One of the blessings we have from the literary prophets is that God directly explains why judgment comes from God and what to do to receive the blessings of God. God is never unfair or arbitrary in his judgments. He explains why his judgments are reasonable and why judgments must come. He also explains what he expects of his people so that they can remain in his favor. Before transitioning into pictures of a future hope, God is going to express the present judgment and the reasons this judgment must finally come against Israel.
No Joy (9:1-4)
Hosea begins his message by telling Israel that they will have no reason for joy because they have been unfaithful to God. The imagery of Gomer is applied to Israel again in verse 1. The people have played the whore because they are forsaking their God. God sees our divided loyalties as spiritual adultery. God does not share his people. We cannot worship God and worship money, materialism, worldliness, or our desires. God sees the people prostituting themselves against him. The people saw that their prosperity was from their idolatry (9:1).
Therefore, the people are going to lose their physical blessings because of their sins. Since the people put their hope and joy in their material blessings and not God, then God will take away their physical blessings so that they will learn the sin and folly of putting their hope in those things. Since they do not think God gave these things to them, God will take those things away. Further, there is no reason for joy because their worship will be taken away. Their offerings are not pleasing to God. All of their external acts of worship were counted as useless before God because they were unfaithful in their hearts to the Lord.
Reasonable Judgment (9:5-9)
The rest of our study of the text in this lesson, chapters 9-10, will show God explaining what the people are doing that is deserving of God’s judgment. In Hosea 9:7-8 God declares that the people have rejected the word of God. The people consider the prophet to be a fool and a madman. No one believes what God says. They think that God’s proclamations are nonsense. I want us to see that this is the same as our culture today. Our culture shouts down whoever it disagrees with. Godly virtue and morals are shouted down as antiquated and nonsensical. This is what the people of Israel were doing to Hosea and the prophets of God. Remember in Hosea 8:12 God said that if he were to give the people his laws, they would consider them as foreign and strange. The declarations of God are strange, considered foolish and nonsensical.
This leads to hatred (9:8-9). The rejection of God leads to hate. Not only is there hatred for God and his words, but there is hatred of others. Look at the description given in verse 9. “They have deeply corrupted themselves as in the days of Gibeah.” This is a shocking statement. The days of Gibeah refers back to the days of the judges where a Levite’s concubine was raped and murdered by the town’s inhabitants (Judges 19-21). If this was not bad enough, the husband then cut her into twelve pieces and sent her body parts to the twelve tribes of Israel. If that was not bad enough, this leads to Israel nearly exterminating a whole tribe rather than deal with only the perpetrators. It is a horrifying scene of hatred and corruption. God says that the whole nation has become this, not just a group of people. When we do what is right in our own eyes and reject the teachings of God as foolish and nonsensical, this is always the outcome. Society becomes corrupted, hatred runs rampant, and extreme evil is perpetuated.
Broken Beauty (9:10-17)
For the rest of chapter 9 God is going to paint a sad picture of Israel’s beauty that is now broken. In verse 10 we see a positive presentation of Israel. There was the prospect of fruitfulness, like the first fruit on a fig tree. The Lord is portrayed as a farmer eagerly awaiting the full fruit from his planting. But the Lord is frustrated and dismayed by the failure of the harvest. The rest of verse 10 shows this failure, described as the sin that occurred at Baal-Peor. You will remember that the event of Baal-Peor occurred in Numbers 25 where the people of Israel committed sexual immorality with the Canaanite women. God sent a plague on the people because of their rebellion. God pictures Israel as now returning to this corrupted, detestable state.
The disaster is fully pictured in verses 11-17. God is going to leave his people because the people do not want him. If God’s words are foolish and nonsense, and if you attribute your wealth and prosperity to your idols, then there is no room for the Lord in your hearts and the Lord will leave them. In verse 12 God declares a woe on the people when we leaves them. In verse 15 God says that he will drive out the people and no longer love them because of their rebellion. In verse 17 God says that he will reject them because they have not listened to him. In verse 15 God says that every evil of theirs is in Gilgal and there God began to hate them. This is shocking because Gilgal was the place of the people rededication to the covenant (Joshua 4:19-20). The place of covenant renewal has become the place of hated. Gilgal was to remind the people of God’s faithfulness which was to generate the people’s faithfulness. But now there is idol worship in Gilgal (4:13-15).
