Hosea: Losing God


Hosea 5


Hosea 5 is a powerful chapter that talks about two of Israel’s biggest problems:  religious and political.  These two problems are related; the latter being influenced by the former.  We can see this situation playing out even today in our own country.  In Israel’s case, her religious problem was particularly nasty:  they were literally chasing after the Canaanite fertility cults.  Her political problem was disastrous:  instead of turning to God, they turned to Assyria and Egypt for help.  Their rebellion against their God was close to being complete as they had pretty much figured Him out of their religious lives and found alternatives for Him in their political lives.

This chapter tells us how God reacted to their faithless behavior.

1.  A sad result

Then at last, they will come with their flocks and herds to sacrifice to God, but it will be too late—they will not find him. He has withdrawn from them and they are left alone.  (Hosea 5:6  TLB)

The power behind this verse lies it what it means, not only in what it says.  To “come with their flocks and herds” means to search after God’s favor through sacrifice.  The problem with the Israelites, though, was that while they had the sacrifice part of the equation down to an art, they had no faith; they exhibited no evidence of true faith; they were all show.  We know from elsewhere in Scripture that mere outward sacrifice is never enough to move God, and it fact can elicit the exact opposite response from God than the desired one.

Samuel replied, “Has the Lord as much pleasure in your burnt offerings and sacrifices as in your obedience? Obedience is far better than sacrifice. He is much more interested in your listening to him than in your offering the fat of rams to him. For rebellion is as bad as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as bad as worshiping idols. And now because you have rejected the word of Jehovah, he has rejected you from being king.”  (1 Samuel 15:22—23  TLB)

We have an interesting juxtaposition occurring in chapters 4 and 5.  In chapter 4, Israel’s spirit of harlotry is what drove them away from God, but here in chapter 5, that same spirit is the reason God is withdrawing from His people.  You may think that removing His presence from them was pretty harsh.  After all, you may think, they were willing to make sacrifices and to seek the Him out.  But consider what was really happening here.  These people had fallen so far from God, that they were seeking the one True God at the altars of Baal!  They were literally mixing up religions, so mixed up they had become.  They foolishly thought they could combine the best of the Canaanite religions with their religion, expecting God to bless them.  How wrong they were!  No wonder God left them.

This is what happens when people try to approach God on their terms.  Christians have become very good at this; mixing worldliness with true worship and expecting God to “honor their hearts.”  But the fact is, it’s important to God how and even where we seek Him.  You will never find God if you are not looking for Him with all your heart, in the right way, in the right places.  He demands complete allegiance and loyalty.  He also demands obedience.  How can He reward your disobedient spirit with answered prayer?  Or with His presence?  There’s good reason why it seems so many churches are bereft of spiritual power and direction.  Too many churches have bought into the lie that the way to attract members is to appeal to their fleshly needs – things like worship/music style, a casual atmosphere, or even coffee in the sanctuary are thought “progressively clever” ways to get the young and hip to commit.   Appealing to the flesh is never a good idea under any circumstance!

2.  Reasons

God was angry enough with His people to take His presence away from them.  Ultimately, though, the nation’s leaders—political and religious—were the ones who bore responsibility for leading the people astray.

“Hear this, O priests!  Take heed, O house of Israel!  Give ear, O house of the king!  For yours is the judgment, because you have been a snare to Mizpah and a net spread on Tabor.”  (Hosea 5:1  NKJV)

It’s startling to discover that people evaluate Christ and our faith by our behavior.  We, like the political and religious leaders of Hosea’s day, can become a snare for others if we misrepresent God through our words and actions.  It was Emerson who insightfully observed,

What you do speaks so loudly, I can’t hear what you say.

Hosea’s main targets of attack were guilty of ensnaring and netting the people in sin.  Of course, the people were willing participants in the sinful rebellion against God, proving what was written by another prophet of God,

The one who sins is the one who dies. The son shall not be punished for his father’s sins, nor the father for his son’s. The righteous person will be rewarded for his own goodness and the wicked person for his wickedness.  (Ezekiel 18:19  TLB)

The leaders led the people further and further into sin and away from God, but the people wanted to be led in that direction.

What a terrible responsibility we have as Christians to make sure our testimony bears witness to the glory of God.  Somebody’s soul depends on how we behave!

Your deeds won’t let you come to God again, for the spirit of adultery is deep within you, and you cannot know the Lord.  (Hosea 5:4  TLB)

Sin creates a very real barrier between man and God.  One who constantly gives into his sinful nature and consistently goes off in a sinful direction will become so deeply fascinated with sin and bogged down in it that he will literally become its slave.

