My God will reject them because they have not listened to him; they shall be wanderers among the nations.Hosea 9:17
Day 4: Assyria and Egypt
Hosea 8-9 (ESV)
1 Set the trumpet to your lips!
One like a vulture is over the house of the Lord,
because they have transgressed my covenant
and rebelled against my law.
2 To me they cry,
“My God, we—Israel—know you.”
3 Israel has spurned the good;
the enemy shall pursue him.
4 They made kings, but not through me.
They set up princes, but I knew it not.
With their silver and gold they made idols
for their own destruction.
5 I have spurned your calf, O Samaria.
My anger burns against them.
How long will they be incapable of innocence?
6 For it is from Israel;
a craftsman made it;
it is not God.
The calf of Samaria
shall be broken to pieces.
7 For they sow the wind,
and they shall reap the whirlwind.
The standing grain has no heads;
it shall yield no flour;
if it were to yield,
strangers would devour it.
8 Israel is swallowed up;
already they are among the nations
as a useless vessel.
9 For they have gone up to Assyria,
a wild donkey wandering alone;
Ephraim has hired lovers.
10 Though they hire allies among the nations,
I will soon gather them up.
And the king and princes shall soon writhe
because of the tribute.
11 Because Ephraim has multiplied altars for sinning,
they have become to him altars for sinning.
12 Were I to write for him my laws by the ten thousands,
they would be regarded as a strange thing.
13 As for my sacrificial offerings,
they sacrifice meat and eat it,
but the Lord does not accept them.
Now he will remember their iniquity
and punish their sins;
they shall return to Egypt.
14 For Israel has forgotten his Maker
and built palaces,
and Judah has multiplied fortified cities;
so I will send a fire upon his cities,
and it shall devour her strongholds.
1 Rejoice not, O Israel!
Exult not like the peoples;
for you have played the whore, forsaking your God.
You have loved a prostitute’s wages
on all threshing floors.
2 Threshing floor and wine vat shall not feed them,
and the new wine shall fail them.
3 They shall not remain in the land of the Lord,
but Ephraim shall return to Egypt,
and they shall eat unclean food in Assyria.
4 They shall not pour drink offerings of wine to the Lord,
and their sacrifices shall not please him.
It shall be like mourners’ bread to them;
all who eat of it shall be defiled;
for their bread shall be for their hunger only;
it shall not come to the house of the Lord.
5 What will you do on the day of the appointed festival,
and on the day of the feast of the Lord?
6 For behold, they are going away from destruction;
but Egypt shall gather them;
Memphis shall bury them.
Nettles shall possess their precious things of silver;
thorns shall be in their tents.
7 The days of punishment have come;
the days of recompense have come;
Israel shall know it.
The prophet is a fool;
the man of the spirit is mad,
because of your great iniquity
and great hatred.
8 The prophet is the watchman of Ephraim with my God;
yet a fowler’s snare is on all his ways,
and hatred in the house of his God.
9 They have deeply corrupted themselves
as in the days of Gibeah:
he will remember their iniquity;
he will punish their sins.
10 Like grapes in the wilderness,
I found Israel.
Like the first fruit on the fig tree
in its first season,
I saw your fathers.
But they came to Baal-peor
and consecrated themselves to the thing of shame,
and became detestable like the thing they loved.
11 Ephraim’s glory shall fly away like a bird—
no birth, no pregnancy, no conception!
12 Even if they bring up children,
I will bereave them till none is left.
Woe to them
when I depart from them!
13 Ephraim, as I have seen, was like a young palm planted in a meadow;
but Ephraim must lead his children out to slaughter.
14 Give them, O Lord—
what will you give?
Give them a miscarrying womb
and dry breasts.
15 Every evil of theirs is in Gilgal;
there I began to hate them.
Because of the wickedness of their deeds
I will drive them out of my house.
I will love them no more;
all their princes are rebels.
16 Ephraim is stricken;
their root is dried up;
they shall bear no fruit.
Even though they give birth,
I will put their beloved children to death.
17 My God will reject them
because they have not listened to him;
they shall be wanderers among the nations.
Hosea 8 begins with a warning to sound the alarm because one like a vulture, namely Assyria, is coming for Israel. A bird that feeds on the dead is coming for this spiritual deceased nation, for once again Israel’s idolatrous spirit has shone through.
Assyria was a great power of its day, containing wealth, a thriving military, and exceptionally cruel ways of striking fear into the hearts of surrounding countries. Israel felt this fear and reacted to it by paying tribute to Assyria in return for promised protection. This token was meant to keep Assyria from attacking Israel and to convince Assyria to protect Israel from Egypt. Likewise Israel went up to Egypt, paying tribute to this second nation in hopes that Egypt would also promise them protection from Assyria. All the while the people of Israel did not turn to God or seek out His guidance, but deceitfully tried to take matters into their own hands. Hosea 7:11 describes it like this, “Ephraim is like a dove, silly and without sense, calling to Egypt, going to Assyria.” They turned from one political power to another in hopes of finding safety, peace, and security, but ultimately reaped destruction.
