Thursday, May 8, 2014

Hosea and the Heart of God: A Profile in Faithlessness

Nathan JonesBy Nathan Jones

We continue on with our sixth installment of our faith study of the biblical Minor Prophets book of Hosea. This time we'll marvel at the remarkably uncanny parallels in personality and behavior between Gomer and Israel when it comes to faithless behavior.

Israel—A Profile in Faithlessness

Wickedness. The question when playing the game Limbo is, "How low can you go?" For Israel, there was just no low to their rottenness.

Hosea compared their stubborn hearts to an oven that burned for every kind of iniquity and great enmity. They were evildoers who rejected all good, plowing wickedness in order to reap iniquity. Deeply corrupted and reveling in the evil of their deeds, the people could only sin more and more. Every one of them were cursing liars, actually bragged that they were good people. They voted in or bribed leaders who would let them skirt the laws. In other words, the people sinned as grievously and as often as they could and with great abandon (Hosea 4:16; 5:11; 6:8; 7:1,3,6; 8:3; 9:7,9,15-16; 10:913,15; 12:8; 13:2; 14:4).

Murderous. To satiate their selfish desires, treachery was business as usual. What they wanted they got; most often by committing fraud, through lying, moving property lines, swearing false testimony, breaking covenants, or just plain murdering. The populace were killing, stealing, committing adultery and engaging in bloodshed upon bloodshed until they were utterly defiled with blood. Without even a trace of truth or mercy, their very own priests became murderers.

All laws were broken, and any judge who took a stand was found hanging on their own gallows. Murderous bands of thieves lay in wait on every road seeking their next victim. Nobody helped those in need and any who acted righteously were openly mocked.

Never sorry for whatever treachery they engaged in, the people absolutely refused to repent, and so continued committing, like every Clint Eastwood Western B-movie bad guy, every dirty deed possible under the sun (Hosea 1:4; 4:1-2,8,18; 5:1-2,10; 6:7-10; 7:1,5,7,16; 10:4; 11:5; 12:1,14).

Idolatrous. Israel was set apart for Yahweh God alone, but the people quickly dumped Him to engage in the pagan acts that Gomer was so frequently found committing in her vindictiveness towards Hosea. They left God in the dust and instead put all their energies into worshiping the abominable Baals.

The more they worshiped the Baals and other false gods, the more the people shamed themselves by becoming the idols that they loved. In the worship of these false gods—these false lovers—Israel burned incense on the hills, asked counsel from their wooden idols, constructed shrines and temples, and on stone altars atop the mountains held cruel human and animal sacrifices.

Instead of joining in a mutually loving relationship with the one true living God, the people cratered into pagans enslaved to loveless blocks of wood (Hosea 2:8,11; 4:12-13,17; 5:4; 8:4,13-14; 9:10; 10:1; 11:1).

Adulterous. There didn't appear to be a good marriage among the Israelites. Adultery was rampant. The divorce rate must have been up in the high 90 percentiles. Even the brides were committing adultery on their own wedding day!

Where were the men? Despite all the references to female prostitutes in Hosea's messages, God didn't leave out the men. They could be found after hours up at the Baal shrine red light district offering "sacrifices" by having sex with the temple harlot, the very job Gomer took as her fortunes declined.

Adultery committed against one's spouse is bad enough, but the people as a whole committed greater harlotry by cheating on their Lord. By going after man-made idols fashioned in the form of demonic forces and creatures of nature, the "bride of God" played the harlot against her husband.

God compared Israel's faithfulness to a morning cloud, which like the early dew goes away. Hearts divided between God and the false gods of one's own lust is a form of spiritual harlotry. Even turning for protection to Assyria—Israel's enemy—was a form of spiritual adultery. Therefore, in every possible way, the people sought with all their darkened hearts to continually commit harlotry (Hosea 1:2; 2:2; 4:12-13,18; 6:4; 7:4; 8:9; 10:2).

In the seventh part of this series on faith in the book of Hosea, we'll marvel at the remarkably uncanny parallels in personality and behavior between Gomer and Israel when it comes to unhappiness.

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