Devotion for June 2
The book of Hosea is inundated with indictments and declarations of judgment against Israel, Ephraim, and Judah. Repeatedly God details their sinful idolatry and immoral activity, along with their prideful dependence on the various nations around them to deliver them from the rising power of Babylon. His point was that everything they were doing was not just disobedience to His laws, but adultery against Him; a rejection of His love.
In the midst of all the judgments and indictments, God makes this statement in v.6 “For I delight in loyalty rather than sacrifice, And in the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.” Apparently, even in the midst of blatant idolatry and immorality, the priests were continuing to offer the daily sacrifices on behalf of the people. But, as God’s statement makes clear, their offerings and sacrifices were nothing more than routine. The heart attitude of gratefulness that must accompany the thank offerings was not present and the heart attitude of sorrow and desire for the forgiveness of sin that must accompany the atoning sacrifices was not present. In that sense, God says your sacrifice is worthless because it does not represent a genuine love for me, and your burnt offerings have no meaning because they are not offered with a genuine concern for who I am (Holy being the supreme characteristic).
Friends, we would do well to learn from this scathing indictment. We must never allow our relationship with the Father to become nothing more than religious exercises, to the neglect of loving obedience. Both the warning and the encouragement here is simple: The holy God desires loyalty and appreciation for his nature above any offering we might provide, and any attempt on our part to bypass these two requirements will not only inhibit our relationship, but it will also draw his judgment. I pray Ephraim, Israel, and Judah are evidence enough that we do not want to go down that wayward path.
Hosea 5–8 (CSB)
1 Hear this, priests! Pay attention, house of Israel! Listen, royal house! For the judgment applies to you because you have been a snare at Mizpah and a net spread out on Tabor. 2 Rebels are deeply involved in slaughter; I will be a punishment for all of them. 3 I know Ephraim, and Israel is not hidden from me. For now, Ephraim, you have acted promiscuously; Israel is defiled. 4 Their actions do not allow them to return to their God, for a spirit of promiscuity is among them, and they do not know the Lord. 5 Israel’s arrogance testifies against them. Both Israel and Ephraim stumble because of their iniquity; even Judah will stumble with them. 6 They go with their flocks and herds to seek the Lord but do not find him; he has withdrawn from them. 7 They betrayed the Lord; indeed, they gave birth to illegitimate children. Now the New Moon will devour them along with their fields. 8 Blow the horn in Gibeah, the trumpet in Ramah; raise the war cry in Beth-aven: Look behind you, Benjamin! 9 Ephraim will become a desolation on the day of punishment; I announce what is certain among the tribes of Israel. 10 The princes of Judah are like those who move boundary markers; I will pour out my fury on them like water. 11 Ephraim is oppressed, crushed in judgment, for he is determined to follow what is worthless. 12 So I am like rot to Ephraim and like decay to the house of Judah. 13 When Ephraim saw his sickness and Judah his wound, Ephraim went to Assyria and sent a delegation to the great king. But he cannot cure you or heal your wound. 14 For I am like a lion to Ephraim and like a young lion to the house of Judah. Yes, I will tear them to pieces and depart. I will carry them off, and no one can rescue them. 15 I will depart and return to my place until they recognize their guilt and seek my face; they will search for me in their distress. 1 Come, let us return to the Lord. For he has torn us, and he will heal us; he has wounded us, and he will bind up our wounds. 2 He will revive us after two days, and on the third day he will raise us up so we can live in his presence. 3 Let us strive to know the Lord. His appearance is as sure as the dawn. He will come to us like the rain, like the spring showers that water the land. 4 What am I going to do with you, Ephraim? What am I going to do with you, Judah? Your love is like the morning mist and like the early dew that vanishes. 5 This is why I have used the prophets to cut them down; I have killed them with the words from my mouth. My judgment strikes like lightning. 6 For I desire faithful love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings. 7 But they, like Adam, have violated the covenant; there they have betrayed me. 8 Gilead is a city of evildoers, tracked with bloody footprints. 9 Like raiders who wait in ambush for someone, a band of priests murders on the road to Shechem. They commit atrocities. 10 I have seen something horrible in the house of Israel: Ephraim’s promiscuity is there; Israel is defiled. 11 A harvest is also appointed for you, Judah. When I return my people from captivity, 1 when I heal Israel, the iniquity of Ephraim and the crimes of Samaria will be exposed. For they practice fraud; a thief breaks in; a raiding party pillages outside. 2 But they never consider that I remember all their evil. Now their actions are all around them; they are right in front of my face. 3 They please the king with their evil, the princes with their lies. 4 All of them commit adultery; they are like an oven heated by a baker who stops stirring the fire from the kneading of the dough until it is leavened. 5 On the day of our king, the princes are sick with the heat of wine— there is a conspiracy with traitors. 6 For they—their hearts like an oven— draw him into their oven. Their anger smolders all night; in the morning it blazes like a flaming fire. 7 All of them are as hot as an oven, and they consume their rulers. All their kings fall; not one of them calls on me. 8 Ephraim has allowed himself to get mixed up with the nations. Ephraim is unturned bread baked on a griddle. 9 Foreigners consume his strength, but he does not notice. Even his hair is streaked with gray, but he does not notice. 10 Israel’s arrogance testifies against them, yet they do not return to the Lord their God, and for all this, they do not seek him. 11 So Ephraim has become like a silly, senseless dove; they call to Egypt, and they go to Assyria. 12 As they are going, I will spread my net over them; I will bring them down like birds of the sky. I will discipline them in accordance with the news that reaches their assembly. 13 Woe to them, for they fled from me; destruction to them, for they rebelled against me! Though I want to redeem them, they speak lies against me. 14 They do not cry to me from their hearts; rather, they wail on their beds. They slash themselves for grain and new wine; they turn away from me. 15 I trained and strengthened their arms, but they plot evil against me. 16 They turn, but not to what is above; they are like a faulty bow. Their leaders will fall by the sword because of their insolent tongue. They will be ridiculed for this in the land of Egypt. 1 Put the horn to your mouth! One like an eagle comes against the house of the Lord, because they transgress my covenant and rebel against my law. 2 Israel cries out to me, “My God, we know you!” 3 Israel has rejected what is good; an enemy will pursue him. 4 They have installed kings, but not through me. They have appointed leaders, but without my approval. They make their silver and gold into idols for themselves for their own destruction. 5 Your calf-idol is rejected, Samaria. My anger burns against them. How long will they be incapable of innocence? 6 For this thing is from Israel— a craftsman made it, and it is not God. The calf of Samaria will be smashed to bits! 7 Indeed, they sow the wind and reap the whirlwind. There is no standing grain; what sprouts fails to yield flour. Even if they did, foreigners would swallow it up. 8 Israel is swallowed up! Now they are among the nations like discarded pottery. 9 For they have gone up to Assyria like a wild donkey going off on its own. Ephraim has paid for love. 10 Even though they hire lovers among the nations, I will now round them up, and they will begin to decrease in number under the burden of the king and leaders. 11 When Ephraim multiplied his altars for sin, they became his altars for sinning. 12 Though I were to write out for him ten thousand points of my instruction, they would be regarded as something strange. 13 Though they offer sacrificial gifts and eat the flesh, the Lord does not accept them. Now he will remember their guilt and punish their sins; they will return to Egypt. 14 Israel has forgotten his Maker and built palaces; Judah has also multiplied fortified cities. I will send fire on their cities, and it will consume their citadels.