COMMENTARY ON HOSEA
“ 5:4 They will not frame their doings to turn unto their God: for the spirit of whoredoms is in the midst of them, and they have not known the LORD. 5 And the pride of Israel doth testify to his face: therefore shall Israel and Ephraim fall in their iniquity; Judah also shall fall with them. 6 They shall go with their flocks and with their herds to seek the LORD; but they shall not find Him; He hath withdrawn Himself from them. 7 They have dealt treacherously against the LORD: for they have begotten strange children: now shall a month devour them with their portions.” (Hosea 5:4-7)
This passage is one that is difficult to teach. This is because of its strong and extended statements concerning the transgression of Israel. However, Israel is an example for the church, and is so declared (1 Cor 10:11). Even though salvation raises men out of the quagmire of sin, freeing them from bondage, and setting them in the heavenly places, yet it does not leave them in a moral vacuum. There remain evil influences all about the believers. They are used by Satan to draw them into the flesh, where what happened to Israel can also happen to the person who was once delivered from sin. That is why this text is so important. It reveals to us precisely how God views sin – and that view has not changed. If sin is flaunted in the face of God, He will react exactly as He did during the time of Hosea’s prophecy. In fact, because sin has been taken away and liberty is now granted, His response will be with less longsuffering than was exhibited toward Israel. For this reason, this passage is particularly relevant to us. The secret to obtaining edification and blessing from it is to see the nature of God, not allowing our vision to stop with the consideration of wayward Israel. Some of the language of our text is found in the Gospels.
THEY REFUSED TO CHANGE
“ 5:4 They will not frame their doings to turn unto their God: for the spirit of whoredoms is in the midst of them, and they have not known the LORD. 5 And the pride of Israel doth testify to his face: therefore shall Israel and Ephraim fall in their iniquity; Judah also shall fall with them.”
It is critical that we note the language the Lord employs to describe Israel’s situation. This is how God speaks about those who wear His name, yet do not walk with Him. His nature has not changed. Now, in this day of salvation, the problem is compounded if sin is found among His people. If, when fewer resources were available to men, God spoke so harshly against sin, what will He do now that He has remitted sins, provided an Intercessor, and given the gift of the Holy Spirit?
THEY WILL NOT FRAME THEIR DOINGS. Other versions read, “They will not direct their deeds toward turning to the Lord,” NKJV “Their deeds will not allow them to return to their God,” NASB and “Their deeds do not permit them to return to their God.” NIV
There is a direct correlation between what the people of God DO and their ability to return to God. Men cannot simply come to God by an act of their will – any time, and under any conditions. This passage will clarify that reality, which is little known within the church culture of our day. Returning to the Lord must be preceded by some alteration of conduct. This is related to bringing forth “fruits meet for repentance” (Matt 3:8). This has largely to do with turning away from former manners and all things that tend to dull one’s sensitivity toward the Lord. If those who wear the name of the Lord insist upon indulging their minds and members in things that make the Lord unimportant to them, it is not likely that they will be rescued from their sin.
We have no example of a person turning to God while involved in willful sin. The prodigal did not resolve to return to his father’s house until he was finished with his riotous living. Saul of Tarsus thought he was serving God, when Jesus struck him down, bringing an end to his persecution of the church.
Israel refused to DO things that made them conscious of God, and aware of the evils of idolatry. For this reason, they were rendered incapable of returning to the Lord. There was a direct correlation between what they were doing, and them not returning to God. Their very deeds would not allow them to return to God. They closed the entrance to Him.
THE SPIRIT OF WHOREDOMS. Other versions read “the spirit of harlotry,” NKJV and “the spirit of prostitution.” NIV That is, they were morally animated by a spirit of unfaithfulness. In other words, they were the slaves of sin. They were dominated by a spirit that was not from God. They were not ashamed of their sin, and thus made no effort to return to the Lord. Jesus said, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin” (John 8:34). That is when the “spirit of whoredoms” rules uncontested.
Those who flirt with sin must be told that sin will dominate them if they do not turn from it. This is why we are told, “But exhort one another daily, while it is called To day; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin” (Heb 3:13).
The phrase “in the midst of them” means that the “spirit of whoredoms” was within them. It was a fundamental part of their nature, and was in their hearts.
THEY HAVE NOT KNOWN. Other versions read, “do not know the Lord,” NKJV and “do not acknowledge the Lord.” NIV The idea here is that they deliberately forgot the Lord, who had revealed Himself to them in the Law, and through Divine provisions as well. Therefore, they had no desire to return to Him, and were content to remain in their sinful ways. No one “knows the Lord” who continues to live in sin. If such a person professes to know God, they have lied. Is it not written, “If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth”(1 John 1:6). And again, “He that saith, I know Him, and keepeth not His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him” (1 John 2:4).
