Summary: God judges his people but in verse 14 promised redemption and the defeat of death/grave.
Where is your king?
When the Israelites came to cross the Jordan into the Promised Land two tribes, Gad and Reuben, asked if they could, as their inheritance, the land on the East of the Jordan. In response Moses said they could but that they had to cross the Jordan and fight with the other 10 tribes in securing the land of Cana. Moses added that if they did not cross the Jordan to fight: “You may be sure your sin will find you out” (Num.32.23). Sin always has a way of rising to the surface. Just when we think we are fine, upstanding and righteous something rises to the surface to reveal our wrongdoing and reveals how sinful we actually are. This is exactly where Israel (Ephraim) now stands as Hosea brings his prophecy to a close. King Hoshea, the last in a long line of ungodly and wicked kings, is on the throne but these are the last days of Israel as a nation. The Assyrians have laid siege to Samaria, and there is even a hint that they have already taken king Hoshea from the nation (verse 10).
Verses 1-3 The destiny of Ephraim outlined.
Verse 1 what a great nation they once were. When the nation of Ephraim spoke nations listened and trembled. They had authority and respect from the other tribes. However, those days are gone but Ephraim still clung to the past glories and lived in the past – and there is nothing but danger and death in doing that. Their mindset was of the past and not of the present reality around them and before them. God makes it clear that the reason for this change is because of the worship of Baal. In Deut.32.15-18 Moses spoke of just such a change happening because of the pride of the people. They were once great but now were facing captivity, slavery and death. Hosea does not mince his words – their idolatry has led to death – of both individuals and the nation. There is no life without God, only death.
Verse 2 Hosea tells them it is all because they had broken the first and second commandments – they worshiped other gods and made idols of wood and silver. They continually built sin upon sin until the stench of it reached the nostrils of God and God had enough of their sinful ways. That is a sorry picture painted here – sin being added to sin by the people of God. Amazingly they use their skills and craftsmanship to make graven images and even go as far as to offer human sacrifices before these images – aping the nations around them. These men bow down before these images and pour out the blood of another man, made in the image of God, and kiss these creations of their hands in homage and adoration. What an abomination before God. All this is in clear defiance of the commandments.
Verse 3 what a sorry picture is painted here of the people of Israel. They are so transitory, like the morning mist, like dew, like chaff before the wind and smoke escaping though a window. In essence God, through Hosea, tells them they will disappear as a people because of their idolatry. These idols that they have sacrificed to and kissed in homage will be powerless to help just as the morning mist can do nothing to protect itself against the heat of the sun. Their shallowness, the temporary nature of their gods and worship is seen in how easily it will all be swept away when God comes in judgment. Let me ask you, as Peter did, what will be shown of eternal value in your life when God comes in judgement.
Verses 4-8 The Power of God is displayed.
Verses 4-6 What a contrast the next 5 verses reveal to these people. God, is not transitory, nor is he temporary or impotent as their idols and idolatry is. Once again they are reminded of the power of God in bringing them out of the slavery of Egypt and of providing for them for 40years in the wilderness before they entered (and conquered) the Promised Land. Once more this retelling of the glorious redemption of the Exodus should have stirred them to repentance towards and faith in the living God. God had provided for all their needs and their response? Pride. They became a proud and arrogant people. They forgot God. They forgot God in the wilderness and they repeatedly forgot God during their time in the Promised Land. Do you forget about God? Are you swollen with self-pride and arrogance? The Israelites felt self-sufficient, self-made and self-secure. Why else would they fashion idols? Idols made in their own image and by their own hands. In their arrogance they were proclaiming their own strength but it was little more than mist and dew before the sun rose.