Summary: The sermon chronicles Ephraim’s (Israel) downward spiral and sets forth the love of God which reaches out to him.
Many here today have heard of the Darwin Awards. They are given to individuals who self-destruct in the most remarkable way.
Floyd Brown, age 42, wearing a ski-mask attempted to rob a Holiday Inn in Anchorage, Alaska. The problem was that there were 40 policemen who were in the lobby of the motel when he came in. They were there attending a law enforcement training conference which was advertised on the motel’s outdoor sign. He would certainly qualify for the Darwin Award.
The Bible records many who would qualify for the award. In fact one translation of Hosea 4:14 reads, "Yea, a people stupid and falling to ruin." Hosea stated the reason for the fall. He says,"My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge..." Hosea 4:6.
The Book of Hosea is a denunciation of the sins of Israel or the 10 Northern tribes.Throughout the book Israel is addressed as "Ephraim."
Ephraim was the second son of Joseph. In the settlement of Canaan he was given the central-most section of the land. Being the dominant tribe, Hosea chooses to direct the message of his prophecy to him.
After all, it was this powerful tribe who led Israel into the calf worship of Jeroboam and other idolatries.
We recall that Amos gave his message to Israel prior to Hosea’s ministry there. Amos began by denouncing other nations and then, finally, directs his words to the Northern Kingdom.
Hosea is more direct. There is no warm-up. He gets right to the point. And he does it by using some of the most poignant word pictures in all of the Bible.
First, he mentions a "backsliding heifer." "For Israel slideth back as a backsliding heifer." Hosea 4:16. Have you ever tried to work with a heifer? Is there any animal more refractory? Try to move the animal forward, and it wants to go backward.
A broken-hearted God says through his prophet, "And my people are bent to backsliding from me." Hosea 11:7
In 42 years of pastoring, I’ve observed that the more the family and the church combine their efforts to disciple some, the further people seem to go away from God. The "heifer" nature prevails.
Secondly, Hosea uses a burnt pancake. "Ephraim is a cake not turned." Hosea 7:8
Personally, I know that pancakes are best when they are done on both sides. All of us have experienced that proverbial phone call that took us away from the stove. We return to find that our pancake is charred on one side and soupy on the other.
We can be so strong in certain areas and be so weak in others. God wants our life to have balance and symmetry. No half-baked Christians please!
In one of my pastorates I had a young man who was a very talented singer. His grandfather was a dear man of our church whom I visited at a nursing home. It seemed that upon many of my visits the man would share with me what it would mean to him if his grandson, the singer, would come to see him. He never came. Needless to say, I didn’t allow the man to sing. If a man doesn’t care for his elderly sick grandparents, he has nothing I want to hear.I place a character above talent.
Thirdly, Israel is compared to a silly dove. "Ephraim also is like a silly dove without heart." Hosea 7:11. Of all of the little fowls of the air, none is more simple than the dove. They can easily fly right into the fowler’s net.
Mankind, that superior creature, has the same problem as they dove. He goes right into the traps of Satan fully knowing that he will pay. He does it with his eyes wide open and the trap fully in view.
I once observed a bird-banding operation in Gulf Shores, Alabama. The birds were caught in nets you could hardly see. That would be understandable. But the dove in this verse knew the consequences and still proceeded onward. Such is the silliness of sin.
Fourthly, Hosea depicts Israel as being an empty vine. "Israel is an empty vine, he bringeth forth fruit unto himself."
Ephraim was the epitome of selfishness. God was no longer front and center in his life. He could easily sing, "I did it my way."
We are warned of this lifestyle in the New Testament. II Timothy 3:2 states, "For men shall be lovers of their own selves." That seems to depict our American lifestyle very well. The basic question is, "What’s in it for me?"
Israel’s selfishness has led to their emptiness. It was a life of futility. And now Israel faces a God Who is calling for repentance.
God’s broken heart speaks in Hosea 11:8, "How shall I give thee up, Ephraim?" In other verses God has said that He was like a parent teaching their child to walk. He did that for Ephraim. Now Ephraim has broken God’s heart with his backsliding and God is making one final appeal though Hosea.