The people of Israel believe that Hosea is a fool and that his prophecy of their destruction is crazy – “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.” Therefore, Hosea rebukes them saying it is because of their great sin that they can’t see the truth.
Hosea states four comparisons to Israel:
- Grapes in the wilderness – Israel had potential, like the first fruits on a fig tree, but spoiled themselves with their idolatry and wickedness; therefore, they will bear no more fruit. Hosea says, “My God will cast them away, because they did not obey Him, and they shall be wanderers among the nations.”
- A vine that bears fruit for itself – Israel lived by their own rules and standards and not the Lord’s. They used the blessings that the Lord gave them for their own ungodly ways.
- A trained heifer that loves to thresh grain – God will harness Israel and make it sow righteousness and reap mercy. Hosea says if the people will seek the Lord and sow seeds of righteousness instead of seeds of sin and selfishness, they will receive mercy – “For it is time to seek the Lord, till He comes and rains righteousness on you.”
- A child – The Lord brought Israel out of Egypt over five hundred years ago, taught them to walk and fed them, but they turned from Him to idolatry like the pagan nations around them – “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.” The statement ‘out of Egypt I called My son’ is also a future prophecy about the life of Jesus, who as a Child will be taken to Egypt to escape the evil King Herod but will be called back once Herod dies (Hosea 11:1, Matthew 2:15).
In the midst of announcing judgment, the Lord’s heart breaks for His people – “My heart churns within Me; My sympathy is stirred. 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.” Unlike man, the Lord is long-suffering and merciful. However, His mercy demands justice.
Hosea says the Lord also brings a charge against Judah. God remembers the days of Judah’s forefather, Jacob, when he wrestled with his brother, Esau, in the womb. Jacob prevailed in the womb by taking his brother by the heel, and later Jacob wrestled with the Lord and “he wept and sought favor from Him.” Hosea encourages Jacob’s descendants, God’s chosen people, to seek favor from the Lord like Jacob – “So you, by the help of your God, return; observe mercy and justice, and wait on your God continually.”
Hosea explains that it is by the prophet of the Lord, whom they think is foolish and insane, that God helps His people – “By a prophet the Lord brought Israel out of Egypt, and by a prophet he was preserved.” But after they were brought out of Egypt by Moses and led into the promised land by Joshua, “They were filled and their heart was exalted; therefore they forgot Me.” So judgment is coming upon Israel like the pain of childbirth comes upon a woman. However, the Lord can redeem anything. He can even redeem death, and He will – “I will ransom them from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death. O Death, I will be your plagues! O Grave, I will be your destruction!” This victory over death will be accomplished later in the story when the Lord sends the Savior as He promised in the garden to Adam and Eve (Genesis 3:15). Jesus Christ will defeat death when He rises from the grave three days after His sacrificial crucifixion, giving all those who believe in Him assurance that they too will have victory over death.
Hosea ends his book urging the people to repent so that they may be healed – “O Israel, return to the Lord your God… I will heal their backsliding, I will love them freely… They shall be revived like grain, and grow like a vine… Who is wise? Let him understand these things. Who is prudent? Let him know them. For the ways of the Lord are right; the righteous walk in them, but transgressors stumble in them.”
The Lord desires for His people to turn from their sin, repent, walk in His ways, not their own, and be restored to Him. The wise man will not refuse the Lord’s invitation. Unfortunately, Israel rejects the Lord. Therefore, the Lord is turning them over to their enemies as He said He would while giving the cursings for disobedience which Moses read to the Israelites in the wilderness (Deuteronomy 28).
Tomorrow the Assyrians invade Israel. Keep reading. (Hosea 9:1-14:9)