COMMENTARY ON HOSEA
“ 5:12Therefore will I be unto Ephraim as a moth, and to the house of Judah as rottenness. 13 When Ephraim saw his sickness, and Judah saw his wound, then went Ephraim to the Assyrian, and sent to king Jareb: yet could he not heal you, nor cure you of your wound. 14 For I will be unto Ephraim as a lion, and as a young lion to the house of Judah: I, even I, will tear and go away; I will take away, and none shall rescue him. 15 I will go and return to my place, till they acknowledge their offence, and seek my face: in their affliction they will seek me early.” (Hosea 5:12-15)
God’s dealings with Israel are a spiritual prototype of His relations with a body of people who are identified with Him.In them we behold how He responds to the attitudes and manners of such a people. Men are prone to take a mere profession as the evidence of religious affiliation: i.e., “I am a Baptist, “I am a Presbyterian,” “I am a member of the Restoration Movement,” etc. God does not honor such affiliations in His Word or in His character. Unless God Himself has initiated the identity, it is of no value. Israel had fallen into the snare of maintaining a formal association with God, yet following their own ways, and being governed by their own preferences. Thus idolatry and all manner of corruption rose within their ranks. That corruption was the direct result of their hearts being turned away from the Lord, for deviate conduct is always the result of wayward hearts. No person who has been exposed to the blessing of God worships idols accidentally. Those among whom holy prophets have trafficked do not inadvertently forget the Law of God, neglect His ordinances, and give the credit for their prosperity to idols. Such things can only be done deliberately, and with great determination. Yet, Israel had done all of these things – and more. It should not surprise us, therefore, that God speaks so harshly to them, and engages in such aggressive opposition toward them. They had extended themselves to leave Him, now He will extend Himself to judge them. They will reap what they have sown.
WHEN GOD BECOMES AN ADVERSARY
“ 5:12 Therefore will I be unto Ephraim as a moth, and to the house of Judah as rottenness . . . 14 For I will be unto Ephraim as a lion, and as a young lion to the house of Judah: I, even I, will tear and go away; I will take away, and none shall rescue him.”
Israel’s waywardness has provoked the God of glory. They have imposed upon His longsuffering, and trifled with His goodness. Because He is holy, the Lord cannot pass over such wilful transgression. In spite of His warnings and pleadings, Israel has pressed on in their willingness to sin. Now, God’s countenance toward them will change.
GOD WILL BE AS A MOTH TO ISRAEL AND ROTTENNESS TO JUDAH. This is judgment of a different sort. It will not be a sudden deluge that will wash them away – like the flood of Noah’s day. It is not like a sudden and consuming fire – such as fell on Sodom. The moth consumes slowly and quietly, and is initially undetected. The prophets spoke of this kind of Divine judgment. “Behold, the Lord GOD will help me; who is he that shall condemn me? lo, they all shall wax old as a garment; the moth shall eat them up” (Isa 50:9). “For the moth shall eat them up like a garment, and the worm shall eat them like wool: but my righteousness shall be for ever, and my salvation from generation to generation”(Isa 51:8). In both of these texts, the reference is to the enemies of the people of God. God will consume them as a moth consumes a garment – slowly but surely. Now, the judgment intended for the enemies of God’s people will come upon the people themselves.
Rottenness has the same characteristic – it is not noticed as first, but slowly continues until destruction is realized. Isaiah spoke of Israel’s spiritual disintegration as “their root shall be as rottenness” (Isa 5:24). Whether by some form of fungus or a gnawing worm, the life of the root was gradually, not suddenly destroyed. So would Israel be judged.
When the fabric of spiritual life slowly falls apart, and little by little the heart is drawn away from the Lord, a Divine judgment is being experienced. Isaiah described this kind of judgment in vivid language. “But the word of the LORD was unto them precept upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little; that they might go, and fall backward, and be broken, and snared, and taken” (Isa 28:13). The idea is that within the framework of religion, they lost their connection with God! Paul referred to this as “Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away” (2 Tim 3:5). What happens is this: because an “evil heart of unbelief” enters into the people (Heb 3:12), a distance gradually forms between the people and God. From the human point of view, the people are departing (Heb 3:12), or drawing back (Heb 10:39). From the higher perspective, God Himself withdraws, leaving the people to their own devices (Psa 81:12; Acts 7:42). This is something that happens imperceptibly because sin hardens the heart and sears the conscience.
The notion that God is “always there, no matter what we do,” is not a proper representation of the case. There does come a time when He is NOT there, and men seek Him in vain. As it is written: “Then said Jesus again unto them, I go my way, and ye shall seek me, and shall die in your sins: whither I go, ye cannot come” (John 8:21). Such a condition comes upon a person slowly and imperceptibly. That is why it is imperative that God be sought “while He may be found” (Isa 55:6), or when the heart is aware of the need of Him.
