A Serious Disease

Hosea 7:1-16

Is a detail supplied at very beginning of book easy to overlook – look at Hos. 1:1 again: “The word of the LORD that came to Hosea, the son of Beeri, in the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah, and in the days of Jeroboam the son of Joash, king of Israel.” If you’re like most people, skip introduction, go right to chapter 1, want to get to good part of book. In case of Hosea there’s drama of first 3 chapters followed by 11 chapters of pretty dire proclamations. Can read start to finish in about 30 minutes – except for change in rhythm between chapter 3 and 4, nothing else to interrupt flow.

Look once more at first verse – 4 kings of Judah, 1 king of Israel cited there…total period of Jewish history covered at least 100 years. Jeroboam assumed throne of Israel around 793 BC, Hezekiah died in 687 BC. Not likely Hosea prophesied over entire duration. But… start near end of Jeroboam’s reign, 750 BC to beginning of Hezekiah’s, 715 BC, have an active period of at least 35 years. “The word of the Lord …came …in the days of” those kings. So, all we read in 30 minutes actually given to Hosea and then to people over course of 30 years!

May seem like lots of repetition, similar criticisms brought against Israel and Judah over and over. Hosea not a radio preacher, gave his prophetic message several times but to different audiences as he traveled around Israel. Makeup of his audience changed over time – old ones died, young ones grew up, repetition required for people to assimilate and master a concept. Then there’s sad reality – some in audience probably heard, really heard Hosea’s message from God but majority did not.

In spite of unresponsiveness, God continued over period of years to reach out to his people to draw away from objects of sinful desire and rebellion. Good lesson for us who live in culture devoted to instant gratification – genuine spiritual change rarely takes place instantly, when we pray for it. Here in text, God uses number of graphic illustrations to describe and explain condition of sinful nation. And, through it all, God weeps and pleads, desiring their love and loyalty.

A. a serious disease v.1-3

puts in mind of term new to English in 1970 – comorbidity; previous generations more focused on holistic medicine, treating whole person; more recently, focus on specialization, brings up queston: “How to wholly evaluate the state of a patient who suffers from a number of diseases simultaneously, where to start from and which disease(s) require(s) primary and subsequent treatment?” Wikipedia Their answer, comorbidity and different scales to assign value to conditions, come up with treatment plan

Israel in Hosea’s day, like many of our day, displaying multiple symptoms of disease – God, the Great Physician, has means to heal patient, notice how he does it:

first he uncovers all the symptoms: “when I want to heal them, it is necessary to uncover their iniquity and wickedness”

symptoms: practice fraud, steal, plunder, plot evil, lie, commit adultery, are drunkards and scoffers… to start with

practice then and now – treat all those things as diseases (or disorders), try to figure out how to treat individually and together

God’s practice: uncover / expose all these ailments as symptoms of the one underlying cause – corruption of sin

we who are God’s children, being renewed in our minds, must follow God’s example… think how he thinks, see beneath surface

both in own lives and interaction with others, gotta get past treating symptoms – pick whatever social/political/economic issue, most important thing to treat is spiritual need

principle holds true wherever the problem exists, w/o regard for any other conditions/circumstances; don’t be taken in by those who try to complicate things

B. a hot oven v.4-7

repeated imagery here of fire that never goes out, ready to burst into flame as soon as something stirs it – not a good thing, is a fire that causes trouble not good

is fire of sinful desires that breaks out in different ways – sexual immorality (4), pursuit of pleasure (often by means of substances) (5), personal advancement (6), lawlessness in all forms (7)

is fire that cannot be fully controlled or extinguished by human means – external controls effective only up to a point

common methods that attempt to address are some form of substitution: change definition of what is acceptable; use different language; substitute one form of dependence for another

only true solution – put fire out with blood of Christ, water of Spirit and Word; bring thoughts/desires under authority and control of Christ

