The Haughtiness Of The Satisfied
1. The prophecy of chapter thirteen is thought to have been given just before the destruction of the northern kingdom of Israel in 721 B.C.E. It is a dreadful crisis whenever a nation is destroyed and falls. The prophet spoke to those who were in such a critical situation. But, he was not just speaking to them of a way to escape the crisis. He didn't promise an easy salvation. Whether it is a national crisis or just a little trouble at home, often times people will only ask the question, "What should I do?" and want to get an answer to that. But, the Bible doesn't glibly give us an answer to "What should I do?" Before that, it says, "What is the problem?" Then it puts to light the sins of a person. It is never a message that is pleasant to our ears. But, we really ought to pay attention carefully to that messag eright off. In order for a sickness to be truly healed, one's body may have to be split open and the focus of the infection made plain to view.
Idol Worship As A Projection Of Desires
2. Let's begin reading from verses one to three.
"When you speak of Ephraim it is feared
It is respected in Israel.
But, since it sinned with Baal,
[Ephraim] will die.
Even now, he is adding to his sins
He is molding idols.
[Molding] images, pouring silver and using up every technique.
They are all the craftsmanship of the workmen.
They say to one another,
'O people who offer up sacrifices, kiss the calf.'
Like the morning mist,
Like the dew, they disappear so suddenly.
They are like the chaff that flies high out of the threshing room,
Like the smoke that vanishes out of the chimney," (13:1-3).
4. Ephraim always stood preeminently among the several tribes of Israel and especially among the ten northern tribes. When the kingdom, which Joshua the successor to Moses had come from, had split into the north and the south, it was Jeroboam of the tribe of Ephraim who was king of the ten northern tribes of Israel. But, regardless of how much this tribe might have been respected in Israel, [the text] says "he will die." "To die" means that they will be judged by God, cast off, and destroyed. Why will they be judged unto condemnation by God? Because Ephraim sinned with Baal. Because [the people of these ten tribes] built an image of a calf, prayed to it, and kissed the idol.
5. Human sin often shows itself in the ugliest of ways in prayer and worship. The very place where we are supposed to encounter the Holy One is ruled by every sort of human desire instead. Humans build an image of God. It is a projection of human wishes. When they face the image of god, they are doing anything but facing God. Because the crux of the matter for them is only that their wishes may come true or that their requests be filled. Here then, the thing that wasn't God became God to them. But a true relationship between God and a person does not exist under such a circumstance. The life that we live with God, the life that we live before God, is not supposed to be formed through such a worship.
6. Whenever something that isn't God becomes a god, it will be lost before long. It soon vanishes away. It is only the morning mist and the dew that vanishes away so fast. When what was regarded as god according to human will vanishes away, then the person learns the lesson of the truth that what he or she saw as god was not God.
The Haughtiness Of The Satisfied
7. Let's continue reading from verses four to eight.
"I, indeed, am the Lord, your God.
I lead you up out of the land of Egypt.
Do not consider anyone God but me.
There is no one but me who can save you.
In the wilderness, in the dried up land
I looked over you.
As I nourished them, they filled their stomachs
When satisfied, they became too proud
Then at last, they forgot me.
Then I pursued them like a lion
Like a leopard on its path.
I advanced on them like a bear whose cubs were stolen from her
I tore apart her sides
I devoured them like the lion in its place.
A wild animal chewed them apart," (13:4-8).
9. The Lord has remembered the people of Israel who used to be the slaves of Egypt, he saved and lead them up out of the land of Egypt. He didn't do it because the Israelites were worth saving. God just loved them. Salvation is something that comes from the one way direction of God's grace and mercy. And the Lord God, who lead the Israelites up out of Egypt, nourished them in the wilderness as well. And so they were led into the land flowing with milk and honey, the rich land of Canaan. They enjoyed the abundance of the gifts God gave them. It was all based on the abundance of their fellowship with God. That'show it is, first it's all got to be in the relationship lived out with God. The abundance [they had] was a gift from God.
10. But, there was a snare in their abundance. The good harvest and the prosperity became more important to them than the fellowship they had in which they lived with God himself. They ended up not caring one way or the other about either God's word, obedience to God, or their response to God's grace. The Bible puts it like this, "In being nourished [by me], they filled their stomachs. When satisfied,they became too proud. Then at last, they forgot me."
11. That's how people have always been when we look at them in any time period. Human pride lies at the root of idol worship in any of its forms. It lies in the human pride that has forgotten God. The crisis of a faith life, the crisis of the day to day life that we live with God does not lie in the wilderness of hardships and pain. Rather, it really lies right there in the satisfied life, in one's abundance, and in the life that goes along making do and so cheaply keeps seeing something that is not God as God.