THE PRIDE OF ISRAEL. The idea is that Israel’s arrogance testified against them, negating any profession they made concerning knowing God. Their pride, or arrogance, was revealed in their determination to continue sinning. They were in God’s court, and that pride rose up to testify against them.
FALLING IN INIQUITY. Unless men turn from iniquity, it will result in a fall – a fall from God, His favor, and His blessing. Further, the fall will occur IN the iniquity – like Pharaoh and his armies fell while pursuing Israel (Ex 15:1). Judas, Ananias, and Sapphira fell “in their iniquity” (Acts 1:25; 5:1-10), as well as many transgressors in Corinth (1 Cor 11:30). Because of their sin, they fell into the hands of the Living God (Heb 10:31).
WHEN GOD CANNOT BE FOUND
“ 5:6 They shall go with their flocks and with their herds to seek the LORD; but they shall not find Him; He hath withdrawn Himself from them.”
Here is a most awesome word. It is intended to promote great sobriety among those who claim identity with the Lord.
THEY WILL GO TO SEEK. The idea is that Israel will try to prevent their fall by bringing numerous and costly sacrifices to God. They would engage in an extensive effort to “seek the Lord” – to come into His favor, and thus prevent themselves from falling into His judgment. Repentance, however, was not their motivation. Rather, it was the avoidance of Divine judgment. They would try and make peace with God. They would make an effort to induce Him to be gracious toward them. It will appear on the surface as though they have seen the error of their ways, and are thus “framing their doings to turn unto their God.” We will see, however, that this was not the case. They are not returning with “their whole heart,” and thus they will not find God. As it is written, “And ye shall seek Me, and find Me, when ye shall search for Me with all your heart” (Jer 29:13).
THEY WILL NOT FIND HIM. Here the Lord is sought, but not found. It is not that God had no desire for His people to return to Him. He had sent prophets to them to plead with them, doing so “early” and with great frequency (Jer 7:25; 25:4; 26:5). But, alas, God lamented, “they have not hearkened to My words, saith the LORD, which I sent unto them by My servants the prophets, rising up early and sending them; but ye would not hear, saith the LORD” (Jer 29:19). Consequently, their hearts grew harder and sin gained more control over them. Now their motives are not pure, for they have lost a sense of what God is really like. They did not know what Micah declared: “Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, or with ten thousands of rivers of oil? shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?” (Micah 6:7). God wanted the people, not their sacrifices! In fact, when their hearts were impure, their sacrifices were converted into an abomination. As it is written, “The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the LORD” (Prov 15:8; 21:27). The fearful words of Amos applied to them: “Though ye offer Me burnt offerings and your meat offerings, I will not accept them: neither will I regard the peace offerings of your fat beasts” (Amos 5:22). The Lord chided Israel for their sacrifices. “To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices unto me? saith the LORD: I am full of the burnt offerings of rams, and the fat of fed beasts; and I delight not in the blood of bullocks, or of lambs, or of he goats” (Isa 1:11).
The Lord Jesus Himself used the words of this text to describe the generation that rejected Him. “Ye shall seek Me, and shall not find Me: and where I am, thither ye cannot come” (John 7:34). Again He said, “I go My way, and ye shall seek Me, and shall die in your sins: whither I go, ye cannot come” (John 8:21). When Jesus went back to heaven, He became more accessible to believers than He ever was before. However, for those with hard and calloused hearts, He became totally inaccessible, and thus they would die in their sins, deriving no benefit from His presence or His death. These are solemn words, indeed!
There is a Divinely appointed window during which the Lord can be sought. Scripture refers to this as the time “while He may be found” (Isa 55:6). It is of sufficient duration to allow access for every humble and contrite heart. No person who seeks the Lord with their whole heart will be turned away. However, that window will also close at the appointed time. Thus Jesus said, “Strive to enter in at the strait gate: for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able” (Luke 13:24). For the Israel of Hosea’s day, the window of opportunity had been closed.
Men must know that those who attempt to seek the Lord through empty and heartless procedure are wasting their time. Trying to do what God commands while dominated by an impure and unfaithful heart is an exercise in vanity.
