How Shall God Plead
Dr. Joe Temple

Introduction

Open your Bibles, please, to the book of Hosea, chapter 6. When you have arrived there, we are going to read the chapter, beginning with verse 4. For those of you who do not understand the reason, we remind you that the first three verses of chapter 6 actually belong to the last portion of chapter 5, and we so considered it together. You will notice also that we will conclude our reading at the middle of verse 11. The reason for that is that the latter part of verse 11 properly belongs to chapter 7.

If it seems strange to you that we should be dividing the Word of God in this fashion, may we remind you that the chapters in the Word of God are human inventions, very good ones. I don't know what we would do without them. A tremendous amount of energy has been spent in this, and many times when I read my Bible I pause to thank God for the memory of those who so diligently labored to make the Word of God accessible to us in this fashion.

Having said that, we must realize that though the Word of God is inspired, these chapter divisions can be improved upon, and that is the reason we say what we say about them. Let us read Hosea, chapter 6, verses 4-11:

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.
5Therefore have I hewed them by the prophets; I have slain them by the words of my mouth: and thy judgments are as the light that goeth forth.
6For I desired mercy, and not sacrifice; and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings.
7But they like men have transgressed the covenant: there have they dealt treacherously against me.
8Gilead is a city of them that work iniquity, and is polluted with blood.
9And as troops of robbers wait for a man, so the company of priests murder in the way by consent: for they commit lewdness.
10I have seen an horrible thing in the house of Israel: there is the whoredom of Ephraim, Israel is defiled.
11Also, O Judah, he hath set an harvest for thee…

This particular chapter in the book of Hosea, we suggested to you when we were going over the outline related to the entire book, might be described as a loving appeal. I think you can understand the reason we suggest that this would be a good title for the chapter when you realize that it begins with God, in verse 4, saying, “O Ephraim, what shall I do unto thee?” This chapter, presenting a loving appeal from the very heart of God to His own people, should remind us as individuals, as believers, how very much concerned our God is about our walk.

Some of us are prone to forget that we should walk worthy of the vocation wherewith we are called. Many of the things that God said to Israel in this particular chapter He could say to us.

So that you might have some mental pegs upon which to hang some of the thoughts that I want to leave with you, I would like to remind you that this loving appeal begins with a suggestion of God's desperation in verse 4. It is followed by a description of God's dealings with the nation of Israel, which gave rise to the desperation He felt when He addressed them in the manner He did in verse 4. The description of God's dealings is followed by a simple statement of God's desire for the nation of Israel. He didn't want a whole lot. What He was asking was not a great deal, but more than Israel was willing to give, as we will be seeing when we examine Israel's deeds as they are described in this portion of the Word of God.

Of course, there is nothing left in the chapter and nothing left for Israel and Judah, both nations considered together, but what we have termed inevitable destruction . Keep in mind when we use the word destruction , we are not using the word annihilation . We are simply referring to the fact that nothing waited for Israel save the judgment of God because of Israel's insistence on doing what she herself wanted to do regardless of what God wanted or what God might desire.

God's Desperation

I am going to suggest that we look together now at what I referred to as God's desperation . That may seem like a very strange word to use in connection with God, because someone might say, “How could God be desperate? God is God. He is not an ordinary mortal like the rest of us. Why can you even begin to suggest the God would be desperate about anything?” One thing you need to get used to as you read your Bibles is the manner God uses to convey His concern to us as individuals. It is impossible for us to understand God as God is, for His ways are high above our ways, as the heavens are high above the earth.

He stoops to our level in expression, and He talks about His hands and His feet, though He has none. He talks about His lips, though He has none. He talks about emotions similar to ours, though His emotions are not similar to ours, because they have never been tainted by sin. He speaks of His desperation in verse 4, if you will look at it again:

Hosea 6

4O Ephraim, what shall I do unto thee? O Judah, what shall I do unto thee…

Do those words not speak of desperation to you? God said, “I have done everything I know to do. What else can I do? What else will I be able to do?”

