The failure of Israel has been tied to two key problems: the people do not know God and the people offer a false repentance. The people simple do not have a relationship with God and do not truly know him. When confronted with this problem, the people say they will change, but no change happens. They say that they will press on to know the Lord, but their love is like a mist that vanishes in a few moments. Now in Hosea 8 we see God explaining to the people their spiritual condition and their present situation. God is attempting to wake the people up so that they will truly see their real condition before God.
Spiritual Delusion (8:1-3)
First, God is going to show the people that they are living in spiritual delusion. God declares that the vulture is circling. Sound the warning trumpet. The nation is doomed for their sins and judgment is coming, just as God warned would happen through the mouth of Moses in Deuteronomy 28:49. Nations are pictured like eagles and vultures that will come and pick apart the nation. This is what will happen to Israel. The reason for their judgment is clearly expressed in verse 1. They have transgressed my covenant and rebelled against my law. God repeatedly warned about not rebelling against him and violating the covenant throughout Numbers and Deuteronomy. Yet the nation has rebelled against the Lord.
But look at verse 2. The people say all the right things. They cry out to God and declare that they know him. They claim to have a relationship with God. Notice that the people do not think they are breaking the relationship with God. They do not think they are rejected him or rebelling against him. They live in the grip of spiritual delusion. They think they know God but God does not know them. God does not have a relationship with them. The reason why is stated in verse 3. The people do not live up to their claims. They say that they know God but they have spurned the good. The people are in spiritual darkness in their minds. They think they know God but their actions show otherwise. They say all the right words but their actions reveal a denial of God and his ways.
We see one of the purposes God gives for his people that Israel had rejected was to do good as God defines it. God says what is good and we are to do what is good. But Israel refused. Doing good is not what we define as good. Our world has changed God’s definitions of right and wrong, good and evil. We cannot define what we think is good. God defines good and it is our responsibility as God’s people to do good and not reject God’s law.
Failed Saviors (8:4-6)
God further describes the people’s problem in verses 4-6. The problem is that the people trust in all the wrong things. They do not trust in God. They trust in other things. In verse 4 we see that they trusted in their political leaders. They trusted in their kings and princes to deliver them. They did not consult God as to who to appoint as their leaders, rejecting God as their decision maker. They are installing kings for their rescue. This is truly a picture of our culture today. We appoint presidents, governors, mayors, senators, and representatives to be our functional saviors. We reject God as our decision maker and we elect people who will give us what we want for our physical desires. So keep us wealthy and give us what we want. We identify some economic or social issue and elect people on how they will give us what we want. Friends, political parties have come and gone in the history of our country. Yet we place our life hopes and national hopes on these wicked men rather than on God. God is our leader. God is in charge and only he can give us what we desire. The only reason we have prosperity is not because of our president but because God gives it to us. The only reason we have security is not because of our Congress but because God gives it to us. Everything we have as a nation is because God gave it to us today, not because of who we elect. Israel messed this up and it is easy for us to mess it up also.
Israel not only trusted in their leaders, but also their idols. Their idolatry was leading them to their destruction though the people thought their idols would save them. Notice in verse 6 that God questions how a person could give their life and hope to something a craftsman made. Why would our hope be in home, our car, our job, our money, or anything else in this life? They are not gods. They cannot save us. They cannot help us. They were made by humans. They do not have the power to rescue your life.
You Reap What You Sow (8:7-10)
Notice verse 7. “For they sow the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind.” Think about this image for a moment. They are sowing the wind. Sowing wind speaks to the emptiness of what they invest their lives. They sow to emptiness, vanity, and futility. They were not investing their lives in God which has eternal value and meaning. They sow the wind. They invested in empty and worthless things. They give themselves to so many things that just do not matter. They are things that are temporary and worldly. There is an outcome to sowing the wind: reaping the whirlwind. Wind is going to come back to you. You are going to find emptiness and you are going to find judgment.
We can easily live in a spiritual delusion in this area of our lives also. We can invest so much of our time, our thoughts, our worries, and our efforts into things that we can think are important but are not. Perhaps one of the areas we can easily do this is our jobs. At the end of the day, is it all really going to matter in eternity? Will our work in this world and sacrificing so much for our work matter in eternity? Or will all that we invest into our entertainment matter in eternity? We sow the wind. We sow to worthless things rather than the things that will be a spiritual return on our investment. The things of God always will provide an eternal return. Sowing to this life simply reaps the whirlwind. The people in Hosea’s day were spiritual deluded about their situation, sowing the wind, and thinking that this was an investment with God.
