In our study of Hosea chapter five, we look at the origin and consequences of Israel's rebellion against God. We will see how the actions of one man can lead many astray.
To understand this chapter, we must remember some of the history of God's people. Until the death of King Solomon, the tribes were united but, because of Solomon's sin, God took control of all the tribes except Judah and the Levites from Solomon's son. These tribes formed the northern kingdom and were known as Israel. Their first king was Jeroboam who was from the tribe of Ephraim.
"'Hear this, you priests! Pay attention, you Israelites! Listen, O royal house! This judgment is against you: You have been a snare at Mizpah, a net spread out on Tabor.'" NIV translation
The prophet shares the words of God with the people and, as we see here, there is plenty of blame to go around. God condemns the leadership of Israel because they have caused the people to stumble. Mizpah was in the southwest of their territory and Tabor was in the northeast part and so we see that the actions of the leaders had led to widespread rebellion against God.
"'The rebels are deep in slaughter. I will discipline all of them.'" NIV translation
This verse speaks to the fact that the people continued in their rebellion against God even when He rebuked them. They stayed in their sin and continued the downward spiral. The same thing is true for us as Christians today in that, if we continue to wallow in sin and do not heed the correction of the Holy Spirit, we too can continue a downward spiral. What can start as a seemingly minor thing can in fact lead to greater and greater distance between ourselves and God. He said that He would discipline the Israelites and we can be sure that He will do the same for us.
"'I know all about Ephraim; Israel is not hidden from me. Ephraim, you have now turned to prostitution; Israel is corrupt.'" NIV translation
After the split of God's people, Jeroboam was afraid that, if the people went to Jerusalem to worship God, they would turn back and join the southern kingdom. Because he did not want to lose power, Jeroboam had idols built and caused the people to worship them all over the northern kingdom. That is what God is talking about here when He says that Ephraim has turned to prostitution. The actions of this one man caused a whole nation to rebel against God and so now they face this judgment. We may ask ourselves what this has to do with us today and say that we do not worship idols but do we listen and follow the instructions of God? God had instructed the people that they were to come to Jerusalem at certain times to worship Him and they did not. God has told us to worship Him by going and sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ with the world and teaching them to obey His commands (see Matthew 28). If we are, that is great but, if we are not, we can expect His correction in our lives.