Good evening. Somebody suggested that if Jesus were to do his ministry on Earth today that he would be wanted by the FDA for turning water into wine without a license, the EPA for killing fig trees the AMA for practicing medicine without a license, the Department of Health for asking people to open graves, for raising the dead, and for feeding 5,000 people in the wilderness. He'd be wanted by OSHA for walking on water without a life jacket or for flying without an airplane, the SPCA for driving hogs into the sea, the National Board of Psychiatrists for giving advice on how to live a guilt free life, the NOW organization for not choosing a woman apostle, by the interfaith movement for condemning other religions, and by the zoning department for building mansions without a permit.
Well in the book of Hosea, the chapters we're in finds the nation of Israel with a new set of laws and a new set of values. They have rejected the laws of Moses. And in rejecting the laws of Moses-- laws that God gave through Moses to the nation-- we find that Israel is pretty much like the book of Judges, every man doing what is right in his own eyes.
There is a priesthood in Israel, but they are not real priests. There not like the ones down in Jerusalem. They're not of the tribe of Levi, operating under the Mosaic economy. But they've set up their own priests.
They are worshipping at false altars. They are worshipping at the altars of the calves at Dan and at Bethel and more recently, in the city of Samaria. In fact, the people in the north-- and we'll read it tonight-- will say of the true prophet-- of the true spiritual person-- the prophet is a fool. The spiritual man is insane.
Because they have new rules and because they have new values, they have a new relationship with God. God is their judge, and they are the guilty party. And God-- throughout out the book it's a blend of loving tenderness, the broken hearted prophet representing the broken hearted God of Israel-- that broken-heartedness tempered with a certain judgment that is coming. And so we see this wonderful and strange mixture of the character and the nature of God.
But as we get into chapter 11 and we finish the book-- we'll get into chapter 11 hopefully tonight, we'll finish the book next week-- we see that tender love and tender heart of God shining through. There's the song that we used to sing, very simple chorus, "no other love, no other love is like Your love." That is God's love, it's so unique and incomparable in the way He deals with people, and we see that in this book.
The prophet Hosea had a very sad experience. We've looked at it in the first of our studies, we mentioned it last week. If you have ever had a spouse leave you, you understand the kind of experience that Hosea went through-- to have the wife of his youth, with whom children were born to leave the marriage and to go out with other men. She prostituted herself.
And this prophet's heart was broken hearted. And in that, he experienced the broken-heartedness of God in watching His people leave that relationship and sin against Him. Now we have, in chapter 8, a list of sins-- a litany of the offenses that Israel has committed.
But all of the sins that are listed are really symptomatic of a greater root sin. All of them really are the offspring of one main sin, which is mentioned in verse 14, "Israel has forgotten its Maker." That's the biggie. And all of these others that you'll see leading up to that are the fruit of Israel neglecting or forgetting his Maker. The first sin is in the first few verses. And that is they broke God's covenant, verse one, "set the trumpet to thy mouth."
I almost brought my shofar that I brought from Israel because that is the word that is used here, the ram's horn that was used for signaling both the festivals and used so often as a warning sound to announce a possible invasion. That's the idea here. "Set the trumpet to thy mouth." It was as if he was signaling the coming of the Assyrian, that was approaching.
"Set the trumpet to your mouth. He shall come like an eagle against the house of the Lord, because they have transgressed My covenant and they have rebelled against My law." So a warning to prepare for an impending invasion. Now the eagle was the national symbol of the United States of America-- no, I'm just kidding. Of course it is today, but back then it was of the nation of Assyria.
So by saying this, God is identifying the very group that will come in and sweep through the land and overtake that nation. "Israel will cry to Me, my God, we know You. Israel has rejected the good; the enemy will pursue him."
Now Jerome, when he translated the Latin Vulgate and he got a hold of this verse, he translated it a little bit differently. He translated it by saying, "Israel has rejected God," because he understood that the prophet was speaking of the chief good, who is God. "Israel has rejected the good; the enemy will pursue him."
Notice in verse 2, Israel is claiming that they know God. It's their hour of trial. Their back is against the wall. And in this difficult time-- in their hour of need-- they are claiming to have a relationship with God. They're claiming it, but they really don't have it.
They have a form of godliness, but they deny the power thereof. Their lip and their life do not agree. You might say they have the eternal language, but they lack eternal life. They're saying, oh, we know the Lord. The truth is they don't.
Now a few chapters back, this comes up again. "We know the Lord." God says, you don't know Me. I know you. Jesus predicted that many would come to him in that final day of judgment. And they'd say, Lord didn't we do many miracles in your name, cast out demons-- et cetera, et cetera. And Jesus said, "I will say to them, I never knew you." It was merely a claim, but it had, really, no backing.
Now we live in a country where four out of five Americans claim to be Christians. Depending on which polls you read-- they vary, they're taken and every so often-- between about 32% and upwards of 50% claim to be born again Christians. They would say much the same thing as Israel echoed in those days, we know you, Lord. They're saying that, but they really don't know the Lord by their actions. "Faith" James says, "without works is dead."
Look at the second on the list beginning in verse 4 they chose ungodly leaders. "They set up kings, but not by Me. They made princes, but I did not acknowledge them. From their silver and gold, they made idols for themselves that they may be cut off." Interesting. God is saying explicitly that he never sanctioned nor approved of the splitting of the kingdom between North and South.
He didn't approve of the priesthood that they set up, which was false priesthood. He didn't approve of the false worship that they engaged in. And He didn't even approve of the kings of the North. There wasn't to be a divided kingdom. "They set up kings but not by Me."
So an entire new nation formed after Solomon died. And Rehoboam and took the throne. And Jeroboam went up to the North and brought golden calves with him. And some people wonder at that. Why a golden calf?
Well think back to the wilderness when they were delivered from Egypt, and when Moses was up there on the mountain receiving the law and bringing it down. The people set up a golden calf and worshiped it. It's because, in Egypt, the calf was a representation of the Egyptian god, Apis, represented as a bull.
