When Loyalty Fails
The Prophet Hosea lived in a time similar to our own in many respects. Both
Israel and Judah, the chosen people of God and descendants of Abraham, were
experiencing prosperity and a general weakening of their moral and spiritual
fabric. The reason for the prosperity was the weakening of Syria, their chief
rival. The nation had been able to scale down its military and become more
productive industrially and agriculturally. In our own
nation, while the military has become more active recently, and there have been
some economic downturns, we are still a prosperous nation. Hosea lived during
such a prosperous time. It seems what is good for the pocketbook is not always
good for the soul, though it need not be that way. (contrast Matthew 19:24-26; 1
Timothy 6:9,10; Revelation 3:15-19 with 3 John 1,2; 1 Timothy 6:17-19).
The prophet Hosea lived in the eighth century before Christ. People were demanding more luxuries, and it seemed that the more they got, the more they wanted. They had begun borrowing the religious practices of other nations (the worship of Baal and other idols). They searched for a more sensual and less spiritual religion. Those faithful to God became a smaller and smaller minority, often ridiculed for their faith and narrow-mindedness. Even then, the Lord patiently called them to repent and return to Him. While there may have been scattered success with individuals, the nation as a whole rejected the invitation and history shows a continued downward spiral to its ruin and destruction. Such could have been averted. History has a lot to teach our own nation if we'll listen. Notice the invitation issued by the Lord to the nation through Hosea: "Come, let us return to the LORD. For He has torn us, but He will heal us; He has wounded us, but He will bandage us. He will revive us after two days; He will raise us up on the third day, That we may live before Him. So let us know, let us press on to know the LORD. His going forth is as certain as the dawn; And He will come to us like the rain, Like the spring rain watering the earth." (Hosea 6:1-3). Why did this invitation fall on deaf ears? The next verse tells us; in a word; disloyalty. " What shall I do with you, O Ephraim? What shall I do with you, O Judah? For your loyalty is like a morning cloud And like the dew which goes away early." (Hosea 6:4).
Torn and Wounded (vs. 1)
The People had left God. It had happened gradually over a period of years. Now, God had withdrawn His special providential care from the nation. All the world is blessed in some ways. Whether we are righteous or faithful, we will enjoy a degree of blessings. The sun shines and the rain falls on both the just and the unjust (Matthew 5:45; Acts 14:17). But God had promised special blessings to His people if they remained faithful (Deuteronomy 11:13-17). Likewise today, there are special blessings reserved only for the faithful (Ephesians 1:3; Hebrews 5:9; James 1:25; 5:16).
That nation suffered many of the same consequences as our own; most were well
off materially, but were suffering in other ways. There was less confidence and
good feelings about the future. Love, honor and nobility were becoming forgotten
virtues. Their shallow spirituality was taking its toll on the soul of the
nation. Greed, despair and fear ruled the day. The law of the jungle was
replacing the Law of God (see Hosea's description of
this in 5:9-13).
The answer to our dilemma today is the same as theirs; verse 1: "Let us
return to the Lord."
Like a Morning Cloud (vs. 4)
This is a rather interesting figure to use to describe the loyalty of Israel to God. Like a farmer who sees a "morning cloud" and his hope for rain for his thirsty crops rises. But as the day continues, the sun grows stronger and as the dew evaporates, so does the cloud. The hopeful prospect vanishes away. The loyalty of Israel was like that cloud. Our nation's loyalty to God today and righteous principles, it seems, are no less fleeting. The parallel strikes even closer when we look at many in the church today. Their loyalty to God is "like a morning cloud"; faith shallow; priorities misplaced and zeal non-existent. There is a quickness to compromise with the world while going through minimal motions of Christianity, but hearts are far from God (Matthew 7:19-24; 15:8,9; James 1:4; 6-8).
The end result is ruin. We cannot neglect our duty nor abandon the One who died for us without bringing ourselves down. The answer, again, is found in verse 1: "Let us return to the Lord."
Revival and Life (vs. 2)
This passage reminds us of another event that was still 800 years in the future. The resurrection of Jesus is not what Hosea is talking about. But God had already foreordained that His Son would die and arise on the third day, and inspired Hosea to use this language in describing a spiritual renewal that was needed by the people of his day. "He will revive us after two days; He will raise us up on the third day, That we may live before Him."
Many such hints in the O.T. prophecies and figures which people of faith
would not connect to Jesus until the gospel age (i.e. brass serpent in
wilderness; Jonah in the belly of the fish for three days). Now, when we read
such, we are caused to be reminded of Christ Jesus, our hope. The sin of such
disloyalty and neglect must be repented of to be cured. To ignore it is to
suffer defeat (Ephesians 2:1-5; James 4:8-10). The answer: verse 1 "Let us
return to the Lord."
Know the Lord (vs. 3)
Earlier, there was a statement made about the disastrous effect of a lack of knowledge: "My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge." (Hosea 4:6). This seems to indicate a willful ignorance; a refusal to listen; a blindness of choice. The people had chosen to reject God. (Matthew 13:14-15); But it doesn't have to be this way (Matthew 13:16) What made the difference? (Matthew 13:18-23). As long as one is ignorant, he can mock God's laws and think himself clever in spite of the moral decline seen all around him. Hosea was mocked and ridiculed for his message, and so will we be if we are true to our responsibility to try and help others see the light. But listen! If the Lord's standards were more respected and obeyed today, many of our problems would vanish away! How long will we, as a nation, continue to "reject knowledge"? Much better to "press on to know the Lord" (1 John 2:4-6).
We cannot do anything about Israel. They are now a part of history. We can do
a little about our own nation; to the extent of our influence if we
live by faith. A drop in the bucket, but a much needed drop without which the bucket won't get filled. This is where you have control. Don't let your loyalty be like a morning cloud. The answer is, as always, return to the Lord.
By Jon W. Quinn
From Expository Files 10.5, May 2003