Have you not said to some individuals for whom you have done much and their actions indicated that you have gotten absolutely nowhere, “I don't know what to make of you. I can't understand you. I don't know what to make of what you are doing.”? Phillips is of the opinion that that is exactly what God had in mind, because he translates these particular phrases in just that way: “Israel, what can I make of you?”

This isn't a statement that is peculiar to Hosea. The other prophets describe God as feeling exactly that way. You might like to look back to Isaiah, chapter 5, where Israel is presented under the form of a carefully planted vineyard. God said:

Isaiah 5

1Now will I sing to my wellbeloved a song of my beloved touching his vineyard. My wellbeloved hath a vineyard in a very fruitful hill:
2And he fenced it, and gathered out the stones thereof, and planted it with the choicest vine, and built a tower in the midst of it, and also made a winepress therein: and he looked that it should bring forth grapes, and it brought forth wild grapes.

What a disappointment! And how needless in the light of all that had been done. So in verse 3, God says:

Isaiah 5

3And now, O inhabitants of Jerusalem, and men of Judah, judge, I pray you, betwixt me and my vineyard.

He then asks a question very similar to the one we are considering here in the book of Hosea:

Isaiah 5

4What could have been done more to my vineyard, that I have not done in it? wherefore, when I looked that it should bring forth grapes, brought it forth wild grapes?

I say this reverently: God said, “Where did I fail? What didn't I do that I should have done? I am desperate. I don't know where else to turn; I don't know what else to do.”

The Instability of Israel

Go back with me to the book of Hosea as I ask a question for the purpose of answering, and that is, “What was there about Israel that placed our God in such a desperate frame of mind?” Look again at Hosea, 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.

What was this thing that so disturbed God about Israel? The same thing, Beloved, that grieves His heart in relation to the average Christian, the same thing that grieves His heart in relation to you and to me. One word will describe it: instability.

Oh, we begin with such promise, and we drop by the wayside before very many hours have gone by, very many days, very many months. Have you had that experience in your own life? Have you seen it in the lives of other Christians? Oh, how thrilled you are when you see someone respond to Christ through the Word, and you say, “Oh, isn't it wonderful?” And by and by you don't see them anymore. You notice, if you do see them, that they don't have the same zeal that once they had. What's the trouble? It can be described in the words that we find here in verse 4, when God said to Israel:

Hosea 6

4…for your goodness is as a morning cloud, and as the early dew it goeth away.

I would like for you to look at that word goodness . The word in the text doesn't mean exactly what most of us think about, because when we think of goodness we think of good acts and doings and so forth. But I would like to remind you that the word goodness comes from the Hebrew word chacad , which really means “to bend at the neck,” “to bow the head,” “to yield.” It really describes a yieldedness on the part of the people involved.

Think for a moment what I am saying to you. Doesn't it mean more than just to talk about goodness? Most of us are as good as we know how to be, aren't we? Most of us are not going to deliberately jump out and do something that society considers awful and terrible. But isn't it true that most of us have a problem of walking at the direction of the Spirit, staying in fellowship, being filled with the Spirit, whatever you want to call it?

Promises Without Performance

Israel had that problem and God said to Israel, “Your yieldedness doesn't last very long.” And He uses two figures of speech to describe it. One of them is a cloud. He said, “Your goodness is as the morning cloud.” The best way I know how to describe that morning cloud, in the light of the land in which the passage was written, is to describe it as I have, as a promise without performance. The cloud would make its appearance and everybody would hopefully expect rain, but the rain would never come.

The individual yields to God and says, in so many words, “I am yours. I bend my neck; I bow my head; I yield my will to your will.”, and God rejoices. But the promise never becomes a performance. How sad it is to realize that oftentimes individuals in gatherings—call them revival meetings, evangelistic services, campaigns, whatever you will—walk to the front, stand up, raise their hands or by some method indicate publicly they are yielding all, and the next day there is no indication that anything has been yielded. There has been a promise, but no performance.

