As always, the main point of the writing of Hosea is a warning of judgement for sin. We cannot stray too far from this even as we look into literary themes and poetic inference. The point of Hosea is to tell us to stop our foolishness and turn to God before the judgement. The weight of our sin needs to be an ever present reminder of our need for the grace of God. As the writer of Luke reminds us in chapter 7 verse 47 those who have been forgiven much are more able to love much. We are much more prepared to love those around us when we have a clear view of how much we have been forgiven in Christ.
A primary theme (and my favorite) from this chapter is gardening, sowing, harvest, and the like. Lets explore some of them in this study.
Right from the beginning in vs. 1-2 he begins talking about the vines. Israel is a luxuriant vine. This stands for the blessings that God has given them. As their fruit (blessings) increase they do not give the glory to the one who has given them these blessings. They build alters and pillars, but they are not for God. They are for the false gods that they can easily manipulate to the ends that they want. The sin that they want to sit in, in their decadence. Their heart is false, and they will bear their guilt for their deeds. Their fake gods cannot help them when the Lord comes to destroy the evidence of their evil hearts. Their high places and pillars will come down. If they won’t do it, God will.
After the initial intro of the vine analogy the lament for the choices of Israel renews. This time it is revealed that the Israelites have rebelled against their king. The irony of all this is it isn’t the first time the Israelites have cast off their king. Perhaps this is a fuller reference to their propensity to despise the annointed of the Lord. Their nation split because they would not humble themselves to the leadership of their king, and now Hosea points to their disregard of their king as a piece of their shame. They do not care for an evil king, but not because he is evil. They do not care for him because of the depth of the rebellion in their hearts. Again the farming analogy points to their evil hearts reaping the judgement of weeds in their harvest. Their judgements are corrupt as an overflow of their corrupt hearts. They run to their idols, and they are carried off with them into their judgement. Here the text says “as tribute to the great king”. It is obviously pointing to the great king of the Assyrians that will carry them off. But, we the readers, must feel the tension of knowing who the real Great King is. And to take their idols as tribute to Himself would be a great victory in their eyes.
The illusions to kings and the judgement of the great by the Greater continues in the chapter with reference to the king of Samaria, and the calf that is Ephraim that loved to thresh for the Lord. The poetry is lovely, yet the weight of the meaning is so heavy.
You have plowed iniquity;
you have reaped injustice;
you have eaten the fruit of lies. v.13
They have trusted their own warriors, they have tried to make their own way. They believe that they don’t need God, and he will let them feel the weight of their great need.
What can we say? I don’t know about you but I do this every day! I wake up and think I can handle what is coming my way. Happily unlike the Israelites I can see my need for God in real ways when the going gets tough, but still I try to turn to answers in other places. The internet. My friends. Pouring my life into business, kids, or just trying to forget. I run to my problem makers with my problems in the same way that the Israelites ran to Assyria.
This chapter is remarkable in that it gives us our hope almost without having to ask for it. It gives us the answer before the asking. In verse 12, even before we see the cause and effect of verse 13 we see:
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.
There can be no mistake the amount of work that is needed to break up the fallow ground of our hearts. Yet, the chance to have God rain righteousness down upon me would be well worth it!
So let me encourage you today. Let God do His mighty work of righteousness in your life today as you continue to work out your faith by sowing righteousness and working the ground of your heart. This is a work of sanctification, and God promises that once He has began it He will see it through to completion!