12. God's anger is directed precisely at this human pride. In his anger God would crush down the haughtiness of the human heart. Ephraim had abundance. But, their rich nation was destroyed. Hosea had foreseen that the capital Samaria, which used to be wealthy, would fall and that Ephraim would be destroyed. To be specific, they would be destroyed by Assyria. Hosea depicts this reality in the figure of wild game being torn by a wild beast. However, he didn't say that the country was being destroyed by Assyria. He sees that behind it all there is the anger of God behind. It wasn't Assyria who was coming like a fierce animal against the proud people, but God himself.
The Untrustworthy King
13. So then the Lord says the following through Hosea.
"O Israel, your fall is coming.
Because you turned against me.
Because you turned against me, your help.
Where is this one, your king?
In which city is the one who should save you?
Or the ones who rule over you?
Didn't you say,
'Please give me a king and officials!'?
In my anger I gave you a king.
In my indignation I am snatching him away.
The faults of Ephraim will come to an end
His sin is laid up in store.
The pains of childbearing will come upon him.
He is an ignorant child,
Even though it is time to be born, he doesn't emerge from the womb.
Shall I redeem them from the rule of the grave?
Shall I set them loose form death?
O death, where does your curse lie?
O grave, where does your destruction lie?
Mercy disappears from my sight," (13:9-14).
15. Here God is making a reference to another specific form in which human pride has assumed. It is Israel's monarchical system. To begin, what kind of kingdom did Israel have? Its beginnings are recorded in First Samuel chapter eight and verse five. The elders of Israel made a request to Samuel who was the religious as well as political leader. "Right now, please establish a king to hold court on our behalf just like all the other countries," (First Samuel 8:5). There are similar words recorded in verse twenty as well. "We, too, will become like all the other nations, a king will hold court, a king will stand at the head of our army and fight our battles," (Ibid., 8:20).
16. The problem here is with the phrases "like all the other nations,""like all the other peoples." This is what the people were wanting. They let go of the traditions they needed, wherein God had saved Israel out of Egypt, sustained them, and ruled and lead them. They were looking for a more certain system in which humans had control of the government over them, like the ones Edom, Moab, and the nations around them had. To be brief, in crisis situations, we would rather have stability and not have to say, "Trust in God. Rely on him," and prefer to look for certainty in a salvation that we can see with our eyes. Haven't you noticed such a mindset? It seems that when we live without saying, "Trust God. Rely on him," our lives seem more sure and stable. The time specifically [for those in our text] was a time when the rule of the Philistines was the problem. They thought, "We want to be like the other countries."
17. God answered the people's request and gave them a king. If the king and the people obeyed God, Israel would still be able to liveas a nation that God governed. But, it didn't come out that way. The king turned on God, then as a result of that the people turned on God, and the nation had gone on to destruction. At the time this prophesy was made, the last king Hoshea became a war prisoner of Assyria. Then the Lord asks,"Where is this one, your king? In which city is the one who should save you? Or the ones who rule over you?," (verse ten). This very thing came as a result of humans in their pride refusing the rule of God and wanting certainty and stability according to what the eye can see, whether human or thing. [Many] depend on self-reliance, but they do not trust in [anyone] at all and even if they look for help, they realize that there is no longer any help anywhere for them.
18. Satisfied and forgetful of God, the pains of childbearing came upon Israel. If the baby is born, the childbearing pains have some meaning. But, Israel is called an ignorant child who doesn't come out of the womb even though it is time to be born. Whenever a child is not born, the pain is only for nothing. Since they never repented and turned to God, it was only meaningless pain and all they had left was the fact of their fall. So, the Lord then gives an order to death and the grave. "O death, where does your curse lie? O grave, where does your destruction lie?,"(verse fourteen). This is but the same as "Turn Israel now to its curse and destruction. Let it be destroyed." The results of this are recorded in verse fifteen.
"Ephraim prospered most among the brothers.
But a hot wind came against him.
The wind of the Lord blew against him from the wilderness.
Their water source is depleted, their springs are gone dry.
All their riches, all their treasures, were stolen away," (13:5).
20. The Bible states what the true problem is. It makes plain the sins of humanity. It is not pleasant to the ears one bit. But, we have got to listen hard to its message. The reason that the focus of the sickness is made plain is so that it might bring forth true healing. [Don't let too much pride make your heart sick and put you on a spiritual deathbed.] That's why we are listening to the message that can bring true healing.
21. "O Israel, return to the Lord, your God," (14:2).