Summary: There is a ’kairos’ moment when we must plough up sinful hearts and seek the Lord God - as Hosea challenged the people to do.
If you were to ask Taylor “What does Daddy hate most?” she would, I hope, tell you that I hate lies. The old saying “You can watch a thief but not a liar” is so true. At what point do you believe someone after they have lied to you? When do you start to trust them again? Lies are such dreadful things and they do immense damage to lives, relationships and hopes. This morning in our passage before us that is exactly what God accuses the people of Israel of being – liars.
Verses 1-2 Israel is selfish.
What a lovely picture is painted at the beginning of verse 1 – this fruitful vine that has spread and brought forth an abundance of fruit. But, and it is an important ‘but,’ the fruit was for its own glory. A vine was never meant to bring forth fruit for itself but for the benefit and blessing of others, most notably the farmer who planted it, watered it, tended it and would ultimately harvest the fruit from it. Not so the vine of Israel. Israel had forgotten their purpose – to bring glory to God. As the second part of the verse tells us as the blessing of harvest increased the people moved further and further away from God. They set up their own altars and adorned them with all sorts of precious stones. The more they harvested the more altars they built and the more lavish they became as they put their wealth into these man made idols. There is only one conclusion for God to arrive at concerning these people – verse 2. They are liars and their hearts are full of lies. They spoke of God as their God and as of themselves being in a covenantal relationship with God. The reality however was different. Just as Gomer could speak of being married to Hosea, and technically she was, but the reality was that her heart and love was directed towards other men who were not her husband. Israel’s love and devotion was directed at idols and false gods, whilst all the time paying lip-service to the true and living God. The result of such selfishness and deceit is inevitable. God warns them that He will destroy their altars and precious stones because He will not share His glory with anyone or anything else.
Verses 3-4 Israel makes false promises.
In verse 3 we read of where these people thought power and authority lay – in kingship – like the nations around them. Yet they are forced to admit that the reason they had no king was because they did not ‘revere the Lord.’ Proverbs tells us that ‘the beginning of all wisdom is the fear of the Lord.’ These people, the chosen people of God, had ceased to fear, or revere, the Lord God. They had become so self-centred and selfish that reverence for God and the things of God had long departed from their hearts and minds. The latter part of the verse shows the despair they now felt – even if they had a king he would be powerless in such a situation. Here are a people who have lost all hope in human authority and ability and whilst acknowledging the cause is the abandonment of a relationship with God they still fail to seek Him. In verse 4 the corrupt, fickle and unstable nature of their kings is shown. The kings had not sought God as protector or guide but the alliances they could make with other nations around about them. Israel had made an agreement with Assyria (2 Kings 17) but a little later he made another alliance against Assyria with Egypt (2 Kings 17.3-4) with the result that Assyria marched in and Israel ceased to exist as an independent kingdom. The word of their kings could not be trusted when it came to agreements, even if they had sworn the agreement on an oath – they were not to be trusted. The second half of verse 4 shows the poisonous result of their lying – lawsuits spring up just like weeds in a field. If you are a gardener you will know that some weeds are very persistent and spread under the soil without you seeing until they appear some day. Weeds have to be dug out at their roots if they are to be destroyed and if you do not keep constant watch over the ground they soon come back. It is the same with lies – the ground of our hearts and minds needs to constantly tended and a watch put on our lips that lies are not spoken and are not tolerated. If we do not check them, rip them out at the very root then they will spread and overrun our lives. How awful to be known as someone not to be believed, especially if you are supposed to be a follower of Christ.