God uses another figure of speech to describe why He was in such desperation after all that was done. He said, “Your yieldedness is as the early dew. It goeth away.” I have used a phrase to describe it, because I can't think of a better way to do it, as something that is present, but not permanent. The yieldedness may be for a moment like the dew, but somehow or other it never takes root in the hearts of the people involved and consequently, it is not a permanent thing.

Sometimes when you have time study, in the light of this verse that we are considering, a familiar parable found in chapter 13 of the Gospel according to Matthew, the parable of the sower and the seed. Notice how many individuals are described in how many different ways where there is a promise without performance. Seed is planted, it takes root, but it never really grows. Or seed is planted, it takes root, and it grows a while. It grows for a present, shall we say, and then the cares of this world come and smother out all indication of any particular blessing.

Israel Judged By God's Word

Notice, please, Hosea, chapter 6, verse 5, as we find what we are going to describe, for want of a better way of describing it, God's dealings with Israel. Notice in verse 5:

Hosea 6

5Therefore have I hewed them by the prophets; I have slain them by the words of my mouth: and thy judgments are as the light that goeth forth.

God dealt with Israel in the light of her instability, just as He deals with you and me in the light of our instability. The instrument of His dealing is described in the middle of verse 5: “The words of my mouth.” God deals with His people through the Word of God, and in this one verse there are three descriptive phrases of the power of the Word of God as it is exercised by the prophet.

Notice in the first sentence of verse 5, He said, “Therefore have I hewed them by the prophets.” The prophets were the instruments in God's hand to deal with His people. What is the first thing that is brought to our attention? The Word of God is used to hew His people. The word hewed could be better translated by the word shape , because the word hewed comes from the Hebrew word chaseb , which is translated by the phrase to carve or to square .

When God speaks of hewing people with His Word, He is not speaking of cutting them down, as you might speak of hewing down a tree. Rather, He is speaking of shaping them into the thing that He wants them to be, carving off the rough edges, squaring them up to the plumb line so that they will be exactly what they ought to be.

I might remind you, Beloved, that the reason God exposes you to the Word of God is that He might carve and shape and square that your life be what He intended it to be. No one can sit for any length of time under the ministry of God's Word without shaping up, if the Word is ministered by the Holy Spirit and hearts are open to the Word. That's the reason some folk come for a while, sit under the ministry of the Word of God, and then go on to other things. Carving isn't easy. It is a painful process, and sometimes it is more painful for us to shape up than we like, and we think of other things.

There is another word in our text that describes what the Word of God does when it is ministered through the prophet. You will notice in the middle of verse 5, He said:

Hosea 6

5…I have slain them by the words of my mouth…

When we think of the word slay in connection with God, it almost seems like a strange connotation. When we think of slaying in relation to the Word of God, we wonder how it could be. We ask you to turn to chapter 19 of the book of the Revelation, where we have a description of the return of the Lord Jesus Christ to this earth. Notice, beginning in verse 13:

Revelation 19

13And he was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood: and his name is called The Word of God.
14And the armies which were in heaven followed him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean.
15And out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron: and he treadeth the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God.

You will notice the statement there, “He should smite the nations.” If you wonder what the smiting is, glance down at verse 21:

Revelation 19

21And the remnant were slain with the sword of him that sat upon the horse, which sword proceeded out of his mouth: and all the fowls were filled with their flesh.

Someday, when the Lord Jesus Christ comes back, He is going to use the same sword to slay those who are disobedient to Him, which the prophets of the Old Testament used and the prophets of this day use as God directs, for the Word of God will shape up those who hear or bring judgment into their lives.

