The Dark Night of Sin

Hosea 10:1–15 (NKJV)

10:1 Israel empties his vine; He brings forth fruit for himself.  According to the multitude of his fruit He has increased the altars; According to the bounty of his land They have embellished his sacred pillars.

2 Their heart is divided; Now they are held guilty. He will break down their altars; He will ruin their sacred pillars.

3 For now they say, “We have no king, Because we did not fear the Lord.  And as for a king, what would he do for us?”

4 They have spoken words, Swearing falsely in making a covenant.  Thus judgment springs up like hemlock in the furrows of the field.

5 The inhabitants of Samaria fear Because of the calf of Beth Aven. For its people mourn for it, And its priests shriek for it—Because its glory has departed from it.

6 The idol also shall be carried to Assyria As a present for King Jareb.  Ephraim shall receive shame, And Israel shall be ashamed of his own counsel.

7 As for Samaria, her king is cut off Like a twig on the water.

8 Also the high places of Aven, the sin of Israel, Shall be destroyed.  The thorn and thistle shall grow on their altars; They shall say to the mountains, “Cover us!” And to the hills, “Fall on us!”

Hosea prophesies that people who have rejected Yahweh will call for hill and mountain to fall on them (v 8b). This saying Jesus applies anew to those who reject him, when destruction comes at the end of the current age (Luke 23:30). What Hosea—and Jesus—expect is not simply a hiding from divine wrath (as e.g., Isa 2:10, 21) but woes so great that death will be preferred to life (as e.g., Jer 8:3). The wrath Hosea predicted has already come. The wrath Jesus predicted with Hosea’s words is yet to come (Rev 6:16; 9:6). The prescription for avoiding that wrath is essentially unchanged: faithfulness to God and his covenant. For those who accept the lordship of the sovereign of the new covenant, and show their loyalty by obedience to his commands, that time of wrath will hold no lasting pain (Rev 7:9–17).*

*Stuart, Douglas. Hosea–Jonah. Vol. 31. Dallas: Word, Incorporated, 2002. Print. Word Biblical Commentary.

Hosea prophesies that Israel has become a fruitful/fruitless vine.  They worship both false gods and Yahweh with the same heart, and that is unacceptable.  Don’t try to serve two masters, for it is impossible.  God will not share your heart with another god!

9 “O Israel, you have sinned from the days of Gibeah; There they stood.  The battle in Gibeah against the children of iniquity Did not overtake them.

10 When it is My desire, I will chasten them.  Peoples shall be gathered against them When I bind them for their two transgressions.

11 Ephraim is a trained heifer That loves to thresh grain; But I harnessed her fair neck, I will make Ephraim pull a plow.  Judah shall plow; Jacob shall break his clods.”

12 Sow for yourselves righteousness; Reap in mercy; Break up your fallow ground, For it is time to seek the Lord, Till He comes and rains righteousness on you.

13 You have plowed wickedness; You have reaped iniquity.  You have eaten the fruit of lies, Because you trusted in your own way, In the multitude of your mighty men.

14 Therefore tumult shall arise among your people, And all your fortresses shall be plundered As Shalman plundered Beth Arbel in the day of battle—A mother dashed in pieces upon her children.

15 Thus it shall be done to you, O Bethel, Because of your great wickedness. At dawn the king of Israel Shall be cut off utterly.

War is the dominant warning of the passage: nations massing to attack (v 10); the destruction of fortifications (v 14a); brutal killing (v 14b); the silencing of the king (v 15), etc. Tragically, however, Hosea’s audience in the 720s was apparently still complacent, presuming that their king and military would somehow stand against the Assyrians they had been powerless to resist a few years earlier. Perhaps the death of Tiglath-Pileser Ill in 728 b.c. had emboldened them. Through Hosea, God assured them otherwise. Just as Israel suffered in the covenant war after the incident at Gibeah—in the days of the Judges (v 9), so they would now have a “new” Gibeah—their own total defeat. Divine action and the brutal Assyrian military conquest were in this case one and the same.*

*Stuart, Douglas. Hosea–Jonah. Vol. 31. Dallas: Word, Incorporated, 2002. Print. Word Biblical Commentary.

Just like in many other prophecies, the Lord promises to send nations against His people in judgment.  The people of God, whether Israel in the book of Hosea or Christians today often neglect true worship and are caught up in idolatry.  When that happens, the covering of God is often either lifted or at least we walk out of it.   The people of Israel had neglected the condition of their hearts, and now had developed fallow ground.  This hard, clay-like condition was nearly impervious to seed, and had to be broken up sow life could sprout.  It is the same with our hearts, which must sometimes be broken before the word can spring to life.   Stay in the sweet spot of God’s will and worship.  Walking alone is dangerous in this dark night of sin.

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