Summary: Life offers many answers, but only one Answer. Hosea calls God’s people out for their lack of faithfulness to God’s Answer, and by implication, challenges us to faithfulness.
If you’re a fan of comedy movies like I am, the title of today’s sermon will ring a bell. The theme song of “Ghostbusters” went something like, “When there’s something weird in your neighborhood, who ya’ gonna’ call? Ghostbusters!” There was something about the idea of a S.W.A.T. team ready to deal with supernatural disturbances that was both ludicrous and kind of fun. It hinted at the idea that if there really was a clean-up squad for the frightening and unknown threats we face, maybe there could be some kind of problem-solving guerrillas to deal with problems we can see and face everyday.
Alas, Ghostbusters was fantasy. No matter how powerful the S.W.A.T. team of paranormal soldiers, they couldn’t really do anything about the enemies we face that are within us (our own rebellions, our own irresponsibility, and our own unconcern), much less the enemies who are outside us (hostility to God’s truth, self-centered individuals actively opposing us to build their personal wealth and empires, and even that pervasive evil we identify as the demonic which shows itself so often in hideous, horrifying, and horrendous crimes and atrocities). Nothing can rescue us from our own sin and those who set themselves against us except the power of God our Creator and Redeemer. Yet, sadly, even those of us who believe are probably more likely to call “Ghostbusters” than truly submit to Almighty God.
Hosea faced a similar situation. God wanted to redeem and reconcile Israel in the same way that Hosea had redeemed and reconciled Gomer as his wife. God wanted to be able to protect His people against the onslaught of Assyria in much the same way that He protected Judah against Sennacherib when he surrounded Jerusalem, only to be called away under mysterious circumstances just as victory was in his grasp. Yet, Israel (the northern kingdom) was flitting from alliance to alliance in hopes of finding help.
If you asked Israel who she was gonna’ call, it could have been their ill-fated smaller allies (Damascus with its on-again/off-again results, and Judah, but most likely would have been Assyria, Egypt, or both. In fact, BOTH Assyria and Egypt fit the context in verse 11. Let me share with you from my translation.
v. 11 And Ephraim has proceeded to become like a dove, simple without a mind. They cry out to Egypt. They go to Assyria.
God’s people in the northern kingdom were acting like a dove, quite senseless and flitting back and forth between Assyria and Egypt as their protector—in spite of the fact that Yahweh, God of Armies (“Lord of Hosts”) wanted to be their shield and defender. This is a powerful figure of speech. God’s people are so foolish that they don’t know when they are actually safe.
Now, some of you are asking, “Isn’t Hosea being a little hard on doves? After all, they’re beautiful birds and they’re always releasing them at weddings, funerals, and special events, why would Hosea call them silly or mindless?” Well, check this out. Did you know that they don’t really release doves at weddings and funerals? What they release are actually white homing pigeons, birds who are strong and have the intelligence and instinct to fly back to safety. White doves are a color variety of the Ringneck dove. They are smaller than the white pigeons and can’t fly very far. Further, they become easy prey for predators and they simply aren’t smart enough to forage for food on their own.
What an apt illustration for God’s people when they look past the divine solutions for their problems and needs in order to grasp at human solutions that may only provide stop-gap measures. How often do God’s people go charging off to plan, reorganize, and work in a panic instead of seeking God and God’s will so that they even knew what direction to “fly.” So, we go one way and when that doesn’t work, we go another way. We keep changing what we do so often that we are whipsawed by our own flitting from non-working solution or temporary solution to another. We end up with spiritual whiplash. We don’t know what to do because we have sought our version of Egypt or Assyria instead of God. Let’s read on!
v. 12 Just as they went (to Assyria) I will spread my net over their heads, like the birds of the heavens, I will cause them to come down. I will punish them like (I) heard concerning their evil.
v. 13 Woe to them BECAUSE they departed from me. Ruin to them BECAUSE they rebelled against me. And I, I was redeeming them but they told lies concerning me.
Now, you’re probably wondering why appealing to Assyria was perceived as such a bad thing. You may also be wondering why Assyria ended up being the instrument of punishment against Israel when Assyria was the one they called upon for help. Well, sometimes the very ones we turn to for help end up being disastrous. We need to be careful about where we seek help. In II Kings 15:17-22, we read where King Menahem paid tribute to Pul (King Tiglath-Pileser III of Assyria). This tribute is also recorded in the Assyrian annals. Now, it doesn’t sound so bad. It just sounds like a practical way of staving off war.