Judgment to Be Sudden

As I ask you to go back to the book of Hosea, chapter 6, I would point out one other thing about the Word of God in this particular verse, and that is that the judgment of God is sudden. When a man has been exposed to the Word of God, he can shape up, if he will. If he doesn't, the judgment of God will rest upon him; and after he has been exposed to God's Word, that judgment will be sudden. There will be no warning given that tomorrow at 6 o'clock you are going to get right or God is going to do something. It's a dangerous thing to have light and not live up to that light.

Why do I say that God's judgment is sudden? Look at the last part of verse 5, where you read:

Hosea 6

5…and thy judgments are as the light that goeth forth.

Philips has caught the right idea when he quotes God as saying, “My judgment strikes like lightning.”, for that's the exact meaning of that particular statement. The judgment of God is sudden. It does strike like lightning, and God help the man who plays fast and loose with the light that God gives him and thinks that it makes no difference to God what he does. It makes a great deal of difference.

God's Desire for Israel

Keep in mind, God is saying, “What am I going to do with you? I have exposed you to the Word of God. You know what is right. What can I do from here on out?” Then He reminds them that, after all, He is not asking a great deal of them. He said, “My desire is not so tremendous that it cannot be met.” Look at verse 6:

Hosea 6

6For I desired mercy, and not sacrifice; and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings.

What is this God is saying? Simply this: “I don't want very much. All I want, actually, is reality instead of ritual.” We are strange creatures indeed. We, all of us, would much rather present a ritualistic service to God than the reality of a personal relationship. That's the reason some worship services get entirely out of hand. Instead of being centered around the Word of God as they ought to be, instead of the pulpit being the center of the platform as it should be, to emphasize that the purpose of meeting together is to worship God through His Word, the pulpit from which the Word of God is ministered is moved off to the side. A cross, a crucifix or some sort of symbol or emblem is placed in the center, and the entire time is taken up with what folk call preliminaries, and a mere courtesy recognition is extended to the Word of God. This is ritualism and somehow or other we find it easier to observe than living in the reality of a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

A Will Yielded to God

Let me suggest that you look at that verse again and notice what God desires. “I desire mercy,” He said, “and I desire knowledge.” May I remind you that the word mercy in that verse is the very same word as the word goodness in verse 4. When God said in verse 4, “Your goodness doesn't last very long.”, He could have said, “Your mercy doesn't last very long.”, because the two words are the translation of the same word. We suggested to you the one that we believe to be the better one—a matter of yieldedness.

So, we suggest to you that God said, “All I want is wills yielded to Me. All I want is for you to yield your will to Me. That's all. Mercy is what I want. I am not interested in your bringing a sacrifice. I am interested in your yielding your will. I am not interested,” He said, “in a burnt offering, but I am interested in your having a knowledge of God.”

This word knowledge is not a new word to most of us. It comes from the Hebrew word daath , which speaks of an intimate knowledge of God. As we pointed out to you some weeks ago, it is the same word that is used of a husband and wife relationship, when the Bible speaks of the man knowing his wife. It is an intimate relationship. God said, “That's what I want you to have—a full knowledge of Me.”

As a matter of fact, when the book of Hosea was placed in the Septuagint version of the Old Testament, translated from the Hebrew to the Greek, the Greek word that was used for this word knowledge was epignosis , which means “to know fully,” “to know without any strings or hindrances or reservation whatsoever.”

I ask you: Is that too much for God to ask? He doesn't want your money. He doesn't want your church attendance. He doesn't want your Sunday school teaching. He doesn't want anything that you do . All He wants is you . He wants your will yielded and He wants you to enter into a very intimate relationship with Him. Have you entered into such a relationship with Him, or are you so busy with all of the things that you are doing, with the burnt offerings and the sacrifices, that you've never really had time to know Him?

It is interesting to notice the portions of the Old Testament that appeal to the Lord Jesus Christ, those that appealed to Him while He was here on the earth. This verse from Hosea, chapter 6, appealed to Him very much, for He used it two different times to remind the Pharisees of the emptiness of the thing that they professed, of the hypocrisy which was theirs. He reminded them again that all God wanted was sincerity.

