golden-calfAt the beginning of verse 4 in Hosea 8, God says, ‘They set up kings, but not by Me; They made princes, but I did not acknowledge them.’”  Not only are they breaking God’s covenant, but also Belittling God’s Consent.  They won’t listen to what God wants.  What did God want?  “I’ll be the Lord, you be My people.  I’m your God.  You’re My people.”  And what did the people say?  “Okay, that’s great.  Give us a king.”  “Well, no—I’ll be your God, and you be My people.  You will commune with Me through the priesthood, through the sacrifices.  I’m your God; you’re My people.”  “Great.  Fantastic.  Okay.  But give us a king.”  “Why?”  “All the nations around us have kings.”

Don’t ever ask your kids if everybody else in the neighborhood’s doing it.  Everybody else in the neighborhood is doing it, and your kids will want to do it.  It’s peer pressure, isn’t it?  This was national peer pressure.  “All these nations have kings, and look how awesome they are.  They have armies and chariots, and they can conquer and do all of these things.  We want a king.  Give us a king.  Give us a king so somebody can tell us what to do.”  “Well I’m God, you are My people.  I’ve told you what to do.  I’ve given you My Word.  I’ve sent the prophets, I’ve sent the judges.”  “No, give us a king.”  How did that work out for Israel?  Well we learn from Proverbs 3:5 and 6, Trust in the Lord with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths.”

He was going to be directing Israel.  But instead, in First Samuel chapter 8, what happened?  They went to Samuel and said, “We want a king.”  He had made his sons judges over Israel, we’re told.  The name of his firstborn was Joel, and the second, Abijah.  They were judges in Beersheba.  “But his sons did not walk in his ways; they turned aside after dishonest gain, took bribes, and perverted justice. Then all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah, and said to him, ‘Look, you are old, and your sons do not walk in your ways. Now make us a king to judge us like all the nations.’ But the thing displeased Samuel when they said, ‘Give us a king to judge us.’”

Now part of the motive here was that “the people that you have set up in charge, Samuel—they’re your sons and they’re not doing what’s right, so we have wicked leaders.”  Have you ever noticed that every election people think  that we are given a choice between wicked leaders and good, righteous politicians?  That’s how it works, isn’t it?  It’s always the self-professed good, righteous, holy politicians against the corrupt people who are in office, and we want progress and we want reform.  Listen, if you’re a politician, you are polluted.  That’s just the way it is.

“Yes, yes,” Samuel here is saying, “why do you want this?”  “Well, the nations do this, and besides that, your sons—they’re wicked.”  Well, this was not the answer.   “….So Samuel prayed to the Lord. And the Lord said to Samuel, ‘Heed the voice of the people in all that they say to you; for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected Me.’”  You see, this was not an appeal for godly leadership, this was a rejection of God’s system.  They rejected God’s Word.

So God says to Samuel, “Listen to them.  They’re not rejecting you, they’re rejecting Me, that I should not reign over them. According to all the works which they have done since the day that I brought them up out of Egypt, even to this day—with which they have forsaken Me and served other gods—so they are doing to you also. Now therefore, heed their voice. However, you shall solemnly forewarn them, and show them the behavior of the king who will reign over them.’

10 So Samuel told all the words of the Lord to the people who asked him for a king,” and they said, “Okay, we cancel the vote.  We don’t want a king.  We’ll keep the Lord,” right?  No.  Samuel said, 11…‘This will be the behavior of the king who will reign over you.’”  Have you ever tried to talk a mob out of something?  It just doesn’t work.

11 …‘This will be the behavior of the king who will reign over you: He will take your sons and appoint them for his own chariots and to be his horsemen, and some will run before his chariots. 12 He will appoint captains over his thousands and captains over his fifties, will set some to plow his ground and reap his harvest, and some to make his weapons of war and equipment for his chariots.’”

