A lion to Ephraim
Prophecy is a little difficult to read. This almost seems to be getting darker. Mostly the message is the same, but even as the threats become more intense they also grow more all inclusive. Judah is not spared in this chapter. As they were in the proceeding chapter. God warns Israel not to corrupt Judah in chapter 4. Now in this one Judah begins bearing the burden. I read a bible study recently that systematically went through each verse and tried to explian what each individually said. I am tempted to do that here. Yet, I feel the burden to be true to the full poetic meaning of the text. The language is almost too harsh for me to want to pull out all the meaning of the context of the text. Kind of makes your skin crawl. But here we go. I’ll do my best.
For the spirit of whoredom is within them,
and they know not the Lord. v 4
This should look familiar if you had gone through the last chapter with me. This is basically what the last chapter was saying over and over in different forms. Unfaithfulness and lack of knowledge. The format of this chapter is very different though.
Each stanza builds on the last looking something like this:
(3-4) God knows their sin…their inability to turn from sin…justification for discipline
(5-7) Their knowledge of their sin…seeking God while in their sin…just discipline
(13-14) Israel’s knowledge of the depth of their brokenness because of sin…they need to “do something” so they ask Assyria for help…Discipline
God’s answer for them:
I will return again to my place,
until they acknowledge their guilt and seek my face,
and in their distress earnestly seek me. v 15 (ESV)
Now, if you stick with me I will explain.
The theme in this way is very much like the last chapter.
1. Hear = Knowledge
- They have a lack of knowledge of the ways of the Lord. Not because He hasn’t told them or isn’t accessable, but because they don’t care enough to try.
- They refuse to understand what they need to know about their sin. They have such a skewed perception of truth that they cannot see their guilt at all! We can see this as an overflow of their lack of knowledge of God.
2. Sin = Faithlessness
- Also known as the “whoredom”. Blatant, unrepentant, sin.
- They are so entrenched in their sin that they go to seek God, not in repentance, but to see if they can manipulate Him into healing their land. Bringing their herds to make sacrifice.
- When that doesn’t work they turn to Assyria and their gods to fix things for them.
3. Discipline = Gods righteous jealousy
- They have spent all their time trying to manipulate for themselves a helpful little puppet God to give them what they need.
- When they realize all that He has given them, when He lifts His hand of blessing from them, then they will “learn to despise their sacrifice” as He said at the end of the last chapter.
What we are really looking at here is a lovely picture portrait of what God was going to accomplish through Christ at the cross. And added to that some helpful representations of three of the ways we continue in idolatry, even as we think we are living in favor.
The first is the sinner with the seared conscience. He cannot know the sin of which God sees him guilty because he cannot understand a knowledge of God at all! All of this is so foreign to him because he has spent his life practicing the willfull ignorance that makes him most comfortable. He is not saved from the punishment simply because he can claim “I did not know”. The same knowledge is available to them all!
The second is the sinner that sees his guilt as an inconvenience. Often saying “I guess I’ll try this faith thing”. He does not embrace a full knowledge of God, only the parts that look like they will accomplish the ends he desires. He trys to keep the rules to reep the benefits now, and for eternity, but only as far as that doesn’t require any real self sacrifice. So long as his heart doesn’t have to really change
The third is the sinner that sees his complete brokenness because of the sin in his life. He reactively turns to those that seem to have it together. He also says “I’ll try this faith thing” and jumps in with both feet, but the changes are all on the surface. He doesn’t know what it means to live for God, so he picks the best rules and lives them to a T. His life is what we call Religeous, his attitudes are legalistic, his mind is the mind of a dictator. Over himself, and those he thinks affect him. He has made a deal with religon to save him, and in the end it will completely consume him until there is nothing left.
Blow the horn in Gibeah, the trumpet in Ramah.
This is surely coming. Both Israel and Judah have done this evil in the sight of the Lord. Like one who moves the landmark, one of the most sickening offenses in their culture. Someone who is truly diabolical. And yet, God gives them hope!
When they cry out “I am guilty! I am ashamed!” When they go to His temple to truly seek Him and not the blessing. When they are truly distressed and hoping only in Him. Then He says He will return and be with them! How wonderful that He is not just abandoning them to themselves forever!
This promise continues well into chapter 6. He goes on for a while detailing the ways He hopes His people will respond to Him. Not that He doesn’t know, but that He uses the language of a lovestruck groom mourning over his loss. I’m excited for next weeks study!
And where are we? Where is your heart in this progression? Does God know your sin and you cannot turn yet? Do you know your sin yet seek Him for a blessing, not for who He is? Are you broken and trying religon to fix it?
Or, can you repent of your sin, love God for who He is, and turn your life to seek Him?
He will help you, for He loves you, and will not abandon you forever!