COMMENTARY ON HOSEA
LESSON NUMBER 33
“ 8:1 Set the trumpet to thy mouth. He shall come as an eagle against the house of the LORD, because they have transgressed My covenant, and trespassed against My law. 2 Israel shall cry unto me, My God, we know thee. 3 Israel hath cast off the thing that is good: the enemy shall pursue him.” (Hosea 8:1-3)
Israel’s condition has deteriorated in spite of the unusually lengthy longsuffering of God. For example, the Babylonian captivity was preceded by four hundred and ninety years of Divine forbearance, during which the Israelites did not honor the land Sabbaths (2 Chron 36:21). Over one hundred years after Hosea began his prophetic work, Jeremiah reminded the people that God had faithfully sent His prophets to them, warning them and calling them back to Himself. “Since the day that your fathers came forth out of the land of Egypt unto this day I have even sent unto you all my servants the prophets, daily rising up early and sending them” (Jer 7:25). Hosea’s ministry alone extended over a period of nearly seventy years. From Joel and Amos through Malachi was a period of over four hundred years of longsuffering. While it is true that God’s “forbearance” and “longsuffering” are classified as “riches” (Rom 2:4), and confirm that He is “not willing that any should perish” (2 Pet 3:9), yet it does have an end. It is said of the time of Noah, “the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah.” However, it was “while the ark was preparing,” more allowing Noah to complete his work than waiting for the world to repent.
What we have in Hosea is the Divine explanation for imminent judgment against the kingdom of Israel. God had, indeed, been longsuffering, yet Israel had remained obstinate against Him. Among other things, this confirms at least two realities. First, the flesh is not capable of consistently serving the Lord, nor can Law make it do so. Second, God is completely intolerant of sin, even when men do not have a nature to cease from doing it. For many, this is confusing. For others, it confirms the necessity of the new birth.
HE SHALL COME AGAINST THE HOUSE OF THE LORD
“ 8:1 Set the trumpet to thy mouth. He shall come as an eagle against the house of the LORD, because they have transgressed My covenant, and trespassed against My law.” Now the Lord calls Hosea to work aggressively with Him. He must sound the alarm, for the Lord is about to move against His people. Herein we see the nature of the Lord. Although the people are richly deserving of His judgment, yet He is forward to warn them, alert them, and provide a space for them to repent. While no one can exploit such mercy, it is refreshing to the humble and contrite heart to know this is the Lord’s manner.
SET THE TRUMPET. Other versions read, “Put the trumpet to your lips.” NKJV/NASB The idea is, prepare to sound the alarm. The thought of a warning trumpet is not common in our society, but it was well known in the time of Hosea. This was a function fulfilled by the watchman. From his lofty post, when he saw an approaching enemy, he sounded the trumpet of warning, alerting the people. The Lord spoke of this responsibility to Ezekiel. “When I bring the sword upon a land, if the people of the land take a man of their coasts, and set him for their watchman: If when he seeth the sword come upon the land, he blow the trumpet, and warn the people; Then whosoever heareth the sound of the trumpet, and taketh not warning; if the sword come, and take him away, his blood shall be upon his own head. He heard the sound of the trumpet, and took not warning; his blood shall be upon him. But he that taketh warning shall deliver his soul”(Ezek 33:2-5).
The sounding of the trumpet, therefore, provided a Divinely appointed window during which escape was possible. It allowed for the remnant to be delivered. Hosea has used this figure before, warning the people of impending judgment, and thus alerting the remnant (5:8). Isaiah spoke similarly. “All ye inhabitants of the world, and dwellers on the earth, see ye, when he lifteth up an ensign on the mountains; and when He bloweth a trumpet, hear ye” (Isa 18:3). The figure was also used when announcing Israel’s sins to them, providing space to repent: “Cry aloud, spare not, lift up thy voice like a trumpet, and show My people their transgression, and the house of Jacob their sins” (Isa 58:1).
AS AN EAGLE. The picture is that of an eagle circling its prey, or even a vulture encircling a carcass. Thus the NRSV reads, “One like a vulture is over the house of God.” The “house of God,” intended as a place of blessing and holy remembrances, had become like a dead carcass, hollow and without any value. Before they entered the promised land, Moses told the people of this kind of judgment. If they did not “serve the Lord with joyfulness, and with gladness of heart,” the Lord would “bring a nation against thee from far, from the end of the earth, as swift as the eagle flieth” (Deut 28:49). Malachi also warned the people the Lord would bring “a swift witness against” the sinners among them (Mal 3:5).
Men may be able to endure lifeless and meaningless religion, but God cannot. Judgment “begins at the house of God” (1 Pet 4:17). The scrutinizing eye of the Living God will not long abide lifelessness and corruption among His people. As an eagle He will come swiftly upon them. As it is written, “For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them” (1 Thess 5:3). Ultimately, that will occur when Jesus returns in all of His glory. Until then, it occurs in various forms of chastening.
