The People to Whom Hosea Prophesied
Dr. Joe Temple

Review

In our last lesson, we began with you a discussion of the book of Hosea. We said that if we were going to understand the book, we would need to know something about the writer of the book because you can never understand the message of any book unless you know something about the author.

We do recognize that the Holy Spirit is the author of the book of Hosea, as He is the author of every book in the Bible for we believe in the inspiration of the Word of God. We do recognize, however, that in the providence of God, He chose certain men to write certain books. He puts things in their language, in their life, in every phase of their experience and colors the writing of the book so that to understand the book, you need to understand the man.

I think it would do well for us to refresh our minds as to what we said to you in our last lesson regarding the author of the book to whom we referred as the prophet, for Hosea is exactly that. We suggested to you, in regard to the prophet Hosea, something about his name. The name Hosea is the same name as Joshua and as Jesus . It is just spelled differently. As you are already aware, Joshua and Jesus both mean “Savior” or “Deliverer,” and Hosea was named aptly, for he was to convey the message of God's delivering love to the nation of Israel, the people to whom he ministered.

We suggested to you something about the heritage which Hosea had. His heritage was not wealth, his heritage was not prominence, but we suggested to you that he was reared in an atmosphere of dedication where God was put first. This colored his entire ministry to the extent that when God gave him an order to marry a woman no one else would have, he did so, and his heart was filled with love for her.

When God told him He wanted him and his family to be a testimony to the people to whom he ministered, he willingly named his children, not in accordance with their physical heritage, not in accordance with his own desire, but according to the message that God would deliver through them and through their lives.

His heritage was also one of difficulty, for he was reared in an atmosphere of difficulty so that tribulations he endured in his youth enabled him to be experienced enough when he began his ministry that the most difficult things imaginable which he was asked to do were easily accomplished.

We glanced with you briefly at history. We suggested to you, in regard to the history of Hosea, that his personal history ran such a great parallel with national history that it is hard to distinguish between the two. The story of Hosea is the story of Israel. Once you know the history of the man, you will know something about the history of the nation, the people he carried so very much upon his heart.

We said something else to you concerning the introduction. We referred to the period in which Hosea prophesied, for just as certainly as God uses the characteristics of the man to lend color to the book, He uses the characteristics of the period as vehicles through which He might convey His message. In this particular instance, Hosea prophesied in a period that went from prosperity to poverty. If you will look at the first verse of the first chapter, you will see that his period of prophetic pronouncements covered something like sixty years—at the beginning, a time of prosperity; at the end, a period of poverty.

This period also was marked as a period of moral declension where the things which were right, the principles which were needful for right living were forgotten, tabled, laid aside. Morals, as we think of them, were at their lowest ebb.

This was a period, too, when the nation was suffering from an unrecognized weakness. She was weak and did not know it, or if she did know it, she refused to admit it. In the midst of that weakness, she was forgetting God, and that weakness was going to bring about a national downfall.

This was also a time of the primacy of personal advantage, when men were surrendering that which was related to national interests to their own desires and their own personal advantages. It was not what they could do for others, but what others could do for them which was the order for the day.

Perhaps the real reason for all of this is that there was a famine of spiritual leadership. Spiritual leadership was at such a low ebb that the man of God could say, “Like people, like priests”—that is, there was no difference between the so-called spiritual leaders and the people themselves.

As you glance at these six things that characterized the period in which Hosea prophesied, I trust you will recognize a very close similarity to the period in which we live. I never think about the period in which Hosea prophesied without being reminded of the present generation, and that alarms me because I know how Israel ended. I know that God is no respecter of people and I know that if, in the justice of God, the nation of Israel came to an end because of low morals, because of a failure to recognize the real cause of her weakness, because individuals put their own interests above national interests, because spiritual leadership was at a low ebb, what reason have I to think that the United States, my own beloved country, will fare any differently? I have no reason to think any differently. That is the reason my heart is greatly burdened that God will speak to this nation of ours before judgment falls.

Lack of Knowledge

By way of introduction, we present a new thought or two to you as a background for the book which we are studying, reminding you once again that these basic facts are important if we are going to be able to understand the book itself. We want to share with you something revealed in the book as it is related to the people to whom Hosea prophesied. Once we know something about the people, then we will be able to understand the message even that much better. So we would like to call to your attention the fact that these people to whom Hosea prophesied were characterized by a lack of knowledge.