The rest of verse 7 depicts this spiritual condition further. It is a dual picture. They will lose their prosperity as part of their judgment. There will be no yield from what they have sown. But more importantly, the people are being pictured like standing grains with no heads. A headless stalk of wheat is worthless. Since it will not produce flour, it is only fit to be carted away and burned. Israel will be harvested but their end is doom because they sowed the wind. Verse 8 really hurts in the picture of God’s people. “Israel is swallowed up; already they are among the nations as a useless vessel.” God’s people have lost their distinctiveness. They act like and look like the pagan world. They have been swallowed up and no longer represent God to the world. They do not show a faith in the Lord and so judgment comes. Again we see the spiritual delusion. They think they are God’s people but they behavior and character looks just like the worldly nations.
Rejection Leads To Rejection (8:11-14)
In verse 11 God declares that the altars are not used for a devotion and worship of God but for sinning. Now remember that the people thought they knew the Lord. But look at verse 12.
“Were I to write for him my laws by the ten thousands, they would be regarded as a strange thing” (8:12).
The people have a complete ignorance of God and his instruction. Imagine this scene that God gives. The people of God have no idea what God wants. They have no idea who God is. The instructions of God are completely lost on the people and foreign to them. We see a theme that God returns to throughout this prophecy to Israel. God gave his instructions and the people did not know the instructions. The people did not know the character of God. The people thought that if they kept their external worship going that God would be pleased and would continue to bless them. We see this thinking in verse 13. “They sacrifice meat and eat it, but the Lord does not accept them.” The people bring their worship and it means nothing to the Lord. Coming to worship without the love or the knowledge of God is also sowing the wind. The people will be punished and be returned to slavery (8:13). Israel has forgotten the Lord as witnessed by the fact that they do not know him (8:14).
Warnings of Spiritual Delusion
As we conclude I want us to consider the warnings described in this chapter to alert us if we are spiritually deluded. I want to ask three questions to check if we are experiencing the same spiritual delusion that Israel experienced.
First, what we are sowing?
Are we sowing wind or are we investing toward God? Jesus taught this warning himself in a couple of ways. Jesus said it like this:
“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.” (Matthew 6:19–20 ESV)
Investing in the treasures on earth is sowing the wind. It is emptiness. Nothing in this world is going to last. Rather, invest in heavenly treasures. So we need to ask ourselves if our efforts have eternal value. We need to ask ourselves if what we are doing has eternal benefit. Let your life be an investment in eternity. Can you imagine losing our souls because invested so much in our comforts, our entertainment, our possessions, our wealth, our careers, or something else in this world? It will not matter and will see so foolish that we sowed the wind. Jesus also gave this warning of Hosea like this:
What are we expecting to reap?
Jesus gave the same warning that Hosea gave.
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’” (Matthew 7:21–23 ESV)
Saying you know God is not sufficient. Truly consider if you know God. Consider if you really have a relationship with him. Too often what we can do with this teaching of Jesus is applying to the rest of the world. Those people in the world claim to know God but they really do not know him. But we need to apply this teaching to ourselves. It seems that the people of Israel made the same mistake. They thought they knew God because they were different than the nations. The problem was that by this point they actually were not different than the nations. They did not do the will of God even though they did things that looked like they did. So look at our lives and consider what we expect to reap. What have we spend our lives investing in? What should we expect to reap from the Lord? This leads us to the final question of warning for spiritual delusion.
What is our functional savior?
It is easy to say that we do not have a functional savior. Surely Israel would have answered in the same way. Yet God exposed that they put their hopes in their kings and leaders, in their idols, and in other nations. So we need to determine if we have functional saviors in our lives. Here is one way to evaluate it. What do you need to make your life better? Where do you turn for comfort and rescue? Israel thought that life would be better if they received help from Egypt or Assyria. Israel thought life would be better if they had more wealth. Israel thought life would be better if they had a different king. Think about what you need to make your life better. There is only one answer: more of God in our lives. God rules over all things. What we need more of is God. Unfortunately we can think that God is our problem so we think changes without God will make life better. But this only makes life worse. Whatever your problem is, your answer is God. What we need to make life better is God. This is what we see in the Psalms. What would make David’s life better? More of God in his life is his consistent answer. What is our answer? Whatever our answer is what we think is our savior. What are we sowing? What are we expecting to reap?