TRANSGRESSED MY COVENANT. The words “transgressed My covenant” mean they had “broken” God’s covenant. Here the idea is not merely that they failed to obey certain commandments, but that they severed the effectiveness of the covenant – they “broke” it. The Spirit also draws attention to this in Jeremiah: “My covenant they brake” (Jer 31:32). The book of Hebrews says, “they continued not in My covenant” (Heb 8:9). It was not their covenant, but God’s. By refusing to honor it, they voided the blessing of it. Those, therefore, who imagine that God will continue to bless people even though they do not avail themselves of what He offers, could not possibly be more wrong. When the Scriptures say, “If we believe not, yet He abideth faithful: He cannot deny Himself” (2 Tim 2:13), they do not mean He will continue to shower the benefits of Christ upon those who “believe not.” That would make Him unfaithful, not faithful. He cannot be neutral toward iniquity.
TRESPASSED AGAINST MY LAW. To “trespass against” God’s Law is to rebel against it. NKJV Technically, it means to pass over, or ignore, God’s Law, treating it as though it did not even exist. Men are prone to call that “ignorance,” but it is viewed as trespass and rebellion in heaven! The attitude is described more fully in the twelfth verse of this chapiter: “I have written to him the great things of My law, but they were counted as a strange thing” (Hosea 8:12). This, then, depicts an attitude toward God’s Law – an attitude that begets transgression and ultimate indifference toward the Lord.
A PRETENTIOUS CRY
“ 2 Israel shall cry unto me, My God, we know thee.” Other versions read, “My God, we know You!,” NKJV “My God, we of Israel know Thee,” NASB “O our God, we acknowledge You,” NIV “O my God, we are devoted to you,” TNK and “Help us, for You are our God.” NLT
This is the response Israel would give when Hosea blew the prophetic trumpet against them. They would profess that they knew the Lord, and were His people. He had called them, delivered them, and given them many benefits. He was, they would say, their God. But the cry was pretentious, for God is telling them this was not the case at all. Here is what He has declared through Hosea: “ye are not My people, and I will not be Your God” (1:9). Of this people God said to Jeremiah, “Though Moses and Samuel stood before Me, yet My mind could not be toward this people: cast them out of My sight, and let them go forth” (Jer 15:1). Yet, in the people’s assessment, they thought of themselves as a people who knew the Lord. However, this was a total misrepresentation
This is the cry of empty profession in the time of distress and trouble. Israel did not say this during their times of plenty. Instead they began worshiping other gods, and giving them the credit for the corn and the wine that God had given them (2:5,8-9). Such hypocrisy will not be rewarded by favorable responses from the Lord. Here is how He speaks to such people. “Yet ye have forsaken Me, and served other gods: wherefore I will deliver you no more. Go and cry unto the gods which ye have chosen; let them deliver you in the time of your tribulation” (Judg 10:13-14). Again, the Lord says through Jeremiah, “But where are thy gods that thou hast made thee? let them arise, if they can save thee in the time of thy trouble” (Jer 2:28). I do not know precisely when this point is reached – the point when God mocks those who cry to Him. But I will tell you it is on the side of wisdom to do everything in your power to avoid falling into such a condition.
ISAIAH’S WORD. Isaiah spoke of the type of pretension to which God refers in our text. “Forasmuch as this people draw near Me with their mouth, and with their lips do honor Me, but have removed their heart far from Me, and their fear toward Me is taught by the precept of men” (Isa 29:13). And what would the Lord’s response be to such a people? “Therefore, behold, I will proceed to do a marvelous work among this people, even a marvelous work and a wonder: for the wisdom of their wise men shall perish, and the understanding of their prudent men shall be hid” (Isa 29:14). He did, in fact, dry up their spiritual wells, so that not only did they receive nothing from their false gods, but they received nothing from God as well.
APPLICATION. We must be able to see that the condition of the modern church is actually a judgment from the Lord. He has, for the most part, dried up any kind of spiritual resources among those embracing an empty profession. This is why there is a certain poverty among, what is called, the clergy. It is why spiritual froth is being served up in the name of the Lord. God has caused the wisdom of their worldly wise men to fail.
Jesus spoke of some who, on the day of judgment, would cry out to the Lord in words similar to our text. “Many will say to Me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Thy name? and in Thy name have cast out devils? and inThy name done many wonderful works?” (Matt 7:22). That is an updated version of our text: “My God, we know Thee!” However, this was not the truth, even though they cited an impressive catalogue of religious achievements. Christ’s answer was, “I never you you, depart from Me, ye that work iniquity” (Matt 7:23). That is, their works were not done in faith in and fellowship with Christ.
Jesus also charged some of the Jews of His day with an empty profession. “If I honor Myself, My honor is nothing: it is My Father that honoreth Me; of whom ye say, that He is your God” (John 8:54). That was exactly the claim being made in our text: “We know Thee.” But they did NOT know the Lord, and He was NOT their God. Jesus gives the overwhelming evidence of this. He Himself was from God and knew God. God not only knew Him, but honored Him. Those, then, who did not receive Christ could not possibly know God, nor could He be their God. For, if that was true, God would have confirmed to their spirit that Jesus was the Christ.
