About Jesus    Steve Sweetman

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Hosea 5

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Judgment Against Israel (ch. 5:1 - 15)


The remarks of this chapter are specific to the priests, the people, and the royal house of Israel.   All three aspects of Israeli society in the northern kingdom were to be blamed for their sin and consequently judged.  I suggest the same is true today in the western world, and really, throughout the world.  People in general have fallen from the Lord.  The church in many respects is falling, and certainly the governments are falling away from any understanding they might have had of God.  Those in this condition should therefore expect the same fate as Israel.


In verse 1 there are three grouping of words; "hear this", "pay attention", and "listen".  In Hebrew, "hear this" means, "hear and then do".  "Pay attention means, "listen with eagerness".  "Listen" means, "attempting to hear with intensity even though you're struggling with what you hear".  


Verse 1 says "you have been a snare at Mizpah".  There were at least two Mizpah's in the Old Testament, and probably more that we don't know of.  One was in the pagan nation of Moab , and the other in the northern kingdom of Israe , although the second one is hard to pin down exactly where it was.  The name "Mizpah" means "watchtower or lookout".   The name Mizpah might be the reason why God chose to use it in this verse.  Obviously, wherever Mizpah was located, it was to be a place for Israel to keep watch, but it is clear they let down their guard.  Instead of being a place to provide security, it became a snare, a place where Israel's enemies could penetrate. 


Tabor is also mentioned in verse 1.  It was a mountain in the Valley of Jezreel.  Why God chose to use this mountain in this verse is uncertain to me.  The Lord says that a "net has been spread out on Tabor".  Both the "snare" in the last phrase and the "net" in this phrase suggests that the people of Israel have fallen into a trap that has led them from their God to other gods.  The lure of other gods, whether in Israel back then, or, in today's world, will sooner or later trap those who get themselves involved.  And remember, "other gods" today can be anything we give ourselves to.  As Christians there are countless snares and traps along the road of life to fall into.  Obviously, we need to keep our eyes open for these traps. 


These two cities, along with the rest of the northern kingdom were once godly worshippers of Yahweh, but little by little they slipped into the pagan trap, as has Christendom over the years.  For example, Catholic priests in South American in years and centuries past, in order to win the pagans to their side, allowed the pagans to bring their pagan gods into the Catholic church building.  That still goes on to this day, as was recently told to me by a missionary in central America. This type of activity is not godly.  It is simply wrong.  The church has always been tempted with such things, and for what the church would say is "good reason".  The priests allowed the idols into their buildings as a means to reach out.  Christians aren't pragmatic.  That is, we don't do things because we think they will work.  We do things because the Bible tells us to do them, and if the Bible says otherwise, we don't do them.      


In verse 2 God calls His own people "rebels" because that was exactly what they were.  He also says that He will discipline these rebels.  God is just and justice demands discipline at times.  When discipline is withheld then justice is not enacted and the rebel will continue to rebel.  The simple fact is that because God is just, He will punish, and at times, He will judge and destroy. 


I think many Christians may well be disciplined by the Lord at times and not even realize it, and therefore, probably don't benefit from the discipline.  On the other hand, if a Christian is never discipline, it means he has given into sin and the Lord has stepped back from him. The only other reason for lack of discipline is because he doesn't need it.  He is always good, but that can't be the case.  None of us are that good.   Hebrews 12:5 tells us that God disciplines those He loves. 


"Deep in slaughter" in verse 2 refers to the fact that the northern kingdom seemed to be always fighting.  If it wasn't other nations, it was themselves, and if it was other nations it was not because they were obeying the command of God to rid the land of paganism.  That idea had long since fallen by the wayside.     


Ephraim is mentioned in verse 3.  Ephraim, which was one of the larger of the twelve tribes of Israel in the northern kingdom was often used to represent all of the northern kingdom.  So, in this verse, Ephraim represents the northern kingdom, and Israel, which is also in this verse, also represents the northern kingdom.  For the most part, after the civil war of 922 B.C., when you see Israel used in the Bible, unless the context proves otherwise, Israel will refer to the northern kingdom.  Usually, the southern kingdom is called Judah.


In verse 3 God says that "He knows Ephraim".  You can't hide anything from God.  If Christians would live like they really understood this fact, we all would be a lot more holier than we are.  God knows that the northern kingdom is involved in prostitution as He says here.  That is both spiritual prostitution and physical prostitution.  God also says that Israel, the north, is corrupt.  Israel was corrupt in all aspects of society, in government and   law.    


Verse 4 says, "their deeds do not permit them to return to their God".  Sometimes people get trapped in their sin.  The sin becomes addictive.  The addictive sin is so strong in their lives that it becomes a barrier between them and God, a barrier that without divine intervention, is impossible to get over.  Thus their sin does not permit them to turn back to God.  This was the case with Israel back then and can easily be the case with anyone today. 


