In our study of Hosea chapter seven, we look at the idolatry of the northern kingdom of Israel and how a really bad marriage can be the root cause. We will look at the example of Ahab, Jezebel, and the city of Samaria and apply the lessons to our daily walk with Christ.
'whenever I would heal Israel, the sins of Ephraim are exposed and the crimes of Samaria revealed.'
In chapter 6, we saw that God offered Israel a new life if they would repent of their sin and turn back to Him. That is what is referred to by "whenever I would heal Israel". Now, we see that they did not as "the sins of Ephraim are exposed". The sins of Ephraim refers to idolatry as that was the tribe that started and spread open idolatry to the tribes of Israel. The phrase "crimes of Samaria" refers to the fact that the city of Samaria had become the capitol of the northern kingdom. This city was built by King Omri whose son, Ahab, married a woman by the name of Jezebel. Jezebel was the daughter of Ethbaal who was the king of the Sidonians. The Sidonians were descendants of Canaan who was cursed by God because of his father Ham and what he did to Noah. When Ahab became king, he built an altar to Baal (a pagan god) in the city. We see that this sin of idolatry became "crimes of Samaria".
'They practice deceit, thieves break into houses, bandits rob in the streets; but they do not realize that I remember all their evil deeds. Their sins engulf them; they are always before me.'
We see that Israel had lost the sense of shame that usually accompanies sin. Instead they bring their sin out into the streets for everyone to see and are even proud of it. The people do not see that they are only building up judgment for themselves as God sees and remembers all. This tells us what was going on in the northern kingdom at this time but it seems that it is even more relevant to the world today as we see people (even Christians) openly and even proudly taking part in the sin of the world.
'They delight the king with their wickedness, the princes with their lies.'
The leaders of Israel had led the people into sin. We see that the entire government was corrupt in the sight of the Lord as they even sponsored the sin of the people. It seems like that is exactly what is going on in our world today as laws are passed saying that what God calls sin is not sin anymore.
'They are all adulterers, burning like an oven whose fire the baker need not stir from the kneading of the dough till it rises.'
This verse gives us the picture of a fire that has been established in the oven and no longer needs tending. Likewise, the idolatry of the Israelites had become established in their hearts.
On the day of the festival of our king the princes become inflamed with wine, and he joins hands with the mockers.
Once again, we see that the leaders of the people took part in the sins of the people instead of leading them out of it. We see that they do it all the time including on the holy days. This is the same thing that is happening today as not even a single day of the week is set aside for the things of God anymore.
Their hearts are like an oven; they approach him with intrigue. Their passion smolders all night; in the morning it blazes like a flaming fire.
Even in their sleep, the people are constantly filled with evil thoughts. When they awake in the morning they go right back into their sinful ways.
All of them are hot as an oven; they devour their rulers. All their kings fall, and none of them calls on me.
This verse refers to the fact that the northern kingdom (Israel) never had a good king. The talk of the oven and devouring the rulers brings to mind the story of the soldiers that threw Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego into the fiery furnace and died (Daniel 3).
'Ephraim mixes with the nations; Ephraim is a flat cake not turned over.'
The mixing with the nations speaks of their marrying people that God forbade. This is the same type of thing that Solomon did and it led to the division of God's people (Israel & Judah). If you have ever tried to cook a pancake, you can understand the significance of the second part of the verse. If a pancake is not turned, it will burn on one side and be raw on the other and so not fit to eat. So it is with our worship if we try to worship God and yet practice idolatry.
'Foreigners sap his strength but he does not realize it. His hair is sprinkled with gray, but he does not notice.'
This mixing with the nations led them away from God and into idolatry. When they turned their back on God, they lost their strength. This same principle applies to us today as followers of Jesus Christ. If we choose to marry someone who does not know Jesus, it will be difficult and they will probably pull us away from doing all that God has for us. We will have some distance between ourselves and God in our daily lives and this will rob us of much of the power that we have through Him.
Israel's arrogance testifies against him, but despite all this he does not return to the Lord his God or search for him.
Even as their strength was failing and they could see the effects of their sin, they refused to repent. In their arrogance they said that they were God's people but, in fact, they were not. The same type of thing is happening to many people today as they have a false idea of salvation from attending a place of worship as a child and maybe even being sprinkled with some water at a "church". Through this false teaching comes an arrogance and sinning in the face of God.
'Ephraim is like a dove, easily deceived and senseless - now calling to Egypt, now turning to Assyria. When they go, I will throw my net over them; I will pull them down like birds of the air. When I hear them flocking together, I will catch them.'
A dove flies everywhere in search of the food that they need. In the same manner, Israel had been looking to other countries for its sustenance instead of trusting in the Lord. When God brings down the nations that they have put their trust in, they will be brought down as well. This is a good reminder for us, as Christians, that our trust must be in God alone and not our own efforts or the power of others.
'Woe to them, because they have strayed from me! Destruction to them, because they have rebelled against me! I long to redeem them but they speak lies against me.'
Instead of listening to God and His correction, they had turned to these great nations for help. This is much the same as what we see in the world today. God is calling His people to be holy and allowing trials and troubles to refine us but many want to take the easy way out. So, they turn to governments, false religions, and all kinds of other things instead of listening to Him.
'They do not cry out to me from their hearts but wail upon their beds. They gather together for grain and new wine but turn away from me. I trained them and strengthened them, but they plot evil against me.'
Instead of looking to God to sustain them, they turned to other nations. His people had forgotten what God had done for them and so, when times got tough, they turned to everyone but God. We see much the same thing in our world today as, even people who say they are Christians, put their hope and trust in government handouts or even secular charitable organizations. In many cases, this occurs because the local body of believers (church) has forgotten what God has done for them and how He has called them to be the source of help for the hurting.
'They did not turn to the Most High; they are like a faulty bow. Their leaders will fall by the sword because of their insolent words. For this they will be ridiculed in the land of Egypt.'
Because of this lack of faith in God, they would be laughed at by the Egyptians.