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PURSUE LOVE AND JUSTICE
Restoration & Praise
Christian Fellowship Center
Devotional Reading: Deuteronomy 8:11-20
Background Scriptures: Hosea 11, 12
LESSON SCRIPTURES: Hosea 11:1, 2, 7-10
Exerted from: Standard Lesson Commentary KJV (2020).
Hosea 11:1, 2, 7-10
1 When Israel was a child, then I loved him, and called my son out of Egypt.
2 As they called them, so they went from them: they sacrificed unto Baalim, and burned incense to graven images.
7 And my people are bent to backsliding from me: though they called them to the most High, none at all would exalt him.
8 How shall I give thee up, Ephraim? how shall I deliver thee, Israel? how shall I make thee as Admah? how shall I set thee as Zeboim? mine heart is turned within me, my repentings are kindled together.
9 I will not execute the fierceness of mine anger, I will not return to destroy Ephraim: for I am God, and not man; the Holy One in the midst of thee: and I will not enter into the city.
10 They shall walk after the Lord: he shall roar like a lion: when he shall roar, then the children shall tremble from the west.
Hosea 12:1, 2, 6-14
1 Ephraim feedeth on wind, and followeth after the east wind: he daily increaseth lies and desolation; and they do make a covenant with the Assyrians, and oil is carried into Egypt.
2 The Lord hath also a controversy with Judah, and will punish Jacob according to his ways; according to his doings will he recompense him.
6 Therefore turn thou to thy God: keep mercy and judgment, and wait on thy God continually.
7 He is a merchant, the balances of deceit are in his hand: he loveth to oppress.
8 And Ephraim said, Yet I am become rich, I have found me out substance: in all my labours they shall find none iniquity in me that were sin.
9 And I that am the Lord thy God from the land of Egypt will yet make thee to dwell in tabernacles, as in the days of the solemn feast.
10 I have also spoken by the prophets, and I have multiplied visions, and used similitudes, by the ministry of the prophets.
11 Is there iniquity in Gilead? surely they are vanity: they sacrifice bullocks in Gilgal; yea, their altars are as heaps in the furrows of the fields.
12 And Jacob fled into the country of Syria, and Israel served for a wife, and for a wife he kept sheep.
13 And by a prophet the Lord brought Israel out of Egypt, and by a prophet was he preserved.
14 Ephraim provoked him to anger most bitterly: therefore shall he leave his blood upon him, and his reproach shall his Lord return unto him.
After participating in this lesson, each learner will be able to:
1. Identify Israel's problem.
2. Explain whether the predicted consequences of that problem better fit the concept of restorative justice or that of retributive justice.
3. Identify one or more modern parallels to elements of the text and develop responses.
Rotten to the Core
One hot summer day, the cool green watermelon was as appealing as gourmet ice cream. A swift stroke of a knife later, though, and everyone gathered around the table winced in disgust. The watermelon had rotted from the inside out. The rind was perfect, but the dead white insides reeked of decay. Disappointment quickly gave way to revulsion as we tried to escape the nauseating stench. The beautiful fruit was rotten at the core.
The northern kingdom of Israel of the mid-eighth century BC looked beautiful on the surface as well, like the nation had it all together. But it too was rotten at the core. And God had had enough of Israel's revolting behavior.
A general time line for Hosea's prophetic ministry is 755-725 BC. This is computed with reference to the reigns listed in Hosea 1:1, as well as the fact that the northern kingdom of Israel, Hosea's primary focus, ceased to exist in 722 BC.
Israel's King Jeroboam II, listed in Hosea 1:1, reigned from about 793 to 753 BC. He was a strong ruler politically. He expanded Israel's borders and made Israel the leading nation in Palestine and Syria (see 2 Kings 14:23-29). Israel was wealthy and proud of its success. Turning their backs on God, the people also found it all too easy to shift allegiance to the fictitious deity known as Baal (Hosea 2:8, 13); this went hand in hand with injustice (4:1, 2). In confronting this idolatry, God called Hosea to live out a unique and difficult parable of God's love for Israel (see chap. 1-3).
