The Restraint of Righteousness
Dr. Joe Temple

Introduction

In this lesson we will be studying the truths that are presented to us in chapter 12 of the book of Hosea. You will recall in our last lesson, we suggested to you that the last verse of chapter 11 in the Hebrew Bible is the first verse of chapter 12. Because of the subject matter, we said we would reserve our discussion of verse 12 in chapter 11 until the time we discussed chapter 12. So as we begin our reading, let us begin with verse 12 of chapter 11, and go on into chapter 12:

Hosea 11

12Ephraim compasseth me about with lies, and the house of Israel with deceit: but Judah yet ruleth with God, and is faithful with the saints.

Hosea 12

1Ephraim feedeth on wind, and followeth after the east wind: he daily increaseth lies and desolation; and they do make a covenant with the Assyrians, and oil is carried into Egypt.
2The LORD hath also a controversy with Judah, and will punish Jacob according to his ways; according to his doings will he recompense him.
3He took his brother by the heel in the womb, and by his strength he had power with God:
4Yea, he had power over the angel, and prevailed: he wept, and made supplication unto him: he found him in Bethel, and there he spake with us;
5Even the LORD God of hosts; the LORD is his memorial.
6Therefore turn thou to thy God: keep mercy and judgment and wait on thy God continually.
7He is a merchant, the balances of deceit are in his hand: he loveth to oppress.
8And Ephraim said, Yet I am become rich, I have found me out substance: in all my labours they shall find none iniquity in me that were sin.
9And I that am the LORD thy God from the land of Egypt will yet make thee to dwell in tabernacles, as in the days of the solemn feast.
10I have also spoken by the prophets, and I have multiplied visions, and used similitudes, by the ministry of the prophets.
11Is there iniquity in Gilead? surely they are vanity: they sacrifice bullocks in Gilgal; yea, their altars are as heaps in the furrows of the fields.
12And Jacob fled into the country of Syria, and Israel served for a wife, and for a wife he kept sheep.
13And by a prophet the LORD brought Israel out of Egypt, and by a prophet was he preserved.
14Ephraim provoked him to anger most bitterly: therefore shall he leave his blood upon him, and his reproach shall his LORD return unto him.

I don't know how you feel about this chapter, if this is the first time you have read it. You may be confused as you attempt to find some kind of continuity in it. You may be confused if you don't understand what real meaning there is to all that is said. I would like to say in the interest of accuracy that the chapter was a sermon preached by Hosea, and He preached to the people who understood a great deal that you don't understand, because they were part of that era in which he preached.

If you are familiar with sermons preached in another century, you will know that some of the things that those stalwart preachers mentioned have absolutely no meaning for us today, unless you do some research and find out exactly what they were talking about. So before you dismiss this chapter as being uninteresting and of very little value, I suggest that you try to get the spirit of the chapter, recognizing that all Scripture is given by inspiration and is profitable.

In this chapter, sometimes God was speaking, and sometimes the prophet was speaking. Sometimes a spokesman for Ephraim or for Judah was speaking. Sometimes the nation of Israel under the name of Ephraim or under the name of Judah or under the name of Jacob was the subject of discussion. Other times Jacob, the forbear of Israel, was the one who was under discussion, as well as Moses the prophet of God.

In order that you might have all of these truths fixed in your mind and make application of them in your individual lives, I'm going to suggest some permanent lessons which are found in this chapter. These permanent lessons in this chapter will not be examined by consecutive verses. They will be presented on the basis of the lesson, and the verses related to the lesson will be brought to your attention as you think of them.

The first permanent lesson that I would like to call to your attention is what I have been pleased to call, for want of a better way of expressing it, restraint of righteousness . What do I mean by that? Let's fill in a little ground material here and realize that the righteous have always acted as a restraint upon the hand of God when it was coming time to visit judgment. Righteousness, the Bible says, exalted the nation. Righteousness has stayed the hand of God any number of times when God felt that surely the nation in question should be visited with discipline and perhaps even destruction.

