Hosea week 8, Unfaithful Israel

In this, the eighth week of our study, we covered a large swath of Hosea, from 9:10 all the way to 11:11. And while there is so much in this passage which we could unpack and examine, so many details and points of history, the main idea throughout is the radical rejection by the Israelites of the God who loved them and therefore saved them out of their Egyptian bondage, brought them through the wilderness, and gave them the promised land. Though God delighted in them when he “found them in the wilderness,” they turned to worship Baal at the first opportunity, consecrating themselves to the thing of shame and becoming detestable like the thing they loved (9:10). They loved the false god instead of the true and living God who had rescued them.

Through the 40 years of wilderness wandering the Lord purged the idolaters and unbelievers from his people. And yet, according to God’s word through the prophecy of Hosea, the seeds of corruption were sown and they are now, generations later, bearing their poisonous fruit. The people of Israel have become so incredibly corrupt that the Lord is reversing every blessing he promised and is sending his curses raining down upon them in his wrath.

Have they compromised their principles due to hardship? No! They are enjoying a period of prosperity!

Israel is a luxuriant vine
that yields its fruit.
The more his fruit increased,
the more altars he built;
as his country improved,
he improved his pillars. — 10:1

As they prospered, the Israelites didn’t give credit to or thank their God, but they built more altars to the Baals. The more conditions improved, the farther from God they turned. Instead of investing their blessings in praise to God and building one another up in faith, they invested in wickedness and false worship.

Friends, where are you investing your prosperity? I’m not only talking about prosperity in terms of worldly comforts: freedom from want and sickness, though they also apply. We live in a time of prosperity with a wealth of resources at our very fingertips. Resources such as Bibles in multiple translations and multiple platforms, from a book in one’s hand to virtual copies accessible with the touch of a screen— in our pockets. Resources for godly living overflow from books, to articles, blogs, podcasts, videos, and sermons in our local churches and online. Besides all these, God has given the local church as the family among whom God has placed us to be encouraging and encouraged. If you are in a period of worldly comfort, with freedom from want and sickness, how are you investing your wealth?

Our nature when in times of ease is to ease up on the gas, so to speak; to let our guard down; to forget the urgency of living in godliness and the deadly opposition we face from the world, the flesh, and the devil. We become more casual in our spiritual lives and more concerned about our earthly comforts. Our priorities shift. Jesus was crystal clear about where the believer’s priorities ought always to be:

“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat, nor about your body, what you will put on. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. . . . For all the nations of the world seek after these things, and your Father knows that you need them. Instead, seek his kingdom, and these things will be added to you.” — Luke 12:22-23, 30-31

One thing that Hosea has made abundantly clear is that without the inner work of the Holy Spirit, seeking the Father’s kingdom is impossible. The indwelling Holy Spirit is, indeed, our greatest resource. Only as Spirit-filled believers are we able to pursue the godliness to which we are called, for it is God who works in us to give us the desire and ability to work for his good pleasure (Philippians 2:13). Knowing this truth encourages us to pursue Christ’s kingdom.

So, what if you are experiencing prosperity and are facing temptations to wander from God, to compromise what you believe? This, my friend, is precisely why we need one another, this is why he gave us the church. (I know we’re studying Hosea, but is your Bible falling open to the book of Ephesians yet?) God gave the church:

… to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ. . . . — Ephesians 4:12-15

When I am tempted, either by affliction or prosperity, to wander from my beloved Savior, I need to be reminded of the truth. When I am being tossed to and fro and carried about by false gospels, by worldly temptations, by short-cut spirituality—like Odysseus when faced with the alluring call of the Sirens, I need my fellow believers to tie me to the mast of the ship of Truth and point me home! I need you to speak the truth to me in love, so that together, we may grow up into Christ!

Let us continually remind one another, in prosperity and in want, using every means of grace which the Lord has graciously given, to:

Sow for yourselves righteousness;
reap steadfast love;
break up your fallow ground,
for it is the time to seek the Lord,
that he may come and rain righteousness upon you. — 10:12