Hos 8.12Take your Bibles and open with me this week back to Hosea chapter 8.  Again, it’s easy to skip Hosea there as a minor prophet—not “minor” in his message, by any means.  I was ready, I thought, to move on to chapter 9.  We’ll probably do that next week, Lord willing.

But this week I wanted to go back to one verse in chapter 8 that we looked at and addressed just briefly in the study from chapter 8 last week, Hosea 8:12.  Hosea gives the people a message God has for them as he is rebuking them for their sinfulness, for their falling away, for their forgetting God.  Remember last week, the message for the whole theme of the chapter was in verse 14: For Israel has forgotten his Maker,” and the forgetting was not just an absent-mindedness, it was actual, intentional leaving of something.  It was a forsaking of the knowledge of God.

In the description of what is happening, as we looked at the pictures that were set forth here of the things the children of Israel were doing in disobedience to God, it says in verse 7, “They sow the wind, And reap the whirlwind.  The stalk has no bud; It shall never produce meal. If it should produce, Aliens would swallow it up.”  They are sowing to the wind, reaping the whirlwind.  And then he says in verse 8, which we looked at very briefly last week, 8 ‘Israel is swallowed up; Now they are among the Gentiles Like a vessel in which is no pleasure. For they have gone up to Assyria, Like a wild donkey alone by itself; Ephraim has hired lovers. 10 Yes, though they have hired among the nations, Now I will gather them; And they shall sorrow a little, Because of the burden of the king of princes. 11 Because Ephraim has made many altars for sin, They have become for him altars for sinning.’”

And here’s the key in verse 12: 12 ‘I have written for him the great things of My law, But they were considered a strange thing.’”  God, in addressing His people, in preparing them for judgment and warning them about the judgment that was to come because of their idolatry, because of their spiritual adultery, is saying, “You are sowing to the wind and reaping the whirlwind.”  Literally it says, “You are doing things—planting seeds, participating in actions—that will only lead to catastrophe.  There’s not going to be any growth, there’s not going to be any fruit.  Anything that does get produced is going to be swallowed up, it’s going to be consumed, it’s going to be destroyed.”

He says, 11 ‘Because Ephraim has made many altars for sin, They have become for him altars for sinning.’”  We talked about this last week.  They set up all of these false places of worship and told the people, “Go to these false places of worship in Samaria, in Bethel, other places, instead of going to Jerusalem.  Don’t go all the way to Jerusalem.  Don’t go all the way to the temple like God instructed us.  We’ve set up a convenient little shop around the corner where you can come, and you can worship God, you can worship Asherah, you can worship Moloch, you can worship Baal.  It’s just a flea market for religion.  Come and pick and worship however you want to worship.”

So while the leaders thought that they were teaching the people to deal with sin, in fact, they were teaching them to sin more.  And God says, 12 ‘I have written for him the great things of My law, But they were considered a strange thing.’”  The word “strange” there means something that is considered foreign, something that’s peculiar.  It even has the connotation of something that is shocking, as a novelty.  This is something unfamiliar.

And what’s amazing here is that He’s talking about His law—God says, “My law, the great things of the law that I have given to them—all of this teaching, all of this preaching.”  And understand, they had written copies of at least the Torah by this point, and surely even more, because we know by the time that Daniel is carried off into Babylon, he’s got the writings of Jeremiah with him that he’s reading and studying.

So the Scripture is being produced, it’s being written, they have the law of God, and they certainly have the book of Deuteronomy.  They’ve been warned by Moses about the things that were going to come.  They were warned by Solomon about the temptations that they were going to face as a nation and that they needed to resist.  And as they have fallen headlong into those very things they were warned about, God says, “I have written for him the great things of My law, but they were considered a strange thing.”  They considered God’s Word foreign.

Think about God’s Word.  Think about the treasure that we have in the Scriptures.  I hope you didn’t have to dust your Bible off before you came to church this morning.  We’ve been given such a treasure in the written Word of God in so many different reliable versions, translations, where we can study the Scripture, where we can discuss the Scripture, where we can memorize the Scripture.

