Discipline is not a popular word. I remember times during my developmental years when I received discipline from authorities that at the time I thought was undeserved. From the perspective of passing years, I now realize I needed the discipline. The Bible teaches that God disciplines His people; in fact, discipline evidences God’s love and is a sign we are children of God (Prov. 3:11-2; Heb. 12:5-11). God’s disciplining love is redemptive rather than vindictive.
God’s love for His people is a primary theme of Hosea. After comparing the relationship between God and Israel to a bride and groom, the prophet turned to a discussion of Israel’s spiritual adultery. The focus of this unit of study is God’s discipline of Israel. What lessons did Hosea teach us about God’s discipline?
First, warnings often precede God’s disciplining actions (Hosea 8:1-3). God commanded Hosea to sound an urgent alarm of a ram’s horn—the signal for approaching danger. Hosea described the approaching danger as the eagle or the vulture. (Either translation is possible; but Hebrew Old Testament contains the definite article). A vulture soars waiting to devour the dead. An eagle swoops down and carries away the nation by means of strong talons. Who was the eagle? In other passages, God described Himself as an eagle protecting His people (Ex. 19:4; Deut. 32:10-11); therefore, the eagle may describe God.
Alternatively, by means of the eagle analogy Hosea may refer to the soon approaching invasion by Assyria.
Like a child, Israel professed innocence, “We know you God.” The actions of the people, however, demonstrated the falsehood of the claim. The lack of knowledge of God warped the values of the people; consequently, they rejected the good.
Second, God’s discipline matches the nature of the sin (Hosea 8:7-10). Hosea used four images to describe the foolish sin of Israel. Israel is like a foolish farmer sowing the wind. That which lacks substance, therefore, they will be swept away by the whirlwind (storm) of God’s judgment. Israel’s foreign policy of establishing alliances with foreign nations rather than God resulted in the nation becoming a worthless discarded pottery. The policy of appeasement by political alliances left the nation spiritually and materially bankrupt due to the attempt to “buy” favors from other nations.
Israel is like an independent wild donkey, a descriptive phrase used elsewhere to describe Ishmael rather than the children of promise (Gen. 16:12). Finally, Israel is like a man that paid harlot for favors. Israel’s foreign policy paid protection money to foreign nations (2 Kings 15:19-20; 17:3) only to discover their lovers empty promises. God, therefore, would empty the land of population.
Third, God’s warnings about judgment often go unheeded (Hosea 9:7-8). The people and God have two different evaluations of prophets. The people viewed the prophets as fools and insane. In Scripture, a call an individual “fool” was an attack on the person’s character. In contrast, God regarded the prophets as “watchmen” placed upon the wall of a city to warn of approaching danger. The people did not appreciate the warnings of the prophetic watchmen. The prophets of God became like animals trapped in a snare. The people of God attempted to trap the watchmen.
Fourth, God’s discipline offers an opportunity to repent (Hosea 10:11-12). Hosea compared Israel to a trained heifer. Heifers were trained on the threshing floor, an easy labor that allowed the cow to eat the crops that fell on the floor (Deut. 25:4). As a result of God’s judgment, Israel would experience the harsh labor of plowing. God challenged the people experiencing discipline to sow (practice) in the area of true ethics (being straight and love). As a result, they would reap the blessings of God.
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