1 Israel is a luxuriant vine; He produces fruit for himself. The more his fruit, The more altars he made; The richer his land, The better he made the sacred pillars.Hosea 10:1-4 (NASB)
2 Their heart is faithless; Now they must bear their guilt. The Lord will break down their altars And destroy their sacred pillars.
3 Surely now they will say, “We have no king, For we do not revere the Lord. As for the king, what can he do for us?
4 They speak mere words, With worthless oaths they make covenants; And judgment sprouts like poisonous weeds in the furrows of the field.
The prophet Hosea here is documenting how a nation departs from the Lord and His will for them. The process is strikingly all too familiar. A nation does what God wants, and so incurs the blessing of God, leading to national prosperity. But because the human heart is so twisted and broken by Adam’s Choice (and communicated to us because we are his offspring), the people and the leaders of that nation turn away as they become more prosperous. Let us examine the passage in detail.
1a – Israel is a “luxuriant” vine. The Hebrew word has a dual meaning – luxury, but also emptiness or devastation. I think this dual meaning speaks of this as a form of deception, or what has been referred to by the writer of Hebrews as “the passing pleasures of sin for a season.” It might be a pleasant place, but that pleasure and luxury is empty, and devastation lurks, waiting to seize those who would give themselves to it.
1b – He “produces fruit” for himself. A great deal in this phrase – First, it could be translated as “He generates wealth for himself.” I point this out because it stands out to me. At this point of my life, I am a licensed financial planner in Canada. I am not against wealth generation, but rather what can often be behind that generation of wealth. There is a self-sufficiency that is here that can be turned against God and to that deceptive pleasure mentioned in the previous phrase. It is a self-sufficiency that becomes engaged instead of a reliance on the Lord of creation, and it becomes idolatry, or placing something else in front of God in terms of priority.
1c – The more prosperous that the nation of Israel became, the more he constructed “altars.” Those altars were not to the God of the universe, the eternal One, but instead were to false idols, perhaps even to himself, his pleasure, his flag, or his nation (all of which we have seen in the last decade of this “new millennium”). 1d restates this – the more prosperous and beneficial the nation became to its residents, the more “sacred pillars” they constructed. I don’t think it so much matters what these pillars were or what they are now (and I could cite a very long list of things that may surprise you) as much as that they take the place of the all-sufficient One.
2a – It tells us that the effect of this prolonged cycle of getting more prosperous, and more wealthy, and more healthy, and gaining more benefit is not thanking God for it, but instead, it says their heart became “slippery.” (Ever hear the term backslider? They have nothing in their heart to hold them to the Lord of all, it has become “slippery.” This looks like this is where that phrase comes from.)
I must pause here to remind everyone that we have talked about the concept of faith/belief in the Bible cannot be separated from the concept of action/obedience. When God says “their heart is faithless,” he is saying they have become disobedient. I feel obliged to point out that this disobedient behaviour, if continued, has dire consequences.
2b – “Now they must bear their guilt.” There will come a point in the disobedient nation’s history that God will begin to call that nation to account for their inaction, or worse, their disobedience to God Himself. Do not make the mistake of thinking this is no big deal. It is a very big deal. Let us see why in the next phrase.
2c – The Lord will “break down” (Hebrew, “break the neck of”) their false idols. He will destroy the things they have worshipped in His place.
Again, I feel constrained to define “worship.” This is NOT “going to church on Sunday” (or Saturday or any other day of the week). It is not “speaking praise to ‘God’ or some other nebulous being you imagine as the Divine.” Instead, one can identify your true object of worship by how you set your priorities. Are you pursing a better standard of living, for example? Would you like more money to make a “better life” for yourself and your family? These goals are not necessarily bad, and I deal with them on a regular basis in my practice. Perhaps instead, your priority is to find a Godly spouse. I have also had that goal, and I know that it can be extremely difficult to wait for God’s time and God’s best choice for you. Maybe you want to make sure you’re raising your kids properly. All of these things are not necessarily even bad – but if they take a higher priority than the King of the universe, they are a violation of the first commandment, “You shall have no other gods before Me.” (Exodus 20:3, NASB). And for those of you that want to spit back at me that we are no longer under the Law but under grace, you’re right. However, Jesus said there were two “laws” that continued into this era of grace: “and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is this, ‘ You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ (Mark 12:30-31, NASB) There is no contradiction here, friend. You need to examine your heart, as I have had to do. Otherwise, you run the risk of continuing your disobedience to God and losing the very thing you’re trying to hold onto along with your soul. (Matthew 16:26, Mark 8:37, NASB) Is that price high enough to get and hold your attention for a moment? It should be. Let us continue.
