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Bible ourhomewithgodcomWelcome to another instalment of forbidden Bible verses — the kind you don’t often hear in church anymore.  The kind that defy today’s sermons, because, let’s face it, they’re just too strong for the usual postmodern congregation.  For past posts, click here or on ‘Bible’ in the tag cloud.

Today’s reading is taken from the King James Version.

Hosea 13

 1When Ephraim spake trembling, he exalted himself in Israel; but when he offended in Baal, he died.

 2And now they sin more and more, and have made them molten images of their silver, and idols according to their own understanding, all of it the work of the craftsmen: they say of them, Let the men that sacrifice kiss the calves.

 3Therefore they shall be as the morning cloud and as the early dew that passeth away, as the chaff that is driven with the whirlwind out of the floor, and as the smoke out of the chimney.

 4Yet I am the LORD thy God from the land of Egypt, and thou shalt know no god but me: for there is no saviour beside me.

 5I did know thee in the wilderness, in the land of great drought.

 6According to their pasture, so were they filled; they were filled, and their heart was exalted; therefore have they forgotten me.

 7Therefore I will be unto them as a lion: as a leopard by the way will I observe them:

 8I will meet them as a bear that is bereaved of her whelps, and will rend the caul of their heart, and there will I devour them like a lion: the wild beast shall tear them.

 9O Israel, thou hast destroyed thyself; but in me is thine help.

 10I will be thy king: where is any other that may save thee in all thy cities? and thy judges of whom thou saidst, Give me a king and princes?

 11I gave thee a king in mine anger, and took him away in my wrath.

 12The iniquity of Ephraim is bound up; his sin is hid.

 13The sorrows of a travailing woman shall come upon him: he is an unwise son; for he should not stay long in the place of the breaking forth of children.

 14I will ransom them from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death: O death, I will be thy plagues; O grave, I will be thy destruction: repentance shall be hid from mine eyes.

15Though he be fruitful among his brethren, an east wind shall come, the wind of the LORD shall come up from the wilderness, and his spring shall become dry, and his fountain shall be dried up: he shall spoil the treasure of all pleasant vessels.

16Samaria shall become desolate; for she hath rebelled against her God: they shall fall by the sword: their infants shall be dashed in pieces, and their women with child shall be ripped up.

Oh, dear.  Israel has incurred the wrath of God yet again.  The last two Sundays we have looked at His displeasure with Saul, who ended up committing suicide, a punishment which God visited upon him for not obeying His command to slay every living thing of the Amalekites.

This week’s passage from the Book of Hosea examines the Ephraimites, a tribe of Joseph.  God granted them many good things. The people had such good fortune that they believed it was their own doing.  They turned from God and began to worship idols, principally Jeroboam and Baal, a Canaanite god of fertility.  They fashion these themselves and put their names to them.  God becomes angry by this apostasy and plans to punish them. 

Some scholars divide this passage into four parts as follows:

Verses 1 – 3:  The Ephraimites became a great people through the love and grace of God. Then, they began making idols and thought themselves the authors of their own good fortune.  They increase their idolatry and their engravers make opulent idols from silver. They are so proud of these creations that they even demand that others kiss these idols.  This is human activity devoid of divine grace — it neither comes from nor is blessed by God.  The Ephraimites have forgotten Him.  Verse 3 tells us that their lives are coming to an end.  Because they have turned from God, they and their idols will pass on, forgotten. 

Verses 4 – 8: In verse 4, God reminds the Ephraimites of the first Commandment: ‘Thou shalt have no gods before me’.  He, alone, is to be worshipped. Only on Him can they depend: He reminds them how He rescued them from Egypt, was with them at a time of drought and gave them livestock for their pastures.  So, God is reminding them of His faithfulness to them as they now turn away, forgetting His goodness. In verse 7, God warns that because of the people’s sinfulness, He will be cunning and fierce towards them — watching them stealthily before moving in with divine vengeance.  They will know His anger, which will be like that of a bear deprived of her cubs.  God’s wrath will cut them deeply, to the outer membrane — caul — of their hearts.  He will treat them as a lion does his prey.  The lion, leopard and bear are mentioned here because the people would have known them for their fierceness in killing prey.  This is a blunt reminder to the people that they will be punished having faith in themselves, not in God.

Verses 9 – 11:  In verse 9, God tells the people of Ephraim that although they can expect punishment, God will not desert them, provided they turn their hearts unto Him.  In verses 10 and 11, He reminds them that they asked for an earthly king — Saul — whom He provided with disastrous results. However, an earthly king can give them no guarantee of safety and salvation.

Verses 12 – 16: In verse 12, God announces that the punishment coming to the Ephraimites is sure.  It will also bring intense and prolonged pain, like that of a woman in labour (‘travailing’).  Although God will ultimately save His people, He must deal with them severely for their idolatry and ego.  If verse 14 seems familiar, St Paul quotes it in Corinthians 15:55.  In verses 15 and 16, God describes the punishment He will mete out.  Ephraim’s people will fall to Assyria.

The moral of this chapter is that whatever good comes to us is entirely through God’s bounteous grace.  So often, we idolise material comforts — property, cars, clothes, jewellry, food or sex.  We think that because we have a well-paying job that it’s because of our brainpower or ambition.  We revel in the power we have over our subordinates and each other.  ‘I can buy you anything you want, darling’ or ‘My company couldn’t live without me’.  Do we stop to think that our comfort comes from God?  Do we thank God for the guidance He gives us every day to complete our tasks at work?  No, we generally forget Him — put Him to one side. We’re happy, we’re healthy, we’re comfy.  We’ve done it all ourselves, haven’t we?  It’s such a childish way to think.  And God sees this and decides to punish us for this egotism and childishness.  Sometimes, He acts quickly.  Other times, He waits. One thing is for sure, there is no escaping God’s judgment.  Yet, if we turn our hearts and minds to Him and give Him thanks for His goodness and mercy, He will forgive us and guide us.       
For more, read here and here.

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