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Four Seasons Campground Lodge in Pilesgrove, NJ –Evening Coffeehouse on 4/26/2014
(edited June 2020)
(Remember Hosea from our last study? He was also mentioned again about five studies ago? Hosea prophesied to the Northern Kingdom (called Ephraim or Israel) long before Malachi was God’s messenger to the Southern Kingdom (called Judah). These two kingdoms were the result of a civil war in Ancient Israel after the reign of Solomon. Hosea was a forerunner of Jeremiah who also ministered in the Southern Kingdom, but after Hosea’s time. So, the times changed and some of the circumstances changed, but the messages of these men all share a similar tone of desperation in Ancient Israel.)
Hosea begins with a history lesson for them, straight from God:
Verse 1: “When Israel was a child, then I loved him, and called my son out of Egypt.”
There’s a cool reference here to what we read in Matthew 2:15 in the New Testament, a prediction that young Jesus would be called back from Egypt with His parents after having to flee from King Herod. But the Old Testament context here is more foreboding. It won’t be pleasant to look into, but we need to (at least I know that I do). It is also the Word of God:
Verses 2-4: “ As they called them, so they went from them: they sacrificed unto Baalim, and burned incense to graven images. I taught Ephraim also to go, taking them by their arms; but they knew not that I healed them. I drew them with cords of a man, with bands of love: and I was to them as they that take off the yoke on their jaws, and I laid meat unto them.”
Ephraim, the Northern Kingdom of Israel, had recoiled from the love and care of their Lord. They rebelled not because of mistreatment by Him, but because of their own selfishness and sin.
Verses 5-6: “ He shall not return into the land of Egypt, and the Assyrian shall be his king, because they refused to return. And the sword shall abide on his cities, and shall consume his branches, and devour them, because of their own counsels.”
With their enemies in Assyria closing in on them, Ephraim had tried to look back to the power of their old slave masters in Egypt for help. But what they needed was to rely upon God, not military aid from Egypt. The Lord was not going to allow their plans to prosper because their aspirations and were far from Him. I need to remember today and not try to carry out my plans, even my religious plans, in a way that dishonors God. And I am very capable of doing just that.
Verse 7: “ And my people are bent to backsliding from me: though they called them to the most High, none at all would exalt him.”
O, they worshipped Him in a public way but they weren’t doing it in Spirit and in Truth. They were religious, big time religious, but lukewarm on the inside. And because of this, they were going to be carried away just like any other heathen nation might be. What a tough message Hosea had to bring to those people! And he’s still bringing it to us. We must not “play” at church today. If we don’t fully exalt Him in our heart and our lives, in the end, it just doesn’t work. Half-trust and half-devotion to the Lord are no more acceptable now in Hosea’s time.
Now, I think, the main one we are meant to judge on this point is ourselves. Only we, and the Lord, REALLY know what is in our hearts. I will say this to you tonight: my own heart is wicked and, but for Christ, I will say I would be lost and undone. Even with Christ, I struggle spiritually too many times.
Verse 8: “How shall I give thee up, Ephraim? how shall I deliver thee, Israel? how shall I make thee as Admah? how shall I set thee as Zeboim? mine heart is turned within me, my repentings are kindled together.”
The Lord, by the way, was not happy to have to judge these people of Ephraim in Northern Israel. Nor would He take any pleasure in condemning any of us.
The nation, as a group, did fall in back those days but individuals who responded openly to the Lord were. . . well let’s just say, I expect to Hosea in Heaven one day as much as I expect to see anyone from our time who has accepted Christ! That’s what I think.
Listen now as the Lord, speaking through His prophet, shows temperance even toward the sin of Ephraim:
Verses 9-12: “ I will not execute the fierceness of mine anger, I will not return to destroy Ephraim: for I am God, and not man; the Holy One in the midst of thee: and I will not enter into the city. They shall walk after the Lord: he shall roar like a lion: when he shall roar, then the children shall tremble from the west. They shall tremble as a bird out of Egypt, and as a dove out of the land of Assyria: and I will place them in their houses, saith the Lord. Ephraim compasseth me about with lies, and the house of Israel with deceit: but Judah yet ruleth with God, and is faithful with the saints.”
Have you ever wondered why God even bothers to try to understand us? I have. Especially when feel like I’ve let Him down.
Well, even in the face of total betrayal, the Lord is large in heart toward us. If the passage above doesn’t convince you, just take a long look at Calvary and think about it. Notice here that even while the Northern Kingdom was floundering and getting to be beyond hope, God still held out mercy to them and, I think amazingly, He continued to nurture within Himself genuine hope for the Southern Kingdom of Judah. That’s the God we serve! And until the last heartbeat or the last breath of every person on earth, the Lord has a genuine hope for each one and continues to extent opportunities to that person to come to Him through Christ and be saved. One of the thieves on a cross next to Jesus just barely made it into Heaven. But he did make it! If you think no one loves you today, or really cares about your final outcome, you would be incorrect. God cares and He’s ready to help you.
Some people question, and I used to be one who did, how can God be loving and still judge mankind as described in the Scriptures. But I got passed that, beloved. I was underestimating His Love. In the end His Love will be found to have been so great and so pervasive among us, for so long, that it will justify all of His actions. It’s not His wrath that will make every knew bow to Him in the end. Rather, it will be the FULL realization by everybody of His unmeasurable Love. God wants the BEST for you and me. And we can ALL find just exactly that today, in Christ.