Hosea's style did not involve pronouncing what we might call highly directed prophecies—those beginning with the command “Hear,” followed by named addressees—the way other prophets did (contrast Jeremiah 10:1; 22:2, last week's lesson; etc.). Two exceptions are found in Hosea 4:1 and 5:1. Following those pronouncements, Hosea simply continued his generalized prophetic pronouncements on wayward Israel. For this reason, the organization of the book can be difficult to determine.
1. When Israel was a child, then I loved him, and called my son out of Egypt.
Hosea tells the story of God's interactions with Israel beginning with the exodus out of Egypt. That event and the giving of the law at Sinai launched Israel as a nation. Calling Israel a child reinforces that this was a formative experience (compare Jeremiah 2:2). God is determined that the leadership and people of Israel understand the coming prophecy first and foremost in terms of His love.
Matthew uses this text to describe the return of young Jesus from Egypt (Matthew 2:15). That story too should be read in light of God's love. Jesus is the ultimate expression of that love.
2. As they called them, so they went from them: they sacrificed unto Baalim, and burned incense to graven images.
The designation Baalim, the plural of the word Baal, refers to the fictitious gods of other nations, particularly the Canaanites. This is a term that generally has the sense of “lord” or “master.” But no matter how persistently God has called Israel to Him, the people insist on doing the opposite and embracing idolatry (examples: 2 Kings 17:15, 16; Hosea 11:7, below; 13:1).
Though the people may still be offering sacrifices to the Lord and celebrating His feasts (Hosea 2:11), they also burn incense to idols (compare Jeremiah 1:16; Hosea 2:13). The hearts of the people are untrue to the very God who gave birth to their nation by bringing them from Egypt and giving them a land of their own.
Judgment Tempered By Love
Andrew was a regular in a men's Bible study I led. But his participation could be problematic at times. Whenever our text dealt with judgment, Andrew questioned God's actions. He had trouble with Jesus' words about a final separation of saved and wicked. When the group discussed various ethical issues, Andrew was unfailingly lenient.
One day Andrew finally told us the reason for his difficulty. His father had been a judgmental, controlling person. The man was so mean-spirited that none of his three children went to his funeral! I watched the group as Andrew bared his soul to them. Where frustration had been, compassion began to blossom.
Andrew had turned away from a man who caused his family only pain. Israel had no such excuse: God was a loving Father whose judgment was tempered with love. What human failures continue to color your experience of your loving heavenly Father? —C. R. B.
7a. And my people are bent to backsliding from me.
God's frustration with the Israelites is quite apparent. Their choice is not accidental due to ignorance. Quite the opposite—theirs is a committed intent to turn away from Him. The northern kingdom of Israel mirrors the southern kingdom of Judah in this regard (example: Jeremiah 8:5).
7b. Though they called them to the most High, none at all would exalt him.
The meaning of the Hebrew text is not entirely clear in this half verse. In the larger context of Hosea 11, it suggests that Israel is mixing practices and religious vocabulary. Likely the people are worshiping Canaanite deities even as they continue to say the right things about the most High God. Because of their utter refusal to abandon idolatry, God will not exalt them by delivering them.
8. How shall I give thee up, Ephraim? how shall I deliver thee, Israel? how shall I make thee as Admah? how shall I set thee as Zeboim? mine heart is turned within me, my repentings are kindled together.
The parallel structure of Hebrew poetry is evident here as the second question creatively rephrases the first. Ephraim is another way of referring to the northern kingdom of Israel (compare Hosea 5:3; 6:10; see also Genesis 41:50-52).
Likewise, the fourth question rephrases the third: Admah and Zeboim were sister cities of the infamous Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 14:2, 8; Deuteronomy 29:23). The thought of punishing Israel as He did those cities breaks God's heart. He is one who takes “no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live” (Ezekiel 33:11).
Language of turned and repentings does not mean that God is feeling remorse as though He has done or is planning to do wrong. Rather, the sense is that compassion tempers His anger; see the next verse.
9. I will not execute the fierceness of mine anger, I will not return to destroy Ephraim: for I am God, and not man; the Holy One in the midst of thee: and I will not enter into the city.