This is what had happened in Israel.  At first, they were merely interested in the false religions.  Soon, those false religions began to influence their thoughts and deeds.  That interest in the Canaanite religions became an all-out obsession that blocked the people from returning to God.  At first, they wanted both Baal and Yahweh, but in the end they lost interest in Yahweh.  Because they knowingly sinned against God, they grew to block all knowledge of God and the Law from their minds.

Because they walked away from God, they walked away from His divine protection and opened themselves up to the spirits of idolatry, harlotry, and an awful, sick obsession with the vilest religions of the pagan world.

For they have betrayed the honor of the Lord, bearing children that aren’t his. Suddenly they and all their wealth will disappear.  (Hosea 5:7  NKJV)

What an awful indictment against the people of God!  The leaders of God’s people behaved “deceptively.”  Literally, they behaved like an unfaithful husband.  These men knowingly led the people away from the Lord.  Noted scholars Anderson and Freedman have noted,

We are dealing with hypocritical Yahweh worship:  The depravity that makes repentance impossible is not renunciation of Yahweh, but complacent religiosity.

The people had been deluded into thinking they could approach God their own way, using their made-up rules.  They couldn’t have been more wrong.

3.  Results

So, what happens when God withdraws His presence from His people?

Worship became a waste of time.

Then at last, they will come with their flocks and herds to sacrifice to God, but it will be too late—they will not find him. He has withdrawn from them and they are left alone.  (Hosea 5:6  TLB)

To whom are your worshiping if God is not there?  As long as your heart is not right with God, there is nothing He can do for you.  No number of prayers, sacrifices, offerings, or good works, or any amount of positive thinking and effort expended in His service can make up for the lack of His presence.  If a Christian is out of fellowship with God, his testimony is worthless.


…Ephraim will be crushed and broken by my sentence because she is determined to follow idols.  (Hosea 5:11  TLB)

Because they had taken their eyes off God and God had taken His presence from them, the people (of Ephraim as noted, but really all the Israelites) turned even more to pagan religions and man-made gods for help and comfort.  However, what they didn’t realize is that they were simply compounding their problems by their continued state of rebellion against God.  When a person disobeys the Word of the Lord, they by default become obedient to worldly wisdom, which is most often opposed to God.

Even more lost

When Ephraim and Judah see how sick they are, Ephraim will turn to Assyria, to the great king there, but he can neither help nor cure. (Hosea 5:13  TLB)

What’s so sad is that both Israel and Judah could have been strong, robust, and healthy in every way if they had just returned in repentance to God.  But they didn’t, and so they rushed headlong into more and more trouble.  God Himself became their enemy, allowing their sin to grow and grow, and allowing the nation to decay, becoming more and more morally confused, culturally perverse, and politically corrupt until they became easy pickings for foreign nations.  Israel, fearing Egypt, turned to Assyria for protection.  They should have turned to God, because in the end, this alliance would lead to Israel’s end.

God remains patient

I will abandon them and return to my home until they admit their guilt and look to me for help again… (Hosea 5:15a  TLB)

God promises to stay away from Israel until she acknowledges her sin and guilt and returns to Him.  Sin carries awful consequences, but there is hope.  This chapter is depressing, but ends on a note of hope.  Like the prodigal son who found forgiveness when he came home, so it will be with Israel.  To this very day, God has not given up on Israel.  But He can’t do a thing until they fess up.  Historically, the Assyrian and Babylonian captivities did little to change their hearts.  This verse, then, looks forward into the far future, into the Millennium, when at last the Israelites will stand before the Messiah in repentance and seek Him.

The way God treated wayward Israel is the way He treats the backslider.  He doesn’t give up on them.  There is always hope for the believer who has wandered away from God.  He calls them, and in His sovereignty and providence He makes a way for them to find their way home.

2 Responses to “Hosea: Losing God”

  1. 1 ricky beam October 23, 2013 at 2:30 am

    do you think that this is the time we are in ?

  2. 2 Dr. Mike November 21, 2013 at 4:24 pm

    Well, there are definite similarities between our situation today and that of Hosea’s day. However, context is everything. Hosea was addressing his people, in his day, not us in ours. That’s the first rule of hermeneutics: the meaning of a passage of Scripture is the what the author intended and what his readers understood. You can’t divorce Hosea from his time and place in history. So, while there is only one interpretation of any given passage of Scripture (the original author’s) there may be many applications. So it’s incorrect to say that Hosea is describing our time, but it is correct to say our time sounds a lot like Hosea’s time and therefore we ought to pay attention to what he wrote and said what the Lord did. Remember Paul’s guiding principle: “For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope.” (Romans 15:4)

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