COMMENTARY ON HOSEA
“ 13:4 Yet I am the LORD thy God from the land of Egypt, and thou shalt know no god but Me: for there is no Savior beside Me. 5 I did know thee in the wilderness, in the land of great drought. 6 According to their pasture, so were they filled; they were filled, and their heart was exalted; therefore have they forgotten Me.” (Hosea 13:4-6)
God has revealed His Person and His ways through the nation of Israel. The things that “happened” to them were actually by Divine appointment – to provide us with concrete examples of the Lord’s dealings with His people. They were then recorded by inspired men as warnings of certain manners God will, under no circumstances, endure. As it is written, “Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come” (1 Cor 10:11). They also provide us with an example of the merciful dealings of the Lord with those who trust Him. Again, it is written, “For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope” (Rom 15:4). The record before us, therefore, is not mere history, unrelated to our own persons and time. Here we learn about the Lord Himself – His longsuffering and His indignation with sin and transgression. We also lean about flesh – of its inclinations, propensities, and inability to profit and learn from Divine workings. The flesh cannot be trained to be acceptable to God. There is no procedure that can cause such acceptability to occur. No amount of blessing upon the flesh can move an individual to a consistent faith in God. No external deliverance, however great it may be, can change the character of a person. It is not possible for the consistent care of God Almighty to cause a people to have faith, or to walk uprightly. All of this has been confirmed in the nation of Israel – the only ethnic people in the history of the world with whom God worked exclusively. It is imperative that this be seen.
THE LORD THEIR GOD
“ 13:4 Yet I am the LORD thy God from the land of Egypt, and thou shalt know no god but Me: for there is no Savior beside Me.”
YET. The vacillating nature of Israel has been declared. In worshiping Baal, Israel “offended” God (13:1). Even when chastened, they sinned “more and more,” making more idols, then urging men to sacrifice to them and “kiss” them (13:2). The result of this would be vanity – imposed vanity. They would be like the vanishing “morning cloud,” the “early dew” that passes away, and the “smoke” that rises into the air through a chimney (13:3).
Now the Lord points out His own faithfulness – faithfulness to His character, and to His promises. In all of God’s dealings with humanity, His own nature has proved to be consistent and faithful. He “cannot deny Himself” (2 Tim 2:13), either in His response to faith or to unbelief.
THE LORD THY GOD. In spite of Israel’s reprehensible conduct, God remained “the Lord” their “God.” Hosea has stated this a number of times: “thou hast forgotten the Law of THY GOD” (4:6); “thou hast gone a whoring from THY GOD” (9:1); “turn thou to THY GOD” (12:6); “I am the LORD THY GOD” (12:9; 13:4); “return unto the LORD THY GOD” (14:1).
There are three ways in which this can be viewed – and all of them are correct. First, Israel had strayed in spite of the Lord their God, who consistently conducted Himself toward them with tenderness and consideration. Second, because of His own immutable purpose, He was yet identified with them – not for any goodness found in them, but because of His covenant with Abraham, and the coming of the promised Redeemer. Third, even though they had forgotten Him, yet they were still accountable to Him, and He would deal with them accordingly, whether they consented to it or not.
Once God establishes an association with any people – be it Israel or the church of the Living God – that people cannot escape from that identity. God Himself will either bless the people for their faithful response to Him, or judge them for their waywardness. But He will not treat that association with indifference. If ever a word needed to be accepted by this generation, it is this one. It is God “with whom we have to do” (Heb 4:13). Men may forget this, but God will not. Faith takes this circumstance and obtains a blessing from it. Unbelief converts it into a curse.
FROM THE LAND OF EGYPT. Hosea has used this precise phrase before (12:9). Ezekiel reminded the people that they had brought some ungodly manners “from the land of Egypt” (Ezek 23:27). Amos declared that God had brought the people “up from the land of Egypt . . . to possess the land of the Amorite” (Amos 2:10). He also affirmed that the Lord brought them “from the land of Egypt, saying, You only have I known of all the families of the earth” (Amos 3:1).
However Israel might have sought to explain their condition, they could not say they had not known of the Lord or tasted of His goodness. God had unique dealings with them. They are the only nation in history that God lead out of bondage with a “high hand.” They are the only people miraculously sustained for forty whole years. They are the only people who received a Law from God.
THOU SHALT KNOW NO GOD BUT ME. Other versions read, “you were not to know any God except Me,” NASB “You shall acknowledge no God but Me,” NIV and “you know no God but Me.” NRSV The idea is that since God had dealt exclusively, faithfully, and mercifully with them, He was the only God they ever should have sought or known. There was no justifiable reason for them not being content with Him, and Him alone. He elaborates on this with the very next phrase.
