Hosea 9 Rejoice – NOT!

Standard
Questions: When should we not rejoice? Why? From whom are we making bread? Is God pleased with our offerings? Should we respond to sin with hate? What fruit will we produce — if any?

“Read More” to pursue answers from the Prophet Hosea.

Lord, make me a Fountain of your Love.
Draw me into your Presence, and fill me with your Holy Spirit
That I might know you as my Father, and manifest the image of Christ
In this world, and the world to come. Amen.

Hosea 9:1-17

Rejoice not, O Israel, for joy, as [other] people: for thou hast gone a whoring from thy God, thou hast loved a reward upon every cornfloor.

When would we not want someone to be happy? When they are doing something evil and injurious. Moreover, the idea of “rejoicing” is, at the risk of a pun, almost like “re-juicing” — to squeeze even more goodness from something of deep value. Here, Israel is living a life of superficial pleasure that will never satisfy:

The floor and the winepress shall not feed them, and the new wine shall fail in her.

Worse, having forgotten that God gave them the land, they are destined to lose what they have failed to be grateful for:

They shall not dwell in the LORD’S land; but Ephraim shall return to Egypt, and they shall eat unclean [things] in Assyria.

And if that’s not bad enough:

They shall not offer wine [offerings] to the LORD, neither shall they be pleasing unto him: their sacrifices [shall be] unto them as the bread of mourners; all that eat thereof shall be polluted: for their bread for their soul shall not come into the house of the LORD.

The NASB translates part of that as “

All who eat of it will be defiled, For their bread will be for themselves alone.

” Whether or not that is the optimal translation, I think it captures the essential point quite nicely. Their offerings have become empty rituals, done to placate their conscience rather than nourish their souls. Better to end the travesty and force them to face the reality of their emptiness:

What will ye do in the solemn day, and in the day of the feast of the LORD?

I think the answer is, “There’s nothing you will be able to do.”

For, lo, they are gone because of destruction: Egypt shall gather them up, Memphis shall bury them: the pleasant [places] for their silver, nettles shall possess them: thorns [shall be] in their tabernacles.

That is, all the pleasant accouterments of worship you found so comforting will be stripped away.

The days of visitation are come, the days of recompence are come; Israel shall know [it]: the prophet [is] a fool, the spiritual man [is] mad, for the multitude of thine iniquity, and the great hatred.

I can’t help but thinking of our present situation, here at the beginning of the 21st century. The thing I find most disturbing is not the sin of the world per se — really, what should we expect of the world? — but that it has apparently overwhelmed the capacity of so many of our spiritual leaders to love, forgive, and act in humility.

There are so many preachers who were genuinely touched of God, yet for whatever reason ended up submitting to their flesh, to their own destruction:

The watchman of Ephraim [was] with my God: [but] the prophet [is] a snare of a fowler in all his ways, [and] hatred in the house of his God.

While there’s many ways to read that, I wonder if the prophets’ sin was to speak out of hatred, rather than brokenness. If so, that would explain the excruciating process God put Hosea through back at the beginning — to sensitive his heart to both God and Israel.

They have deeply corrupted [themselves], as in the days of Gibeah: [therefore] he will remember their iniquity, he will visit their sins.

Ouch. I think it is important to remember that God’s mercy — though it is His sovereign choice when to be merciful — is nonetheless constrained by His character. At some point, it just isn’t right for Him to forget. By our utter disregard for God, we’ve stretched the springs of His grace past the elastic limit, and they’ve snapped.

I found Israel like grapes in the wilderness; I saw your fathers as the firstripe in the fig tree at her first time: [but] they went to Baalpeor, and separated themselves unto [that] shame; and [their] abominations were according as they loved.

I find it oddly touching that God doesn’t deny the beauty of their early relationship, despite how badly it has gone downhill since then — and how fleeting their glory:

As for] Ephraim, their glory shall fly away like a bird, from the birth, and from the womb, and from the conception.

Intriguingly, the loss of glory appears connected with loss of children:

Though they bring up their children, yet will I bereave them, [that there shall] not [be] a man [left]: yea, woe also to them when I depart from them!

Why? Perhaps because living self-indulgently for ourselves is incompatible with loving our children:

Ephraim, as I saw Tyrus, [is] planted in a pleasant place: but Ephraim shall bring forth his children to the murderer.

I don’t whether this is literal (as in some pagan rituals) or merely metaphorical (the way we do it today? 🙂 :-(, but God “rewards” their dissing their children by giving them less:

Give them, O LORD: what wilt thou give? give them a miscarrying womb and dry
breasts.

A heartbreaking curse, but not an unjust one — especially considering Israel’s wickedness:

All their wickedness [is] in Gilgal: for there I hated them: for the wickedness of their doings I will drive them out of mine house, I will love them no more: all their princes [are] revolters.

Ouch. I’m not quite sure what exactly happened at Gilgal to set Him off, but perhaps it is simply that a place of such sanctity had become a haven of idolatry (along with the rest of Israel, of course). The price of earning God’s hatred is quite severe:

Ephraim is smitten, their root is dried up, they shall bear no fruit: yea, though they bring forth, yet will I slay [even] the beloved [fruit] of their womb.

Again, strong words. Yet, in many ways God is just following through in the natural what they themselves have done in the supernatural:

My God will cast them away, because they did not hearken unto him: and they shall be wanderers among the nations.

I wonder how close we are — I am! — to drying up from failing to hear God…

Prayer

God, draw me back to you. Help me to hear — and heed — your voice. Do not let me wander alone, or seek refuge in foreign gods that will sap my vitality. Make me a wise prophet of sane spirituality, who does not give way to hate, but loses himself in the security of your undying love. As did Jesus, in whose name I pray. Amen.

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