So As Not To Be Wanderers
Just As You Find Grapes In The Wild
"Just as you find grapes in the wild
I found Israel.
Just as the fruit that the fig first bears
I saw your ancestors.
However, they went to Baal Peor.
As they loved it
They turned themselves over to shameful things more and more
and became detestable," (9:10).
2. Today's biblical passage begins with these such words. God found Israel, the wild grapes, and Israel did not find God. God saw the ancestors of Israel like figs that first appear and not the other way. When speaking about relations between God and humans, the Bible does not begin speaking from a human effort that would try to find God and the requests of humans seeking God. It does not speak regarding the deep insight and reverence of those who find God. The first thing we have in the scriptures is of God's seeking, God's love, God's choosing, and God's joy. Israel's relationship with God comes into being through God's own choice based on his unilateral love and but his love alone.
3. This kind of relationship of Israel with God is expressed, for instance, with the following words from Deuteronomy. "You are the holy people of the Lord, your God. The Lord your God chose you from all the people on the face of the earth and made you his treasure. It wasn't because you were greater in number than all the other peoples that the Lord was attracted to you and chose you. It was only because of the Lord's love for you and because he kept his oath which he swore to your ancestors that the Lord led you out with a mighty hand and you were saved out of the house of slavery where the king of Egypt, the Pharaoh ruled over you," (Deuteronomy 7:6-8). Thus, it means that when it comes to God's love and election of them, there are no elements on the human side at all in which they could take pride. God did not find them out because their existence was [so special] like that of wild grapes. God did not take notice of them because they were a people he just had to love like one would the first figs out. Because of the love of God that surpasses the human intellect he saw you as you were a people weaker than any other and took pleasure in you as you were and became involved with you just like that.
4. Thus, because God's seeking, God's love and God's election [comes] first, the topic of how to live in response to God's love begins right there. Such a topic does not arise because human seeking is the faith focus; for, when human seeking is the focus, "how God responds to human seeking" becomes the most important thing. The relationship of God and Israel, recorded in the scriptures, was not like that to begin with. God loved and took notice first. The basis for the life of the believer ought to have been on living in response to his love. That was the significance of God's having given them a covenant with Him and the ten commandments.
5. But, how did it actually turn out? When the Israelites who lived a nomadic life in the wilderness established themselves in the promised land and held down a farming life there, they strongly felt the influence of the agricultural worship of the gods of Canaan and Baal worship. The underpinning for their daily lives stopped being God's love and election for them. Then, rather than the fact that God sought, loved, and chose them, what they could get became more important. The harvest itself, its abundance and the stability of their daily lives became the focus of paramount importance. The mistaken orientation of these people had actually already begun since the wilderness period. It says, "However, they went to Baal Peor." This event is recorded in Numbers chapter twenty-five. It reads as follows, "When Israel sojourned in Shittim, the people did their first act of infidelity by following the daughters of Moab. When the daughters presented sacrifices to their gods, they invited the people and the people took part in their dinners and worshipped the gods of the daughters. Israel, thus, yearned for Baal of Peor and the Lord became indignant with Israel," (Numbers 25:1).
6. Concerning them the Lord said, "As they loved it, they turned themselves over to shameful things more and more and became detestable." [We see] the figure of a people who only sought for fulfillment in their pleasures right now and in their happiness right now and who could care less about all the miracles of salvation that came by the grace of the Lord, or his election based on his love, or the faithfulness that the Lord showed them. Thus, as we see more and more from God's perspective [we see] the figure of these [people] turning themselves over to shameful things and becoming more detestable. We could so easily judge them as the most foolish of all people in the Old Testament! I think that the sighing of God, which sighed over their creeping into a state of detestability without even knowing it though they once were God's pleasure as the first figs, is many times a sigh for us.
The Sacrificed Children
7. The Lord could not avoid giving this announcement against the people of Israel for the way they were. Please look at chapter nine and beginning with verse eleven.
"The glory of Ephraim flies away like a bird.
There will be no more births, no more pregnancies, not even conceptions.
Even if they raise a child,
I will snatch it away leaving none.
If I leave them,
How disastrous would that be?
As Tyrus, which is enclosed by borders,
I have considered Ephraim.
But, Ephraim had to present
His own children as victims.
O Lord, please give them
What you wanted to give them.
Please give them
Wombs that won't yield one child and give them dried up breasts," (9:11-14).