And to the children of Israel, this was a symbol of strength. It was as if to say, our God is strong. Let's make some representation of the strong, mighty god.
Jeroboam knew that if the people in the north went back down south to the temple and worshipped God, as God said, that their hearts might be turned toward the King of Judah. And it wouldn't be good for what he was trying to do in establishing a new nation and a new loyalty. According to one historian, the reason Jeroboam set up the calves-- one in Dan and one in Bethel-- is because on one of his trips to Egypt, Jeroboam saw the worship of Apis the bull in the Egyptian city of Memphis.
Then he went over to the Heliopolis, which is a town by modern day Cairo. And he observed them worshipping another god that is depicted by an ox. And he took this idea and thought, this will fly. This will work. This, the people will respect because it was something tied to their own idolatrous history.
And it was something they were familiar with out of Egypt. So these calves were set up. Now it was King Amri who made Sumeria the capital of the northern 10 tribes. But it was Amri's son, King Ahab, that went from bad to worse. You remember that it was Ahab who married a woman by the name of Jezebel.
And Jezebel's dad, her father, was King Ethbaal, a Sidonian king slash priest. And she decided to import some of the temple priests of Baal from Sidon down into Samaria. And the kingdom was further corrupted with this pagan worship system.
So that takes us to the third sin mentioned in verse 3, which is idolatry. Bad rulers always lead to bad religion. And we see it in verse 5, "your calf is rejected, O Samaria. My anger is aroused against them-- how long until they attain to innocence?"
In other words, when will they ever learn? "For from Israel is even this, a workman made it. It is not God, but the calf of Samaria shall be broken to pieces."
Idolatry is, simply stated, creating God in your image. That is it's your decision. You're making a representation of what you think God is like. So whether it was for Aaron and the children of Israel and then Jeroboam, He's like a golden calf or a bull like Apis representing strength, it's taking and isolating a certain characteristic and building your system around what you think.
Whenever you throw away revelation, you are left with the imagination. I picture God as, I think God is this. And so you make a projection of that and God is worshipped.
You remember when David was comparing the incomparable Jehovah, Yahweh, the God of Israel with all of the other false gods and goddesses of the people around. In Psalm 115, he remarks on them, he describes these false gods and goddesses. He says "they have mouths, but they can't speak."
So there's is a statue and somebody carves this image and puts a mouth on it, but it can't speak. So it can't communicate to you. It can't ever tell you its will. It can't ever tell you what it likes or dislikes. It is incapable of that.
So you never know where you stand with it. There's no communication. How frustrating to worship a God that can't communicate to you. You have no idea where you stand with that deity.
He went on to say, "they have eyes, but they can't see." Now this would be a problem. Little eyes were carved, little eyes were painted on, but they can't apprehend-- they can't comprehend their circumstances and their environment.
So if you have an idol like that, you have to watch the idol. The idol can't watch over you. It can't protect you.
You remember when Rachel stole her father, Laban's gods and went out with her husband back to his home. And Laban caught up and he was all bummed out and angry, why have you stolen my gods? That's one of the funniest lines in the Bible.
Why have you stolen my gods? If they were gods, they could watch out for themselves. So ludicrous that anyone would worship a god that you have to watch over and protect.
"Ears they have," David said, "but they can't hear." So you can pray, but it's ludicrous to pray to a statue. Again, there is no capacity whatsoever to hear a person's prayers. You remember the priests of Baal were up there on Mount Carmel. And they outnumbered a single prophet who trusted in the unique and only true God.
His name was Elijah. And these false prophets of Baal were cutting themselves. And they were going through all of these gyrations and incantations for the better part of the day. And Elijah came to a point where he just started mocking them. And it is mockable. It is ludicrous-- that kind of a worship system.
So God says, they're are not gods. They made them. And whenever you create a god, it must be less than the one who made it. Because if you're the originator, you're the creator. So why would you make something less than yourselves and then worship what you made? And so it's absolutely ridiculous, the Lord is saying.
"They sow the wind." Sowing the wind are those sins that are enumerated-- the idolatry, the choosing of ungodly leaders, the breaking of the covenant. "They have sown the wind, and they reap the whirlwind." if you follow their history, you know what happened.
They started worshipping idols. They started forgetting what the law of Moses said-- bringing in their own value system, their own priests, their own laws, worshipping false gods-- the same gods that the Assyrians and the Babylonians were worshipping. And so eventually, they were sold into captivity by the very people groups that really specialized in the worship of these pagan gods.
Oh, you want idol worship, do you? The Lord would say, in effect. You're interested in worshipping these gods? I'll make sure that you're around it all day long. And they went in 722-- the northern kingdom-- to Assyria. So they sow the wind, they reap the whirlwind. Now he describes the harvest of that whirlwind.
Here's the result, "the stock has no bud; it shall never produce meal. If it should produce, aliens would swallow it up." The rain is not going to fall. The crops aren't going to produce much as God promised in Deuteronomy. And even if they do produce-- since the Assyrians are coming in to take over your land anyway-- they're going to get the fruit of it. So it will all be in vain, it. Will be futile.
Number four, they hired outside helpers. That is they formed other alliances for stability. Verse 8, "Israel is swallowed up. Now they are among the Gentiles like a vessel, in which is no pleasure. For they have gone up to Assyria like a wild donkey alone by itself. Ephraim has hired lovers."
"Yes, though they have hired among the nations, now I will gather them. And they shall sow a little because of the burden of the king of princes." The last king of Israel was Hoshea. And Hoshea murdered his predecessor, Pekah, and he ascended to the throne. His first act when he ascended to the throne was to make an alliance with the Assyrians.
And he agreed to pay tribute-- to give money to the Assyrians-- because that was the only way he thought he could guarantee his future, his throne. So Israel had to pour all of its money-- all of the coffers that it had, its bank account-- into the Assyrians for protection and for this alliance.
And I am sure that the King of Israel would have said, oh I needed to do it. It was an emergency measure. It was politically expedient for me to do so. So this is one of the many things that is the result of departing from the Lord or forgetting the Lord.
