Hosea finishes chapter 8, 11 ‘Because Ephraim has made many altars for sin, They have become for him altars for sinning.’”  This was interesting, because Ephraim is another word for Israel, because Ephraim was the largest tribe.  In Israel, they made many altars for sin.  This is what they knew.  The people need a place to offer sacrifices, because the people sin and they need to sacrifice for sin.  And so we don’t want them to go to Jerusalem, we don’t want them to go to the temple, we don’t want them to do what God tells them to do, so we’re going to build altars all over Samaria, so it’s easy, so that it’s convenient for people to come and to make a sacrifice for their sin.  And He says, “In doing that, you’ve made many altars for sin, and they have become for him altars for sinning.”

You see, they thought they were going to get forgiveness, but in fact they were compounding their sin by worshiping God in a manner against what He had prescribed.  They were trying to short-circuit the system.  They were trying to find a work-around, and God says, “You think that you’re dealing with your sin, but you’re just compounding it.”

12 ‘I have written for him the great things of My law, But they were considered a strange thing. 13 For the sacrifices of My offerings they sacrifice flesh and eat it, But the  Lord does not accept them. Now He will remember their iniquity and punish their sins. They shall return to Egypt. 14 ‘For Israel has forgotten his Maker, And has built temples; Judah also has multiplied fortified cities; But I will send fire upon his cities, And it shall devour his palaces.’”

When we look at what’s going on here, they have altars for sin that have actually become altars for sinning.  They have temples and palaces.  The phrasing here is that “You have all of these big endeavors, all of this stuff that’s going on, and you’re building temples for rulers to live in, and you’re building houses for priests to live in, and you’re building all these other places for people to go and sacrifice, and it’s all about the bigness.”  It’s all these big things that take God’s place.

“You don’t have to go to the temple.  We have a place right around the corner for you.  You don’t have to take a sacrifice down there; and in fact, if you do take a sacrifice to your little local neighborhood altar right here, not only are we going to let you offer a sacrifice for sin, we’re going to cook it for you and let you take it home.  You get a sacrifice and dinner!  This is the best fellowship meal ever.  Anything that you bring to sacrifice to God, you’re not actually giving it to God.  We’re just going to kill it and cook it for you, and you’re going to take it home and get it eat it!”  It’s all about what you can get.  “Come, worship God here at Golden Corral.”

This is what it had become—whatever we have to tell people to get them here to deal with their sin.  Because, oh, by the way, while they’re dealing with their sin, what are they also doing?  Paying the priest.  It’s all about making money—building the kingdom, the temples, the palaces, the bigness.

You see, what we continue even from Old Testament times to forget is that when the government spends money on something, the government is spending our money.  And so the government has to find ways to tell us to give it our money so they can spend it.  Well here they said, “You’ve got to offer sacrifices for sin, right?  Hmm—have we got a solution for you.  Bring your animals, sacrifice them here, pay the fees, do the duty, and oh, by the way, we’ll cook it for you, wrap it up, send it home, and you get to eat it for a week.”

Sounds like a good system, because then you’re not actually sacrificing anything to God, are you?  It’s all for yourself.  It’s all focused upon building the nation.  It’s not really dealing with sin at all.  These big things took God’s place.  They were worshiping these things, they were worshiping like this, and God never told them to do any of these things.  They’re breaking God’s covenant.  They’re not listening to God’s will when it comes to kings and to princes, they’re setting up golden calves and worshiping idols.  They’re bargaining with ungodly countries.  And now, God says, you’re going to be in bondage.  Because as a consequence of your sin, this is what you’ve sown and this is what you’re going to reap.  Judgment is right around the corner.

At the root of this was their worship.  They broke the covenant.  The covenant establishes the relationship for worship.  They would not listen to God’s consent for a king.  What did the king do?  The king, as a godly king, represented God to the people and the people to God.  He was the mediator.  Jesus is our King.  He is the Mediator of the New Covenant.  It is through the covenant that the relationship is established.  It is through the king that we have that relationship and can worship.  And then they set up golden calves to worship God, but they were worshiping a false image.

They weren’t worshiping Him on His terms, but they were worshiping Him on their terms.  And they began to bargain with ungodly countries, instead of going to God for what they actually needed for relief from the judgment by repentance.  Instead, they said, “We’re suffering a famine because we disobeyed God.  So, Assyria, send us some grain—if you’ll just send us what we need to alleviate the suffering.”

You see what this really is, what really leads to the consequences of this judgment here, is actually rooted in false worship.  “You’ve broken the covenant, you don’t have the king you need to have, you’ve got golden calves, you’re bargaining with ungodly countries—basically, what you’ve done is you’ve taken and you’ve replaced the worship of God with the worship of yourself.  You’ve come to have your needs met and fulfilled, you’ve come to seek relief from the suffering of judgment, and instead of following My formula, which is ‘Repent and return to Me, and I will heal you’—instead of that, you’re going to other countries and saying, ‘Please help us with this.’”  This rarely works out.

Jonah felt this way.  God said, “Go to Nineveh.”  Jonah said, “I hate Nineveh.”  More specifically, “I hate the Ninevites.”  Nineveh was the capital of Assyria, by the way.  God was sending a prophet to the capital city to send the preaching of the gospel, to send revival to the greatest nation on the earth.  And Jonah said, “I hate those people so badly, I refuse to go.”  He went the opposite direction, got on a boat, went out to sea.  The seas got upset.  There was a great storm, and Jonah was willing to die, rather than obey God.

And do you get that about this prophet?  He is a shining example of pastoral ministry.  He was willing to die, rather than go preach to the Assyrians.  And do you know why he wouldn’t go to Nineveh?  Because he knew when he went and preached, God would bless His word, and he knew there would be revival and salvation!  And of all the people who don’t need to be saved, certainly, those people should never be given the opportunity to hear the gospel.  And he was willing to die, not to take them the gospel.

And this is what Jonah told the people on the boat.  “The boat’s going to sink, and you’re all going to die.  But there is a solution.  Throw me overboard.  Throw me overboard, and you’ll be fine.  God will spare you.  His problem’s with me.  I’m running from Him.”  He confesses.  He knows his sin.  He’s going his own way.  This is a prophet of God!  He’s doing his own thing.  And so they throw him overboard, and he sinks.  And he doesn’t drown.

You see, that fish didn’t swallow him as punishment.  That fish saved him from inevitable death.  As he’s there in the belly of the fish, it took three days.  Do you understand this?  It took three days, in the belly of the fish, in the deep, in the water, for him to reach a point of repentance.  And we can’t really point fingers at Jonah, because it’s taken many more days for some of us to be in the stink before we realized it.

And Jonah repented.  And when he repented, the fish spit him out, and he went to Nineveh, and begrudgingly preached from one end of the city to the other, praying the whole time, “God, don’t save these people; God, don’t save these people; God, don’t save these people.”  And God saved those people.  Jonah went out on the other side of the city, and moped and hoped to die.  God didn’t grant his wish.

I said Jonah is not the example of how to do ministry.  He’s an example of how not to do it.  He’s an example of exactly what’s happening in Israel.  The people are doing it their own way.  They’re rebelling against God, they’re rejecting Him, they’re running their own way.  And I know we would never do that?  “Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it.  Prone to leave the God I love.”  We struggle with these things just like Israel.  They did not come back.  They did not return.  They did not repent.