9. What is spoken here taking up a lot of words is, to be brief, about how that there would be no future for Israel. They sought to continue to live in the promised land. They sought for a secured lifestyle. Because of that they sought for needed abundance. But, when they treated their relationship with God like dirt in the way they sought for these things, they instead shut out their own futures. The people thought that their futures were opened by getting the things they looked for. But, since to get those things meant the price of selling out on God's love, their futures were closed down instead. Therefore, it says, "If I leave them, how disastrous would that be? The real disaster for them would be when God left them.
10. The Lord says, "Even if they raise a child, I will snatch it away leaving none." What a dreadful expression! Many people must certainly feel repulsion towards such an expression. But, this was the truth. People try to secure prosperity, peace, and happiness for their children. But, if they live with their backs turned to God's will, they instead rob from their children's futures. It is the children who always get sacrificed. The text says, "Ephraim had to present his own children as victims." It is the fault of none but the parental generation that makes the children have a miserable "victim" existence.
11. When you think about this, you might even say they would be happier not to have any kids to start with. The prophet Hosea must have felt like that. He must have foreseen specifically that there would be a foreign enemy invasion and the state's destruction. The next generation would be killed or would have to live as captives. He could not help bemoan this tragedy. Therefore, he could not help but pray, "Please give them wombs that won't yield one child and give them dried up breasts."
12. Such thoughts may lie at the bottom of our hearts. Even if it doesn't appear in the words of such a prayer like that, can any body in this time period really claim they have a future, and that the children born here on will be truly happy? [When it says,] "Ephraim had to present his own children as victims," it isn't some kind of saying of old time Israel. Children of a generation separated from God are always a pity. This country is also the same. The church is not excluded either. Unless we too truly return to God, our own descendants won't have a tomorrow. If we look down on God's love and blessing of election and pursue heartily after godless things, the next generation will be sacrificed. In departing from God there is no hope of a future for us.
All The Evil Is In Gilgal
13. In addition the Lord says through Hosea:
"All their evil is in Gilgal.
I really hate them there.
Because of their evil deeds, I will drive them from my house,
I love them no more.
The high officials are all rebellious against me.
Ephraim is defeated.
Their root is dried up and will never yield fruit.
Even if they bear a child
I will kill the fruit of their womb, their beloved son.
My God dismisses them
Because they wouldn't listen to Him.
They will become wanderers in different nations," (9:15-17).
15. Gilgal is one of the principal holy places. It is a place where worship was held. But, it was nothing but idol worship, Baal worship that was held there. When the word of God is despised and human desires govern over even the places of worship and the holy places, people can no longer worship God correctly. Thus, the Lord says that whenever it gets to the point where a person can no longer worship God right, it is the source of all evils. All evil is right there in Gilgal.
16. Also, if we lose the right way to worship like they did, if we lose fellowship with God, and we lose God's love, it is like those who lost the root of why they had come down to the promised land. Once two fir trees were planted in our assembly hall. But one withered away. If you would try cutting around its roots, it was completely dried up from its root to its middle part. Several leaves still remained. But, the tree itself was all withered up. It was true that the tree was dead at the roots. Even Israel at the time of Hosea when compared to a tree was in a state in which a few leaves still remained. They might have survived and overcome the impending national crisis, but the country that appeared in the eyes of Hosea was already dead and gone at the root. When the root is gone, it isn't long before the whole thing is dead. It will not bear fruit any more. One's downfall is not brought in through external crisis in one's environment. One's downfall is brought in by an internal crisis in which one's relationship with God falls apart. The root dries up and the tree is destroyed. It wasn't cut down and then destroyed.
17. So finally it is prophesied that they would become wanderers in various lands. The Israelites were given the promised land in order to live in response to God's love. They were supposed to be living by faith there and as the people of God. But, as they forgot God's love, his blessings and to live in obedience to Him, they could no longer live in the promised land. Hosea says, "My God dismisses them because they wouldn't listen to Him." It resulted in but wandering. We had better remember this for a long time. We'll end up wanderers in this world if we were rooted in God's love but miss our day to day practice of living in obedience to God.
18. "Just as you find grapes in the wild, I found Israel. Just as the fruit that the fig first bears, I saw your ancestors." That was the beginning of it all. It was God himself who wanted more than anyone that the Israelites not be a dead tree with dried up roots and that they not be wanderers rejected by God. Hosea must have known deeper than anyone the pain in which he had to announce a downfall to those whom God himself had taken notice of and to those who used to have a happiness that money could never buy. Now we hear the words of this prophecy. As for us who have become the church of God through God's love on the cross of Christ and by God's one way grace, I would say that these words are being given to us today so that we do not leave God and become trees dead at the root and that we do not become wanderers in the world. We really need to take these prophetic words seriously as words for us.