Let it be clear, those who refuse to receive what God says and whom He sends do not know Him. Their refusal to receive what He gives and the One He has sent confirms that to be the case. The Spirit speaks of this kind of people to the church. Of them He says, “They profess that they know God; but in works they deny Him, being abominable, and disobedient, and unto every good work reprobate” (Titus 1:16). This has some rather alarming implications, but we must have the heart to receive them. Wherever sin is preferred and the things of the Spirit of God are not desired, God is not known.
THEY CAST OFF WHAT WAS GOOD
“ 3 Israel hath cast off the thing that is good: the enemy shall pursue him.”
CASTING OFF WHAT IS GOOD. Other versions read, “rejected the good,” NKJV “spurned the good,” NRSV “given up what is good,” BBE “turned away from good things,” SEPTUAGINT and “thrown away what is good.” NASB This is not something the Egyptians did. It is what ISRAEL did! The Chaldeans and Persians are not charged with this reprehensible action, but those who had been in covenant with God, and had been singularly blessed by Him. These were the people to whom He gave His good law, and to whom He sent the holy Prophets. It is clear, therefore, that the blessing of God does not eradicate the propensity to sin. Divine choice does not mean the chosen ones are locked into a state of everlasting blessedness. To confirm this is the case, Israel is set forth as an example for the body of Christ – an object lesson that is to be heeded, lest, with all of the advantages of the New Covenant, we fall into the same sins. “We should not lust after evil things, as they also lusted . . . neither be ye idolaters . . . neither commit ye fornication . . . neither tempt ye Christ . . . neither murmur ye” (1 Cor 10:1-12).
Casting off what is good cannot be done inadvertently or accidentally – like unintentionally throwing something in the garbage you really wanted to keep. This describes a deliberate action, where the thing cast off was held in disdain. It was despised and detested. This was an act of the will. God describes this awful trait of Israel in several places. “Israel would [have] none of Me” (Psa 81:11). They “forsook God which made them, and lightly esteemed the Rock of his salvation” (Deut 32:15). “Of the Rock that begat thee thou art unmindful, and hast forgotten God that formed thee” (Deut 32:18). God said of them, “they despised my judgments, and because their soul abhorred my statutes” (Lev 26:43). Again, “Yea, they despised the pleasant land, they believed not His word” (Psa 106:24). And again, “they despised My judgments, and walked not in My statutes, but polluted My sabbaths: for their heart went after their idols” (Ezek 20:16). When it came to messengers from God, who were bringing merciful warnings and good things to them, it is written, “They hate him that rebuketh in the gate, and they abhor him that speaketh uprightly” (Amos 5:10).
Keep in mind, these were not a people who had never heard from God. They were not a people who had never experienced blessings from God. Messages from God had come to them. Deliverance and miraculous provisions had been experienced by them. By the blessing of God, they had been able to overcome nations that were greater and more powerful than themselves. Yet, in spite of all of this, they “cast off the thing that is good,” energetically throwing it away as though it was worthless.
An abundance of blessing cannot change man’s fallen nature. Good words and gracious gifts cannot alter “the flesh.” It is enmity against God, whether it is in Egypt (Ex 2:14), confronting the Red Sea (Ex 14:11), being given bread from heaven (Num 21:5), or walking through the promised land (Num 13:32-33). God does not “bless” iniquity out of people. They are not transformed by benefits. Israel is the premier example of this. In fact, they are a tailored example, being intentionally set up to teach us of these things. Therefore it is written, “Now these things happened to them as an example, and they were written for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the ages have come” NASB (1 Cor 10:11).
THE PURSUING ENEMY. God once told Israel of blessings that would overtake them: “And all these blessings shall come on thee, and overtake thee, if thou shalt hearken unto the voice of the LORD thy God” (Deut 28:2). This, however was contingent upon them hearkening to His voice. If they failed to do this, they would not fall into a sort of neutral zone, where they would not have to deal with God. The very same God who once promised their enemies would not attack them or even desire their land (Ex 34:24), now tells them their enemies would pursue them.
This judgment came from rejecting the goodness God had poured out upon them. They would not be able to get away from their enemies, but would always have to confront them. God would not deliver them like He did at the Red Sea, but they would have to assume a running posture – always fleeing from their foes. This is another way of saying He delivered them into the hands of their enemies. As it is written, “And the anger of the LORD was hot against Israel, and He delivered them into the hands of spoilers that spoiled them, and He sold them into the hands of their enemies round about, so that they could not any longer stand before their enemies” (Judg 2:14). Far better to put the enemies to flight (Heb 11:34), run to meet the foe in confidence (1 Sam 17:48), and “chase” them into remote areas (Josh 11:8). Casting off the good things of God does have its penalties.