GOD WILL BE AS A LION TO ISRAEL AND A YOUNG LION TO JUDAH. This is another type of judgment that will be brought upon Israel and Judah– one that is rapid and decisive. While the moth and rot gradually consume, the lion and young lion burst upon individually suddenly and without warning. However, this judgment was not to devour, but to severely wound. This is seen in the next expression.
The thought of God being as a lion toward His people ought to be a strong incentive to turn away from anything and everything that would provoke such a response.
TEARING AND GOING AWAY. The idea is that of wounding: “I will give him wounds and go away,” BBE “I will, attack and stride away.” TNK This is not a casual attack, for the word “tear” indicates sever wounding. This would be like the wounding of the man going down to Jericho, who was left “half dead” (Lk 10:30). Except in this case, none came to help – the Lord abandoned them in their wounded and helpless state. This is a judgement like the sending of fiery serpents among the people (Num 21:6), or a sudden pestilence that destroys seventy thousand men in a single day (2 Sam 24:15).
It is important to note that this type of judgment is not a first recourse for the Lord. He does desire to show mercy (Hos 6:6; Matt 9:13). Yet, when those who wear His name do not respond to His gracious overtures, judgment will begin at the house of God.
THE WRONG PHYSICIANS
“ 5:13 When Ephraim saw his sickness, and Judah saw his wound, then went Ephraim to the Assyrian, and sent to king Jareb: yet could he not heal you, nor cure you of your wound.”
Here is a most tragic word. It reveals what sin does to the heart of a people. Thinking becomes distorted when people give themselves to sin. Even though remarkable Divine benefits may have been experienced in the past, yet iniquity causes them all to be forgotten. In such a case, the people begin to live just as though there was no God.
WHEN SICKNESS AND WOUNDING WERE SEEN. The “sickness” and the “wound” were the result of God becoming as a “moth” and “rottenness” to Israel and Judah. They saw a deterioration taking place, but were not able to associate it with the God they professed to know. Their lives were gradually falling apart. They were obviously not in an ideal situation. They were like a crippled person who could not move about very well. They knew they were deficient, yet were unable to see it was the fruit of their own doing.
When the Lord says His people saw their sickness and wound, He does not mean they saw their condition insightfully. They saw they were deficient, but they did not see why the condition existed. They could not see the connection between their condition and their ways or manners – between their circumstances and their heart. They knew something was wrong, but they could not identify what it was or how it could be cured. Sin had blinded their eyes. To be more precise, it had moved the Lord to pour a spirit of deep sleep upon them, closing their moral and spiritual eyes (Isa 29:10).
Remember, their sickness and their wound had come from God – yet they did not know it. Like Samson, they “wist not that the Lord has departed from him” (Judges 16:20). I am persuaded there are multitudes of professing Christians who, because of their slovenly spiritual manners, are experiencing the very same things. Their spiritual power is gone. Their prayers are powerless. Their understanding is unfruitful. Their joy and peace have flown away. As in the case of Israel, what they do under this circumstance will determine whether or not they will be profited from it.
THEY WENT TO THE WRONG ONES. Upon seeing their deficiency, Israel went to “the Assyrian” for help, and Judah went to “king Jareb.” Later Hosea says such actions were like that of a “silly dove” (7:11). Hosea also tells us Israel even made “a covenant with the Assyrians” (12:1). However, it was all to no avail.
“Jareb” is a symbolic name for Assyria, or its king, being used one other time in Scripture (Hos 10:16). There was a time when Ahaz, king of Judah, sent to Tiglathpilnezer king of Assyria, to help them when the Lord “brought Judah low” (2 Chron 28:19-20). As this very text will state, that help was not realized. The record in the Chronicles says that Tiglathpilnezer did come unto Ahaz, “and distressed him, but strengthened him not.”
It is a sin of the greatest magnitude when the people of God do not seek help fromHim, but from others. “Woe to them that go down to Egypt for help; and stay on horses, and trust in chariots, because they are many; and in horsemen, because they are very strong; but they look not unto the Holy One of Israel, neither seek the LORD!” (Isa 31:1). God speaks against those who “take counsel,” but not from Him (Isa 30:1).
THEY COULD NOT HEAL THEM. “ . . . yet could he not heal you, nor cure you of your wound.” The ones from whom Israel and Judah sought help were “unable” NASB to heal or cure them. The wounds delivered by God cannot be healed by man. God has revealed, “I wound, and I heal” (Deut 32:39). When the Lord chastens, comfort cannot be received from the world! Through Jeremiah God spoke of this kind of circumstance. “Why criest thou for thine affliction? thy sorrow is incurable for the multitude of thine iniquity: because thy sins were increased, I have done these things unto thee” (Jer 30:15).