This is not the first time that God's compassion tempers His anger (see 2 Samuel 24:15-25). Unlike people prone to overreact in their anger, God is always thoughtful and measured in His actions.
What Do You Think?
How can you use this text to encourage those who feel that their bad decisions cannot be forgiven?
What other texts have you found to be valuable in this regard?
For God to refer to himself as the Holy One in the midst of thee reminds His covenant people that although He is present with them, He also is entirely different from them. His ways are not human ways (compare Numbers 23:19; Isaiah 55:8, 9).
This verse in its context is valuable for glimpsing God's two overarching characteristics of holiness (compare Isaiah 6:3; Revelation 4:8; etc.) and love (compare 1 John 4:8, 16). Neither one is subordinate to the other. God's holiness calls forth retributive expressions of His wrath (examples: Genesis 6:5-7; Revelation 20:15), while God's love calls forth restorative expressions of His wrath (Deuteronomy 8:5; Hebrews 12:5-7).
Centuries after the time of Hosea, the self-sacrifice of Jesus on the cross will satisfy the requirements of both God's holiness and love. As sin is punished to satisfy the requirements of God's holiness, the path to eternal life is thereby opened in satisfying the requirements of God's love. Life in the presence of our holy God becomes possible as sin's price is paid (Romans 3:21-26).
10. They shall walk after the Lord: he shall roar like a lion: when he shall roar, then the children shall tremble from the west.
They shall walk after the Lord will be the result of God's restorative discipline. The figurative roar like a lion by God will be the sign for Israel to return home. The return from exile by the southern kingdom of Judah will be from the east, but this return with trembling from the west is clarified as “tremble as a bird out of Egypt” in Hosea 11:11 (not in today's text; compare and contrast Isaiah 11:11). This brings us full circle to the “out of Egypt” of Hosea 11:1, above. But Israel should realize that God can just as well act as a lion in a destructive sense (see Hosea 5:14).
1. Ephraim feedeth on wind, and followeth after the east wind: he daily increaseth lies and desolation; and they do make a covenant with the Assyrians, and oil is carried into Egypt.
For Ephraim (meaning Israel; see on Hosea 11:8, above) to feedeth on wind, and followeth after the east wind can be another way of referring to a covenant with the Assyrians and an economic treaty with Egypt that involves oil (see 2 Kings 17:4; 18:21; Isaiah 30:7). Rather than seeking God as an ally, the king of Israel has turned to world powers for security (compare Hosea 5:13; 7:11).
What Do You Think?
How can we guard against allowing our trust in earthly covenants to supersede the new covenant we have in Christ?
What early warning signs have you noticed to be important in indicating that that is happening?
2. The Lord hath also a controversy with Judah, and will punish Jacob according to his ways; according to his doings will he recompense him.
This is the formal language of a lawsuit (compare Isaiah 3:13; Amos 3:13; Micah 6:2). Like any legal arrangement, there are consequences for breaking the contract. These consequences are agreed on before signing (example: Deuteronomy 11:16, 17, 28). As the name Ephraim in our text refers to the entire northern kingdom of Israel, so also Jacob here represents all of Judah (or even both kingdoms in totality). Judah would do well to see how God judges the north and repent while there is time.
6. Therefore turn thou to thy God: keep mercy and judgment, and wait on thy God continually.
The language of turn thou to thy God is language of repentance from sin. But this turn of the heart must be evidenced by a turn in behavior. Any turn of heart must be accompanied by exercising the mercy and judgment (justice) that mirrors God's own character.
Further, to wait on thy God continually is not a suggestion of mere passive patience; rather, this imperative conveys the idea of an active and complete trust in God's plans and timing (examples: Psalm 130:5; Isaiah 8:17; Micah 7:7). This will demonstrate repentance from relying on earthly powers instead of the Lord.
What Do You Think?
What techniques can you pass on to others to help them wait for God?
Which mistake are Christians more likely to make: failing to wait for God, or waiting too long and therefore failing to keep up with Him? Why is that?
7. He is a merchant, the balances of deceit are in his hand: he loveth to oppress.
The nation is portrayed as a greedy shopkeeper who gleefully uses balances of deceit (false weights on a balance scale) to oppress, or cheat, customers (compare Leviticus 19:36; Amos 8:5; Micah 6:10-14).