The fifth thing is rampant formalism. Verse 11, "because Ephraim has made many altars for sin, they have become for him, altars for sinning. I have written for him the great things of my law, but they were considered a strange thing." You remember the first thing Jeroboam did when the kingdoms split is to build altars of worship.
It wasn't that he was worshipping other gods in his mind. In his mind, he was worshipping God-- the God. But he was worshipping God not in the way God prescribed, but in the way he thought God should be worshipped. Again without revelation, you're left with imagination. He made up his own system.
He worshiped the calves-- the false calves that Dan and at Bethel. If you were to have gone to Israel in those days and you were to stop by one of these places where they worshipped, you would notice that not only did they worship Baal and Ashtoreth and Moloch and Mammon, but they also would tell you that they worshipped Yahweh, God, Jehovah, the true God. Again they claimed, "I know you, Lord," only by mouth, they really didn't by action.
But it was the fact that they added the worship of other gods to their worship of God, which is breaking the first commandment. "I am the Lord, thy God. Thou shalt have no other gods before or besides Me." They broke that commandment.
And so you'd ask them, who do you worship? Oh, we worship the God of Israel, Yahweh. Well, what is this little statue you have over here? Oh, well that's a representation of the god, Baal. And you see Baal is the protector of our crops and our livestock.
And what is this little statue? Oh that's Mammon. Everybody needs a little money, got to live. We got to move ahead in life. And it wasn't that they didn't worship God. It's that they brought God down to the level of that which was false. They multiplied their altars of sin and in sinning.
In verse 12 the Lord says, "I have written for him the great things of My law, but they were considered a strange thing." In other words, they were acting as if the great things of My law didn't apply to them. They were strange things to them. They knew they were there, they could read them, but they said it doesn't apply to me. It's not for me, it must refer to somebody else.
No other nation on earth has been so privileged as the nation of Israel to receive the law of God-- the will of God, The Revelation of God. When Paul writes to the Romans, in chapter 9, he gives a short list of all of the benefits, the privileges, that God gave to Israel when he said in Romans 9 verse 4, "to the Israelites to whom pertained the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law."
What a privilege that God would-- of all of the nations on Earth-- say to Israel, you will hear from Me. Here's My Word to you, you will be the keepers of My revelation. But it's how they treated the revelation of God-- "the great things were treated as strange things." Doesn't apply to me.
Sometimes when we hear a message or a portion of a message or an application of a message, we think immediately, oh I wish my wife were here to hear that. She needs to hear that that's for her when in fact, it's for you. You know, she's not here. I can't nudge her.
Oh I know somebody that needs to hear this message. And maybe, indeed they do. But so often it is our tendency to want to deflect what God is trying to speak to us off on to somebody else. And Israel did that to the extreme, "they took the great things of the law and made them a strange thing."
Now let me just express to you that as a pastor, I am concerned for the Church and the tendencies that I see worldwide in the Church. You see Peter said, "God has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue." Great and precious promises that He spoke about, the great things.
But more and more, the tendency in churches is to make great things strange things. They can, whoa, we just can't teach them the Bible. I mean you're not going to like teach them several chapters of Hosea or something, are you? Oh that's a strange thing. No, it's great things of the law.
God has a contemporary, today, now message through these great things that God has given. But I'm afraid that the Bible has become strange to so many. The tendency today in so many churches in the name of being relevant is more of an emphasis on entertaining the goats rather than feeding the sheep. Jesus asked Peter, do you love me? Yeah. Feed my sheep. Feed them.
I remember when Nathan was much younger, and we had spinach one night for dinner. He wasn't a fan of vegetables. Honestly, he's still not a fan of vegetables.
But in those days we made him eat those vegetables. And he looked at spinach. He said, I don't want to eat that. And I got to admit, when you see a bunch of spinach on a plate, there's nothing appetizing about it. I don't care how you doctor it up. It's spinach.
But Popeye was on television. Nathan, you want to be like Popeye? Eat your spinach. I'll never forget what he said. He said, Dad, is Popeye real? I was busted.
Well, you really won't be just like Popeye. But you will be stronger, and it is good for you. You need to eat your vegetables.
Sometimes we're reading through the Bible, and we think, well, this isn't very exciting. There's a genealogy. But keep going. Ask the appropriate questions. See why it's there, and you'll discover great things, great treasures of truth that God has in the word.
And sometimes there are portions of the Bible that are sort of like eating your vegetables. But you know what? We don't have the right to set the curriculum. God gave us the curriculum in 66 books of the Bible.
And just like you don't go to college and say, well, you know, I don't want to take math or science. You know, those are a little too hard. I want to take basket weaving and art appreciation, not that those are bad classes.
But if you want a balanced education, get the whole curriculum. God has given us the whole curriculum, great things. When we marginalize them, we're saying basically these things are strange things.
AW Tozer wrote this. "It is scarcely possible in most places to get anyone to attend a meeting where the only attraction is God. One can only conclude that God's professed children are bored with Him, for they must be wooed to meeting with a stick of striped candy in the form of religious games and refreshments."
God said, I gave you the best. I gave you my heart. I gave you my revelation, and you treated it as a strange thing. "For the sacrifices of my offerings, they sacrifice flesh and eat it. But the Lord does not accept them. Now He will remember their iniquity and punish their sins. They shall return to Egypt," Egypt symbolizing the heathen world and captivity.
We know what history tells us. They will go into captivity like Egypt. Only this time, it will be Assyria. And here's the crux, verse 14. Here's the real sin from which all of the other ones flowed from, flowed out of.
"For Israel has forgotten his maker and has built temples. Judah also has multiplied fortified cities, but I will send fire upon his cities. And it shall devour his palaces."
And when it says that Israel has forgotten his maker, it doesn't mean that they fail to remember God. It wasn't like, oh, right, God, I remember now. The idea of the language is that they have purposefully neglected Him, pushed Him out of national life. They have forgotten Him. They've turned their backs on Him, and they have focused on buildings and programs.
You notice it says they've "forgotten his maker and has built temples. Judah has also multiplied fortified cities." It's sad. They're building temples, but they have forgotten the very one that the temple was supposed to represent.