What would you name this deceitful turning? I would name it idolatry. You see, the heart behind idolatry is seeking something other than God for satisfaction and safety. Then over time this thing that you are seeking will become what you serve and worship, hence your god. In our previous studies we saw the connection between idolatry and satisfaction; now we see idolatry popping up again, this time, induced by fear and a desire for safety and control. In the same way, even though these people weren’t “worshiping” Assyria or Egypt like they had the wooden figures and false gods of Day 1, they were turning from God to these nations with hopes that these political forces could accomplish what we know only God can: the provision of safety, security, and peace.
What amazes me is that Israel sought protection from one nation that used to enslave them (Egypt) and another that would soon overtake them and force them once again into captivity (Assyria). We aren’t much different. When times get tough we have a tendency to run to past sins that used to hold us captive or seek out new pleasures that will soon come to reign over our lives. We seek old idols or build new ones. We search for earthly solutions to fear instead of seeking God, the One we are told to “cast all our anxieties on” (1 Peter 5:7). We are unaware that these earthly solutions, these old or new exalted coping mechanisms, when placed above the Lord, become our gods.
Hosea 8:8-9 continues by explaining that Israel’s stubborn and naive nature had led them to seek out Assyria, turning this beloved nation into a “useless vessel.” The Hebrew word for “vessel” in this passage can also be translated “jewel.” Israel, something precious like a jewel, something with a distinct purpose like a vessel, had become useless. Why? Because they left the source of their purpose to seek out other solutions. They left the source of their fruitfulness, leaving them barren (Hosea 9:11-17). For when God’s children leave His side, they can do nothing (John 15:5). Verse 10 reinforces this point by revealing that in Israel’s decision to seek allies with other nations they had forgotten that God was the one who actually contained the power to “gather them up.” He was the one who was actually in control over their safety or possible captivity.
As humans we tend to forget this. We forsake God’s provision in order to take things into our own hands, especially when we are afraid. Israel was afraid, so they turned from God to other nations for protection, becoming double minded deceivers in the process. They proved once again that they did not trust the Lord. Instead, their fear drove them to choose other masters above Him, leading to the compromise of their character. They sought control, but God says that He is the one in control. That in the midst of these powerful nations, He is the true power. “The nations rage, the kingdoms totter; He utters His voice, the earth melts,” (Psalm 46:6). Nations may be at war, kingdoms on the verge of ruin, but God is the one who ultimately decides when those nations fall and at what point those kingdoms lose their balance.
Israel had forgotten that every battle they had ever won had been by the hand of the Lord. Reading through the Old Testament we see over and over again “God gave them into their hand.” Israel had forgotten their past, and it affected how they reacted to their fear in the present.
What can we glean from all of this political history of the nation of Israel?
Where you find your security is where you will one day find your god.
Your reactions to fear have great potential to affect your faith and your character. Remember, God is the one who is in control, not you or your fears.
Forgetting how the Lord has been faithful in the past will lead you turn to worldly solutions and idols to ease your fear in the present and the future. “Remembering” your God and His power in your life does not come naturally; it is a discipline we cannot afford to forget!
- Who are Assyria and Egypt? What do these nations symbolize?
- Why was God mad that Israel “went up” to Assyria and Egypt?
- What does Hosea 8-9 reveal about God’s character and human nature?
- Israel feared Assyria, and it led them to compromise their faith and character. What are you afraid of? Has this fear ever led you to make compromises?
- Israel sought security through earthly means instead of godly provision. Where do you go to find security, safety, and peace? In what ways is God challenging you this semester to find your security, safety, and peace in Him?
- Israel lost sight of their purpose, as they chased after worldly solutions to their problems. What is your purpose? The Westminster Shorter Catechism says man’s purpose is to “glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.” Is this true of your life? If so, how?
- Do you believe that God is in control and capable of providing for you? Search some more scriptures on trusting God, write them down, how do these scriptures counter our tendency to desire control?
- Pray through Psalm 46. Psalm 46 reveals God’s power in the earth and how knowing (believing in) this power can result in our ability to rest. Describe in your own words what “resting” in His power will look like spiritually and practically the rest of this semester.
Read Psalm 22:1-5. When has God been faithful to you? Journal about God’s past faithfulness. Reflect on how His past faithful can change how you view your present circumstances and future fears. Reach out to your accountability from Day 1 and share one way God has been faithful and steadfast in your life. List out some practical ways you can stay in the spiritual discipline of “remembering” God’s goodness as we continue through this school year.