Summary: God’s judgment on unfaithfulness is unpalatable but we need to hear it.
I am sure we have all met people who always seem to look on the negative. Every time you meet them they have a tale of woe to tell you. No sooner have they recovered from one illness than they have a new illness to complain about. During world war II a man called Tommy Handley’s had a radio programme with a character whose catchphrase was “It’s being so cheerful as keeps me going.” The characters name? ‘Mona Lott.’ I am sure we have met such people. I pray we are not such people. Hosea 9 begins with the people of Israel planning to enjoy life. The harvest has been gathered in and it appears they, like the rich fool in Jesus’ parable, plan to sit back and enjoy the riches they have gained. However, along comes Hosea to basically tell them “the party is over.”
Verses 1-6 The party is over.
The harvest has been gathered in and it is plenteous. The people plan to enjoy the fruits of this harvest with a great festival until Hosea arrives. It appears that everyone has helped bring in the harvest and are now planning to relax and enjoy life. The reference in verse 1 to prostitutes refers to the immorality of such celebrations. Many of the men used the opportunity of the harvest festival to engage prostitutes and also to participate in fertility rites of the pagan god Baal. Hosea tells them not to rejoice or celebrate and in the second part of the verse he gives them the reason for this injunction from God – because you have been unfaithful to God. The people of God were never to give themselves to the immoral celebration of the pagan nations around them at the time of harvest. The Canaanites had been driven out of the promised land so that the people of God might possess it. Now the people of God had embraced the pagan deities and practices of the Canaanites and for that they would be punished. They were not to attribute the blessing of harvest to pagan fertility gods but to the true and living God who had brought them out of slavery from Egypt into freedom and blessing the land of promise.
The result (verses 2-6) is that God would turn from them and reject them. The people would eat unclean food (verse 3) and be unable to offer the required sacrifices to God (verse 4). Because of their unfaithfulness they would be unable to celebrate the appointed feasts (verse 5). In essence everything which marked them out as the people of God would be removed from them and they would become like the nations around them, because that is how they were behaving. To the people of God ‘religion’ had degenerated into festivals, stories, customs and taboos. It had become a good luck charm against trouble and their excitement was not in the worship of the living God but in the sensuality and immorality of the Canaanite worship. The result would be that they would lose their distinctiveness and be totally adrift in their sinfulness – verse 3. What an awful shock those words must have been to the people of God – you will no longer dwell in my land. They would no longer inhabit his land of promise and blessing. The land promised to them by God would be taken from them by God. In Deuteronomy 6.12-15 God had warned them not to follow the pagan ways of those around them when they entered the Promised Land but they had failed to heed the warning.
Friends listen again to those words from Deuteronomy 6.12-15. Now allow me to relate them to you this morning as a Christian believer. You have been brought out of the land of slavery to sin by Christ. You have been called to live a different life, a holy life. Why would you live as those who do not know or follow Christ? Heed the words of God spoken through Hosea in these first 6 verses. God will remove you from the land of promise if you continue to live as a citizen of slavery and not of heaven.
In verses 3-4 the dire nature of their situation is pictured. These people had eaten pagan food in their pagan celebrations but a time is coming when there would only be pagan food to eat because they would be slaves in a pagan land (Assyria) which would be similar to the experience their forefathers had in Egypt. Not only would they have to eat pagan food but they would be unable to celebrate any of the feasts appointed by God because they would be far from the Temple in Jerusalem and they would only have pagan food and non of the ceremonially clean food available to them. The ‘bread of mourners’ was not acceptable in offerings to God as it had been connected with the dead and as such was considered unclean. These people were viewed as such by God and the consequences of their present way of living would be alienation from and rejection by God which would lead to slavery both physical and spiritual. These people, who were meant to live in a land of promise and blessing, would instead live in a land of slavery and ultimately death. The land would be desolate and they would be buried in a land of slavery – like their forefathers. How quickly things can be reverses when people wander from God into the pagan ways around them – take heed.