3 – See the attitude that begins to find root here. “We have no King. We do not revere (Hebrew, “fear”) the Lord. He can’t do anything to us! Think of western society today, and the statement it gives in response to Christianity. “Oh, you believe in God? That’s nice for you. I’m more scientific.” The statement is no different. I will add that I take extreme issue with this attitude. I happen to be a believer in Jesus Christ, King of the universe – and I have a degree from an internationally known and accredited university in evolutionary biology. I happen to know WHY I don’t believe what passes for what they call science and really is not science. But that’s a different conversation. The point is that no one cares what God, their Creator, and their Saviour, says about things at all. They do not know Him, and worse, they are taught not to WANT to know Him by what is taught in our school systems and spoken of in our society in general.
But what does the Almighty King think about this? Let us see in the next verse.
4 – One could translate this phrase from Hebrew as “They make empty assertions.” God continues his analysis and commentary – “with worthless oaths they make alliances.” What I get the sense of here is that God is saying that he sees their gums flapping and mouths moving, but the words and the power to back those words up are empty – null and void. In fact, God goes on to say that their “arrangements are like venom poured into the place where their wealth is rooted.” Think of the consequences of that – the very thing that they should be depending on God to grow and provide, they think they are doing for themselves, and in doing so, they poison their own future. Even worse, “Why did God do this to us?” is the question that they will defiantly scream from the highest places they can. The answer is simple – God didn’t do this. The injuries they have gained here are self-inflicted because they relied on the wrong source to provide them at the expense of their future. Oh, I see you there in the back waving your hand. What’s that? You want an example? Okay, I have several, but the one I like is the one I have to deal with daily – volatility in the markets. I’m not a doomsayer looking for the next disaster to happen, I am anything but that. Do you really think that God will not break the wealth generation system that has become its own religion, whose god is called Mammon by Jesus? I have even heard market analysts comment, when asked who the markets preferred as the US President in 2012, that the markets were “agnostic.” When Theology meets Wall Street (or Bay Street in Canada), you know things are going sideways.
Now remember the context here – this is about an entire nation. That means that although the citizens of the nation do bear responsibility and feel the effects of this, it is my belief that the main responsibility and penalty will fall on those that identify themselves as leaders of the nation. In the west, that means those we democratically elect, and we as voters will share in that responsibility. In places that have kings or military leadership or other forms of leadership that requires them to take the mantle to themselves, or even so-called leaders that faked so-called election results to seize power, they take upon themselves the responsibility for that nation. They will suffer – but so will those that live under their rule. For those that deny the Everlasting King his rightful place, or give their allegiance to some other being falsely claiming to be divine or more intelligent or whatever, God will break their nations in pieces eventually as has happened throughout history. Ask yourself this – Where did Rome go? Where did ancient Greece go? More recently, where did the Soviet Union go? God broke them in pieces and reduced them to but a shadow of their former glory. Maybe you have what you think is a better explanation. You are entitled to your opinion, and that is all I will say about it. Incidentally, I do believe that, and I would be willing to die to defend your right to express your own opinions. The Truth will always show itself to those who are honestly looking for it.
That is the bad news. However, there is some good news here also. You may ask, “Can this cycle be reversed?” Yes, I think so, or at least delayed for a time. The Scriptures tell us that at some point that there will be a falling away (Greek apostasia, where we get our word apostasy) from the Truth on a global level. God himself gave us the mechanism for keeping this from happening to our nations in 2 Chronicles 7:14 – “That My people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” (NASB) Yes, I am aware that was spoken to and about the nation of Israel. The principle applies still, and if His people will repent today, He will hear from heaven and at least protect His people and in the end save them.
The road back from the brink is one of spiritual humility and repentance. If those who call themselves Christians will humble themselves and stop seeking their own gain and what James calls “your own good pleasure” (yes, prosperity gospel people like Joel Osteen, I’m looking straight at YOU), and if Christians will stop making these silly blustering statements about things that are NOT the solution, and start to do what God prescribes instead of this worthless political activism, God will heal their nation. Okay, okay, I’ll get off my soapbox, but I’m still muttering about so-called “Conservative Christians” (who are not) under my breath. And believe me, I’m as conservative as they come in terms of my economic views and family values.