HE HAS WITHDRAWN HIMSELF. This is a further explanation of why Israel would not find the Lord, even though they sought Him with a multitude of sacrifices: “He has withdrawn Himself from them.” NIV Something of the Divine nature is seen in this text. Those who teach that God is with us “no matter what we do,” have not told the truth. When men’s “doings” are consistently pointed in the wrong direction, God will leave them to fend for themselves. He separates Himself from the impure now, and will do so eternally when Jesus comes again (2 Thess 1:9). The knowledge of this Divine propensity is a most excellent incentive to “cleanse” our hands and “purify” our hearts (James 4:8). The separation between God and man that sin creates is very real (Isa 59:2).
DEALING TREACHEROUSLY AGAINST GOD
“ 5:7 They have dealt treacherously against the LORD: for they have begotten strange children: now shall a month devour them with their portions.” The language is unusually strong because sin is unusually serious. With God, sin is not just deviate behavior among men. It is a matter of insolence against Himself. Thus, when diagnosing the fallen condition of the Gentiles, the Lord said it was because they “did not like to retain God in their knowledge” (Rom 1:28). They “changed” His glory into an image of corruptible things (Rom 1:23), and “changed the truth of God into a lie” (Rom 1:25). Now He assesses the sin of Israel, tracing it back to how they were actually treating Him.
DEALING TREACHEROUSLY AGAINST THE LORD. Other versions read, “They are unfaithful to Me,” NIV “They have dealt faithlessly with Me,” NRSV “they have forsaken the Lord,” Septuagint and “they have been untrue to the Lord.” NAB
The word “treacherously” means deceitfully, offensively, and unfaithfully. STRONG’S It is particularly applicable to those who are married, as Jeremiah declares. “Surely as a wife treacherously departeth from her husband, so have ye dealt treacherously with me, O house of Israel, saith the LORD” (Jer 3:20). To deal treacherously with the Lord is have a formal association with Him, yet be untrue to Him. It is to claim close relationship with Him, yet give oneself to others.
This is an act that is “against” the Lord – an initiative that involves more than giving one’s heart to someone else. It is not merely a matter of neglecting the Lord, but engaging in conduct that is “against” Him. Elsewhere Jeremiah says, “For the house of Israel and the house of Judah have dealt very treacherously against Me, saith the LORD” (Jer 5:11). While the conduct in question may have appeared as though it was giving one’s love to someone else, it was actually taking it away from the Lord! When glory is given to other gods and things, it is considered taking it away from the Lord, to whom, it rightfully belongs.
BEGETTING STRANGE CHILDREN. Other versions read, “pagan children,” NKJV “illegitimate children,” NASB “alien children,” NRSV “fathered bastards,” NJB and “children that aren’t His.” NLT The idea here is that Israel had so corrupted their way that hope had even been taken from their offspring. One generation can impact upon another! At Mount Sinai, God told the people not to bow themselves down to, or serve, “other gods.” The reason for this prohibition was twofold. First, God was jealous. Second, succeeding generations would suffer. “Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate Me” (Ex 20:5). In His grace, He did not totally abandon Israel, but many generations of them have not known Him!
This is one of the penalties for departing from God that is not often declared to this generation. When those professing identity with the Lord really do not know Him, and give their hearts to other things, they are leaving a dreadful legacy to succeeding generations. Those who are begotten by a spiritually sterile generation are not sons of God at all. They are a generation of “strange children.” It is even more true in the church than it was in Israel. That is why the false church is called “MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH” (Rev 17:5). It is why those who profess faith in God, who are actually friends of this world, are referred to as “adulterers and adulteresses” (James 4:4). False teachers within the church are actually “spots in your feasts of charity . . . clouds they are without water, carried about of winds; trees whose fruit withereth, without fruit, twice dead, plucked up by the roots” (Jude 1:12). That is a most vivid depiction of “strange children.”
DEVOURED IN THEIR LAND. Other versions read, “Now a New Moon will devour them and their heritage.” NKJV/NASB/NIV The expression “new moon” signified the beginning of a new month. The words “now shall a month devour” mean that within a month, or the period of a new moon, the people and their possessions would be devoured, or destroyed. In other words, there would be no advantage to having possessions, regardless of their seeming greatness. Nothing would be able to deliver them from the hand of the Lord. A “month” passes noticeably and quickly. The full moon marks its beginning, and it perceptibly declines until the “new moon” again appears in its fulness. Thus Israel would be quickly and forthrightly judged. All that they had would be taken from them in a short period of time. Earlier Hosea referred to this judgment in these words: “Therefore will I return, and take away MY corn in the time thereof, and MY wine in the season thereof, and will recover MY wool and MY flax given to cover her nakedness” (Hosea 2:9).