Over and over, Hosea repeats the same theme: Israel has broken the covenant, therefore, judgment is coming. It’s the same message, but voiced in different ways. Throughout our journey through this amazing book, we found various reasons why God had a contention with His beloved people. Now, as we enter chapter ten, we find yet another reason for God’s impending judgment.
Because of our nation’s history and beginnings, rebels seem to hold a special place in the heart of Americans. We tend to idolize and respect those who have the audacity to break the mold, go against the norm, and march to the beat of their own drum. However, throughout the Bible and human history rebellion has never been a good thing. It has only caused hardship, war, and misfortune. In fact, it was Lucifer’s decision to rebel against God’s order that caused him and his cohorts to be cast out of heaven. Then Adam and Eve’s desire to become like God in knowing good and evil led them to disobey God’s command and rebel against their Creator. Thus, sin and death entered the world.
“Ephraim’s glory shall fly away like a bird.”
As I sat outside on a beautiful summer morning and pondered this verse, a lovely hummingbird (pictured above) came zooming in to have some breakfast at a nearby flower. After watching it for a few minutes, it zoomed away again in search of more sweet nectar. As I watched it fly off to the next flower across the yard, this warning from Hosea 9 came to life.
Israel spurned the good, built their own kingdom of princes and politics, and became a useless vessel. They no longer trusted and relied upon the LORD to see them through the difficult times but ran off to Assyria for help and hired allies. They made foolish decisions and trusted in human strength all because of one thing: they had willfully forgotten their Maker.
Throughout Scripture the image of a vessel is used symbolically and metaphorically. It denotes a thing of utility, and a good vessel is the masterpiece of an expert potter. In the New Testament, we are called jars of clay or earthen vessels which house the Spirit of the living God, making us valuable and ones for honorable use. However, Israel is called the complete opposite.
“Israel is swallowed up; already they are among the nations as a useless vessel.”
Have you seen the toddler who breaks down in full out sobs, cries, and screaming? Maybe you’ve seen it while providing childcare or babysitting or while shopping in the grocery store. No matter where it happens or what the cause, we generally call these irrational fits of rage meltdowns. Although toddlers and children are the age category we generally associate these vivid displays of displeasure, adults can have them too.
We just are not so obvious or public about them. We generally keep our meltdowns between us and God or any other individual that may be involved, but we rarely do it in public. We prefer to keep up the appearance of calm and easy-going behavior and leave our bitter anger for the person(s) we felt offended us. Can you relate?
Don’t worry! You’re not the only adult, young adult, or teenager who’s experienced a meltdown. Israel had one too. A big one. And one against God. So it was no small matter!
All of Israel’s sin and problems can be boiled down and pinned to one character flaw: pride. It is a root of all kinds of evil. From it grows and branches off every sin imaginable under heaven. It is what caused the first woman to be tempted by the serpent, what prompted Lucifer’s rebellion and subsequent fall from heaven, and what continues to keep broken and sinful people away from the loving, gracious God.
God is omniscient. He sees and knows everything. Nothing is hidden from His penetrating eye and His memory is infallible. Though heaven and earth will pass away, He does and will not forget. Therefore, God’s omniscience is kind of scary to contemplate. The fact that God sees both our good deeds and bad and will remember them through eternity is a sobering thought, and one that most people refuse to entertain.
Above all else, God desires sincere and pure devotion. He wants steadfast love rather than sacrifice, relationship over meaningless offerings. He created man for fellowship. This is God’s heart, His purposes, and His chief desire as we explored on Wednesday in Hosea 6:6. But this was not Israel’s attitude towards God. This was not the kind of relationship she had with her Creator.
Why? Because she broke her sacred covenant with God. She followed in the footsteps of Adam and became a transgressor. She dealt faithlessly with her eternal Love.
Dew like love, insincere confessions, spiritual adultery, love for raisin cakes, hard-hearted stubbornness. Israel was missing the mark quite a bit in her attempts to pursue pleasure and vain glory while also trying to retain God’s blessing and favor. She wanted to appease her sinful desires while also claiming the promises of God.
So she voiced insincere confessions, she continued ritualistic sacrifices, and she sought to keep the outward appearance of the Law. But it wasn’t enough. It wasn’t what God wanted.