There is a legend of the Taj Mahal. Some say it is true. Others deny it. That the emperor, Shah Jahan, whose wife died and for whom that great structure was built-- that she died, and he decided he would spare no expense. He wanted the best possible memory of her life.
And so he constructed a beautiful temple, the Taj Mahal. He said he would spare no expense. But after his wife died, though, he grieved. The building project got the better of him. And he just got so focused on the building and forgot all about his wife.
And one day, as he was making this great structure even greater by bringing marble in, that his leg brushed up against a box. He didn't know what it was. There was so many loose ends and remnants of building material around the site.
He just bumped into a box with his leg and said, what's this box doing here? Get rid of it. Throw it out. It was his wife's casket. The very one for whom he was going to build that mausoleum got lost to the building itself, became all about the building.
And there are, it seems, two groups-- temple gazers and Savior seekers. One looks at the place and says, wow, what a great place! The other sees the Savior and says, what a great Christ. They had forgotten God, but they went on with all of their building projects. And that's the core. They have forgotten their maker.
Hosea chapter 9 continues, "Do not rejoice, O Israel, with joy like other peoples, for you have played the harlot against your God. You have made love for hire on every threshing floor." They were so excited. They'd formed an alliance with Assyria. Shalmaneser would protect them. They now have, they thought, homeland security.
It was a very insecure position. I think it's great that we have a Department of Homeland Security. I watched it develop, as you did, post-9/11. And they're constantly analyzing threats to our country. And they're giving us color codes and warnings and helping us become alert to the border situations.
And what it does is it gives a lot of folks a sense of [SIGHS], phew. We have another department-- great, another branch of the government that we can pay taxes to, the Department of Homeland Security. Question-- how secure are we?
Well, I know I can see a few of my friends in law enforcement out there who know the inside scoop. And I'll just tell you, you don't want to know. You are as secure as the trust you place in God in Heaven alone. That's where our security lies.
Their security should have been in God. Oh, they were so happy. They were rejoicing, partying. We have Shalmaneser. We have the Assyrians. They're going to protect us.
God says, hey, too soon to party, man. Don't get so excited about it. Don't be so elated. Do not rejoice like other people's. "The threshing floor and the winepress shall not feed them, and the new wine shall fail in her."
The very place from which God would provide for them the winepress, the vineyard, the fields, they were setting up their pagan altars, committing adultery, and attributing any kind of fruitfulness and prosperity-- and there was a measure of outward prosperity during this time. They were attributing their prosperity to the idols.
You know, Baal worship was the most debased kind of worship probably that has ever existed. It was sensually based. And underneath the trees, the groves, and the altars that were erected along with the idols that were constructed, there were priests and priestesses of Baal that were basically prostitutes.
And because it was sexual in nature, it became a very popular religion among many peoples. The idea is that Baal controlled the sun, the rain, all of the fertility of crops and herds. And so the idea is-- and they would even pray this as they would set up their idol and go through their sensual activities.
They would say, even as fertility is taking place right now, it is my prayer that my crops, my family, my flocks will become blessed and fertile. Then if there was a measure of prosperity, they would attribute that prosperity to the false gods to whom they prayed. They're treading on some thin ice.
"They shall not dwell in the Lord's land," verse 3. "But Ephraim shall return to Egypt and shall eat unclean things in Assyria. They shall not offer wine offerings to the Lord, nor shall their sacrifices be pleasing to Him. It shall be like bread of mourners to them. All who eat it, shall be defile. For their bread shall be for their own life. It shall not come into the house of the Lord."
The worship of Israel, as we've noted, was a mixed worship. It wasn't that God was singularly worshiped. They weren't worshipping and loving the Lord, their God, with all of their heart, mind, soul, and strength. They combined the worship of God with other gods. It was a mixed worship. Thus, it was not pleasing to God.
But something else, notice, in that verse. It wasn't pleasing to God, and it wouldn't even be pleasing to them, those who engaged in the worship. For in verse 4, "Nor shall their sacrifices be pleasing to Him. It shall be like bread of mourners to them." Interesting. Interesting principle.
For those who live to please themselves, they're never pleased. They're are never satisfied. If you make life all about you, I can guarantee you'll be a miserable person. The more you do as you please, the less you are pleased with what you do.
I believe, from the promise of the Lord Jesus Christ, that our contentment is directly proportional to our commitment. Our contentment is directly proportional to our commitment. Jesus said, "Seek first the Kingdom of God, and all these things will be added to you."
Don't seek these things. Don't worry about these things. Seek the Kingdom of God first. All these things will be freely given. It's great. God gives us one single focus. And he promises to take care of the small stuff, take care of our stuff.
So they were going through this freedom of worship, not pleasing God, and it wasn't even pleasing them. And yet, the pursuit of happiness, of which you and I are guaranteed in our constitution, happiness is never found by direct pursuit. It's always a byproduct of pursuing God's interests, seeking first the kingdom.
Former president of the Philippines Ferdinand Marcos, in his second term, one April morning, woke up, took out a piece of paper and a pen. And completely dissatisfied with his life, this powerful president wrote these words. "I am the president. I am the most powerful man in the Philippines. All that I've ever dreamed of, I have, but I feel a discontent."
Same principle-- the more you do as you please, the less you are pleased with what you do. God wasn't pleased. And they weren't even pleased, because they were seeking the wrong thing.
Verse 5, "What will you do in the appointed day and in the day of the feast of the Lord? For indeed, they are gone because of destruction. Egypt shall gather them up. Memphis shall bury them. Nettles shall possess their valuables of silver. Thorns shall be in their tents.
The days of punishment have come. The days of recompense have come. Israel knows. The prophet is a fool. The spiritual man is insane, because of the greatness of your iniquity and great enmity."
Probably these were words that Hosea heard some of the people saying about him. He was a spiritual man. He was a spokesman and a representative of God. He came from a broken home, and he spoke with great compassion and emotion. He knew what it felt like to be rejected. And he gave the prophecy that Israel would fall.
