Hosea 9:1-9 Stop Enjoying Lies
1. Today we read Hosea chapter nine. At the backdrop to this prophecy is a festival of Israel. In verse five we have, "the day of celebration, the day of the Lord's festival." When it says "festival of the Lord" among the pilgrimage festivals celebrated in Israel since olden times it usually means the very elaborately celebrated "festival of harvesting" which later came to be called "the feast of booths, the feast of tabernacles." At that time the people rejoiced over the year's harvest and celebrated with great pleasure. And it is in this situation that the prophet Hosea appears. He suddenly began to cry out against it and put a damper on the fun of the people.
Don't Enjoy Celebrating
2. I am reading verses one and [two].
"O Israel, don't celebrate joyously.
Don't dance with joy like the peoples of other countries.
You have departed from God and committed adultery.
In every threshing floor you yearn for the wages of adultery.
Neither the threshing floor nor the wine press will nourish them.
Even if they anticipate new wine, they will be betrayed," (verses one and two).
4. In the Old Testament the words "celebrate joyously" and "dance with joy" often appear in parallel. For instance, the words "The Lord indeed is king. O lands, dance with joy. O you many islands, celebrate joyously" appear at the opening of Psalm ninety-seven. They think that these expressions which we find in the Psalms were generally known among the people of Hosea's time. However, Hosea was making a parody of these words and began to speak on the very opposite of them right in the middle of the festival rejoicing, by saying, "Don't celebrate with joy. Don't dance for joy." Why did he intrude on them even though while going through lots of trouble and expense they were having a great time and were so happy?
5. I think we should want to pay strict attention to what Hosea is telling us here. He wasn't just saying "Don't dance with joy." He said, "Don't dance in joy like the peoples of other countries." In other words, there is a reason that Hosea is scolding them here. He meant that their festivals were no longer of the Lord and their worship was not a worship towards the Lord. He meant that it was no different from the celebrations of the peoples of foreign nations who had been worshipping pagan gods.
6. Please think of the settings in which we attend church services, different christian meetings, and various special celebrations. While everyone is spending time enjoying themselves what would it be like if somebody appeared all of sudden and started yelling, "Stop this celebration! We don't have this kind of thing in christian gatherings!" We can easily imagine what a bizarre spectacle that might be. What Hosea is really doing is that. If we happened to come across a situation like that, we would definitely be resistant to it right away. We would answer back, "Don't talk stupid! This is a true live christian meeting! Don't you see! There are a lot of christians gathered here, don't you see?" Wouldn't we answer back something like that?
7. The people who were there were the same too. We would hardly expect anyone among them to have a mentality of worshipping pagan gods outright themselves because it was always "a festival of the Lord" that they were celebrating. Everyone there felt that they were worshipping the God of Israel, Yahweh.
8. However, in the very act of calling it "a festival of the Lord," or "a festival of Yahweh," there had been a big pitfall. They didn't see it but it was just in name only; due to the fact that it was held in the name of the Lord and in the name of Yahweh, they never realized [how far it had gotten from the truth] even though its contents were paganized and it had deteriorated under the influence of their belief in Baal, their belief in the harvest god of Canaan. So a prophet like Hosea couldn't help but cry out with all he could.
9. He said, "You have departed from God and committed adultery. In every threshing floor you yearn for the wages of adultery." The wages of adultery means the abundant harvest and prosperity that people never stop looking for. It's that they had these festivals in order to seek for [a good harvest or prosperity]. They worshipped a god who would grant them prosperity, peace, and blessings galore. And they celebrated the crop given them. But, Hosea had seen through inside them that even though they were happy and rejoicing in the good crop, they were not rejoicing in God or having thoughts that sought for God himself. In short, as long as they got a crop, they could care less who the object of their worship was. The people were indifferent about who the Lord God really was. So then Hosea is saying by this that [what they did] was no different than a pagan festival.
10. If one does not have a concern for the Lord God himself in his or her worship, then it is natural to assume that one will not show forth concern for God in his or her daily living either. The most critical and essential elements for living with a true response to God's love are not produced in us out of that type of situation. It is a relationship like that of marriage where one is joined by true love that God is looking for. But the kind of faith life, that as long as it is happy, sees its desires satisfied, and doesn't care much about its partner, has got something wrong with it and is no comparison to that of a real true marriage. It's nothing but adultery. A faith life that is focused on human desires, no matter how spiritual it may seem or how fervent it may be, is equal to adultery. It is the price of adultery that [most] are looking for.
11. Even our own faith lives may be nothing but a seeking for the wages of adultery. It is so hard, if not impossible, for us not to be moved by our human wishes and wants and to keep our thoughts on him who is truly the target of our worship. It is so hard, if not impossible, for the church not to be moved by its human wants and wishes and to always keep in pursuit of the right faith. Before we know it we end up thinking, "It's good enough as long as our desires are met, who cares as long as we're happy, or if I'm excited and thriving, what more do I need?," and we don't give two hoots about who God is, what worship is acceptable to God, or what is the right faith. This is a temptation quite familiar to us. Wherever they have abandoned the struggle, the struggle for the church to keep being the church, the struggle to look for the correct faith so that the church might never have any kind of Baal worship to creep in on it, and whenever the joy for [these] lies rules, that's where the voice of the prophet is resounding, "Don't celebrate joyously; don't dance with joy" [in the entertaining lies of paganism and self serving faith].