The Righteous In the City

You are familiar with the fact that Sodom and Gomorrah, because their cup of iniquity was full, was slated for destruction. God said, “I cannot do this terrible thing without consulting my friend Abraham.” You know the story. God told Abraham what He was going to do, and immediately Abraham began the ministry of intercession and said, “If we can find fifty righteous men in the city, will you spare the city?” God said, “For fifty righteous I will spare the city.” Those of you who are familiar with the story know that finally God, though He would have spared the city had there been as few as five righteous in the city, could do no more than deliver His own from destruction, because of the absence of righteous people within the city itself.

You are familiar with a passage of Scripture in II Thessalonians, chapter 2, which is a reference to the end of the age, a reference to the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ and a reference to the Holy Spirit. You will recall, Paul said in the Thessalonian letter, “When he that now hindereth, when he that now restraineth, is taken out of the way, then will iniquity abound.” Today, in our world that which keeps iniquity from being any worse than it is, that keeps God's judgment from falling upon this world, is the presence of the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ, and of course, the Holy Spirit within the Church.

What is there in this chapter to verify what we have suggested to you as the first lesson that we would call to your attention,the restraint of righteousness ? Look with me at verse 12 of chapter 11:

Hosea 11

12Ephraim compasseth me about with lies, and the house of Israel with deceit: but Judah yet ruleth with God, and is faithful with the saints.

Did you notice the difference? Ephraim, the ten tribes, had been so dealt with by God that they were practically forsaken. They had compassed God about with lies and the house of Israel with deceit.

May I digress long enough to say that that is always the procedure. If your actions are not right with your fellow man, and you are looking for a reason, examine your relationship with God. Ephraim, of the ten tribes, lied to God. After that it was easy to deceive her fellow men.

Notice in the first part of the first verse of chapter 12:

Hosea 12

1Ephraim feedeth on wind, and followeth after the east wind: he daily increaseth lies and desolation; and they do make a covenant with the Assyrians, and oil is carried into Egypt.

What is He saying? Ephraim is following a useless course; she is feeding on the wind. That is a pretty thin diet, isn't it? And she is following after the wind. Now, the east wind here in this part of the world may not have any particular significance to us, but the east wind in the part of the world about which we are thinking, blew over the hot desert and was, by the time it reached Ephraim, a destructive wind. So much so that some people translate this verse, “Ephraim feedeth on the wind and followeth after the whirlwind of destruction.” Ephraim was slated for destruction.

Go back now, to verse 12 of the previous chapter, and notice the last statement:

Hosea 11

12…but Judah yet ruleth with God, and is faithful with the saints.

Look down in chapter 12, verse 2:

Hosea 12

2The LORD hath also a controversy with Judah, and will [in the future] punish Jacob according to his ways; according to his doings will he recompense him.

You see what the Spirit of God is doing? He is making a difference between the ten tribes and the two tribes, making a difference between Ephraim and between Judah. Those of you who are familiar with Hebrew history know that Ephraim ceased to be a nation two hundred years before Judah ceased her existence. If we talk about a God who deals in fairness and equality, we might well ask ourselves why God would be partial to Judah? He wasn't. God was following the principle that we have called to your attention. He was restraining judgment on Judah because in Judah there were righteous people who had not yet knelt and bowed their knees to Baal. There were righteous people who were still faithful to the saints. Because of those righteous people, God withheld His hand. This chapter is of value if for no other reason than we might be reminded again of the restraint of righteousness and perhaps be encouraged in relation to our own nation and ask God to have mercy upon us—not because we deserve it, but because of the righteous people who are yet within our borders.

The Influence of a Godly Heritage

There is another lesson I would like for you to glean from this chapter with me, and I am going to call that lesson, the influence of a godly heritage . God was going to make an appeal to Israel, but before He would make His appeal to Israel He would remind them of their Godly heritage by bringing to their attention two examples: Jacob and Moses—two examples of a bygone day, who provided a godly heritage for them that placed upon them greater responsibility than they would have had ordinarily, because that godly heritage had an effect upon them.

This is a principle that is taught throughout the Word of God. It is the reason Paul reminds the Corinthians that children of born-again parents are sanctified. No, he did not mean they are saved. They need a Savior just like anybody else needs a Savior, but they are sanctified in the sense that they are set apart for God's special attention, because they are children of praying parents. Godly heritage does mean something. The seed that is sown certainly will be reaped.