A Degenerate Vine (10:1-8)
The next picture is that of Israel as a prosperous vine. But the problem is that this wicked vine produces more altars for false worship the more prosperous it became. It is a fruitful vine but it is full of bad fruit. The more prosperous the nation became, the greater the wickedness of God’s people. Idolatry increased in proportion to its affluence. God says that he knows the people’s hearts are divided (10:2). He knows that they say one thing but their hearts are far from him. In verse 3 it looks like the people will understand. Notice that they say that they understand that they have no kings because they have no feared the Lord. They will say that they understand that there is nothing that a king can do for them. They will say that they need the Lord! But look at verse 4. They utter mere words. They make many empty promises. The people say they understand but they do not and they are not going to change. Their false worship will be carried away and the people will cry over losing it (10:5-6). The nation will be completely helpless and powerless when God brings judgment on the nation (10:7). The destruction will be so severe that the people will cry to the mountains and hills fall on them (10:8).
This is an important prophecy in verse 8 as it pictures a devastating and complete judgment on Israel. Jesus is going to quote these words in Luke 23:30 when he describes the destruction of Jerusalem. By quoting this passage you see the severity of what Jesus was saying. Israel had become depraved again and it was time for full judgment to come on Israel when the Roman Empire destroyed Israel. These words are also quoted in Revelation 6:15-16 which again tells us that this part of Revelation was speaking about Israel’s destruction by the Roman Empire in the first century because of Israel’s rejection of God.
A Trained Calf (10:9-15)
The final picture regarding Israel’s condition is found in verses 9-15. Israel is pictured as a trained calf. In verse 12 God told Israel to plow the ground and sow righteousness so that you will reap steadfast love. Break up the hard ground of your stubborn hearts and seek the Lord. But rather than sowing righteousness and receiving blessings, the nation plowed sin and is reaping the consequences of injustice (10:13). The people have trusted in their own paths, their own power, and their own wisdom (10:13). Therefore their fortresses will be destroyed, their families will die, and the nation will be cut off because of their great evil (10:14-15).
So what do we need to learn from God’s message through his prophet Hosea to the people of Israel? First, God’s patience must not be misconstrued as unbounded toleration. Israel’s prosperity and lack of judgment had caused the people to think that there would no judgment. Hosea is called a madman who is speaking foolish words of judgment. It is easy for us to do the same thing. It is easy for us to misconstrue God’s patience as meaning that God is not going to judge our wickedness. The apostle Peter gave the same reminder to Christians in the first century because the same thing was happening.
…remember the predictions of the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior through your apostles, knowing this first of all, that scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own sinful desires. They will say, “Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation.” For they deliberately overlook this fact, that the heavens existed long ago, and the earth was formed out of water and through water by the word of God, and that by means of these the world that then existed was deluged with water and perished. But by the same word the heavens and earth that now exist are stored up for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly. (2 Peter 3:2–7 ESV)
God’s patience for us personally and God’s patience toward our nation must never be thought of as meaning God is going to tolerate how we are living. We must live in the light of coming judgment. We know judgment is coming. It must come for we also live in a nation that is in full rejection of the words of God, counting his teachings as nonsense and foolish. Peter asks, “What sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness” since such judgment is certainly coming (2 Peter 3:11)? There is a line when God’s judgment will come, where his patience is exhausted and God rejects a nation (cf. Hosea 9:17).
Second, our prosperity is a great hindrance to our holiness and godliness. Prosperity steals our hearts away from the Lord. We must think about if what God said in Hosea 10:1 looks like our hearts. The more we gain in prosperity, the more we use it for sinfulness. The more we have must mean the more we bear fruit for the Lord, not sin. Jesus warned of this in Matthew 19:23-24.
Finally, God wants more than words. We understand this truth. When I was in high school, there was a very popular song called More Than Words. The lyric said: “More than words to show you feel that your love for me is real.” The whole point of the song is that I do not want you to just say I love you to try to fix everything. So I want to take those words away so that you would understand that your love needs to be seen. We see God saying this in Hosea 10:4. The people just utter mere words and offer empty promises. We will not be God’s people just by saying words. God does not just accept words. Love is more than words and the people’s actions revealed that they did not love him, even though they said they did. What do our actions reveal? Do our actions match our words? Would God tell us that it is just mere words and empty promises? We must never misconstrue God’s patience as meaning that we will escape for just saying the right words. Let us work to not allow our prosperity to hinder our devotion to the Lord. Would God look back to our past and long for the devotion we used to have because we have been captured by the idols and desires of this world? God wants more than words because love is more than words.