And I want you to understand something this morning.  It’s not just that God has given us His Word, He has preserved His Word, and He’s preserved His Word at a great cost of life.  Do you understand that we have the Bibles that we have today, written in English, because people were willing to die to print copies, to disperse it, to get it there in the language of the people, so people could read it, so that preachers could preach in the language of the people, so that they could hear God’s Word and it was no longer a shrouded mystery where the priest controlled everything?  This great doctrine of Sola Scriptura—we come to the Scripture because it alone is our infallible rule for life and for practice.

We’ve been given the Word of God, the great things in the Word of God, and yet, how often do we find the things that God tells us in His Word shocking?  We really do get on Israel here because Israel had God’s prophets, they had God’s Word, they had all of this revealed will, and yet they thought God’s Word was foreign, it was strange, it was something that was a novelty, it wasn’t something to be taken seriously.  We would never do that; we would never say that.  Yet however often that we act in a way that’s contrary to the Word of God, do you know what we’re proclaiming with our actions?  That God’s Word is foreign to us, that it’s strange to us, that it’s peculiar, that it’s not useful, that it’s not familiar.

When we look in the Scriptures at Josiah—when Josiah was cleaning and reforming and tearing down the places for idol worship—you remember that as they cleaned the temple, they found a copy of the Law of God, and they took it to Josiah the King, and they read it to him.  And you understand, he is actively working to bring reform.  We’ve talked about this already this year.  He’s actively working to bring reform, to tear down the places of idol worship, to reinstitute the worship of God—and he had not heard the written Word of God read.  And when they find the scroll, and they bring it and they read it to him, in Second Kings, it says, 11 Now it happened, when the king heard the words of the Book of the Law, that he tore his clothes.”  It shocked him.  It grieved him because of what the people had been missing, because they did not have the Word of God.  And they did not have the Word of God, not because it wasn’t available; they didn’t have the Word of God because it was neglected.

We have a famine—the prophets talk about it—a famine in the land, a famine from hearing the Word of the Lord.  I wanted Michael to come and preach this morning—to exercise his gift of preaching, to get familiar with the Scripture, to study the Scripture, to face the dread of knowing that you’re going to have to stand up and preach to people who know the Bible better than you.  I do this every Sunday, brother, and it doesn’t get easier.  When you preach to people who are hungry for the Word of God, and who want the Word of God, and who love the Word of God, that drives me deeper in study so that we can be familiar with the Word, so that we can know the Word, so that we can accurately swing that sword of the Spirit, because there is a famine.  This is part of God judging our nation, to be sure, but there is a famine.

In how many pulpits today is there a drought, because there is not the Word of God?  There is Psychology, there is pop culture.  People are trying to take TV shows and movies and preach that so people can relate to it.  Nothing wrong with reading a book or seeing a movie and finding scriptural, biblical themes to bring out to encourage us in our faith, but understand, the Bible is our sole infallible authority for matters of life and practice, and everything else that we’re exposed to has to be tried against that light.  Test it against the Scripture.  Too often, we get it backwards and we test the Scripture by everything that everybody else is saying.

Don’t go out into the world, and don’t go out into the evangelical world and say, “What’s working?  Let’s do that.”  Because usually what works to draw a crowd is feeding their flesh.  Think about it—when Jesus fed the 5,000, he had a lot of people that were waiting to listen to Him, but when He preached and said there would be a cost, and didn’t feed them again the next day, what did they do?  They left.  “You’re not going to feed us anymore?  I don’t have time for this.  I thought you were a Baptist—we eat every time we get together.”  That’s what it became.  But it was a “Feed me,” it was a “Tickle my ear,” and it was a “Scratch my itch,” it was, “Tell me what I need to hear.”