Look at verse 3 of chapter 12:

Hosea 12

3He took his brother by the heel in the womb, and by his strength he had power with God:
4Yea, he had power over the angel, and prevailed: he wept, and made supplication unto him: he found him in Bethel, and there he spake with us;
5Even the LORD God of hosts; the LORD is his memorial.

Then down in verse 12:

Hosea 12

12And Jacob fled into the country of Syria, and Israel [another name for Jacob] served for a wife, and for a wife he kept sheep.

We will stop our reading there for a moment, because those verses point out the significant things in the experience of Jacob to tell Israel, the nation, what kind of people she ought to be in the light of the godly example set by her forbear Jacob.

Desire for God's Blessing

The first thing that I would call to your attention about Jacob is his unyielding desire for God's blessings. How anxious are you for God's blessings? What are you willing to do in order to obtain them? Jacob's desire for God's blessings was second to none. His was an unyielding desire that began in his heart even before he was born. Did you notice what we read in the first statement of verse 3? “He took his brother by the heel in the womb.” Do you know why he did that? Esau would have been born first. Jacob and Esau were twins, and Jacob knew that Esau would have received the birthright blessing, which meant great spiritual power. Jacob, realizing this would be true of Esau, grabbed Esau by the heel, as though he would prevent him from being born first, so that Jacob could be born first.

Keep in mind that this is not my interpretation, nor is it my comment. This is the interpretation the Holy Spirit of God put upon the experience that occurred in the womb of the mother of Jacob and Esau. Individuals who have changed their position about the scriptural attitude in relation to abortion might have to deal with a passage of Scripture like this. If Jacob and Esau were intelligent beings before they ever saw the light of day, how could abortion be anything but murder? You find the answer to that, because we are not talking about that in this lesson. The lesson that we would have you learn is that Jacob's desire for God's blessing was so great that he sensed it even in his prenatal days, and it never left him.

If you will notice in the last part of verse 3, you read:

Hosea 12

3…and by his strength he had power with God:

If you are familiar with his biography, you know that this is a reference to the time, when in the prime of his life, he wrestled with the Angel of the LORD. He would not let the Angel of the LORD go until he had been blessed, saying, “I will not let thee go until thou hast blessed me.” If the Spirit of God had anything in mind in drawing these things to the attention of the Israelites, surely it was to remind them that one of the reasons they were in the sad state in which they were was that they had lost their desire for the blessings of God.

Have you reached the place in your life where the blessing of God means nothing to you? Have you reached the place in your life where the blessing of God is a rather commonplace thing? Could it be that you have never really experienced the blessing of God to any great extent, so you don't realize how valuable it really is?

Jacob's Unreserved Dedication to God

We remind you of another thing about Jacob. We have termed it, unreserved dedication . Technically you're either dedicated or you're not dedicated, but we are all aware of the fact that many people make their dedications with their fingers crossed; they have some reservation.

Jacob was a man of unreserved dedication. That is evident if you will look at verse 4, where you will read:

Hosea 12

4Yea, he had power over the angel, and prevailed: he wept, and made supplication unto him: he found him in Bethel, and there he spake with us;

Literally the word he is a reference to God. “There God spake with us.” He held on to the Angel of God until the blessing came. You are told here that Jacob wept during that experience. You are not told that in the book of Genesis. Then you were told that later he went to Bethel and made a covenant with God. He was gone for forty years, but the first place that he went to when he came home was Bethel, where he renewed his covenant with God.

Had we time to read the story that is recorded in the book of Genesis, you would see the reason I have used the terminology unreserved dedication , because when Jacob went to cross the wilderness to a new experience and a new life, he laid his all on the altar. When he came back to Bethel, he reminded God that he wanted it to stay right there. He wasn't willing to take any of it back.

Jacob's Unswerving Devotion to God

The last thing that I would call to your attention, which the Spirit of God brought to the attention of the Israelites, is related to what I have termed the unswerving devotion in the life of Jacob, because you will notice in the last part of verse 4, the statement that it was at Bethel that God spoke with Jacob. That experience that Jacob had there was where God spoke to him face to face. He heard His voice and he recognized what fellowship with Him meant. It was an experience that caused him to swerve not in his devotion to God ever again.