Turn, please, to Hosea, chapter 4, and notice verse 6, where Hosea said:

Hosea 4

6My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge: because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee, that thou shalt be no priest to me: seeing thou hast forgotten the law of thy God, I will also forget thy children.

Notice, please, the first part of the verse. “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.” Hosea was not referring to poor educational opportunity. He was not referring to social inequity. He was referring to the fact that the nation of Israel was destroyed because they lacked knowledge.

Notice the word destroyed as I suggest to you that it comes from the Hebrew word damar , which literally means “to fail.” It isn't that they were wiped out because of the lack of knowledge; it was that they failed in their God-given calling because of the lack of knowledge.

What was their God-given calling? Look at the latter part of verse 6, and notice the phrase, “that thou shalt be no priest to me.” This is another indication, many of which are found in the Word of God, that God looked upon the nation of Israel as a priestly nation. God looked upon the nation of Israel as the nation through whom He would bless the world. Because this nation lacked knowledge, it failed in the plan and the purpose that God had for it.

Look again at the verse and notice what God said. “Because thou didst lack knowledge, I have rejected thee.” The word reject means “to move out of the way,” “to push out of the way” as though there is no more interest involved. I said purposely that God rejected these people because they lacked knowledge, but if you were looking at the verse as I read it, you know that I read it wrong, and I did so purposely that we might emphasize this fact.

Look at the verse again. “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge; because thou hast rejected knowledge, then I will reject thee.” Why was it these people did not have any knowledge? Was it not available to them? Was there no source of knowledge? No! That was not the problem. The problem is that they came face to face with knowledge and they rejected it. They wouldn't have it. They pushed it out of the way. They had other things to interest them.

I want to give an illustration in a moment, but before I do, I want you to have clearly fixed in your mind what we are talking about when we talk about knowledge. We are not talking about book learning. We are not talking about what you may acquire by attending an educational institution. We are talking about the Word of God. Call it doctrine, call it teaching, call it instruction, whatever you will, we are talking about God's Word.

What is this we are learning? Because the nation of Israel was not familiar with the Word of God, the nation of Israel failed in her God-given purpose. Why was Israel not familiar with the Word of God? Because she pushed it out of the way.

Here is the illustration. We will not speak of anyone else. We have no responsibility for anyone else. We will speak of ourselves here. As I have said to you many times, I am not interested in how well or how poorly the Word of God is presented at Abilene Bible Church, because we have no ax to grind and we are not interested in the praise of men, but I am concerned that the Word of God be presented at Abilene Bible Church. This I believe we can safely say: The Word of God is presented at Abilene Bible Church.

If you attend the services here at Abilene Bible Church with any sense of continuity, you have no reason for not knowing God's Word. If you lack the knowledge of God's Word today, it is because you have rejected it. It is because you have pushed it aside in the interest of other things.

I would like to remind you that one of the ways that Satan tempts and arranges for individuals to lack knowledge, even though they have sat under the ministry of the Word of God for an extended period of time, is to arrange it so that you will push the Word of God out of your mind during the time that the Word of God is presented.

A very good test of that is to think over a service in which you are and see how many things are in your mind other than the Word of God that is being discussed. Maybe you have just developed a habit of daydreaming. Maybe you don't want to be here, but you have to be here, and you grit your teeth and you say, “They may make me go, but they can't make me listen.” So true. But it is what I want you to get. If you have the opportunity to get the knowledge of which I speak and you don't take advantage of that opportunity, you are lacking and you are going to fail in the things that God has for you. No matter how accomplished you may think you are, you are going to fail because the nation or the person who lacks the knowledge of God's Word doesn't have a chance. Whatever measure of success there may be in the lives of individuals you know who have no knowledge of the Word of God, it is not the final proof. Wait until the whole story has been told.

Lack of Humility

We must hurry on, and we suggest to you that the people to whom Hosea prophesied, so that his message was colored thereby, lacked in humility. Turn, please, to chapter 5, verse 5:

Hosea 5

5And the pride of Israel doth testify to his face: therefore shall Israel and Ephraim fall in their iniquity: Judah also shall fall with them.

Notice the first statement: “The pride of Israel doth testify to his face.” Right along with Israel, so glaringly apparent that there was no way to deny it, was pride, so that there was no question that Israel lacked in humility. Of course, this was no favor for her. It could only mean ill and eventual catastrophe because the Spirit of God records in Proverbs, chapter 16, verse 18, that “pride goeth before destruction and a haughty spirit before a fall.” Whether it is our nation of which we speak or the individuals who make up our nation, we would remind you to take heed from Hosea's description of the people to whom he ministered and remember that history records the fall of this nation who lacked in humility.

