Hosea 7: The God who knows his people

 

How well do you know your friends?

 

Some of you will have friends who you have known for years – perhaps since you were children.  Or people you haven’t known as long, but whose lives you’ve been heavily involved in.  Or some of you may have moved recently, and therefore don’t have many friends nearby.

 

Think of a friend, and think of how well you know them.

 

Or if you’re married, think about your spouse.

 

If you’ve had friends for some time, I imagine you know things about them that would embarrass the min polite company – and which your too good a friend to bring up.   You probably know a few of their faults – and have learned how to cope with them or work round them.  You know them – their not perfect, but they’re okay.

 

And have you ever lost a friend – fallen out with someone, so that you don’t see them anymore?  They let you down – or perhaps you let them down, and the friendship ends.

 

Or what about those friendships that don’t quite work out?  You like someone at first, but then as you get to know them, it doesn’t quite work out?

 

The more we get to know someone, the better we get to know someone, the closer our friendship can become – or our relationship can become distant.

 

And our friends don’t know us perfectly.  If they did, would they still want to be our friends?

 

So far in Hosea we’ve been taking the opportunity to get to know God better.  To meet with God, to learn more about God’s character, and so to love him more.

 

And tonight, as we look at Hosea 7 (its on page 904 of the bibles in the chairs) we’re looking again at God’s character – but tonight we’re thinking about how well God knows his people – Israel.

 

Tonight, we see God describe his people – and we’ll see how well he knows them.  And at the end, having seen what they really are like, we’ll see what God makes of his people. 

 

What are God’s people like?

 

1. Deceitful and Blind (6:11-7:3)

 

Our section starts with the second half of verse 11 of chapter 6:

 

Hosea 6:11 "Whenever I would restore the fortunes of my people, 7:1  whenever I would heal Israel, the sins of Ephraim are exposed and the crimes of Samaria revealed.

 

God speaks to Hosea – and though him to us – very directly here.  It’s as if God we’re reflecting on the character of his people – reflecting on their behaviour. 

God looks to see if he should restore Israel’s fortunes, to see if he should heal Israel.  But when he looks, what he sees is the true character of Israel-  they are sinful.

 

They are deceitful:

 

Verses 1 and 3:

 

They practice deceit, thieves break into houses, bandits rob in the streets;… 3 "They delight the king with their wickedness, the princes with their lies.

 

The people are liars.  They don’t tell the truth.  Those surrounding the king speak flattery, and the streets are full of deception and theft.

 

As we have seen before, the picture here is of a society falling apart.  Homes aren’t safe – and the streets aren’t safe – because the people are deceiftful, liars.

 

Verse 2:

 

2 but they do not realize that I remember all their evil deeds. Their sins engulf them; they are always before me.

 

Not only are the people liars – but they are also blind to the fact that God knows them – he knows what they were doing.

 

They prospered by lying – they probably thought it was okay as long as no-one was hurt, and no-one found out – but they forgot that God is watching.

 

The people are deceitful – and blind to the fact that God is watching.

 

2. Wicked – and out of control (7:4-7)

 

Deceitful and blind.  Wicked, and out of control.  Look at verse 4:

 

4 They are all adulterers, burning like an oven whose fire the baker need not stir from the kneading of the dough till it rises.

 

The picture here is of a people who have gone out of control.  They are adulterers – they are unfaithful – their passions burn within them – they need no encouragement.  Then verse 5:

 

5 On the day of the festival of our king the princes become inflamed with wine, and he joins hands with the mockers.

 

The princes, the rulers of the people – the ones who should have given an example – are too busy drinking – and the king joins in with their mocking.  Then verse 6 and 7:

 

6 Their hearts are like an oven; they approach him with intrigue. Their passion smoulders all night; in the morning it blazes like a flaming fire. 7 All of them are hot as an oven; they devour their rulers. All their kings fall, and none of them calls on me.

