Hosea 4:11–19 (NKJV)
11 “Harlotry, wine, and new wine enslave the heart.
12 My people ask counsel from their wooden idols,
And their staff informs them.
For the spirit of harlotry has caused them to stray,
And they have played the harlot against their God.
13 They offer sacrifices on the mountaintops,
And burn incense on the hills,
Under oaks, poplars, and terebinths,
Because their shade is good.
Therefore your daughters commit harlotry,
And your brides commit adultery.
14 “I will not punish your daughters when they commit harlotry,
Nor your brides when they commit adultery;
For the men themselves go apart with harlots,
And offer sacrifices with a ritual harlot.
Therefore people who do not understand will be trampled.
The Lord continues this latest prophetic message through Hosea by attacking the general condition of Israel: they are bound by their sin! Harlotry, drunkenness, and idolatry have swept through the land. They consult with idols and allow a stick (staff) to inform them what to do. Their women are unfaithful to Yahweh, and their men do that and even more, seeking out physical prostitues as well.
15 “Though you, Israel, play the harlot,
Let not Judah offend.
Do not come up to Gilgal,
Nor go up to Beth Aven,
Nor swear an oath, saying, ‘As the Lord lives’—
16 “For Israel is stubborn
Like a stubborn calf;
Now the Lord will let them forage
Like a lamb in open country.
17 “Ephraim is joined to idols,
Let him alone.
18 Their drink is rebellion,
They commit harlotry continually.
Her rulers dearly love dishonor.
19 The wind has wrapped her up in its wings,
And they shall be ashamed because of their sacrifices.
This picture of Israel’s condition, plus the warning against Judah, warns them both against the concentrated centers of idol worship, Gilgal and Beth Aven. Yet, He knows that His warnings may go unheeded, for Israel is stubborn, and must forage around trying to find spiritual food, only to eventually understand that Yahweh is their source. In this time addressed by the Lord, Israel is bound by this wind (spirit) and fully participates in offering sacrifices to false gods. They have broken the covenant with Yahweh, and judgment is on the way. It should be noted that this book of Hosea speaks to one period of time in Israel’s history in which they rebelled against Yahweh and served idols. However, it was a long period and God was attempting to help them see, as with other living object lessons, that they could return to God and be healed.
Whatever spirit may be wrapping you up, or drawing you away from your covenant of grace with God, be warned. God will not overlook sin, idolatry, or adultery. However, His grace will forgive and restore if you repent and turn back to Him. Don’t presume upon His grace and miss out on the blessings of covenant. God is gracious, but He is also holy. He is merciful, but also the divine judge. There are two sides to a coin, just as there are two sides to the nature of God. Don’t err on the side of grace to the point that you forget that there is an expectation of holiness and righteousness that must be understood as well. Don’t be deceived!