In the prophecy of Zephaniah, chapter 2, there is one of the best descriptions of pride in relation to the subject which we are discussing that I know anything about. In Zephaniah, chapter 2, verse 10, the prophet said:

Zephaniah 2

8I have heard the reproach of Moab, and the revilings of the children of Ammon, whereby they have reproached my people, and magnified themselves against their border.
9Therefore as I live, saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, Surely Moab shall be as Sodom, and the children of Ammon as Gomorrah, even the breeding of nettles, and saltpits, and a perpetual desolation: the residue of my people shall spoil them, and the remnant of my people shall possess them.
10This shall they have for their pride, because they have reproached and magnified themselves against the people of the LORD of hosts.

The Moabites were facing destruction because they dared to magnify themselves against the Lord as He was represented in the people of Israel. Making the application to our own needs, we would remind you that you may consider yourself a very humble person. You may not go strutting about attempting to draw attention to yourself, but you are lacking in this prerequisite for success. You are lacking in humility because the very fact that you would dare to oppose the Lord as He is represented in His Word and in His people is a sign of unmitigated pride on your part that you would dare to question the wisdom of God as it is provided in His Word. When you reach the place where you question what God says, regardless of what He says, you are lacking humility, and it is the most serious kind of lack.

Lack of Stability

Something else that Hosea tells us about these people to whom he ministered is that they lacked in stability. He expresses the manner in which they lacked stability in a very picturesque way. If you will notice chapter 6, verse 4:

Hosea 6

4O Ephraim, what shall I do unto thee? O Judah, what shall I do unto thee? for your goodness is as a morning cloud, and as the early dew it goeth away.

We do not know as much about morning clouds and dew in this part of the country (notice I said as much ) as folk do in other parts of the country. But what was he saying? The morning cloud appears in the sky. How long does it last? Just for the sun to get up good, that's all. Heavy dew falls on the grass. You might look out and wonder if it rained during the night. You might even look for some puddles. Everything looks so wet, but how long does it last? Just long enough for the sun to get up good. What was this God was saying? “Israel, you lack stability. Your goodness, your intentions to do what is right lasts no longer than it takes for the morning cloud to disappear and the dew to dry on the grass.”

It doesn't sound very good, does it? It almost seems like an impossible thing. But I can believe it for I have seen it repeatedly. I have seen individuals start out as though they were going to be wholly committed to the Lord—you rejoice at the fact that is apparent—and hardly have you had time to share the good news with someone else than the zeal has died down and the fire has burned low and the individuals in question are no longer interested in the things of God.

Perhaps you as individuals can give better testimony to that than I can, for how often have you resolved sincerely before the Lord that you would do as He would have you do, the Holy Spirit would have control of your life, nothing would break your fellowship with God, you would live well-pleasing to Him, but hardly had the determination become an overt act than you were already the other way.

Stability is something that most Christians lack, and notice Israel failed because she lacked knowledge, she lacked humility, she lacked in stability. We would add another thought that Hosea adds, and that is, Israel lacked in the area of separation.

Lack of Separation

Notice in chapter 7, verse 8, a very interesting way Hosea has to express it:

Hosea 7

8Ephraim, he hath mixed himself among the people; Ephraim is a cake not turned.

If there was one thing that God expected of Israel, it was separation. Not because Israel was any better than anyone else, but because God did not want Israel to become entangled with anything that would deter her from the original purpose for which she was called into being. When we speak of separation for believers, we are not speaking of a negative way of living. We are not suggesting there is any virtue in separating yourself and wearing some badge of separation. We are suggesting to you that a good soldier does not permit himself to become entangled with the affairs of this life.

Just as certainly as God said to Israel, “You must not entangle yourself with other people, you must not make alliances that will deter you in your efforts for Me,” God says the same thing to us. Christians are warned of the unequal yoke.

I say that a young person—the reason I say a young person is that old people are too old to do it—who commits himself or herself to become interested in an individual who is unsaved or out of fellowship with God is borrowing trouble, because the entangling alliance will prevent you from being wholehearted in your service for God, and it will prevent you from being wholehearted in making your decisions in relation to spiritual things.

