Monday

04 February 2013

"Israel is a luxuriant vine that yields its fruit … Thorn and thistles shall grow up on their altars." (vv. 1, 8)


Background

In today's passage we learn of Hosea's message from God of the penalty for Israel. The contrast from the start of the passage to the end could not be more different, Israel will go from "luxuriant vine" (v. 1), to having her holy places covered with thorns and thistles (verse 8). So the change from prosperity to begging the mountains to fall on them could not be greater for the people of Israel. Israel is going to be punished for turning its back on God in a time of plenty and thus seeking solace and reverence in idols.

Chapter nine tells us that Israel is to be punished, and chapter ten tells us how Israel is to be punished. Firstly, the altars to their foreign gods are to be destroyed (verse 2). Secondly, the idol Beth Aven will be removed into 'exile' (verse 5). Beth Aven is Bethel's calf-god and it was a central feature to the idolatrous shrine, and over time this statue came to have great significance for the people and the priests who had administered there.

The chapter begins from a vantage point of wealth and prosperity and ends up in a kind of spiritual wilderness. The similarities with our own society stemming from the banking crisis could not be more profound. The fruit at the start of the chapter stemmed from agricultural prosperity which leads to material wealth, but all the while Yahweh is ignored. Now the people seem to have little left. There is recognition that they have no king because he too, like the idol calf, is removed to exile (verse 3). With their figurehead gone, their idolatry purged and their pride defeated, society has had a hole punctured in it, leaving the people bereft and without hope. The sin has been found out and the people now have to suffer the consequences.


To Ponder

  • What similarities exist between what Hosea faced and the latest economic crisis? To what extent does prosperity lead to destruction?
  • What idols exist in your life, which have become an impediment to your spiritual health?
  • Does sin always get found out?


Bible notes author: The Revd Andrew Pottage

 

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