Now, when he gave the prophecy, Israel was enjoying, at that time, a measure of outward prosperity, growth, and wealth, and security. And the people were saying, Who in his right mind would predict such nonsense like Hosea is predicting?
We're fine. We're going to be great. The economy's on the rise. No problem. He's insane. He's nuts, giving a prediction when we're experiencing such outward prosperity and great harvest.
You and I are strange people to the world. The things they said about Hosea, you know, a lot of people are saying about you. You're nuts. You're insane.
Why do you carry that Bible everywhere? Why do you go to church all the time? Why do you bow your head before every meal? You're nuts. You're insane.
You are a blessed enigma to the world. They can't figure you out. Paul the Apostle wrote, "He who is spiritual judges all things, yet he himself is rightly judged by no one." The more spiritual you are, the crazier you look to the unbelieving world. This is their sentiment.
He continues. "The watchman of Ephraim is with my God." That is, the true prophet will consult God. "But the prophet," that is, the so-called prophet, he's comparing the false prophet, "is a fowler's snare in all his ways. Enmity is in the house of his God. They are deeply corrupted. as in the days of Gibeah."
Now, we'll explain this. When we get to chapter 10, it's mentioned again. "He will remember their iniquity. He will punish their sins."
Now, you know the name Ephraim applies to the 10 northern tribes. We discussed that the last few weeks. The name Ephraim means double fruitful, or twice fruitful.
Joseph, in Egypt, named his second-born son Ephraim, saying, "God has made me fruitful in my affliction." So Ephraim means fruitful, or double fruitful, and God is going to make them doubly barren.
And it's sort of a play on the meaning of the words. It's what Hosea bases these prophecies on, the name of Ephraim and what God would do in stripping Ephraim, the 10 northern tribes, and making them barren.
So verses 1 through 9 of this chapter is that Israel will be fruitless, or barren, in the harvest. And then verse 10 all the way down to the end of the chapter, Israel will be fruitless in their home. So in the harvest and in the home, God will make even their offspring barren as they face nothing but captivity.
"I found Israel," God says, "like grapes in the wilderness. I saw your fathers as the first fruits on the tree, or the fig tree, in its first season. But they went to Baal-peor." You may want to jot down and look up Numbers chapter 25, what happened when they went down and worshipped the idols down in Moab with the women that were sent into the camp, the Moabite idol.
"And they separated themselves to that shame. They became an abomination like the thing they loved." The Lord says, "I found Israel like grapes in the wilderness." Now you know that so often in the Old Testament, Israel is depicted like a vineyard.
Isaiah chapter 5. "Let me sing to my well-beloved a song about His vineyard. My well-beloved had a vineyard on a very fruitful hill. He threw out the stones. He put a hedge. He tended it. And He expected it to be fruitful and bring forth grapes, but it brought forth wild grapes."
"What shall I do that I have not already done?" God says. "I expected fruit. It was fruitless. What shall I do?" The Lord says, "I'll tell you what I'll do. I'm going to take away its hedge of protection. I'm going to come in and trample the vineyard." And here's an allusion to that, once again.
If you go to Israel today, notice that on some of the taxicabs, the Israeli cabs, the official-- not taxicabs, but the official government cars, the modern symbol of the Ministry of Tourism, which is a depiction of Joshua and Caleb with the grapes in between them as they brought the fruit back from the land of Kadesh Barnea.
It's still a symbol of Israel. So every time I see some of those official cars of the Ministry of Tourism, these government cars, I'm reminded of this and Isaiah chapter 5. God expected the nation to be fruitful. Because the nation wasn't fruitful, God will act now as the one who prunes.
I love this description, though. "I found Israel like grapes in the wilderness." If you are ever out in the desert, you wouldn't expect to find a bunch of grapes just growing wild. Now sometimes, it happens, and grapes can grow in arid climates. My mom lives up in the high desert. And she has still hedges of grapes that my dad planted, but you have to tend to them.
To just walk through the wilderness and find grapes would be a delight to the one who found them. I believe what God is expressing is the sheer delight Israel was to Him when He brought them out of Egypt down into the wilderness.
And they were at that place. Yes, they complained. But they were at that place of just trusting God to bring bread from Heaven, water from the rock. It was that beautiful innocency, those early days of that relationship. You were to Me, like somebody who found grapes out in the desert, a delight.
"As for Ephraim, their glory shall fly away like a bird-- no birth, no pregnancy, no conception." Again, Ephraim means fruitful. This is the absence of it.
"Though they bring up their children, yet I will bereave them to the last man. Yes, woe to them when I depart from them. Just as I saw Ephraim like Tyre, planted in a pleasant place, so Ephraim will bring out his children to the murderer." The Assyrians will come in and kill their kids and take their adults captive.
"Give them, O Lord-- what will you give? Give them a miscarrying womb and dry breasts." It's a prediction of exactly what happened. Their number became drastically reduced even before the Assyrian captivity, but certainly there was a declining population. And then the Assyrians came in and ravaged them.
"All their wickedness is in Gilgal, for there I hated them." Now, that sort of bothers us when we read God saying, "I hated them." Understand, God is not speaking personally. He is speaking as a holy God, hating sin and the sin that they were embracing. This is the holy nature of God, a holy hatred of sin.
"Because of the evil of their deeds, I will drive them from My house. I will love them no more. All their princes are rebellious. Ephraim is stricken. Their root is dried up. They shall bear no fruit. Yes, were they to bear children, I would kill the darlings of their womb. My God will cast them away because they did not obey Him, and they shall be wanderers among the nation."
Oh, Israel was so promising at first. When they were out in the wilderness and they told Moses, Moses, you go hear from God. You come back and tell us what God wants from us. And Moses, we'll do it. We'll put our heart and soul behind it.
They started out. They looked so promising. But as time went on, they became so filled with idolatry, running from God, and now appointed to barrenness.
Let's briefly touch on spiritual growth. We are, God willing, growing in the grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. It's a process.
Growth is natural. It should happen. We expect babies to become toddlers, to become teenagers, to become adults. It would be awfully disconcerting if your 25-year-old son still said, "Da-ddy." D You would think, oh, no, not, oh, how sweet, like you did when he was just a baby.