NO SAVIOR BESIDE ME. The Most High God is the ONLY God who can save – “save” in any sense! There is no other “Savior!” As it is written, “There is one Lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy” (James 4:12). Those who seek deliverance from any other source are wrong – particularly so when they have been the recipients of God’s Saviorhood. Isaiah also draws attention to this fact: “beside Me there is no savior” (Isa 43:11). Again, “there is no God else beside Me; a just God and a Savior; there is none beside Me” (Isa 45:21). This message is also heralded by the Apostles: “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).
Application. Suffice it to say, their remains in flesh this inveterate tendency to forget Divine deliverance. It is in order to continually stir one another up so that we do not allow such forgetfulness to come upon us. God has been too good to us to allow the blight of forgetfulness to fasten upon our souls. Let every soul be noted for remembering the Lord.
KNOWN IN THE LAND OF GREAT DROUGHT
“ 5 I did know thee in the wilderness, in the land of great drought.” Here we have a Divine manner of reasoning that must be comprehended. Those who insist upon living with only the “here and the now” in mind are occupying dangerous territory. They are actually tottering on the brink of eternal ruin.
Hosea was writing approximately 740 years (723 B.C.) after Israel’s great deliverance from Egypt (1462 B.C.). Yet, God speaks to Israel just as though that rescue had been personally realized by Hosea’s contemporaries. However, they were product of that salvation from Egyptian bondage, and they were responsible for living within that perception!
We are part of a generation that was initially delivered from the guilt and power of sin, the powers of darkness, and the condemnation of the Law. We are responsible for maintaining that view, and living in harmony with that deliverance. While this is not a contemporary way of thinking, men will be judged with this principle in mind.
I DID KNOW THEE IN THE WILDERNESS. Other versions read, “I cared for you in the wilderness,” NASB “It was I who fed thee in the wilderness,” NRSV “I tended thee as a shepherd in the wilderness,” Septuagint and “I took care of you in the wilderness.” NLT
Israel’s extended journey through the wilderness provided an index to Divine workings. Numerous references are made to this forty-year period in which such benefits were realized as could only come from the God of heaven. At the conclusion of those forty years Moses said, “For the LORD thy God hath blessed thee in all the works of thy hand: He knoweth thy walking through this great wilderness: these forty years the LORD thy God hath been with thee; thou hast lacked nothing” (Deut 2:7). Again he said, “Who led thee through that great and terrible wilderness, wherein were fiery serpents, and scorpions, and drought, where there was no water; who brought thee forth water out of the rock of flint” (Deut 8:15). And again, “He found him in a desert land, and in the waste howling wilderness; He led him about, He instructed him, He kept him as the apple of His eye” (Deut 32:10).
In that area of utter desolation, God gave them water from a rock, when there was no other water (Psa 114:8). He led them into Elim where there was an oasis of twelve fountains of water and seventy palm trees (Num 33:9). He gave them “bread from heaven” (Psa 78:24,25; John 6:31). He even provided quail for them (Ex 16:13). Their clothing did not wear out (Deut 8:4a; Neh 9:21), and although they were wandering nomads, their feet did not swell (Duet 8:4b).
The Lord’s explanation for these marvelous circumstances is, “I did know thee,” or “I cared for you.” In this case “know” means that God became involved in their circumstance, not allowing the people to be overcome by an otherwise impossible situation. In all of this, He was confirming His love for them and faithfulness to His promises.
THE LAND OF GREAT DROUGHT. Other versions read, “in the land of burning heat,” NIV “the wasteland where no water was,” BBE “an uninhabited land,” Septuagint “the torrid land,” NAB “the land of dreadful drought,” NJB and “in that dry and thirsty land.” NLT
Elsewhere that desert is described as “the wilderness, through a land of deserts and of pits, through a land of drought, and of the shadow of death, through a land that no man passed through, and where no man dwelt ?” (Jer 2:6). Israel went through “the wilderness of the Red Sea” (Ex 13:18), “the wilderness of Shur” (Ex 15:22), “the wilderness of Sin” (Ex 16:1), “the wilderness of Sinai” (Ex 19:1), “the wilderness of Paran” (Num 12:16), “the wilderness of Etham” (Num 33:8), “the wilderness of Moab” (Deut 2:8), “the wilderness of Kedemoth” (Deut 2:26), “the desert of Sinai” (Ex 19:2), and “the desert of Zin” (Num 20:1).
Moses told the people the reason for the treacherous environment through which they were led: “the LORD thy God led thee these forty years in the wilderness, to humble thee, and to prove thee, to know what was in thine heart, whether thou wouldest keep His commandments, or no” (Deut 8:2). During their journey they learned of their own inadequacy and of the marvelous provisions of God. They learned that God is best known under difficult circumstances. They came to know that hard times discover human weaknesses, as well as a robust faith like that of Moses, Joshua, and Caleb.