If the people of God do not turn to Him, they will not receive help from others. Like the woman with the issue of blood, it is possible to waste your substance seeking help from others and “be nothing bettered, but rather grow worse” (Mk 5:26). Vast multitudes of professing Christians are seeking counsel from men, yet growing worse. They are trying to find help apart from Christ, and thus their situation is only aggravated the more. All of this is the Lord’s doing. It is the result of His judgment. It is He that has made the help of others useless. Isaiah’s words are still true, “should not a people seek unto their God?” (Isa 8:19).
God will not allow His people to find satisfactory resolutions from other resources. You will remember that when Paul was given a thorn in the flesh, he sought for relief from the Lord. He did not receive the relief requested, but he did receive grace that enabled him to live with that thorn. Israel did not do this, and thus received no help at all.
ABANDONED UNTIL ACKNOWLEDGMENT
“ 5:14 I will go and return to My place, till they acknowledge their offence, and seek My face: in their affliction they will seek Me early.”
Here is an inspired utterance that is unusually sobering. It speaks of Divine withdrawal – of God leaving a people to, so to speak, stew in their own juice. This is not like God hiding Himself, remaining in the background, yet upholding the suffering one as He did with Job (Isa 45:15; Job 13:24). The hiding of our text is chastening rather than testing, as in the case of Job.
I WILL GO. Other versions read, “I will go away,” NASB and “I will go back.” NIV This speaks of the withdrawal of all tokens of the Lord’s presence. At first, this may seem to contradict the promise made to Israel in the beginning: “He will not fail thee nor forsake thee” (Deut 31:6). However, that presence related to Israel’s faithfulness to possess the promised land. Rather than protecting the wayward people, the Lord “afterward destroyed them that believed not” (Jude 1:5). Such a promise was never intended for the unfaithful.
This word may also seem to belie the psalm of David, in which he states he cannot get away from the presence of the Lord (Psa 139:7). However, David is speaking of man getting away from God, not God going away from man.
The truth of the matter is that there is a moral and spiritual condition from which God Himself will withdraw. This is the opposite of going before the people, making the crooked places straight, and breaking in pieces withholding gates of brass (Isa 45:2). Once God was viewed as “the Breaker,” going before Israel and crushing their enemies. He was also their “Rereward” (Isa 52:12), following close behind them for protection and help. But when God says, “I will go,” all of those benefits are brought to an abrupt halt. The presence of the Lord is never promised to the unfaithful, and woe to those who suggest it is!
I WILL RETURN TO MY PLACE. This same type of language is used by Isaiah. It speaks of God withdrawing from the place His people occupy, and residing where they do not care to be. “I will take My rest, and I will consider in My dwelling place like a clear heat upon herbs, and like a cloud of dew in the heat of harvest” (Isa 18:4). This is equivalent to God holding His peace (Psa 39:12), and not hearing the people (Isa 1:15).
UNTIL THEY ACKNOWLEDGE THEIR OFFENCE. God does not take pleasure in “the death of the wicked” (Ezek 33:11). Therefore He waits until they “acknowledge their offence,” or “admit their guilt.” NIV Early in their history – before they entered the promised land – God told the people if they would “confess” their iniquity, He would “remember” His covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Lev 26:40-42). Hear the Lord plead with the sinners in Zion: “Only acknowledge thine iniquity, that thou hast transgressed against the LORD thy God, and hast scattered thy ways to the strangers under every green tree, and ye have not obeyed my voice, saith the LORD” (Jer 3:13). When sin is committed, it is God’s nature to demand that an acknowledgment be made of it. Eventually, all sin will be acknowledged before Him.
Note that sin is an “offence” to the Lord. That is, it is offensive and a violation of both His character and will. David “acknowledged” his offence when he prayed, “Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in Thy sight: that Thou mightest be justified when Thou speakest, and be clear when Thou judgest” (Psa 51:4).
The necessity of confessing is still a requirement for forgiveness. Those in Christ Jesus are told, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).
UNTIL THEY SEEK MY FACE. It is assumed that seeking the face of God involves the confessing of their sin. By so doing, they are seeking the presence of the Lord, His blessing, and His care. Those who dabble with sin are not to assume the face of the Lord is upon them for good. It is not. Following the dedication of the Temple, God told Solomon He would hear the people from heaven, forgive their sin, and heal their land IF they would “seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways” (2 Chron 7:14). The Spirit admonishes us to “seek His face continually” (1 Chron 16:11), and “seek His face evermore” (Psa 105:4). It is to be understood that such seeking is not possible until sin has been renounced and acknowledged, and a recovery from it is earnestly sought. Indulgence in sin causes people to cease to seek the Lord.
SEEKING GOD EARLY. Other versions read, “they will earnestly seek Me.” NASB The idea is that the distress caused by God withdrawing Himself will be so intense, they will waste no time in seeking the Lord’s face – they will seek Him immediately. This is the reasoning behind delivering profound transgressors in the church over to the devil “for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus” (1 Cor 5:5). The distress realized when God withdraws from a soul can induce an aggressive return to Him.