One day they criticized His apostles for breaking a little wheat off in their hands and eating it as they made their journey to another meeting, because they interpreted it as their laboring on the Sabbath day. He said, “Haven't you ever heard what David did? When David's reign was refused for Israel, David ate the precious bread that lay upon the table of shewbread in the temple, and God didn't rebuke him for it because the table of shewbread meant absolutely nothing to God as long as God's choice for blessings for Israel was rejected.” Then He quoted this passage of Scripture at which we are looking, and He said, “God doesn't desire burnt offerings and sacrifices. God desires a yielded life, an intimate knowledge of Him.” So little, and yet in place of God seeing any response on the part of Israel, other things occurred.

Israel's Deliberate Disobedience

I have described them with the phrase Israel's deeds . What was it that Israel did that disturbed God in the manner we have described? Look at verse 7, and you will notice the statement:

Hosea 6

7But they like men have transgressed the covenant: there have they dealt treacherously against me.
8Gilead is a city of them that work iniquity, and is polluted with blood.
9And as troops of robbers wait for a man, so the company of priests murder in the way by consent: for they commit lewdness.

This probably doesn't mean as much to you on first reading as it could mean, for it's a rather involved paragraph. So let me break it down for us and suggest to you that on the part of the Israelites in the day of which Hosea spoke, there was deliberate disobedience. Why do I use those words to describe their deeds? Because of what I read in verse 7, that “they like men have transgressed the covenant.”

Notice the word men there, as I suggest to you that it is not the ordinary word for men in the Old Testament. It comes from the Hebrew word adam , from which we get our word Adam . Bibles with marginal references put in the word Adam, and some of the revisions put it in the actual text itself, so that it could read, “that they, like Adam, have transgressed the covenant.”

What is God saying? “You Israelites have done exactly what Adam did. You have deliberately transgressed the agreement.” And why does He say, “you have done it like Adam did?” Review what you know of Adam's sin, and remember that it is recorded that Eve was deceived, but Adam deliberately did what he did. He did it knowing full well what he was doing, and this is exactly what the Israelites did in their day. They deliberately disobeyed God and God said to them, “I am desperate. I don't know what else to do. I don't know what else to say. With all that I have done with you and for you and through you and in you, how could you deliberately disobey Me?” God could say the same thing to many Christian hearts at this moment for there are Christians who have light and who know what they ought to do, but they deliberately disobey God. God is nonplused at such actions.

Their deeds might be described not only in the terms of deliberate disobedience in the sense that I have suggested, but deliberate disobedience in the light of the last statement in verse 9, where it is recorded, “They commit lewdness.” Lewdness to many of us conveys the idea of some kind of sexual immorality or indecent dress, but actually the word lewdness comes from the Hebrew word zimmah , which speaks of planning a crime. It speaks of an individual's sitting down and planning a crime and deciding all the ways to carry out the crime so that the people involved won't get caught.

Could it be that Israel would do this? Yes, she did. Could it be that Christians will do this? Yes, they do. Christians who ought to know better deliberately plan to disobey God and try to make sure that there are no weak places in their plan so that they will not be caught up. “Oh,” someone may say, “I don't believe Christians can do that.” That's because you fail to remember that many deeds might be described by another word. I use the word deceitfulness as an aid to your memory. It comes to my mind from what I read in the latter part of verse 7:

Hosea 6

7…there have they dealt treacherously against me.

The word there refers to some cities that we will be looking at before we are through, but for the moment let's just recognize that God said these Israelites dealt treacherously with Him. If you keep in mind that the word treacherously comes from the Hebrew word bagad , which means “to cover a garment,” you will see why I say that they dealt deceitfully with the Lord. What is this He is saying? He is saying that Israel hid what they did as though God couldn't see through a piece of cloth. They covered it all up hoping that somehow it would not come to the attention of God.

