Ephraim had an unhealthy desire to be predominant among the tribes; to be the center of religion and government. The implication is that this brought them to Baal worship which subsequently brought spiritual death. Then its as if they started down that slippery slope and it just got worse. They took the work of the craftsman's hands and gave it divine status. They called their molded images and silver and gold idols gods and worshiped them. A man made a golden calf, they called it god and kissed it, revering it as if it were human or alive in some way.
The 'therefore' of verse 3 indicates God had made His case and now He will render punishment. Ephraim had chosen death over life; God will allow them to pass away. There seems to be three mains steps of this dying process:
- They forget God. They didn't realize it at first. It was slow and subtle. They were still religious. They began to worship what is not God and slowly moved toward a deliberate removal of God. When apostasy comes through idolatry, adultery seems to beclose behind. Immorality accompanied by an unhealthy persuit of money and material.
- Then the soul of a nation dies. This nation existed by the hand of God. The death comes from turning from that which gives you life. It's a parting from from the person, principals and ideals of the One who brought them into being. With no spiritual or moral principals, corruption is accelerated; crime increases and morality decreases; government fails the people and everyone begins to do as they see fit.
- The body of the nation dies. When the soul is dead, the body can't be far behind. As detailed in verse 3; the body disappears like dew or the chaff in the wind. Like the smoke from the chimney it is blown away and forgotten. God's judgment never comes without warning. He is long suffering; but when the judgment starts, it comes swiftly. Punishment for their sin brings them to an end.
See Psalm 2.
God is unchanged after all those years. He remains unchanging. We don't have to wonder if He changed the rules; if His mood changes; or if He is affected by our unfaithfulness. No, He is still God and they wouldn't find another. They could build idols forever and kiss calves till their lips fell off and not find salvation. Yahweh, was and is the only God they would ever know no matter how far and wide they might look. There is no other, He alone is the savior.
Mankind has a serious character flaw. In the wilderness, in drought, in pain and suffering, we know God. We speak to Him and seek His will and ways. We beg Him and plead the promises He made. Then when we are blessed; when we experience prosperity, we forget Him and forget what He has done. This is a picture of God bringing His flock to a fine pasture (a 23rd Psalm pasture); in this fine pasture, they forget their shepherd.
It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God (Hebrews 10:31). The wrath of God is likened to a vicious and wild animal that's coming for you.
Or do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance? 5 But in accordance with your hardness and your impenitent heart you are treasuring up for yourself wrath in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, 6 who "will render to each one according to his deeds" (Romans 2:4-6)
God's always offered a way to Him, but men chose enmity with God. From this choice they would know the fierceness of His wrath. They would know His power and authority. They would know His justice. Every knee will bow and acknowledge God – even the unbeliever will bow in the end and agree with God. They will know His righteousness and holiness and agree with the punishment they will receive.
Do we acknowledge God for all we have and all that is? Do we also quickly forget once our needs are met or the pain is minimized?
Even in their punishment and destruction, God stands as their help. The nation would perish but the people can seek God. He longs to be their King. There are no other choices in spite of what it may look like. All other apparent choices are deceptions to draw you away from The Living God.
The people put their faith in other gods and other things that can't save them from the wrath of the true God of the universe. God gave them a king in anger, in his wrath He'll take him away. God chose Jereboam to sit on the throne of the northern kingdom and made great promises to him if he would walk in the ways of the Lord. Almost imediately, Jereboam set up calf worship in Dan and Bethel. It is noted of every northern king that they led Israel to sin like Jereboam. There was not one good king in the northern kingdom.
In verse 12 it sounds like their sins are recorded to be paid in full at a later date? See also 2Corinthians 5:10 and Revelation 20:11-15. As individuals who are in Christ, our sins are forgiven forever. The sins of the people become the sins of the nation; are they are being stored up for judgment.
Judgment would come, like the pangs of labor; suddenly appearing and then growing in intensity and frequency. The unwise son didn't heed the warning; the wise son would have known it was coming and done all to avoid it. The last part of verse 13 is a picture of this unwise child that remained in the birth canal, refusing birth and choosing death.
We are so impressed with power. As I write this the Olympics are going on; we celebrate the speed, endurance and strength of the athletes. In science we are impressed with the ideas and inventions of man; the display of the power of our mind. We see the launching of rocket ships, the detonation of nuclear bombs and it goes on an on. Yet, none of these things compare to the power of God. It is a power to create by a word; he calls that into being which was not. He sets the galaxies into place and names the stars. Their His stars, His planets, His comets; set in place for us to discover. One of the greatest displays of God's power and authority is authority over life and death. He grants the breath of life; He is sovereign over death.
This nation that was judged and determine to die was still given a hope. That hope was found in God alone. We know this as the opportunity to be 'born again'. For us to be born again, we must have died to self. New life can only come from death. It is God who ransom's from the grave; He alone redeems from death. God is the plague and destruction of death and the grave. God, in His sovereign power, mocks the authority and power of the grave and death.
Paul quotes the Septuagint translation of verse fourteen in 1 Corinthians 15:55. The verse presents rhetorical questions:
The answer is 'no' as revealed by the last line of verse 14; at least not for the nation. God would not relent from the judgment on the naiton, but offers hope to the people. We know the answer becomes 'Yes' when we are in Christ. It is Christ who became this display of power over the grave and death. All the hope offered to these people in that day was a hope looking forward to Christ (though they didn't know how, or His name). Our hope is looking back in time to the resurrection as the display of this power. Jesus is the firstfruits; which holds the promise of a greater harvest to come. Those in Christ are that harvest; those that will follow Christ in resurrection life.
The name 'Ephraim' means 'double fruitful'. Hosea presents a play on words here. Though Ephraim is known as fruitful among his brothers, this desolation will come. Hosea 12:1 said they pursued the east wind as an example of their worthless pursuits. This coming of the east wind is giving them their desires; it's God allowing the fruit of their unrighteous pursuits. The living water of the spring and fountain – their source of life – would be dried up. Their wealth will be carried away.
Samaria is guilty. It was about to become desolate and the transition to this would be gruesome and ugly. These folks probably couldn't imagine such a thing. They probably heard the words of Hosea and thought this couldn't happen; the government wouldn't let it, the king would do something. Their prosperity and selfish pride had blinded them to the judgment that was right before them. It was like a dark cloud on the horizon while the prophets of men and false gods said, "All is well!"
©2016 Doug Ford