Sometimes an idea which an individual has presented does not seem too sensible and we will say, “That's the most half-baked idea I have ever heard.” Have you ever gone off half-cocked? You know what we mean by those phrases. You haven't thought the thing through, you haven't prepared yourself properly, you are half-baked.

I didn't say that. God did. Look at verse 8 again, and you will notice:

Hosea 7

8…Ephraim is a cake not turned.

The picture that Hosea had in mind was of a round cake of dough,which was used in his day, baked upon hot coals. The coals were very hot and the cake was laid on the coals for just a very short period of time. Then it was quickly turned over and left on the coals for another very short period of time. That manner of preparing the cake guaranteed that it would be well cooked all the way through. But sometimes they forgot to turn the cake and it was hard on one side and doughy on the other side and inedible.

I say to you, Beloved, because the Word of God puts the two together, when you forget the principles of God's Word for association, you become half-baked, not only in your own life but in every decision you make. You will even deceive yourself into thinking that God is telling you to do the thing that you are doing even though it is in downright violation of God's Word. Not only will you convince yourself that God is telling you to do that, you will become furious when anybody that intimates that God couldn't be telling you to do that. You will even swear that individuals who try to reason with you don't love you and have no love in their hearts for the individuals with whom you may be associating whose lives are not what they ought to be.

Let me emphasize that I speak to the young people not because I think they are worse. I speak to the young people because they have not yet made the mistakes that some of you in this building have made. Don't make those mistakes. Don't be a cake half-turned. Don't make the mistake of lacking in separation as did Israel.

Lack of Sincerity

May I suggest another thing that Hosea suggested about these people? He said that there was a lack of sincerity in the lives of these individuals known as Ephraim and known as Judah.

Notice, please, what is recorded in chapter 11 of the book of Hosea, verse 7:

Hosea 11

7And my people are bent to backsliding from me: though they called them to the most High, none at all would exalt him.

That is, though they were called by His name, none glorified Him, none exalted Him. That comes down very close to where many of us live, doesn't it? We call ourselves by the name of Christ. If people were to ask us if we were Christians, we would readily respond in the affirmative. But how many of us exalt Him? Oh, of course, if you are in church and the folk are singing “Praise God from whom all blessings flow…”, you will sing it. You will exalt Him. But what will you do when you are out in a crowd of people who make no claim to things righteous and have an opportunity of exalting Him? What do you do then?

A time or two in the early years of my Christian experience this occurred, and I was always very, very disappointed when it did. Humbly before the Lord I asked where I had failed. In the early years of my Christian experience occasionally someone would come to me and say, “Joe, I didn't know you were a Christian,” and I was nonplused what to answer. There wasn't very much point in my saying, “Well, I am.” Somehow I had missed it.

I am not talking about being a soapbox orator and wearing a stripe on your back and saying, “I am a fool for Jesus.” I am not talking about that, but I am saying, Friend, there is something wrong with my manner of communication if I could be around people for any length of time and they would say to me in surprise, “Joe, I didn't know you were a Christian. You, of all people.” Evidently I lacked in sincerity as did the Israelites. Evidently I called myself by His name but I did not exalt Him as I should.

Lack of Logic

The last thing I want to share with you is what I refer to as a lack of logic . These people to whom Hosea ministered, I say, lacked in logic. Why do I say that? Look at chapter 7, verse 1. God said:

Hosea 7

1When I would have healed Israel, then the iniquity of Ephraim was discovered, and the wickedness of Samaria: for they commit falsehood; and the thief cometh in, and the troop of robbers spoileth without.
2And they consider not in their hearts that I remember all their wickedness: now their own doings have beset them about; they are before my face.

Someone else has translated this verse, “They do not think that evil conceived in the heart produces fruit which is seen by God.” That is illogical to think that the evil that is conceived in your heart will not produce fruit which will be seen by God. It is illogical to think that God somehow will not notice what you are doing. It is illogical to think that somehow, some way you can fail to reap the harvest which you sow. No one else has ever failed, but somehow you have convinced yourself that you can do what nobody else has done: you can sow to the flesh and not reap corruption. You can break every rule and law and principle and think that God won't notice. Well, this is His Word. He does see, and He sees to it that the harvest is reaped.

I trust that these things we have said to you concerning Israel, which colored the message which Hosea brought to them, will be used as arrows of conviction by the Holy Spirit in your own heart and life, so that you might see the danger signals and avoid making a shipwreck of your faith upon the shoals which caused Israel's wreck so long ago.


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