With the heritage of Jacob before them, God would make an appeal to them. But before we notice the appeal, you will recognize another person that He brings to their attention; Moses was his name. Perhaps you are looking at the chapter to see exactly where the name of Moses is mentioned. You won't see it there, but you will see Moses mentioned if you will look at verse 13, because there you read:

Hosea 12

13And by a prophet the LORD brought Israel out of Egypt, and by a prophet was he preserved.

The prophet who brought Israel out of Egypt was none other than Moses, and the prophet who was the instrument in God's hands for their preservation was none other than Moses. Hosea said to Israel, “You have a godly heritage. In the light of your heritage I offer to you an exhortation.” What exhortation did he give in the light of the heritage he had delineated? Look at verse 6, and notice the words:

Hosea 12

6Therefore turn thou to thy God: keep mercy and judgment and wait on thy God continually.

“In the light of the examples that have been set before you, men who have gone on before you ever were here and were dependent upon God enough to be true even in the midst of trials [such as Jacob's trials described in verse 12 of chapter 12] you turn to the Lord. You wait for Him.”

You find the word wait often in the Scripture. You find the phrase, wait for God . It has a variety of meanings, but this particular word and this particular phrase is an exhortation for the people of Israel to lean upon God. What the Holy Spirit was saying through Hosea was, “You are having problems. You are having troubles. You are in a serious state. Learn to lean upon God.”

The Blinding Power of Sin

The third permanent lesson that I would like to draw to your attention from this chapter is what I have been pleased to call the blinding power of sin . Oftentimes we wonder how people could do what they do. Oftentimes we wonder how people can enter into things in which they participate. We say, “I just can't understand how they can do that.” One of the answers is found in our lesson. When sin is the central thought of an individual's experience, it blinds him. The unsaved are without spiritual sight. They cannot understand the things of God, for the things of God are spiritually discerned. Christians out of fellowship with God have scales over their eyes which cause them to make unwise decisions and cause them to be totally blind to the hand of God in their lives. This was true of Israel.

Will you look at verse 7. God said, concerning Israel:

Hosea 12

7He is a merchant, [literally, a Canaanite] the balances of deceit are in his hand: he loveth to oppress.

But how does he feel about it? Verse 7 is God's evaluation. Verse 8 is Ephraim's evaluation:

Hosea 12

8And Ephraim said, Yet I am become rich, I have found me out substance…

“If I am as bad as God says I am,” said Ephraim, “explain my prosperity. Explain my wealth. Explain my blessings. I couldn't be so bad and prosper like I am prospering.” Ephraim was blind to the fact that prosperity is not necessarily an indication of the blessing of God. I think one of the greatest errors that is being propagated in our day is the error that material prosperity is the signal blessing of God in an individual's life.

God may bless, and God in His grace may prosper us, but just because the prosperity is there, do not be so blind as to think that everything is all right. Ephraim thought that, and if you will look down verse 8, he was so boastful, he said:

Hosea 12

8…in all my labours they shall find none iniquity in me that were sin.

He said, “I am ready for my books to be examined. Nobody will find any sin in me. Nobody will find any wrongdoing that they can reckon to my acccount.”

These Israelites, known as Ephraim, were so blinded by the power of sin that they lacked any conviction for sin at all. They would never agree that they had anything wrong in their relationship to God, because they felt no conviction for sin. If you want one of the reasons individuals are able to do what they do, here is one of them. They have no conviction for sin and no conviction of wrongdoing in their lives.

A Lack of Comprehension

I noticed something else. I have termed it a lack of comprehension . Sin had so blinded their eyes that they had lost their power of comprehension. Why do I say that? It is vividly indicated in verse 10, where God said:

Hosea 12

10I have also spoken by the prophets, and I have multiplied visions, and used similitudes, by the ministry of the prophets.

What did He say? “I have spoken to you by many prophets through the course of the years, and not only have I spoken through these prophets, I have multiplied visions [that was God's method of speaking in that day]. I have given vision after vision, and not only have I done that, I have used similitude [that is, parables, stories, illustrations] in great number, and still you do not understand. Still you do not comprehend. Still you do not realize the sad state in which you are.”