God does not have to demonstrate these things in such remarkable ways to every generation. To be part of a people who has experienced such things is enough to promote faith in God and a refusal to follow anyone else.
When we pass through difficult times, we do well to perceive that God is testing us as well as providing for us. He is showing us our fleshly frailty as well as His great power. Earthly drought provides a context in which Divine care can be exhibited and realized. Blessed is the person who perceives this and thus converts handicap into advantage.
FILLED, EXALTED, AND FORGETFUL
“ 13:6 According to their pasture, so were they filled; they were filled, and their heart was exalted; therefore have they forgotten Me.” Alas, the blessing of Lord makes rich and adds no sorrow (Prov 10:22) – but only to those who receive it with thanksgiving. Having faithfully led Israel to the land promised to Abraham as a possession, Israel then departed from the Lord – a resounding commentary on the nature of the flesh.
ACCORDING TO THEIR PASTURE. Other versions read, “When they had pasture,” NKJV “As they had their pasture,” NASB “When I fed them,” NIV “when they had grazed,” ESV and “I pastured them.” NJB
The emphasis here is that Israel departed from the Lord WHILE He was pouring the blessings upon them. In the wilderness they murmured on the banks of the Red Sea (Ex 14:12), while they were eating the manna (Num 11:5-6), and while their clothing was being maintained and their little ones protected (Num 14:31). This dreadful tendency continued after then entered the land of plenty – their “pasture.”
THEY WERE FILLED. Other versions read, “they became satisfied,” NASB “they became full,” ESV and “they were satiated.” YLT Here, “filling,” or being full, is not a good condition. It speaks of a circumstance in which no more is wanted – no further blessing from God is desired. This is a “that-is-enough-I-don’t-want-any-more” condition. It is another way of saying, “Israel would have none of Me” NKJV (Psa 81:11). It was the same spirit that took hold of the people at Sinai. When Moses delayed returning from His caucus with God on the Mount, the people said to Aaron, “Up, make us gods, which shall go before us; for as for this Moses, the man that brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we wot not what is become of him” (Ex 32:1). They were full! It surfaced again when the people heard the unfaithful spies say there were giants in Canaan, and they would not be able to overcome come. “And they said one to another, Let us make a captain, and let us return into Egypt” (Num 14:4). They were full! They did not think of the possibility of receiving more from the Lord, but instead chose to forsake Him and go their own way. They were full!
THEIR HEART WAS EXALTED. Other versions read, “their heart became proud,” NASB “their heart was lifted up,” RSV “their hearts were full of pride,” BBE and “they grew haughty.” TNK
The people began to rely upon themselves, their own wisdom, and their own strength. They sought alliances with other nations, and depended upon the arm of the flesh. Men might have looked at the circumstance and said Israel was being practical. God looked at it and said their heart was exalted – like that of Satan himself (Isa 14:13; Ezek 28:17). When men resort to the flesh it is because of pride – because their hearts have been exalted. They have come to a point where they think more of themselves than of God.
Early in their history, Israel was warned not to allow the condition of a lifted-up heart to be found in them. “Lest when thou hast eaten and art full, and hast built goodly houses, and dwelt therein; and when thy herds and thy flocks multiply, and thy silver and thy gold is multiplied, and all that thou hast is multiplied; then thine heart be lifted up, and thou forget the LORD thy God, which brought thee forth out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage” (Deut 8:12-14). When prosperity is not traced back to the Lord, a door has been opened through which pride can, and will, enter and dominate.
When king Uzziah’s heart was “lifted up,” it was to “his destruction” (2 Chron 26:16). Wrath came upon king Hezekiah because his heart was “lifted up” (2 Chron 32:25). The “Prince of Tyrus” was judged by God because his heart was “lifted up” (Ezek 28:2). King Nebuchadnezzar was deposed because his heart was “lifted up” (Dan 5:20).
THEY HAVE FORGOTTEN ME. The text states it clearly: “THEREFORE have they forgotten me.” That is, because they were full, desiring no more, they forgot the Lord. Because their hearts became puffed up with pride, they forgot the Lord.
Make no mistake about this, when men do not want any more from the Lord, they will forget Him! When they think themselves to be sufficient, and assign great value to their own wisdom and strength, they will forget the Lord! The faithful remembrance of the Lord will not and cannot be maintained in an environment where men are satisfied with what they have from Him. Where there is no hunger and thirst for the Lord, God will be placed into the background and soon forgotten.
Where there is no spiritual growth, God has been forgotten. The absence of a compelling spiritual hunger reveals that God has, in fact, been forgotten. Such a condition will not be met with the blessing of the Lord. It is no wonder that the blessing is conferred upon those who seek (Matt 6:33), and who hunger and thirst (Matt 5:6).