But they, like Adam, have violated the covenant; there they have betrayed me. Gilead is a city of evildoers, tracked with bloody footprints. Like raiders who wait in ambush for someone, a band of priests murders on the road to Shechem. They commit atrocities. I have seen something horrible in the house of Israel: Ephraim’s promiscuity is there; Israel is defiled. A harvest is also appointed for you, Judah. When I return my people from captivity, when I heal Israel, the iniquity of Ephraim and the crimes of Samaria will be exposed. For they practice fraud; a thief breaks in; a raiding party pillages outside (6:7-7:1 CSB).
The hymn writer of old said it well, “Change and decay in all around I see.” We live in a cursed world; cursed because of mankind’s rebellion against God. Since we are God’s image bearers, we can make new things, but because of the curse, we cannot keep them in a new, pristine condition. Even items set aside and specially protected suffer tarnish or the yellowing of age.
Far worse than this ongoing decay is the corruption that sin produces in human hearts. It both pollutes and ruins what it touches. Israel experienced the destroying power of sin when they turned away from the living God. Hosea writes to expose what had happened to Israel.
The prophet first denounces Israel for her unfaithfulness. The people were unfaithful to God (6:7, 10). Here we encounter a well-known difficult translation. Notice the translation of the new NIV: As at Adam, they have broken the covenant; they were unfaithful to me there (my emphasis). This harmonizes the two parts of verse seven, which the ESV, CSB, and others do not. We should not build nor reject doctrines on questionable translations, like some covenant theologians do to find a text for a pre-Fall covenant of works. Any clear teaching does not need a doubtful translation to support it. But I digress….
Whatever the exact meaning, the main point is clear. The people of the northern kingdom were unfaithful to their covenant vows. God expects us to be faithful to him, regardless of the storms of life. We need to face the issue of commitment. On the day you were baptized as a believer, you committed yourself publicly to following the Lord Jesus and to loving and fellowshipping with one another in the church. You do this every time you partake of the Lord’s Supper. Let’s all strive to raise our commitment level. Let’s begin in three areas: daily prayer for one another, weekly participation in public worship and a small group of some kind, and ongoing partnership in some ministry.
The prophet also denounces Israel for unfaithfulness to people (6:8-9; 7:1). Here was treachery of the worst kind. Murder was committed by religious leaders on the way to worship. That would later be repeated by the religious leaders who wanted Jesus killed at Passover time. And there was robbery of their neighbors. People could not trust anyone. Think of all the times you lock your car, cover the card reader at stores when you punch in your pin, and fret about the safety of your confidential information. Hopefully, followers of Christ are all far, far removed from such sins! But are we fulfilling our new covenant responsibilities? See Colossians 3:12-17. One of the glaring failures of the contemporary church is the lack of practical godliness.
Next, Hosea speaks against the intrigue the people engaged in. They did this within the nation (7:3-7). They perverted justice. The king, who was supposed to suppress evildoers (cf. Romans 13:1ff; 1 Peter 2:13ff) was pleased by their wickedness. Also, there was the assassination of their leaders (7:5-7). Four of the northern kingdom of Israel’s last six kings died this way (2 Kings 15:10, 14, 25, 30). When intrigue is accepted as a way of policy, it is natural to use assassination as a way to remove unwanted leaders. We must remember that murder resides in the human heart (Matthew 15:19), and without restraint, people will murder others. In contrast, in the church, we should seek change through the spiritual growth of people. We want to use wisdom in putting people in positions of service and responsibility. Then we ought to help each other develop in our positions.
They were involved in international intrigue (7:11-13). This involved seemingly incompatible problems. There was diplomatic duplicity. They ran from one potential ally to another. Who can offer us the most today? This is another example of a lack of faithfulness in their character. Yet there was misplaced confidence. Israel was only to trust in the Lord for protection (Psalm 118:8-12). God gives them the wages of their lack of faith: destruction. Can we see ourselves? Have we become a people who flit from one to another, only concerning ourselves with “what is the best deal today”? Don’t look for temporary satisfaction; look for truth.
Grace and peace, David