Growth is the normal result of a connection of the branch, to the vine, to the root, to the soil nutrients. It's that natural outgrowth. And spiritual growth isn't always directly proportional age. That is, you can have, as Charles Spurgeon said, old men and women who are spiritually infants, and you can have relatively young men by physical age but spiritually mature.
But here's the great truth. You and I can grow spiritually as much as we want, as much as we want. It's not like God is saying, well, I'm not going to let you grow, but I'm going to let you grow spiritually. Oh, you'll be a spiritual giant, but no, I want you to remain an infant. You can grow as much as you want to.
"God," once again, II Peter, "has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue. Therefore, add to your faith virtue, and to your virtue knowledge, and to knowledge self-control." And there's a list. "If these things are in you," said Peter, "and abound, you'll never be unfruitful or barren in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ."
So the control is in our hands. We can grow as much as we want to. Israel, you had a great beginning, but look at where you are now. They had turned from the Lord.
Hosea chapter 10-- now, I got to admire Hosea. He's like a skillful surgeon. He has the patient opened up. He's probing through and putting his pulse on the very core issues of why Israel is going into captivity, dealing with his sin. And he does it here in this chapter.
"Israel empties his vine. He brings forth fruit for himself. According to the multitude of his fruit, he has increased the altars. According to the bounty of his land, they have embellished his sacred pillars."
So all of the fruit on his vine, he is emptying out monetarily into the coffers of the Assyrian Empire, paying tribute to them. Everything that was their fruit, they're giving it away to foreigners. "Their heart is divided. Now they are held guilty. He will break down their altars. He will ruin their sacred pillars."
Notice how Hosea has the ability to get right to the core problem. They have forgotten the Lord, and here he says, "Their heart is divided." These are the core issues from which all the other stuff comes.
It was David who prayed, "Lord, unite my heart to fear Thy name." Nothing worse than a divided heart going in two directions. Elijah asks the people, "How long will you hop between two forks in the road?" or go between two opinions. "If the Lord is God, worship Him. If Baal is God, worship Him."
A divided heart-- on one hand, you say, I know the Lord. On the other hand, you're worshipping these false idols, these pagan gods, these images-- a divided heart. "For now they say, 'We have no king, because we did not fear the Lord. And as for a king, what would he do for us?'"
Keep in mind, the last five kings of Israel were absolutely incompetent. And the last five kings were usurpers of the throne. They took it by intrigue or by murder. They placed themselves on it. And with each successive king until the last, they became less and less capable as rulers.
"They have spoken words, swearing falsely in making a covenant. Thus, judgment springs up like hemlock," that poisonous, fast-growing plant, "in the furrows of the field."
Go back in your mind to Mount Sinai. When Israel heard from God via Moses-- remember, they said, Moses, find out what God wants. Tell us. We'll do it.
But as time went on and they looked around at other nations, they noticed that they were different from other nations. They were meant to be different. But they didn't want to be different. They got tired of their uniqueness.
They said, we want to be like other nations. Give us a king. So they went from theocracy, to monarchy, to anarchy, and eventually to captivity. That was their path.
They sunk low, from a theocracy, God ruling over the nation; to a monarchy, we want a king like other nations; to anarchy, doing what is right in their own eyes; to eventually captivity. Lower and lower they sank.
Here's the problem. They lost their moral compass. And we have spoken about this. But we see it so often, don't we, this relativism that crept in, this idea that rather than one principle of what is right and wrong, one moral consensus, every person decides what is right and wrong for themselves.
It's not a new philosophy. We may pride ourselves and go, yes, this is the modern age. We're now in the year 2006, and we've come such a long way. No. No, we haven't. There's nothing new under the sun.
The Greek philosopher Protagoras in the fifth century BC was the guy who came up with the statement, "Man is the measure of all things," moral relativism. But even before Protagoras, in the Old Testament, with bringing in Baal, and Moloch, and all these other false gods and goddesses, they were making up their own religion, their own ways as they went along.
"The inhabitants of Samaria fear because of the calf of Beth Aven." Remember, Beth Aven was Bethel. The house of God had become the house of wickedness, or idolatry. "For its people mourn for it, and the priests shriek for it, because its glory has departed from it. The idol also shall be carried to Assyria as a present for King Jareb. Ephraim shall receive shame. Israel shall be ashamed of his own counsel.
As for Samaria, her king is cut off like a twig on the water. Also the high places of Aven," that is Beth Aven, "the sin of Israel shall be destroyed. The thorn and the thistle shall grow on their altars."
In other words, it's an absolute, total devastation. This city will be far from inhabited. The inhabitants will basically be cut off, and new people will populate. And so descriptively, its thorn and thistle will cover and grow on their altars. "They shall say to the mountains, 'cover us' and to the hills, 'fall on us.'"
It's interesting. Jesus quoted that in Luke 23. John quoted that in Revelation 6. It's a figure of inexorable judgment. It's absolutely coming. It's unstoppable. We can't hide from it.
And so they will say to the mountains, fall on us. There's no place to hide. We can't escape the judgment of God that is coming.
"O Israel, you have sinned from the days of Gibeah." There it is mentioned again. "There they stood. The battle in Gibeah against the children of iniquity did not overtake them." That's mentioned three times in the book of Hosea, this sin of Gibeah, or the what happened at Gibeah.
In Judges 20 there was a Levite that brought his young concubine to this Benjamite city of Gibeah. He was out in the open square. The men of Gibeah threatened his life, took his concubine, and ravished her, raped her until she died.
When he found her dead, because he realized that this territory had sunk to that level, he cut up his concubine into 12 pieces and sent a piece of her to the 12 tribes. They realized what was happening in their own nation, and they rallied together at Mizpah to go up against Gibeah, killing all but 600 of the tribe of Benjamin. Those are the only ones that were left after this bloody battle. So that's the reference.
"When it is My desire, I will chasten them. People shall be gathered against them when I bind them for their two transgressions." Or as the King James says, "for their two furrows," probably referring to the two places of calf worship, Bethel and Dan, where it all started.
