In our study of Hosea chapter nine, we will look at how a people can be blinded by the things that they have been blessed with and miss the truth of God. In chapter 8, we saw how Israel was going through their religious rituals but had no knowledge of the Word of God.
Do not rejoice, O Israel; do not be jubilant like the other nations. For you have been unfaithful to your God; you love the wages of a prostitute at every threshing floor.
Israel was looking around at their abundant crops and rejoicing in them. They saw that abundant crop (material prosperity) and assumed that God was happy with them. The prophet reminds them that they have turned their back on God the provider and so He saw them as prostitutes. The same type of thing happens today as many people are blinded by their prosperity and think that it comes from themselves and their hard work. These people do not acknowledge the hand of God in their lives and so do not worship Him. It also happens with places of worship as many will build big fancy buildings and think that God is happy with them. They will rejoice in the "blessing" of a fancy "campus" and not realize that they are drifting further and further away from the Word of God. In many cases, they turn to the banking system to finance the building and become enslaved to the mortgage. This slavery leads them to preach a message that the people want to hear so that this new building can be filled in hopes of bringing in enough money to pay the mortgage. Like the church in Sardis (see Revelation 3), they have a reputation of being alive in Christ but in reality they are dead spiritually.
Threshing floors and winepresses will not feed the people; the new wine will fail them. They will not remain in the Lord's land; Ephraim will return to Egypt and eat unclean food in Assyria. They will not pour out wine offerings to the Lord, nor will their sacrifices please him. Such sacrifices will be to them like the bread of mourners; all who eat them will be unclean. This food will be for themselves; it will not come into the temple of the Lord. What will you do on the day of your appointed feasts, on the festival days of the Lord?
Because they have turned their back on God their provider, the prophet tells of a famine that is coming. This famine caused Israel to go to surrounding countries for food. This unclean food could not be used for sacrifices or worship.
Even if they escape from destruction, Egypt will gather them, and Memphis will bury them. Their treasures of silver will be taken over by briers, and thorns will overrun their tents.
In trying to escape the correction of God, the people would run back into slavery in Egypt. They did not understand that no man can provide for you as God is the great provider. The same type of thing can happen in our lives if we lose sight of the fact that God is our provider. We can end up being slaves to one or more jobs in hopes of being able to buy the latest and greatest gadget.
The days of punishment are coming, the days of reckoning are at hand. Let Israel know this. Because your sins are so many and your hostility so great, the prophet is considered a fool, the inspired man a maniac.
God had sent the prophets to warn His people and to call them to repentance but they were treated as fools and ignored. The same type of thing happens today when someone tries to tell people about the fact that God is going to bring judgment. The man or woman that attempts to tell people that Jesus is coming again soon will be treated like a religious nut.
The prophet, along with my God, is the watchman over Ephraim, yet snares await him on all his paths, and hostility in the house of his God. They have sunk deep into corruption, as in the days of Gibeah. God will remember their wickedness and punish them for their sins.
The days of Gibeah speaks of a time of great lawlessness in Israel. In Judges 19, we see the account of what happened in Gibeah. The nation had no leadership and so they sank into the depths of depravity just as it was with Sodom and Gomorrah. The prophet warns them that they are in the same condition as that dark day in Israel's history. The same could be said of our world today as many of the sins that happened in Gibeah are happening today and leaders are even making it legal.
'When I found Israel, it was like finding grapes in the desert; when I saw your fathers, it was like seeing the early fruit on the fig tree. But when they came to Baal Peor, they consecrated themselves to that shameful idol and became as vile as the thing they loved.'
God saw the promising future of His chosen people and it was good. But, they turned to idolatry and became as worthless as the idol that they worshiped. Just like the Israelites, God sees the promising future of all of us and He is calling us to that future that is in His perfect will. Also like the Israelites, we have a choice of whether to cling to Jesus or to bow to all the false idols around us.
'Ephraim's glory will fly away like a bird - no birth, no pregnancy, no conception. Even if they rear children, I will bereave them of every one. Woe to them when I turn away from them! I have seen Ephraim, like Tyre, planted in a pleasant place. But Ephraim will bring out their children to the slayer.'
God saw their promising future and yet they threw it away with their idolatry. While they look around themselves and see their prosperity, God warns them that it will all be gone even to the blessings of having children. He goes on to explain that they cannot blame the situation on their surroundings as they were "planted in a pleasant place". Their hearts led them into idolatry and their kids were going to pay for it. This is a reminder to us, today, that our actions towards God have a big impact on the lives of our children. It is easy to look around and criticize the younger generation but we have to remember that they are a reflection of our spiritual health as a people. Much like the people of the prophet's day, we have become blinded by our prosperity.
Give them, O Lord - what will you give them? Give them wombs that miscarry and breasts that are dry.
The prophet makes it clear that this lack of children is from God and not some natural ebb in the birth rate.
'Because of all their wickedness in Gilgal, I hated them there. Because of their sinful deeds, I will drive them out of my house. I will no longer love them; all their leaders are rebellious.'
What happened at Gilgal that was so bad? That is the place where Saul was made the king of Israel. That does not sound too bad to us but, in fact, they had God as their king but wanted a man to serve as king just like the nations around them. This began what would be a very long string of leaders that drew the people deeper and deeper into idolatry. We might wonder how they could have done such a thing as they had God as their leader but wanted a man instead. The simple fact is that we do the same thing in many ways today. Instead of listening and following God through the Holy Spirit, many compromise to fit in with the crowds around them just as Israel did with the nations.
My God will reject them because they have not obeyed him; they will be wanderers among the nations.
What is the penalty for their disobedience? The penalty is the same as it was for Cain (see Genesis 4) and that is to be "wanderers". A wanderer brings to mind the image of a child that has strayed from the safety and direction of their parents and so is at the mercy of the world around them. Cain had ignored the direction of God and Israel had gotten to the point where they could not even see the direction of God as they were blinded by their prosperity. The same principle applies to our walk with Christ. If we become blinded by our prosperity and wander from His direction, then, we are at the mercy of the world around us. If we stay focused on His leading and listen to the Counselor that He gave us, we will stay in the safety that He provides.