He says, “Look, you might get a king, but this is going to be a lot of work.  This is going to cost you all of these things.  13 ‘He will take your daughters to be perfumers, cooks, and bakers. 14 And he will take the best of your fields, your vineyards, and your olive groves, and give them to his servants. 15 He will take a tenth of your grain and your vintage, and give it to his officers and servants.’”  He’s going to tax you!  Who volunteers for taxes?

16 And he will take your male servants, your female servants, your finest young men, you’re your donkeys, and put them to his work. 17 He will take a tenth of your sheep. And you will be his servants. 18 And you will cry out in that day because of your king whom you have chosen for yourselves, and the Lord will not hear you in that day.’ 19 Nevertheless the people refused to obey the voice of Samuel; and they said, ‘No, but we will have a king over us, 20 that we also may be like all the nations, and that our king may judge us and go out before us and fight our battles.’”

21 And Samuel heard all the words of the people, and he repeated them in the hearing of the Lord. 22 So the Lord said to Samuel, ‘Heed their voice, and make them a king.’ And Samuel said to the men of Israel, ‘Every man go to his city.’”  He sent them to go find a king, and the people selected Saul—head and shoulders above the rest; the tallest man; he was bright and he was good-looking.  They chose him to be king, but he was not God’s choice.  Who was God’s choice, by the way?  David.  The world, Israel, they wanted Saul; God wanted David.

By the time we get to where we are with Isaiah, do you realize that of all of the kings ruling over Israel since the kingdom split, none of them were from the line of David?  They were all illegitimate heirs to the throne.  And remember that in the time period from Hosea to when they’re conquered by Assyria, there are six kings in Israel, and four of those came to power by assassinating the man who was king.

What was happening in Judah?  In Judah, the kings were all in the line of David.  It was the right lineage, they had the temple, they had worship.  Now, don’t think that Judah gets off the hook.  We’re going to hear about them in a minute.  But here in Israel, they’ve rejected God’s line.  They’ve set themselves up to be their own masters, and they will not listen to God’s Word.

Continuing in Hosea 8, verses 4 through 6, then, it says, From their silver and gold They made idols for themselves—That they might be cut off. Your calf is rejected, O Samaria! My anger is aroused against them—How long until they attain to innocence? For from Israel is even this: A workman made it, and it is not God; But the calf of Samaria shall be broken to pieces.”

Jeroboam the First did this when the kingdom split.  He realized that if the people traveled all the way to the temple in Jerusalem to worship that they were going to reunite with the Southern Kingdom.  And if you know anything about civil war, the North and the South never get along, even after they reunite.  They just don’t.  And here, the North was afraid that the people would want to go back to the South, and so the kings were going to be declared illegitimate.

So Jeroboam has a solution.  He goes to Samaria, to the biggest capital in the region, and he sets up a golden calf and says, “Here’s where you come to worship God.  You don’t have to go all the way to Jerusalem.  Don’t worry about that.  I’ve got priests for you.  I’ve got an altar for you.  I’ve even got a calf that represents the strength of the God who brought us out of Egypt.”  He set up a church in Samaria.  He anointed priests who were not in the right line, in the proper line of the Levites or from Aaron.  But the people didn’t care.  Now they didn’t have to travel all the way down to Jerusalem.  Now they had a church on the street corner.  Wow, this is easy!

So they went and began to worship these false gods.  And it says, “From their silver and gold They made idols for themselves—That they might be cut off.”  Now, was their intention in making these idols so that God would cut them off as His people?  That was not their intention, but that was the result.  They sowed and they reaped.

Your calf is rejected, O Samaria! My anger is aroused against them—How long until they attain to innocence?”  In other words, “This worship, this sacrifice, this system is not going to get them right with Me.  What they are worshiping a workman has made, and it is not God, and it will be broken in pieces.”  You see what they did is they made a calf.  And understand, when they made this calf, this calf to them was not a false god.