"Ephraim is a trained heifer that loves to thresh grain, but I harnessed her fair neck and will make Ephraim pull a plow. Judah shall plow. Jacob shall break his clods."
Now, a trained heifer was one who was set apart and trained for the light work of threshing grain, the easy stuff, the easy job. But God says, well, I'm going to put the heavy load on you. I'm going to set you apart like the ox for pulling a plow. You're going into captivity.
"Sow for yourselves righteousness. Reap in mercy. Break up your fallow ground, for it is time to seek the Lord till He comes and rains righteousness on you. You have plowed wickedness. You have reaped iniquity. You have eaten the fruit of lies because you trusted in your own way, in the multitude of your mighty men."
When the ground was hard, fallow, filled with rocks and impediments to growth, it had to be cleared. It had to be prepared. And so the fallow, or hardened ground, would be broken up. To break up the fallow ground spiritually means to remove anything in your life that is restricting, hindering the expedients to your spiritual growth.
Paul said, "All things are lawful for me, but not all things are expedient." They won't further me, push me in my goal to be God-like. The writer of Hebrews says, "We are to lay aside every sin and the weight, which so easily besets us, so that we can run the race."
You'll notice that athletes don't put on overcoats and army boots when they run a race. They shed any extraneous clothing. They want to be as light and lean as possible. So to break up the fallow ground, get rid of anything that is going to stand in the way between you and the Lord.
Wilbur Smith used to say-- excuse me, Wilbur Chapman, "My life is governed by this rule. Anything that dims my vision of Christ, or takes away my taste for Bible study, or cramps my prayer life, or makes Christian work difficult is wrong for me. And I must, as a Christian, turn away from it."
That's breaking up the fallow ground. I'm going to make sure that my goal is set. And anything that would compete for that, get rid of it.
"Therefore, tumult shall arise among your people, and all your fortresses shall be plundered. As Shalman plundered Beth Arbel in the day of battle, a mother dashed in pieces upon her children."
Now, Shalman is short for Shalmaneser III. And Shalmaneser III was one of the emperors of Assyria. "Thus it shall be done to you, O Bethel, because of your great wickedness. At dawn, the king of Israel shall be utterly cut off."
Now, Arbel, by the way, it's mentioned, is up in Galilee. It's part of a formation that brings some of the winds from the Mediterranean and churns up the Sea of Galilee. There was a battle that everybody in Hosea's day knew about, the Battle of Arbel, when Shalmaneser made his first invasion of Israel. And after three years, they were cut off in 722 BC.
And we conclude with Hosea chapter 11. You know, Hosea chapter 11 is the second great love chapter of the book. We take a turn. You notice the language is different. The temperature is different, a whole different tone of voice. It's wonderful to see the love of God in the midst of judgment.
The first great chapter is Hosea chapter 3, where God is depicted as a husband reaching out to his wife who went out on him. Here is a picture of God as Father, being tender and gentle to his children.
"When Israel was a child, I loved him. And out of Egypt I called My son. As they called them, so they went from them. They sacrificed to the Baals and burned incense to carved images. I taught Ephraim to walk, taking them by the arms, but they did not know that I healed them."
You can picture a father teaching junior how to walk, so tender, so gentle, not like an owner of animals, whipping them, but tender like a father with a child, teaching the child to walk. And if the child-- if junior falls down, Dad won't kick him, saying, you dumb kid. I can't believe that you can't walk the first time.
No, rather, that father will be gentle and say, up. Walk for Daddy. That was great. Try it again. That sweet, tender, innocent relationship. Says, "When Israel was a child, I loved him. Out of Egypt I called my son." In Matthew chapter 2 verse 15, this verse is pulled out by Matthew to apply to the Lord Jesus Christ.
And how did it apply to Jesus? Well, you know what happened with Herod the Great was killing all of the baby-- the males in Bethlehem. And an angel told Joseph to take the family, especially the Lord Jesus, because of the threat down to Egypt, so that when they returned it could be said, "Out of Egypt I called My son."
What I find interesting is the mingling together of these two promises, that as Israel was taken out of Egypt, the people of God, and as the Messiah would also come out of Egypt, that God is wanting to identify with his people. It's so beautiful. God is connected with his people, and both were called out of Egypt.
"I drew them with gentle chords, with bands of love. I was to them as those who take the yoke from their neck. I stooped, and I fed them." Not I dragged them, not I drove them, not I pulled them, but a gentle leading.
"He shall not return to the land of Egypt, but the Assyrian shall be his king, because they refused to repent. And the sword shall slash in his cities, devour his districts, and consume them, because of their own counsels."
Hosea would live to see the very promises that he made, the predictions that he gave come true. He would be there in 722 BC when Sargon and the others, the Assyrian generals and the emperors, came in and destroyed and sieged that city in the Northern Kingdom.
"My people are bent on backsliding from Me. Now, I see two things there. Not only do they have a predisposition to backsliding, they're "backsliding from Me," their chief good, the one who like a father would guide them and lead them, who like a husband would love an unfaithful wife, They're "bent on backsliding from Me."
"Though they call to the Most High, none at all exalt Him. How can I give you up, Ephraim? How can I hand you over, Israel? How can I make you like Admah? How can I set you like Zeboiim?" those two cities down on the plain of Sodom and Gomorrah that were utterly destroyed, made barren, blighted by the judgment of God upon Sodom and Gomorrah.
"My heart churns within Me. My sympathy is stirred." Now, some think that is the greatest verse in the book of Hosea-- might be. I don't know. I'm not going argue that. It is certainly a wonderful and tender verse, because the emotion of God is expressed.
As human beings, we sometimes have trouble understanding God. We're finite. God is infinite. We're limited. God is unlimited. We're earthbound. God is transcendent.
So how does infinite, transcendent, eternal God communicate to finite, earthbound creatures? In a language and in wording that we can understand so that when it's depicted, we go, ooh, that's beautiful. I understand now. A father and a son, I get that. Husband and wife, I get that.
