What does a culture without God look like? Israel was a culture without God and Hosea provides four comparisons to help us answer this question.
Their hearts are like an oven; they approach him with intrigue. Their passion smolders all night; in the morning it blazes like a flaming fire. (Hosea 7:6 NIV)
Fires consume. We still see that every time we go for a walk in our neighborhood. We’ve been staying at Shirley’s Mom’s house all week and the wood stove in the family room never gets full. The fire within consumes everything that is put in it. We sometimes talk about people as being either givers or takers. When we are hot with the passion of lust we don’t just take, but we consume and destroy everything and everyone around us. We use each other to the point that we use each other up. This feeds a desire to refuel and leads to a search for something or someone else to consume. The cycle continues until we no longer no how to either accept God’s love or give it to someone else.
“Ephraim mixes with the nations; Ephraim is a flat loaf not turned over.” (Hosea 7:8 NIV)
Have you ever eaten a pancake that was only half-cooked? I haven’t, and I wouldn’t even try. Ephraim couldn’t decide who it was. The people still offered sacrifices, but to many gods instead of just one. This is a challenging issue for us as followers of Jesus living in a godless culture. We want to reach our friends and neighbors with the love of Jesus. How much do we have to become like them to open their hearts to listen? I think it would be a good thing to go fishing with my next-door neighbor. I think I would become a half-cooked pancake if I decided to worship fishing and convinced myself I was doing that for God.
“Ephraim is like a dove, easily deceived and senseless– now calling to Egypt, now turning to Assyria.” (Hosea 7:11 NIV)
Ephraim was a small nation surrounded by very powerful ones. The wisdom of the time was to survive by creating alliances with the most powerful of those nations. The first problem was that the balance of power was constantly shifting. The ultimate problem was that in seeking out earthly allies God was left out of the situation. God is the ultimate provider and protector, yet we still seek out other sources of provision and protection. We want to be in control and we think we’re smart enough to negotiate a deal with someone stronger where we maintain that control. How silly we are. Surrendering control to the ultimate power in the universe would be a much better choice.
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. (Hosea 7:16 NIV)
A bow is a powerful weapon when the arrows fly straight and true, but useless when the arrows consistently miss the mark. Israel refused to turn to God for help. The result was that their defenses were useless, and their leaders were killed. In Ephesians 6:11-17 Paul describes the armor that God provides. We study the list of armor often, but how often do we evaluate the armor we’re depending on? In the next blog I’ll take a break from Hosea and look at this.
For my grandchildren:
Depend on God alone.