C. an unturned cake v.8

probably referring to flat-bread baked on hot rocks – think of it like pancake left on grill w/o being turned: burned one side, doughy the other, unpalatable on both

no surprise: one ruled by passions doesn’t pay close attention to detail; by neglect becomes useless, waste of good resources

perhaps even worse: often one ruled by passion reaches point where proper reasoning no longer possible, are unable to take Yogi Berra’s advice – “when you come to a fork in the road, take it”… don’t just stand there undecided

additional factor in view here: relationship between Ephraim and surrounding nations, between God’s people and the world

situation where purity has become compromised, ingredients in cake off enough so even with proper attention won’t cook properly

only solution – full-hearted devotion to one master, Lord Jesus, followed by purifying from Spirit and Word

D. gray hairs v.9-10

signs were there but either overlooked, ignored or denied – gray hair, sign of approaching older age: think mostly of passing years

also clear sign of other things, too – yup, all those things that go along with gray hair: diminished strength, less acute sight / hearing, slowing thought processes, and more

in face of mounting evidence, refuses to acknowledge reality of what is taking place – still working to finish up bucket list, not looking good, stubbornly refuse to ask for help

is process that’s been going on for a while, One standing by obviously ready to help, continually being rejected

E. a silly dove v.11-12

dove had reputation for being simple-minded, easily frightened or deceived, not very discerning but easily misled

in Ephraim’s case, had turned away from the one who intended good for them, turned for help to those who intended harm

had some pride mixed in with it also (10a) – were confident they could play Assyria and Egypt against one another to their own advantage

were ultimately overthrown and deported to variety of places by Assyrians, 722 BC; would not have happened had they relied on God

true of many still enslaved in sin: self-identify as geniuses, thoroughly understanding and in control; reality is exact opposite, unwittingly walk right into traps

F. clueless v.13-14

did not realize or want to realize God was their only hope – blamed him for their troubles, didn’t see him as their solution

“Israel saw their problem, but not their sin. When God’s hand is against man, he easily sees he has a problem but often does not see it as sin against the Lord.” Guzik

is universal problem – man refuses to acknowledge sin against God, at same time will not cry out to God, seek his help

G. a treacherous bow v.14b-16

God was absolutely faithful to them, they were undependable in return – could not be counted on to do right thing at crunch time

true in many walks of life – person not guided by biblical principles often unpredictable: make decisions based on what appears expedient at the moment… and usually decisions have unintended/unexpected consequences

H. God’s position

so, where is God during all this? definitely not disinterested bystander, neither is he angry disciplinarian smacking all w/i reach – is going above and beyond to give opportunities for repentance and deliverance (Adam/Eve in Garden)

I would have healed v.1

exposed their sin, not solely to shame but also to show depth of need and his willingness / ability to supply genuine healing

none call upon me v.7, 14

cry out for help to numerous other possible deliverers… to no avail… while God stands in plain view prepared to act the moment they call on him

they do not return v.10

God has repeatedly provided for them, at times when deserved less than others – they knew what it meant to enjoy God’s pleasure, would not repent even though experiencing his displeasure

I will discipline v.12

significant choice of word here – chastise/discipline not destroy; even at this point in their rejection, God still working to change their destructive course, bring them back to him

I redeemed them v.13

“would redeem them…but” – desire is for their recovery, no pleasure in their destruction even when brought on themselves justly

I trained and strengthened v.15

God supplied needs even though they used those supplies to plot against him – devising ways to use his provision in ways that displeased him

they return… but not to Me v.16

God ready to receive all who turn to him in faith and repentance, instead they turn to gods of own making for their help

God not going about this in any half-hearted way; was fully devoted to seeing his genuinely return to him. Didn’t give up on them after 2 or 3 attempts, not even after 2 or 3 generations. Still pursued them, disciplined them, pleaded with them, doing all that was reasonable and more to persuade them. Our task then: follow Christ whole-heartedly, have same desire as him for the lost, don’t give up on them even when they turn against us, do all we can to persuade them to follow Christ. And of course, make sure we are on right terms with Christ; then, must know His Way and follow it ourselves.

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