This was not a false or another god.  This calf, for them, represented God who brought them out of Egypt.  It represented the strength of God.  We know this from the first golden calf.  When Aaron made it, the people said, “We want a calf to worship,” because Moses was up on the mountain and he hadn’t come down.  “We don’t know, maybe he’s dead.  We want to see God.”  God didn’t let the people see Him, so they went to Aaron and said, “Make us a calf.”  And Aaron told Moses later, “Well, the people gave me all this gold, and I threw it in the fire—poof!—this calf popped out.  It was a miracle!”  He made this calf and then proclaimed, “Tomorrow is a feast to the Lord.”

Do you understand, as they worshiped that golden calf in the wilderness, at the base of Mount Sinai, they worshiped it as if it were Yahweh God?  This was not a false god for them.  This was how they envisioned God.  They made an image of God in their own minds after their own imaginations and worshiped as if it were God.

What we have to understand here is that God never calls us to come to Him on our terms.  That’s the lesson of Cain and Abel, isn’t it?  We don’t come to God on our terms, we come on His terms.  He said, “Don’t make an image, don’t make an idol, don’t make a false image.”  In fact, what does the New Testament tell us?  “Jesus is the image of God.”  If you make an image of God, if you make an image of Jesus and it’s not a pure representation of Him, it’s not God.

If I drew a picture of you—and you know how I draw, it’s going to look more like a cartoon character than anything—and if I tell people that’s you, and it doesn’t look anything like you, it doesn’t represent you, none of your characteristics are there, you couldn’t tell looking at it—if I held it up and said, “Look, this is Richard,” you would say, “I don’t see Richard in there.  I just don’t see it.”  Well what is that?  Technically, that’s a false image, isn’t it?  Because it’s not true.  It’s not right.  Well, people try to represent God all the time.

How many of you have seen Jesus and can say, “Oh, that’s right”?  We are blessed because we believe, having not seen.  But we want images, because images help us to imagine; they help us visualize.  God said from the start, “Don’t make an image of Me.”  Why?  In Deuteronomy 4, He said, “Because you haven’t seen Me…yet.  If you made an image of Me, that, by very definition, is a false image.”  It’s you trying to come to God on your terms so that you can grasp with your mind the reality of God.

And understand, idols in this day and time were significant.  You find that the idols are lions, and elephants, and hippopotami—whatever the plural of hippopotamus is—you see all of these huge animals, and they usually do them in pairs, and they’re always standing guarding the gates, or standing beside each other—here’s why: It was taught that those idols were not the god themselves, but those idols were where the god rested.  They held the god up so that the people could see him.

So if a god was known for strength, it would be a big raging bull, and you would imagine then that the bull would be there and the idol would be above the bull at the altar.  Or there was some other representation, some other strength, or something else it was known for.  For example, Moloch was known as the god of fire.  Baal also is the god of fire and lightening.  So usually, the idol was actually placed in a fire pit.  What was underneath the idol represented the power of the idol.  So the people here, in making this calf in Samaria, were saying, “God is strong.  We don’t have to go to the temple anymore, so let’s build the calf, and let’s just say that God resides here—right here above this calf.”

See, in Exodus, God was the calf.  By the time we get here, they had learned—“Don’t call God a calf.  He didn’t like that in the Old Testament.”  [What did the Old Testament people call the Old Testament—the “older Testament”?  “Back yonder,” that didn’t work so well.]  “Let’s make a calf, and let’s say this: ‘Upon this, the strength of this calf, rests the presence of God.’  So God is here.  When you want to worship God, you come here, and you bow before this calf, and you’re worshiping God is all of His glory.”  It was idolatry.

You see, “I”dolatry really is all about what we build our life upon, isn’t it?  What are we building our life on?  What’s holding us up?  What is it that we’re holding to?  Where do we put our effort?  Where do we put our energy?  The people here are worshiping God falsely.  They’re putting up other idols next to the calf.  They’re worshiping a multitude of gods.  They have a pick.  Whatever their need is for the day, they can go to that god and try to find a solution. They belittled God. They imagined Him as they wanted to see Him. Ultimately then, this means that they were worshiping themselves.