Also in verse 4 wee see the phrase "a spirit of prostitution is in their heart".  This can be taken in two ways.  One is simply a general trend in society.  We often hear people say "the spirit of the day", meaning, "that's the trend for our day".  That being said, the words "spirit of prostitution" might well suggest demonic activity that led these people to prostitution.  Behind the scene satan has been the one luring Israel away from God.  James 1:14 states that "every man is tempted when he is drawn away of his own lusts and enticed".  The point here is this.  We are lustful by nature.  If we don't lust after one thing, it's another thing.  When we see that which we lust after, we are tempted to give into it.  If we continue to give into our lusts, then this is where the devil, or demons, come in.  A spirit will come and take over our lusts in the area we have trouble with.  Therefore, what starts as lust from our sinful nature ends in demonic activity, "a sprit of whatever".  It is clear that Israel gave into their lusts for other gods.  Once that decision was clearly established, they received a "spirit of prostitution".  At that point, they "did not acknowledge the Lord".  They followed other gods and in so doing were really following satan.


We have to realize here that satan has always, and will always, be interested in Israel for many reasons.  The biggest reason is that the Lord Jesus was born from Israel, so if he could demolish and kill off Israel, he would prevent Jesus from being born,  Now that Jesus has already been incarnated into humanity, died, rose from the dead, and ascended into heaven, satan is still interested in Israel, because when Jesus returns to set up His earthly kingdom in Jerusalem, it is because of Israel's repentance and request for him to do so.  So clearly, satan's interest in Israel is important to him.  This might well be why so many Christians don't believe that Israel has any more significance in the eyes of God.  Satan has blinded their understanding.  There is a real and vital war taking place in heavenly places right now as I write these words over the nation of Israel.       


In verse 5 God says that Israel 's "arrogance testifies against them".  As the proverb says, "pride goes before a fall".  That is certainly true in this case.  Pride and arrogance is based in selfishness, a selfishness that puts us first.  The more we major on self, the less we major on the Lord, and that will show in our lives, and will eventually lead to our downfall.  This is true of individuals and nations.  Arrogance is simply sin. 


We should note here in verse 5 that God not only says that the northern kingdom will fall, but the southern kingdom will too, which they did, although it took another hundred or so years.  The fact is, which this verse states, Judah, the south, would join with the north  That's what eventually happened.  The south followed in the folly of the north.  


Verse 6 is sad.  It says that when Israel "goes with their flocks and herds to seek the Lord, they will not find Him", because "He has withdrawn Himself from her".  The reference to "flocks and herds" here is suggestive of sacrifices.  Some Bible teachers suggest this reference means that Israel was ready to repent.  Others suggest that this was simply their paganized form of worship.  Whatever the case, the Lord was nowhere to be found.  He had withdrawn Himself from them. 


If this verse means that Israel came to God in repentance, but He was nowhere to be found, supports my thinking that there is a time in a nation's history  where there is a tipping point of sin.  Sin gets so bad, that even if repentance is found, it's too late.  God has already decided to judge that nation, and nothing will stop Him.   In light of this, we all need to ask, where does our nation stand with the Lord concerning the tipping point of sin.  I suggest we in the west are almost there, if we're not there already. 


The same is true concerning church.  Christian groups who fail continue to serve the Lord in Biblical terms, like the so-called liberal church groups, will sooner or later find themselves away from God, and, even if they want to come back, can't. 


I do believe, at least for the most part, that there is always a chance for the individual to return to the Lord.  In some very few cases that might not be.  That being said, the older one gets, and the more he rejects the Lord, the harder it is for him to come to Jesus.  It's like I said earlier in this chapter, "sin becomes a barrier to God".  


Because of Israel's unfaithfulness, as stated in verse 7, they give birth to illegitimate children.  This is true in both the natural sense and the spiritual sense.  Prostitution was a way of life for the men, and for the women as well.  It was also a spiritual way of life for everyone.  Giving themselves to other gods was spiritual adultery.  So, in the natural sense there were lots of children born out of wedlock.  In the spiritual sense, the generations of Jews that were being born into this pagan lifestyle were also seen as illegitimate in the eyes of God.


Verse 7 also states that "the New Moon festival will devour them".  It appears that most Bible teachers suggest that this is in reference to God's judgment coming very fast, as in a day, as in the one day of the New Moon festival.  The New Moon festival was a holiday that took place on the first day of the month.  It was to be a day of celebration where no work was to be done.  People tended to despise this day because they couldn't work and make money.  Here, God uses a day of celebration to be associated with His quick and final judgment.


In verse 8 God says to "sound the trumpet "  He was telling the northern kingdom to mount their soldiers for war.  The Assyrians are coming to fight.  In this battle, as verse 9 says, "Ephraim (that's the northern kingdom) "will be laid waste".  It is clear that they will lose the battle.  The word "certain" is used in verse 9.  God is certain this will happen because He is using Assyria to judge the northern kingdom.  Once God says that judgment is certain, you can bet the nation will fall in God's judgment.  In this case it happened in 722 B. C. when the northern kingdom of Israel fell in a horrible defeat.


The "horn" mentioned in verse 8 is the traditional ram's horn that was used to prepare soldiers for war.