The theologians call this language anthropomorphisms, or speaking about God in language humans can understand. But when the emotions of God are described, theologians call that anthropopathisms. The pathos, the churning of the heart, the deep emotions of God are expressed in a way that humans can understand. It's so beautiful, this depiction, this divine emotion. God's heart is agitated.
Now verse 9 through the rest of this chapter, these few verses are yet future.
"I will not execute the fierceness of My anger. I will not again destroy Ephraim, for I am God and not man, the Holy One in your midst, and I will not come with terror."
There is one of the most profound statements ever. God is saying, look, I'm not man. I'm not like man. I am unique. I am different. I am utterly apart from My creation-- absolutely holy. I am God and not a man, which injects hope into the passage.
You see, if God were like a man, He wouldn't have the patience. After a few times, you might say, look, it's the fifth time you've done that. I'm not going to put up with it any longer.
God's saying, I'm God. I'm not a man. My mercy, My grace is infinite. And hope is injected into this passage because of that. Man is fickle. God is faithful.
"They shall walk after the Lord. He will roar like a lion. When He roars, then His sons shall come trembling from the west. They shall come trembling like a bird from Egypt, like a dove from the land of Assyria." And all of this will tie together in the last chapter, chapter 14, when we cover it next week.
"And I will let them dwell in their houses," says the Lord. "Ephraim has encircled Me with lies and the house of Israel with deceit. But Judah still walks with God, even with the Holy One who is faithful."
Now, in the Hebrew Bible, that verse, verse 12 of chapter 11, is verse 1 of chapter 12. There's a discrepancy as to-- numbers weren't inspired. People put them in later. It's all one continuous writing.
But the Hebrew Bible sees chapter 11, verse 12 as the first verse of the next chapter, chapter 12. And what it means is, is that Judah was still trusting God more so than Israel was during Hosea's time. But Judah was still following the same pattern of the Northern Kingdom, playing with idolatry, playing with worshipping other gods along with Jehovah, God. And thus, the same judgment would ultimately befall them.
When Leonardo da Vinci was painting his famous work The Last Supper-- everybody can picture it in their mind. Da Vinci wanted to find somebody to model Christ for the painting. He searched high and low, and he found one of the choristers in a local church in Rome, a young man by the name of Pietro Bandinelli-- lovely, fair, perfect structure.
So he thought, I'm going to use him as modeling to paint Christ in that painting. He painted him. And he painted all of the other apostles as months and years went on, except Judas. He left that for the last.
And he said, for me to get Judas painted, I've got to find a scoundrel, somebody hardened by sin. And he found out in the street a homeless man. And he paid him to come in and model for Judas. He was so fierce-looking, said da Vinci, that he didn't even want to gaze at him.
After he was done and the man was leaving, he said, you know, thank you. Here's the money. I didn't get your name. What is it? And the man Said, don't you recognize me? I am Pietro Bandinelli. I sat years ago and was your model for Christ.
From chorister, from chorus leader, from choir leader, to this, to beggar. From Christ to Judas-- that's the path of Israel. So fair, so wonderful, like grapes in the desert, so fruitful, such promise. But from theocracy, to monarchy, to anarchy, to captivity.
And at any time, they could have turned the tide and changed their fate. They could have made the choice, we're coming back to the Lord. We're going to serve Him. If anyone here is toying at all in areas where you know by the Holy Spirit you ought not to be, take that warning. And be received by a gracious and loving God who would lead you tenderly and forgive you instantly if you allow Him to.
Heavenly Father, what great things have been presented in Your word. May they never become to us strange things. May we never marginalize them or deflect them as if they belong to somebody else and not for our own hearts or for our own growth.
Lord, perhaps it doesn't need to be said. But I feel the need to thank You for the legacy that we have received here at Calvary Chapel; how that for year, after year, after year, the word of God has always been preeminent. May it always be so, Lord, that Your flock would be fed, and by the equipping of the saints, the ministry would be done.
Thank you for Pastor Chuck and his wife, Kay, and for their great commitment to Your word and to Your ways, in Jesus' name. Amen.
Shall we stand? I was particularly impressed tonight with chapter 10, verse 12, where the commandment was "Sow to yourself in righteousness. Reap in mercy. Break up your fallow ground, for it is time to seek the Lord till He come and rain righteousness upon you."
This sowing, the planting, but ultimately the fruit, but it's dependent upon the rain. God wants to bless your life. God wants to bless this church. He wants to bless His people. But the prophet gives us the process by which the blessings will come-- the breaking up of the fallow ground, that hard ground.
And it seems that so often times, our hearts can become rather hardened to the things of the Spirit. We become so involved in just life, making a living, and the distractions of the world around us that the heart becomes more or less hardened to the things of the spirit
The Lord is saying, prepare your heart. Break up the fallow ground, because the time has come. And surely, for the nation, the time has come when we need to seek the Lord until He comes and rains righteousness upon us.
God wants to bless us. God wants us to be fruitful in the things of the Spirit. May God prepare our hearts. May God break up that fallow ground. And may our hearts really become receptive to the rain that God wants to pour out upon us that we might see the work of God in our midst in a greater way than we've ever seen or experienced before until the Lord comes and rains righteousness upon us. O, let that be our prayer.
Lord, come. Rain righteousness upon us. Let the ground be receptive that it can receive the rain, that it will soak up the rain, so that the fruit might come forth from our lives.
The pastors are down here at the front again this evening. They are here to minister to you and to pray for you. And it may be that this would be a good opportunity to break up the fallow ground, to begin to prepare your heart for the work that God is wanting to do in your life, the preparation of the soil to receive the seed, sowing in righteousness, reaping ultimately in the mercies of God.
So I would encourage you, let's together as the body of Christ really begin to seek the Lord. The Lord said, "And when you seek Me with all of your heart, in that day, I will be found of you." Join with me in a commitment of just seeking the Lord until He comes and rains righteousness upon us.
(SINGING) I love you, Lord. And I lift my voice to worship you. Oh, my soul rejoice! Take joy, my king, in what you hear. May it be a sweet, sweet, sound in your ear. God bless you.