, who became king of the northern kingdom, built two golden calves and placed them in Bethel and Dan. It was done for political reasons after the division into north and south. [He had it done] because the northern Israelites were supposed to go to Jerusalem to worship, which belonged to Judah in the south. "After he thought about it carefully, he built the two golden calves and said to the people, 'You no longer need to go up to Jerusalem. Look, Israel, this is your God who led you up out of Egypt," (First Kings 12:28). Of course, his original intent was probably not to make them worship the calves as gods. The calf idols were thought of as pedestals for an invisible deity. But, the fact of the matter that they were placed there for human reasons alone provided a foundation upon which the worship of gods related to a good harvest in Canaan entered in and they opened up a way for anthropocentric idol worship. We see that shortly after the calf idols were placed in Samaria, it came to pass that the idols themselves were worshipped as gods.
12. Such a humanly focused idol worship, even if it is carried out in the name of the Lord, does not produce a faithful response to the Lord's blessings. It's through this that people have come to not seek the rule of the Lord God or seek the fulfillment of the Lord's will. With this then, anthropocentric desires and wishes alone are stimulated into being. Its effects are seen in the political arena. In Hosea's time, kings were replaced reigning one after the other. But, the people didn't ask whether or not the kings were obedient to God. They didn't ask whether they were in accordance with God's will. Leaders were set up anew. They were indifferent about whether the officials were obedient to God or suited to his will. If a ruler was replaced, peace was maintained, the country prosperous and personal happiness secured, nothing else mattered to them. For that reason, the Lord says, "They never came from me. I wasn't involved."
13. A person can never find peace when he or she forgets God and pursues only after peace. When a person forgets God and pursues only after prosperity and happiness, it instead takes him or her farther away from it. It is not a path that opens to the future, but rather a path that leads to destruction. Hosea prophesied that the monarchy that was working like that was most assuredly heading toward destruction.
14. It says this in verses seven on:
"They sow in the wind
In the tempest they reap.
Though their seeds grow, their stalks won't come
They won't be able to make wheat flour.
Even if they do make some, foreigners will consume it.
Israel will be consumed.
Now it looks like they are vessels amid different nations but enjoyed by no one.
Ephraim is a wild donkey all alone.
It has gone up to Assyria and acquired lovers with tribute.
They pay foreigners.
Now, I gather the foreign lands.
The tribute to the kings who subdued their princes is a burden
They have come to be in pain and worry," (8:7-10).
16. For the wind to blow at the time of seed sowing it would be considered very convenient from the perspective of old time farming. But, when they reap, it would be the same wind they were in, but he said it would turn to storm winds. In other words, they paid tribute to Assyria and though it seemed like they tided over a crisis by doing so, it would ultimately mean that they would be destroyed by these Assyrians. Even without turning to God a person may put up with an emergency of some kind. They can get passed times of difficulty. But, soon the storm winds will come upon them. Their seeds may sprout, but not to maturity, or even if it does and they make flour out of it, he says, they will not be able to eat any of it. All this is saying the same thing. If we don't resolve the problem of human sin, the problem that has to do with one's standing with God, even if it might look like one has successfully beat out a temporary problem of some kind, in the end one will reap but destruction.
They Must Not Go Back To Egypt
17. Regretfully, their altars were not places where they turned to God any more or began to live with Him. The Lord had this to say after looking at their worship.
"Ephraim added altars upon which to atone for sin.
But, they have become altars upon which to commit sin.
I wrote and gave them many commandments.
But they considered them as something that had no relationship to them.
They offered up sacrifices as gifts to me.
But it is they who eat the meat.
The Lord is not pleased with them.
Now, the Lord remembers their unrighteousness
He will judge their sin.
They must not go back to Egypt.
Israel has forgotten its creator.
They have built palace after palace.
Even Judah has added fortified towns.
I will send fire on these towns,
The fire will consume these citadels," (8:11-14).
19. Many altars for atoning sin were made. But their interests did not lie at present in living with God as persons forgiven of their sin. The festival for the atonement of sin was unrelated to their specific daily lives and was no more than a mere shell of a ceremony. When in a national crisis situation, they offered up may sacrifices as if in competition with one another. But, when they did that it was to seek a way out of the crisis and it was not a seeking for a recovery in their relationship with God. So, by it they were making light of the word of God. They did not care about what God was looking for from them. The people considered the commandments of God as something that had nothing to do with them.
20. Their offerings and worship became mere superstition when divorced from the word of God. People might enjoy and be satisfied in such a superstitious worship. But, Hosea states that "The Lord is not pleased with them." It is but grounds for judgment. He even says that they "should go back to Egypt" when they are like that. That means to be pulled back to before the exodus from Egypt. It's the same as to undo the blessings of God's deliverance. They were truly on the verge of a crisis to that degree. But, this Israel that had so "forgotten its creator" didn't realize what kind of crisis it was in.
21. This image of Israel as we have been given here is very much pertinent to us, even during the church age as well. I would think that it brings a test upon the way we ought to be even today. It is possible that the forgiveness of sin by the cross of our Lord to be made a cheap grace, that the Lord's table in which we take part of the torn flesh and the shed blood become just a dead thing, that it become a ritual completely unrelated to the real world of our daily lives. While we confess "O our God, we know you.," we should not be believers bearing the blame of "You've forgotten the Lord" in our actual walks. We should not be that kind of church.