God called the day of judgment in verse 9 "the day of reckoning".   The northern kingdom had ample time to repent, but didn't.   Thus the day had now come when they would give account of their sin in judgment.


I strongly suggest that a day of reckoning is coming to the western world, and eventually, to all the world.  It would not surprise me that right now, in 2012 as I type these words, we are now in the beginning stages of judgment.  I say "beginning stages of judgment" because I do believe God warns us.  I believe He does this through such things as economic downturns, attacks on nations, ecological problems, and more.  It's not politically, socially, or even religiously, correct these days, but I believe 911 was a strong warning to America.  The day of reckoning for our western nations is either here or almost here.   


Deuteronomy 27:17 forbade any Jew to remove anything from his neighbours property.  It forbade him to change the boundaries between his property and his neighbour's property.  Apparently, those in the southern kingdom were not obeying this command.  That's what the first part of verse 10 means.  Again, the Lord is speaking to the northern kingdom, but He is basically saying that Judah, the southern kingdom, was in the same boat as the north.  God might have been suggesting to the northerners that there was no use escaping God's judgment by heading to Judah, because they would fall as well.


The Hebrew word that is translated as "wrath" is from a root meaning "to pour".  That is why, as stated in verse 10, you always see God's wrath in the Bible as being "poured out".  It's like He has a big cup of wrath that He pours on those He judges. 


Concerning the Biblical concept of wrath, as it pertains to God, it is "uncontrollable anger".  It is an explosion of anger that can no longer be held back.  There is a difference between wrath and anger.  Anger is controllable while wrath is an explosion of anger.  Wrath is much stronger than anger.  


Verse 11 speaks of Ephraim, the northern kingdom, as being "oppressed".  Once exiled to Assyria, they were oppressed.  They were assimilated into the pagan nation of Assyria, never to be revived as a nation again.


There are many descriptive words of God found in the Bible, but the two words here in verse 12 that describe God is different than most.  He says He is like a "moth to Ephraim" and "rot to Judah".   A moth eats away at your clothes and destroys them.  Rot does the same to wood.  This is what God will do in Israel because of their union with paganism.  He is no longer a blessing, but a curse, just what the Law of Moses said would happen if Israel broke the Mosaic Covenant.


Verse 13 speaks of a specific incident. To simplify this incident I will just say that as the northern kingdom was beginning to see their downfall, they tried to make an alliance with Assyria.  Basically, they were asking Assyria for help, but no help came.  They should have been asking their God for help.  Instead, Assyria ended up overthrowing the northern kingdom.


In my thinking, it is both ironic and sad that the northern kingdom went to their long time enemy for help instead of their God.  I suggest the United States, Canada, and other western nations are doing something similar today.  China, a long time enemy of the west, is now becoming an economic super-power in the world, and now the western nations are turning to China for economic help.  They are attempting to have more trade with China.  The U.S. has borrowed tons of money from China.  The way of the world is always to lay aside principle for financial support.    


Verse 14 states that the Lord will be like a lion to both the north and the south.  God would rip both kingdoms apart and carry them away.  He did just that.  Both kingdoms were drastically devastated and those who weren't killed were carried away, the north to Assyria, and the south about a hundred years or so later, to Babylon.  Many today, both Christian and non-Christian alike, have a hard time thinking that God would rip anything apart and totally destroy it, but He is capable of doing just that.  We need to understand that this outbreak of wrath is based on God's pure and divine sense of justice.


Verse 15 is very interesting and often overlooked by Bible teachers.  God says that "He will go back to His place until they admit their guilt".  God is speaking here to both the northern kingdom and the southern kingdom, as He has been for the last few verses.  

What does this mean?  It could mean one of two things.  Yahweh would now depart from Israel until they repented.  The southern kingdom did have periods of repentance, as seen in Ezra's day where God returned to them.  Some do suggest that this was when God returned to Israel , which means this prophecy has been fulfilled and never needs any other fulfillment.  This suggests that there is no more future return to Israel by Yahweh, meaning, there is no future restoration of Israel, something I don't believe.   


Some people believe this verse is prophetic of Jesus leaving Israel until the day "in their misery", as this verse says, will seek Him again.  This will be the case in the Tribulation period of the last days.  One of the main reasons for the Tribulation is to bring Israel to her knees.  When they finally seek Him, Jesus will return to them.  They will want Him as there God that much, but that day won't come without suffering, without learning the hard way.  We as humans always seem to be only capable of learning the important things in life the hard way.  History always repeats itself.  National leaders always seem to have a hard time learning from their past.  Individual people, as well as the church, are in the same boat. 


If this verse is not prophetic of Jesus leaving Israel , some suggest it is prophetic of God leaving Israel back in Hosea's day, never to return until the end of this age.  There might be a slight difficulty with this thinking because as I've said, Israel did find some measure of repentance in Ezra and Nehemiah's day, but it didn't last.  God's blessings were tempered in those days. Throughout the Old Testament when God speaks of Him returning to a repentant Israel , both His return and Israel's repentance is permanent, which it wasn't in Nehemiah's day.     

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