Josiah was shocked.  He tore his clothes as a result of the grief of hearing that Word of God and the accountability that people had to it.  12 Then the king commanded Hilkiah the priest, Ahikam the son of Shaphan, Achbor the son of Michaiah, Shaphan the scribe, and Asaiah a servant of the king, saying, 13 ‘Go, inquire of the Lord for me, for the people and for all Judah, concerning the words of this book that has been found; for great is the wrath of the Lord that is aroused against us, because our fathers have not obeyed the words of this book, to do according to all that is written concerning us.’”

What was the first thing that he probably noticed here?  It’s probably not the injunctions against idolatry and all of that.  What’s the first thing that God tells His people in Deuteronomy, in Deuteronomy 6, verse 4?  “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one!”  And what does He tell Israel to do?  “Instruct your children, hang this around your house, put it on your doorposts, as a frontlet between your eyes.  Surround yourself with the Word of God, so that everywhere you look, there’s God’s Word”—a part of every moment of everyday life.

And to have that expectation from the Lord Himself shocked Josiah, because the Word of God was strange to him and to the nation.  And this is where we find Israel in Hosea 8:12.  God’s Law is foreign, and the false gods are familiar.  Here earlier in Hosea 8, ‘They set up kings, but not by Me; They made princes, but I did not acknowledge them. 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…11 ‘Because Ephraim has made many altars for sin, They have become for him altars for sinning.’”

They didn’t want to go all the way to Jerusalem to the temple, so they put a golden calf in Samaria, and they said, “You can worship here.  You don’t have to worship according to God’s Word.  Let’s make it convenient.  Let’s make it easy.  Let’s put it in a form that you can understand.  Let’s dumb it down for you.”  Really, what they tried to do was make worship easy, and I’m sorry, but worship is not easy, because worship is contrary to our fallen nature, isn’t it?  Because by nature, we rebel against God.  We stiffen our neck against Him.  We repress the knowledge of God.

And even as we are full of the Spirit, walk in the Spirit, and praise in the Spirit, we’re still warned, “Don’t quench the Spirit.  Don’t stifle Him.  Don’t choke Him.  Don’t prevent His working.  Don’t interfere.”  Now, can a man stop God?  We would be foolish to think that we can, but we’re warned against trying, aren’t we?  What more dangerous place to be than to think that we can interfere with the work of God, or that we can do the work better, or that we can bring results by doing things our way and making it easy.

This is stunning, that God’s Law was foreign to them, but the false gods were familiar.  In Deuteronomy 32:16, it says, “They provoked Him to jealousy with foreign gods; With abominations they provoked Him to anger.”  We don’t think of God as angry, do we?  We don’t.  How do we think of God?  “God is….love.”  And do you understand that true biblical love is angered by sin?

You see, when we look at God’s attributes, sometimes we over-weigh some and skimp on others.  You understand that God, in each of His attributes, is perfect in that attribute.  It’s not that God is a raging monster, or that He’s wrathful and controlled by that anger.  It’s that it’s righteous holy anger, and when He sees sin, He is provoked to anger.  Paul says in Ephesians 2 that before we were regenerated by the power of the Spirit, we were by nature “children of wrath”!

So first, we preach “God is love,” and we don’t biblically define love; secondly, we don’t preach about the wrath of the anger of God, or the holiness, or the justice, or the righteousness, or the goodness, or the perfection of God.  We preach a God of love who’s there to pamper us and give us whatever we want.

The children of Israel “provoked Him to jealousy with foreign gods.”  Would we think that God would think any differently if we were running after idols?  And I know we probably don’t have silver and gold idols up in a shrine in our house.  I understand that.  But we all know what idolatry is, don’t we?  It’s when I do what I want to do.  It is iniquity.  It is putting myself first.

When Michael mentioned this morning taking up your cross daily, to anybody who heard that quoted by Jesus, what would they have immediately thought?  “Take up your cross daily”—what was happening on crosses every day on the roads into Rome?  People were dying.  They were being crucified.  So it’s not just that this is difficult.  It’s hard to take up your cross, but when you take up your cross, you know that it’s going to mean “death to self”—death to self so that we might live to Christ.

God’s Law is foreign.  The false gods have become familiar.