Ephraim Goes Back To Egypt
12. In addition Hosea gives them the announcement that since it is essentially a festival to Baal and they do not have a marriage relationship with the eternal God but only an adulterous one, death will soon visit upon their joy. Please look at verses three and following.
"They cannot remain in the land of the Lord
Ephraim will go back to Egypt
They will eat unclean things in Assyria.
They will not be able to present wine to the Lord
Even though they offer sacrifices, they will not be accepted.
Their food is the bread that has been presented to idols.
All those who eat it are unclean.
Their bread is for their desires.
Don't bring it to the temple of the Lord.
On the day of celebration, the festival of the Lord
What do you intend to do?
Look, even though they escape destruction
Egypt will gather them, Memphis will bury them.
Their silver and treasures will both be covered by nettles
Briars will spread into their tents," (verses three through six).
14. The Israelites were originally slaves in Egypt. It was the grace that came from God alone that lead them out of Egypt, through the wilderness and into the promised land. The promised land they were given was truly "a land that flowed with milk and honey," (Exodus 3:8). However, the reason they were led out of the wilderness and into the fertile land was not just so they would enjoy its abundance. They were saved and led into the promised land in order to live there as the people of the Lord. It was ever and always "the land of the Lord" (verse three). The reason they were led into their new lives in the land of the Lord was to love the Lord and to live as people of the Lord who would live in response to the Lord's blessings. This means that if they forgot the Lord and pursued only after their happiness while there, they could no longer stay in the land of the Lord. Whenever a person does not live towards God in response to his blessings, he or she will lose the meaning of why he or she was saved by God's grace.
15. Thus it is announced here that "Ephraim will return to Egypt." It means that they will end up going back to before the exodus. It means specifically that they will be captives to Assyria, or that they would be scattered to many other countries. Either way, it would be the same as nullifying the blessing of the deliverance which had given them life in the promised land. Thus, "They will not be able to present wine to the Lord. Even though they offer sacrifices, they will not be accepted," (verse four). They would be put into that type of situation. "Bread that is offered to idols" is a free translation. A literal translation is "the bread of mourning." In short, it meant they wouldn't be able to get bread that was suitable to offer in the worship of the Lord because they would be transferred to a pagan land. But then a definite predetermined day of celebration would come upon them. However, at that time they find out they can no longer celebrate. The Lord says, "Upon that day what do you intend to do?"
16. We often times think we can worship the Lord whenever we want to. We think we can always seek the Lord when we're supposed to. But, that's not how it really is. The Bible drives home the prophecy of Hosea right at us when we think like that. What Hosea said has certainly been realized since then in no time at all. When the Israelites had attempted to seek the Lord, they were then lead away to a country with no temple to the Lord. It is the same for us. If we look down on the blessings given to us now, we will come to lose them.
17. However, even though it was put like that, the people weren't about to turn to the Lord. Hosea spoke further as follows to the people who were like that. Please look beginning at verse seven.
"The day of judgment has come.
The day of decision has some.
Know, O Israel.
Since your unrighteousness is terrible and animosity is severe,
The prophets are seen as fools, men of the spirit are mad.
The prophet is with our God,
But, Ephraim lies in ambush for him
On every road he goes upon [Ephraim] sets the bird trapper's trap
They fill the house of God with animosity.
As the days of Gibeah, their depravity is deep rooted
The Lord remembers their unrighteousness
He will judge their sin," (verses seven through nine).
19. It says, "The prophets are seen as fools, men of the spirit are mad," because that was how the people looked at them. The people thus rejected the prophets and hated [Hosea] the more he spoke. He says in regards to the way they were that the depth of their depravity was like "the days of Gibeah." These "days of Gibeah" refers to an event recorded in Judges chapter twenty. When the tribe of Benjamin sinned, they wouldn't repent, but instead challenged the other tribes of Israel to war. "On the contrary, the Benjaminites gathered from every town unto Gibeah and came out intending to make war with the Israelites," (Judges 20:14). As a result, Benjamin invited misery to itself. When we don't repent but stand in opposition to God's word, it's the same as what Benjamin did. When a person is so stubborn that he or she refuses God's call out to him or her, it is an invitation to personal destruction.
20. Therefore, Hosea speaks as if judgment day has already arrived, "The day of decision has come." This type of expression appears repeatedly in prophetic messages. It wasn't all decided back on the day they became captives. God's judgment didn't first arrive when the destruction came to pass. Those people were already in judgment when they refused the word of the Lord and abided in the pleasure and joy of lies. Therefore, it is the "now" that is always being tested and held up to accountability. Therefore, again, "now" is the time that we ought to turn to the Lord, seek Him, and live in true joy.