8. And Ephraim said, Yet I am become rich, I have found me out substance: in all my labours they shall find none iniquity in me that were sin.
Ill-gotten gain breeds arrogance (compare Ezekiel 28:5). Unchecked arrogance eventually results in a self-deluding sense of invincibility (they shall find none iniquity in me). Revelation 3:17 warns against the same self-delusion in the first century AD. This danger seems even greater today.
9. And I that am the Lord thy God from the land of Egypt will yet make thee to dwell in tabernacles, as in the days of the solemn feast.
Mention of the exodus from the land of Egypt again brings the prophecy back to Hosea 11:1. To dwell in tabernacles refers to the annual Feast of Tabernacles. During this week-long observance, Israelites live in temporary huts, or booths (tabernacles), to remember their days of God's protection in the wilderness (Leviticus 23:33-36, 39-43). To bring the people back to Him, God will send them through a wilderness experience again in the form of exile.
10. I have also spoken by the prophets, and I have multiplied visions, and used similitudes, by the ministry of the prophets.
By this time, God has spoken by the prophets plainly (examples: Leviticus 26:14-17; 1 Kings 18:21; 20:13-22). He has also communicated through visions (examples: Numbers 24:4, 16; 1 Samuel 3:15). Similitudes are riddles or parables (Psalm 78:2; Proverbs 1:1-6; see next).
11. Is there iniquity in Gilead? surely they are vanity: they sacrifice bullocks in Gilgal; yea, their altars are as heaps in the furrows of the fields.
This is a good example of a prophetic riddle God poses to Israel. Earlier in Hosea's prophecies, he had introduced Gilgal as the site of a major pagan shrine (Hosea 4:14, 15; compare Amos 4:4). Gilgal is west of the Jordan River and close to Jericho. The location of the city of Gilead is unknown, but it parallels Gilgal in iniquity (see Hosea 6:8). God speaks of the people's pride in both the shrine and their agricultural wealth. But Gilead's altars to other gods make it as unfruitful as if its fields were sown with rocks instead of fertile soil.
12. And Jacob fled into the country of Syria, and Israel served for a wife, and for a wife he kept sheep.
God continues the riddle by noting Jacob's experiences with Laban. Although Jacob initially fled to Laban for safety (Genesis 27:42-45), Jacob did not find the haven he hoped for. Jacob (later renamed Israel; 32:28) was deceived in marriage (29:14b-30) and ultimately sensed the need to flee (chap. 31). Similarly, Israel is looking to Egypt and Assyria for safety but will eventually find Egypt to be powerless and Assyria to be a deadly enemy.
13. And by a prophet the Lord brought Israel out of Egypt, and by a prophet was he preserved.
God now speaks plainly again. Listening to Hosea is the same as listening to the prophet Moses of long ago. Both speak God's words. Just as God led Israel out of slavery under Moses, God can lead the Israelites away from a second captivity and exile if they listen to Hosea.
What Do You Think?
What do the text's frequent references to Egypt suggest to you about what to be on guard against in human nature, generally speaking?
What practices have you found useful in overcoming this human tendency? Be specific.
14. Ephraim provoked him to anger most bitterly: therefore shall he leave his blood upon him, and his reproach shall his Lord return unto him.
God repeats His warning: Ephraim (Israel) will face the consequences of its actions (compare Ezekiel 18:13). God's protection will be withdrawn. Arrogant Israel's injustice and idolatry will result in national destruction.
Fruit for the Harves
All too frequently we feel the sneaky satisfaction of having gotten away with something. And our choices often convey to others that we are the most important people in our lives. We feel secure because of what we own or who we know; when trouble comes, we try to solve our own problems by way of people and stuff. Suddenly Israel looks as familiar as our reflection in the mirror.
It's time to leave those things behind and trust in God. It's time to show through our actions that we follow God only.
Dear Lord, help us put hands and feet to our claims to follow You—and convict us when we don't. In Jesus' name we pray. Amen.
Thought to Remember
Let love and justice characterize your life.