So what does that verse say? First, it says we need to “humble ourselves.” The Dictionary.com website says that “humble” means “not proud or arrogant” (boy do I see that today, especially here in the west – pride and arrogance – even in myself some days), “having a feeling of insignificance, subservience” (and I don’t see a lot of that servant’s heart, though I see a lot of claims to that effect), “low in rank, importance, status, quality, lowly” (so much for you self-esteem people, it isn’t about you, it’s about God Almighty), “courteously respectful” (unlike the Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kansas. Among many, many others). And those are just some of the descriptions in the definition! Gentle reader, let me say again that it is NOT us that is important, and we have nothing to be proud of here. God is the one we should be relying on, not ourselves, or even our godly preachers, they should simply be pointing the way to Him. Anything else is nonsensical spiritual pride or worse.
What else does that verse say? It tells us we need to “pray.” I saw a picture on Facebook recently that I really liked. It featured actor Sean Bean in his role of Boromir from Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings in a speaking pose, and the superimposed caption read, “One does not pray by simply clicking ‘like.'” Prayer is direct communication with God. It is one of the four basic cornerstones upon which we build our relationship with Christ. It is asking, as Jesus taught us in His famous pattern prayer that many refer to as “the Lord’s Prayer (I think that’s John 17 personally because it is actually the Lord praying), that “Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven.” It is NOT treating God like some great sugar daddy that will give us anything we ask of Him. Sure, James (4:2b, NASB) says “You do not have because you do not ask.” However, the very next phrase (4:3) says “And you ask and do not receive because you ask with wrong motives in order to consume it on your own good pleasure.” Prayer is asking God to get directly involved in the affairs of the nation. Think of it as “spiritual activism” instead of political activism, and it should NEVER be for asking for stuff you want as opposed to what you need. Thank God that He at least knows the difference and then teaches that difference to us.
The verse (2 Chronicles 7:14) also says we should seek God’s face. I believe that this refers to our need to cultivate our relationship with God on a daily basis. I even wrote a book about it called Practical Discipleship, available on the BereanNation.com website. We need to read the Bible every day for ourselves to find out what it actually says. We need to have fellowship with God, and with others of “like precious faith” as the Scriptures say (2 Peter 1:1, KJV). We need to worship God on a daily basis. Yes, that does mean we speak words of praise, and we sing songs to Him, but more importantly it means that we put the Lord first in everything we do. Our entire lives are to be lived in worship to Him. And then we pray, which we just discussed. We need to seek God’s face, and we need to grow into a real relationship with Him by these means.
The next instruction is where I suspect most people will leave the discussion. We need to turn from “our wicked ways.” Please note that WE are to turn from OUR wicked ways, not to tell everyone else about theirs. There may be a time and place for that, but it is NOT HERE. Another word used in the Bible for this is “repent,” which actually means to turn around 180 degrees, or change our thinking to be opposite from what it is now. Ladies and gentlemen, we must stop doing those things in our lives that we know do not please God. I do not need to list them here, you know exactly what they are if you will be honest with yourself. To use a phrase, this is where the rubber meets the road. Things here get very practical. It is also not enough to stop doing these things. When trying to stop a long-time habit, you will have to replace one habit with another – the right habit. It will NOT be easy. It may take decades. It may take the rest of your life! But in the end it will be worth it when you hear from our King, “well done, good and faithful servant.”
When we will do all that, I mean REALLY do it, not just pay lip service to the idea, then God will hear from heaven, forgive our sin, and heal our nation. May God place that desire in our hearts, and may we resolve to follow His word and do these things and avoid the fate of past nations that have been shattered or reduced to a shadow of their former selves.
Prayer: Heavenly Father, you know us, that we are but sinful people, not inclined to your ways naturally. Father, we know we are nothing before you. We are unable to do these things in our own strength. Heavenly Father, we are helpless, and we ask that you would move on our behalf. Lord, do YOUR will here on earth as it is done in Heaven. Lord, give us Your spirit so that we may seek your face. We will not naturally do this by ourselves, we need Your divine essence, the Holy Spirit, residing in us to do these things. We leave those things that we do behind and move forward into light and life in your Son. We thank you that you will hear us as we do these things, and that you will forgive us and heal our land. We thank you that this is even possible because of the work of Your Son Jesus Christ, in whose name we pray. Amen.