 

The princes and the king may join hands – but those surrounding the king are out to get him!  They have intrigues planned – intrigues driven not by rational thought but by inflamed passions – the inflamed passion of the drunkard and the adulterer.  They are hot all the time – hotheaded – ready to do evil – and that means killing their kings – 4 of the last 6 kings of Israel were assassinated.

 

The people are wicked – they do evil deeds – and they are out of control.  Instead of being driven by rational thought and their devotion to God, they are driven by their passions – and their passions lead to destruction – the kings fall, the princes are drunkards, and the people  are all adulterers.

 

3. Unfaithful and Arrogant (v8-11)

 

Deceitful and blind, wicked and out of conrol, and Unfaithful and arrogant.

 

The sorry picture which God paints of his people continues.  Look at verses 8 and 9:

 

 8 "Ephraim mixes with the nations; Ephraim is a flat cake not turned over. 9 Foreigners sap his strength, but he does not realize it. His hair is sprinkled with gray, but he does not notice.

 

Ephraim mixing with the nations meant that Israel was compromising with the nations.  God warned Israel when she came into the promised land that she should avoid the practices of the people who lived there, or become corrupted.

 

Israel was God’s special people, and she should remain that way – set apart for God.

 

The nations were sapping Israel’s strength – with compromises, and tribute, and Israel didn’t notice – she was a flat cake not turned over – and therefore scorched on one side, scorched by the nations.  Why didn’t Israel notice?  Look at verses 10 and 11:

 

 10 Israel's arrogance testifies against him, but despite all this he does not return to the LORD his God or search for him. 11 "Ephraim is like a dove, easily deceived and senseless-- now calling to Egypt, now turning to Assyria.

 

Israel is arrogant – and easily led.  Rather than returning to the Lord, Israel follows his own path, ignoring God’s word, and turns to Egypt and Assyria, the two great empires of the day, for help.  But Israel does not realize that one of these empires will swallow her up.

 

4. Unrepentant – and facing Judgement (7:12-16)

 

Deceitful and blind, wicked and out of control, Unfaithful and arrogant, and finally, Unrepentant – and facing judgement.

 

God knows his people well.  He knows their desires – and he knows that they do not seek after him.

 

And as we have seen elsewhere in Hosea, God will act to judge and discipline his people.  Look at verses 12 and 13:

 

12 When they go, I will throw my net over them; I will pull them down like birds of the air. When I hear them flocking together, I will catch them. 13 Woe to them, because they have strayed from me! Destruction to them, because they have rebelled against me!

 

God’s people cannot escape him.  He will capture them.  God’s people have strayed from him – they have rebelled against him, and he will hold them accountable for their actions.

 

Because God’s people, Israel, show no desire to repent.  Verses 13,14 and 15:

13 I long to redeem them but they speak lies against me. 14 They do not cry out to me from their hearts but wail upon their beds. They gather together for grain and new wine but turn away from me. 15 I trained them and strengthened them, but they plot evil against me.

 

God’s desire is to redeem his people – to rescue his people – but they lie about God.  Instead of seeking God in their troubles, they moan about their lot – blaming anything but themselves – and they spend their time with festivals and gatherings, rather than getting to the heart of obeying God.

 

God has nurtured these people, and strengthened them – made them into a nation – but they are against God.

Verse 16 shows what will happen to them:

 

16 They do not turn to the Most High; they are like a faulty bow. Their leaders will fall by the sword because of their insolent words. For this they will be ridiculed in the land of Egypt.

 

They don’t turn to God.  They are like a faulty bow – useless.

 

The leaders will fall, the nations will be taken captive and Egypt, the land from which the people were rescued – will mock them.  A sorry end for a sorry people.

 

A sorry end for a deceitful, wicked, unfaithful and unrepentant people.  A sorry end for a blind, out of control, and arrogant people.

 

Hosea 7 is a sobering passage.  It shows to us a people who are without hope – they need to repent, but they can’t even see what they are doing wrong.

 

But what should we take away from this passage, other than a sense of just how bad Israel had got?

 

There are three things we should do as God’s people.

 

What are we to do as God’s People?

 

1. See our world

 

Firstly, we need to recognise that this is the world we live in.  The people of Israel were in such a situation because they had become no different to the nations.

