Listen, Listen, LISTEN!!
This is how Hosea 5 opens up. The charges were brought to court in chapter four and the judge had already spoke of the punishment for thie abandoning him. God was simply removing Himself from their lives. This is what they wanted. This is what they had done. They had purged the land from anything but a cursory knowledge of God.
I liken this to everyone saying, "Yes, of course we believe in God. Doesn't everybody?" However, this belief doesn't cause repentance; no life change. There is no relationship or obedience, let alone true worship and praise of Him. "God Bless America," was the cry of the people of this land after 9/11. Churches were filled because people were scared and their world was shaken. As soon as everything quieted down, everything got back to normal. Any call to God was forgotten and the churches were once again a quarter full (or ¾ empty if you prefer).
This is the sentencing, starting with the leaders of the land that God would hold accountable. They were the ones who should have led the people to God and in Godly ways. They were the ones to promote justice and mercy by the law. They were the onces to lead in humility, repentance of sin and seeking forgiveness from God. They had failed because of their own self interest and pride. They weren't real leaders; real leaders lead regardless of the cost. They were phony and only leaders by title and position.
'Hear this'; 'Take heed'; and 'give ear' are three different Hebrew words meaning 'to listen'. God is speaking now to those who were to have led Israel; the priests, the house of the kings and the leaders of Israel. God placed this judgment squarely on them. They were the ones elevated to power and authority which also had with it the responsibility. From their lofty places they were to be the watch tower over Israel. This is the play on words present in verse one. Mizpah means watch tower; Tabor means lofty places; both of which were prominent places in Israel. Instead of these leaders watching from their prominent places they had been a snare and spread a net like hunters luring in prey to capture them. Mizpah and Tabor represent the entire land, from one end to the other.
These leaders are the rebels that were drawing the people into a slaughter even though God had rebuked them. Over and over God had rebuked the leaders and priests for their ignorance and apathy. The priests saw themselves as holy, the people were the problem. The Kings saw themselves as lofty, above the little people who they had little respect for. Neither loved the people enough to speak the truth to them; to take a stand.
There's a subtle contrast here. God says He knows them and sees them but they do not know Him or even to toward Him to see. They aren't trying and failing; they aren't even trying. Instead their energy and focus is seeking after others; this is the spirit of harlotry. They were being unfaithful to God, the one who loved them so; and instead running to the arms of another.
The root of the problem is Israel's pride. No one needed to testify to that pride, Israel's pride testified for itself. It was prominent, bold and longlasting. Israel was stiff-necked and held their own opinions, thoughts and feelings in high regard; higher than than they held the word of God. It's as if they said, "I know what God says, but….." and they went on to justify their prideful actions when they knew they were sinful. I'm not responsible; it's the government's fault, my parent's fault, or whatever way we claim ourselves as victimes.
The Israelites didn't have a corner on the market of pride. They didn't own the 'stiff-neck' monikor alone. These are human traits that come along with out sinful nature. Our pride is the root of rebellion against God. How is it that we ever overcome it? In truth, we don't; only God can work those circumstances to pull this off. He gets us in a place where, someone once said, we get downwind of ourself and can no longer ignore the stench.
Os Guinmess said this in his book 'The Call'.
After all, as Václav Havel wrote in his concluding letter on responsibility, "one's identity is never in one's possession as something given, completed, and unquestionable." Rather than a place to sit or a pillow on which to rest, human identity is neither fixed nor final in this life. It is incomplete. As such we may refuse the call and remain stunted—unresponsive and irresponsible. Or we may respond to the call and rise to become the magnificent creatures only one Caller can call us to be. Is this a recipe for a faceless personality and a cramped life? On the contrary. As C. S.Lewis pointed out, "The more we get what we now call 'ourselves' out of the way and let Him take us over, the more truly ourselves we become." The alternative is the real disaster. "The more I resist Him and try to live on my own, the more I become dominated by my own heredity and upbringing and surroundings and natural desires. In fact what I so proudly call 'Myself ' becomes merely the meeting place for trains of events which I never started and which I cannot stop." Only when we respond to Christ and follow his call do we become our real selves and come to have personalities of our own.
What a picture this is! In pride we hold onto our identity which amounts to nothing more than standing at the intersection of the trains we can't control. Without Christ, life is a trainwreck of culture, geography, sex, race, education, parenting, heritage, genetics.
Judah was stumbling also. Even in their rebellion, they remained very religious and offered their sacrifices to the Lord. These were times when they acted as though they might repent when they were chastened and corrected. They turned to God as a show but then quickly turned back. Now when they brought their sacrifices, they would not find the Lord. He had withdrawn from them just like they had withdrawn from Him.
Their treacherous acts were to be incapable to be faithful to anything of anyone. In their unfaithfulness they brought forth children that God couldn't even recognize as His own. They were as pagan children, born of harlotry.
The New Moon festival was a time of sacrrifice, feasting and celebration of the new moon. But this new moon was also perverted to celebrate before the Canaanite gods. God would leave them and they would part from their heritage of celebrating the new moon before Him. This will add to their downfall.
The Ram's horn was blown to warn of danger. The enemy was at hand, very close. Blowing the horn from Gibeah and Ramah would be heard far and wide. The cry at Bethel (called Beth Aven; House of deceit) was that the danger was right on Benjamin's doorstep. Destruction and desolation was coming. God was about to make known what had already been determined. This was their sentencing from the just judge.
The princes of Judah were the ones who should be upholding the law; they should be about justice. Instead they were like the movers of boundaries. This was against the law (Deut 19:14). It's another picture of throwing off restraints. It was God's land and he set the boundaries. Those who moved this were rebellious and disrespectful. This characterizes the princes of Judah.
To willingly walk by human precept was an unwavering resolve to follow the commands of man rather than those of God. This would bring Ephraim to oppression and brokenness. A moth would quietly bring destruction; rottenousness and putrificaiton were slow and silent. This is the picture of God's work against Ephraim. There wasn't a big sign announcing destruction; there wasn't a booming voice from the sky where in a single day everything was destroyed. It happened quietly and slowly; then like finding clothes destroyed by a moth or fruit that is rotten, Israel and Judah would find destruction and corruption prominent in their kingdoms.
Ephraim knew they were in trouble. Instead of turning to God in their need, they turned to Assyria, their eventual conquerer. Assyria could offer nothing to cure what ailed Israel.
There is no escape or salvation from the God's judgment, yet, He will bring about the day when they would earnestly seek Him. God didn't judge them for the sake of destruction but to bring them to repentance and reconciliation.
God says He will return to his place – that means he left it. They didn't watch as he reluctantly left. They had departed so far from Him, they wouldn't know or care. They had determined that He wasn't their God long before God said, 'Your aren't my people.' God wouldn't return until they acknowledged the offense of rejecting Him. He would move them to a spiritual and physical place where they would have no choice but to turn back to him.
©2016 Doug Ford