God’s Word of Mercy and Forgiveness
Hosea 4:11—5:15: The LORD condemns Israel’s pagan worship practices and idolatry, and the people are to be punished for their sinfulness. Today’s reading concludes with a claim that the people will seek the LORD after they have suffered enough.
The evil that the people have done keeps them from returning to their God.
The Lord Condemns Pagan Worship
11The Lord says, “Wine, both old and new, is robbing my people of their senses! 12They ask for revelations from a piece of wood! A stick tells them what they want to know! They have left me. Like a woman who becomes a prostitute, they have given themselves to other gods. 13At sacred places on the mountaintops they offer sacrifices, and on the hills they burn incense under tall, spreading trees, because the shade is so pleasant!
“As a result, your daughters serve as prostitutes, and your daughters-in-law commit adultery. 14Yet I will not punish them for this, because you yourselves go off with temple prostitutes, and together with them you offer pagan sacrifices. As the proverb says, ‘A people without sense will be ruined.’
15“Even though you people of Israel are unfaithful to me, may Judah not be guilty of the same thing. Don't worship at Gilgal or Bethaven, or make promises there in the name of the living Lord. 16The people of Israel are as stubborn as mules. How can I feed them like lambs in a meadow? 17The people of Israel are under the spell of idols. Let them go their own way. 18After drinking much wine, they delight in their prostitution, preferring disgrace to honor. 19They will be carried away as by the wind, and they will be ashamed of their pagan sacrifices.
1“Listen to this, you priests! Pay attention, people of Israel! Listen, you that belong to the royal family! You are supposed to judge with justice—so judgment will fall on you! You have become a trap at Mizpah, a net spread on Mount Tabor, 2a deep pit at Acacia City, and I will punish all of you. 3I know what Israel is like—she cannot hide from me. She has been unfaithful, and her people are unfit to worship me.”
Hosea Warns against Idolatry
4The evil that the people have done keeps them from returning to their God. Idolatry has a powerful hold on them, and they do not acknowledge the Lord. 5The arrogance of the people of Israel cries out against them. Their sins make them stumble and fall, and the people of Judah fall with them. 6They take their sheep and cattle to offer as sacrifices to the Lord, but it does them no good. They cannot find him, for he has left them. 7They have been unfaithful to the Lord; their children do not belong to him. So now they and their lands will soon be destroyed.
War between Judah and Israel
8Blow the war trumpets in Gibeah! Sound the alarm in Ramah! Raise the war cry at Bethaven! Into battle, men of Benjamin! 9The day of punishment is coming, and Israel will be ruined. People of Israel, this will surely happen!
10The Lord says, “I am angry because the leaders of Judah have invaded Israel and stolen land from her. So I will pour out punishment on them like a flood. 11Israel is suffering oppression; she has lost land that was rightfully hers, because she insisted on going for help to those who had none to give. 12I will bring destruction on Israel and ruin on the people of Judah.
13“When Israel saw how sick she was and when Judah saw her own wounds, then Israel went to Assyria to ask the great emperor for help, but he could not cure them or heal their wounds. 14I will attack the people of Israel and Judah like a lion. I myself will tear them to pieces and then leave them. When I drag them off, no one will be able to save them.
15“I will abandon my people until they have suffered enough for their sins and come looking for me. Perhaps in their suffering they will try to find me.”
Today’s reading includes a reference to temple prostitutes (4:14). These women were found in Canaanite temples where fertility gods were worshiped. It was believed that intercourse with these prostitutes assured fertile fields and herds. What will happen to those who engage in this ritual (4:17-19)? Reread 5:15. What will it take for the people to be restored to God?
Lord God, there are times when I feel abandoned by or separated from you because of my sinfulness. Teach me to acknowledge my sinful ways and confess my sins to you so that I may be restored to a right relationship with you. In your holy name, I pray. Amen.
Those who find it difficult to acknowledge their sinfulness and return to the Lord.
Hosea 9:1-16: Hosea announces punishment for Israel.