 

Just like the nations around them, they didn’t seek God.  They trusted in idols, in fortune tellers, in themselves and their own strength, and they paid no regard to God.

 

Just like the nations.  And today, our world is little different.  People still carry on their lives with no regard for God – without a thought that they might owe something to their creator – without a thought that they might have a creator!

 

They don’t repent and turn to God – they don’t realise they need to!  As Romans tells us, they have suppressed the natural knowledge of God that everyone has, and have instead trusted in idols.  Romans 1:18-23 reads:

 

Romans 1:18 The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, 19 since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. 20 For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities-- his eternal power and divine nature-- have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse. 21 For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles.

 

Our world lives without God.  And Romans tells us that people are either living for God and the truth, or they are opposed to God and the truth.

 

From Hosea, we need to see the reality of the world we live in.

 

2. See ourselves

 

And then we also need to see ourselves, to be challenged by the example of the Israelites.

 

God gives us an example to avoid – and so as followers of Christ we should seek to live differently.

 

Perhaps you have been challenged by some of Hosea’s words this evening.  Perhaps there is some situation in our lives at the moment where we now recognise we are not following God’s will.

 

Do we deceive others habitually and not really think it’s important?

 

Are we led more by our passions and our burning desires than by God’s word?

 

Have we trusted in other things – ourselves, money, our home – rather than trusting in God and following him alone?

 

Do we need to repent and turn back to God?

 

This passage challenges to recognise our need to repent, and to ask for God’s forgiveness.

 

3. See beyond the hopeless situation

 

For we can be sure of God’s forgiveness – when we see beyond the seemingly hopeless situation here.

 

It would seem that Israel’s situation is hopeless, and therefore if we are like Israel, and God knows us too, then our situation is hopeless as well.  After all, if our friends knew us perfectly, would they be our friends?

 

But look again at verse 11 of chapter 6 and verse 1 of chapter 7:

 

Hosea 6:11 "Whenever I would restore the fortunes of my people, 7:1  whenever I would heal Israel,

 

What is God’s desire here?  God’s desire is to restore, and to heal his people – although they are unrepentant.

 

And then look on to verses 13 and 15:

 

13 I long to redeem them but they speak lies against me….15 I trained them and strengthened them, but they plot evil against me.

 

We are beginning to see glimpses here of the solution.  Glimpses of the way God is going to fulfil his desire for his people.

 

We see the one who comes to redeem being lied about, and the one who sustained his people being plotted against.

 

Here, in the midst of the judgment and the seeming hopelessness of Hosea 7, we glimpse the hope of the world, we glimpse Jesus, the Son which God sent to redeem the world:

 

John 1:10-11 speaks of Jesus in this way:

 

John 1:10 He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. 11 He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him.

 

Jesus Christ came to solve the problem which Hosea 7, and Romans 1 highlights. 

 

People have turned away from God.  They have failed to recognise him as creator, failed to recognise that he has a call upon their lives.

 

And they have gone on doing this for so long that they have forgotten that they’ve turned away.  They have persuaded themselves that there is no God, that he did not make them, and that he has no relevance for their lives.

 

They need to repent – but they don’t recognise that need.  Their deeds are known to God, and they deserve to be judged – yet they are so inflamed by their passions that they can do nothing.

 

So God sent his son Jesus Christ, to die on the cross.  The one perfect human being who did not sin, God’s son, God himself.  He took the mocking of those he had created, and the scorn of those who he came to save.  He was mocked to the end.

 

Jesus died on the cross to take the punishment that the world deserves – the punishment we deserve – so that we might be saved.  Jesus reaches out to us, even when we do not know our need, and rescues those who show no desire to be rescued.

 

And knowing what we deserve from Hosea 7, should we not be even more grateful for what God has done for us, whether we recognise it for the first time or the 100th.  For when God looks on his people he sees the righteousness of Christ covering our sins and failings.  We can be friends with God through Jesus Christ.

 

Let us pray

 

James Hughes

27th June 2004