Tuesday 29 January 2013

Bible Book:
Hosea

Hosea 5:8 - 6:6 Tuesday 29 January 2013


Background

In the second half of Hosea chapter 5, the prophet describes thedivine punishment that is coming upon unfaithful Israel (alsocalled Ephraim). As well as the problem of idolatry, the prophetaccuses Israel of relying on foreign powers rather than God,criticising Israel's appeal to Assyria for protection against itsneighbours (verse 13). Even though the southern kingdom hasthreatened Israel (verse 10), this gives the nation no right toconsort with foreign powers.

The places named in verse 8 were cities close to theborder with Judah, and the prophet dramatically imagines the noiseand commotion that will accompany the coming judgement. By pursuingforeign alliances - going "after vanity" (v. 11) - Israel hasturned its back on God. God will become like a "lion" to thenorthern kingdom - and a "young lion" to Judah (v. 14) - but theaim is ultimately restorative. God's desire is that Israel andJudah return to the Covenant (verse 15).

Hosea 6:1-3 is probably best interpreted as Hosea'ssummary of Israel's inadequate cry to God, inadequate because itlacks the repentance and genuine contrition necessary for change.These verses also include the hope that the Lord would 'raise themup' on the third day, a phrase later read as prophetic of Jesus'resurrection. For the Israelites, the Lord's salvation would comeas inevitably as "the rains that water the earth" (v.3).

The Lord's response is to reflect on the temporary love ofthe Israelites, whose love is like a "morning cloud, like the dewthat goes away early" (v. 4). The Lord has sent prophets - anddeclared by the 'word of his mouth' what he requires (verse 5).Salvation is not inevitable, as the Israelites think, but requires"steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather thanburnt offerings" (v. 6). The prophet is not proposing the end ofthe cultic system, but rather the centrality of love and knowledgeof God for genuine worship.


To Ponder

  • What 'foreign powers' do you think might tempt the church awayfrom God today?  
  • How can you cultivate "steadfast love" as part of yourdiscipleship?
  • Why is it important to have the right "knowledge of God"? Howcan such knowledge change us?


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