They were deceitful with God. Oh yes, they went to the temple and they took their burnt offerings and they took their sacrifices and they laid their hands on the offerings as though everything were all right, covering it with a cloak of hypocrisy.

The Desecration of Sacred Places

I think you are intelligent enough to make your own application where it needs to be made. This that we are referring to as the deeds of Israel might be characterized by something else, what I refer to as a desecration of sacred places . When I refer to a desecration of sacred places you might even wonder why I make such a reference, but I will ask you to notice verse 8, where you see the word Gilead . I remind you that Gilead was one of twenty cities of refuge, designated by God as a place where men could flee for their own safety.

In verse 9, though it isn't apparent in our King James version, there is another city mentioned—Shechem by name, which was also a city of refuge. The way to the city of Shechem, the way to the city of Gilead, according to the Word of God, was supposed to be made perfectly plain and clear so that nobody ever would have any trouble finding their way. It was the responsibility of the priests to see that this was done. But what was happening? You follow in your King James version as I read from a Revised Standard version. The American Standard version is similar; the Amplified version is practically the same. It reads: “Gilead is a city of evildoers tracked with blood as robbers lie in wait for a man; so the priests have banded together. They murder men on their way to Shechem.”

What are we reading? We are reading about the desecration of sacred places. Gilead and Shechem were supposed to be places where man could get help from God, but the priests and the people were using them for the furtherance of their own interests. Instead of their being a place where the man who shed blood could find safety from the avenger, so much blood was shed in them that you couldn't walk through the streets without tracking blood on the next street. A place that was meant by God to be a place of refuge became a place of material gain for those who were more interested in the furtherance of their own cause than they were in yielding to God.

Can you not see where God had reached a point of desperation? Can you not see why God said, “What else can I do? And what else am I going to have to do to make you see that if you don't straighten up and be different than what you are, there is only one thing that awaits you?” And that is what we have already referred to in the introductory outline—inevitable destruction.

Notice verse 11:

Hosea 6

11Also, O Judah, he hath set an harvest for thee…

The word also means that Israel was included, and by this time you understand that the nation was divided into two parts: ten tribes known as Israel, two tribes known as Judah. So the whole nation faced inevitable destruction in the light of their lack of yieldedness to God.

I use the term destruction , not in the sense of annihilation, but in the sense of the judgment of God. I like the way Phillips translates the verse when he said: “And for you too, Judah, the harvest is inevitable.” We are strange creatures, we folk. We somehow believe that though God's Word is true, and it has applied to a great many folk, by some sort of reasoning it isn't going to apply to us. We feel that the Word of God is true when the Word of God says, “Whatsoever a man sows, that shall he also reap. The man that sows to the flesh shall of the flesh reap destruction, but the man who sows to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap everlasting life.” I remind you that that is addressed to Christians. We say, “I know that is true, but it is just not going to apply to me.” If somebody presses the individual and says, “Why isn't it going to apply to you? It applies to everybody else.” “Well, I don't know, but somehow I am going to escape.”

Israel thought so, too. Judah lived 200 years as a nation after Israel was taken into captivity, listening to the same kind of preaching and being forcefully reminded by a very recent message, “This happened to Israel.” They still said, “It won't happen to us.”

Conclusion

Take the message home to your hearts. Take it home to your hearts in relation to our own beloved nation and remember that judgment is inevitable. Take it home to your own hearts personally as believers, and remember that you cannot be exposed to God's Word and the responsibility it entails and ignore it without God dealing with you in a very forceful way.

We are reminded of the words of Peter, in the light of what I just said: It is necessary that judgment begin at the house of God. That's what I have been talking about—judgment at the house of God. Peter said it is necessary that judgment begin at the house of God and if it begins first at us, for if the godly are scarcely saved, if the godly are saved with discipline, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear? What I said is true concerning those who belong to God. What about the man who dares to flaunt God by not acknowledging His Son?


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