It is an amazing thing how a Bible teacher or a minister may point out over and over again to rebellious, ungodly people the errors of their ways, and they think he is talking about someone else. You are in a dangerous state, Beloved, if, when you hear a message, you think that it would be awfully good for somebody else that you know. It is all right if you think it is good for you, and you would like someone else to share it with you, but if you were able to sit under the message of the Word of God and say, “Oh, that would be a good message for so-and-so to hear. I don't need it, but they do.”, you are in a dangerous state.

The Provocation of the Ungodly

I suggest to you another lesson, and that is the provocation of the ungodly . It is an amazing thing to me as I read this chapter that Israel with all her privileges and blessings could provoke God as she did. Two words indicate their provocation. One of them was Gilead , and the other was Gilgal . Those are two important words, because they were cities in which God had abundantly blessed the nation of Israel.

Gilead had been a place of such blessing that spiritual ills were healed so often that when God looked down upon the nation of Israel and realized their sad wounded state, He said, “Is there no balm in Gilead that my people are so ill?” But what does He say here? Look at verse 11. He said, “Is there any iniquity in Gilead? I look down at Gilead; what do I see? Bone for healing? No. All I see is one altar after another, empty, vain altars dedicated to iniquity and sin.”

What about Gilgal? Gilgal was a place where the reproach of Israel was rolled away when they came out of Egypt. Gilgal was a place of great rejoicing because God was honored with the building of the first altar in the land of Canaan when they had left Egyptian bondage. What does He say in verse 11:

Hosea 12

11…they sacrifice bullocks in Gilgal…

He said it as though He can hardly believe what His eyes see. “Could it be that in a place that was dedicated to Me, they would be sacrificing bullocks to heathen altars?”

The word Gilgal means “a heap of stones,” and that is what the Spirit of God had in mind in verse 11, when He said:

Hosea 12

11…yea, their altars are as heaps in the furrows of the fields.

“Gilgal is nothing but a heap of stones as far as I'm concerned. It did have a significance one time. It was a place of great blessing, because I was honored there. But now they have taken that which is sacred, and have prostituted it to their own purposes, and have blasphemed My name.”

A Promise of Blessing

I say that this represents the provocation of the ungodly , because the last thought I want to leave with you would seem almost unneeded, particularly if God operated as you and I would operate. We wouldn't be talking about our patience if someone had treated us the way these people had treated God. Yet, Hosea would not close his message without a reference to the patience of God, the longsuffering of God. It would seem as though God would be through with Israel, never to have anything more to do with her, but nestled in this sad description of a people such as we have been thinking about, is a promise of blessing. Would you look at verse 9:

Hosea 12

9And I that am the LORD thy God from the land of Egypt will yet make thee to dwell in tabernacles, as in the days of the solemn feast.

The Spirit of God was making reference here to a very joyous occasion in the history of the nation of Israel. It was called the Feast of the Tabernacle. Individuals gathered together at the appointed place. They built them tents out of brush, and they dwelt for seven days in these tents.

In earlier days in this country, it might have been termed an old-fashioned camp meeting . They sang and they rejoiced and they praised the Lord. God was the center of their thinking. And God said to this nation who was so far from Him, “Your altars are but heaps of stone to Me.” God said to this nation, “I have a promise. I am going to bring you together again someday for the Feast of the Tabernacles, where there will be a day of grand rejoicing, because we'll be together again.”

You will find the fulfillment of this in chapter 14 of the book of Revelation. Suffice it to say now that God could do this because He is the God that He is. If you look at the first part of verse 9, there you will see the reference to the patience of God. He said, “I that am the LORD [I Am, the memorial name of God] thy God from the land of Egypt will yet make thee to dwell in tabernacles.”

Did you get the point? Israel had departed from God to where no one could recognize them as the people of God. But God said, “I became known as your God in the land of Egypt, and I am still your God. No matter what you do, where you go, no matter how far away from Me you drift, I am still your God, and I will bring you together again someday for a great time of rejoicing and reunion.”

Conclusion

Take these lessons that were intended for the nation of Israel and make them applicable to your own life, as the Holy Spirit of God ministers the Word.


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