“When Will We Ever Learn?”
Hosea 13:1-16

Today’s Scripture continues with more accusations and warnings which Hosea began in chapter 12. Last week we read how Hosea began his history lesson with the story of Jacob, who was known for his lying and treachery. This week Hosea will compare their behavior to the rebellion of the Israelites in the wilderness and their poor choice of wanting a king. I have this sinking feeling that Ephraim had stopped truly listening to Hosea. 
Selective listening. 
It happens quite often in my sixth grade. I start reviewing the events leading up to the American Revolution and I begin to see eyes gloss over, and heads droop. You know the scenario, you’ve seen it in the Charles Schultz cartoon with Charlie Brown. You never see the teacher, but you hear, “Wah! Wah! Wah!” 
As we near the end of this book I envision Hosea sharing in his employing voice, aching for God’s people to listen and all those around him hear, “Wah! Wah! Wah!” I suspect that is what they have been hearing from God for a long time. Which brought them to the place where they needed a prophet and they really needed more grace. 

If you haven’t noticed, God’s tone has changed. As Hosea continues with the history lesson we are presented with two more pictures of judgment. The first picture of judgment begins in verses 1-3. Ephraim, another name for the Israelites, speak and exalt themselves, but notice how they do this, through Baal worship.  It wasn’t like God blessed Israel when they worshipped Baal, but that didn’t seem to stop them. We read that they sin more and more. Here’s where having some historical details makes this reading more understandable as to why God’s anger was against Israel. 
Baal worship involved human sacrifices and almost all of those human sacrifices were child-sacrifices. Hosea has brought this up before in 5:2 and 9:13. Human beings were sacrificing their offspring to metal statues of the animals they used to plow their fields that had been crafted by human hands. Hosea uses similes to describe the results of trusting in themselves and their idols. They would disappear like the morning dew, and blow away like the chaff on the threshing floor and dissipate like smoke through a window. 

The second picture of judgment for Israel began with God reminding them that He had been their God ever since the land of Egypt and their time in the wilderness. He was to still be their only God, and their only Savior. However, Israel wasn’t in the wilderness anymore, they were in a time of prosperity. In this time of prosperity they had changed, they had easily forgotten God. 
Hosea was reminding them that, even when humans change, the Lord never changes. Without the Lord, the ultimate outcome for the Israelites was desolation. 

What is it about human nature that when times are good, we often forget the God who blessed us? And when times are bad we often ask God why He hasn’t been blessing us. 

Here are some startling statistics. At the end of the 20th
Century, Americans were experiencing unprecedented prosperity. 
You would think, more money, more giving, right? 
Not so. 
In the 1990’s churchgoers gave the smallest percentage of their income in contributions, since the Great Depression! 
When things are going well, 
Well, we often forget God. 
Just like the Israelites, when will we ever learn?

Hosea uses more similes to describe this outcome of desolation for the Israelites. God’s chastening hand would be like a lion, a leopard, and like a bear robbed of her bear cups. 
You get the picture.  
So did those who lived in Palestine as all three of these animals mentioned were known for their relentless manner of killing prey. 

Hosea proclaimed the ultimate doom of Israel. God had brought them out of Egypt and God was able to destroy them. If only they would recognize what they were doing in the eyes of their one and only true helper? Hosea goes back in history to recall the time the Israelites had begged for a king. Every other nation around them had kings. 
Why did they have to be so different? 
Why couldn’t God give them kings so they could be “normal” instead of “different.” Parents, we know this line. Children who grow up in a Christian home often rebel when the children of non-Christian families get things or can do things that look “good” but the Christian parent says, “No.” 
The “Why can’t we be normal?” lament. 
Don’t feel too badly if you were the parent who sometimes, “gave in.” 
God gave in. 
God wanted to be recognized as the King of Israel but He agreed to establish human kings. As you know, God was right all along. The Israelites soon rejected the Lord as King. The results were predictable, verse 11, in God’s anger, He gave them the very kind of kings their hearts wanted and deserved and in His wrath, He took the kings away. 

At this point, Hosea was to proclaim the sorrowful judgment for Israel because of the choices they had made. Their guilt was stored up and their sins were kept on record. Hosea compared the judgment of Israel to childbirth. Gentlemen, you may not be able to fully relate, but for those women who have chosen to give birth naturally, we understand the labor pains often come unexpectedly. They are intense and they increase in their pain and in their duration. Unlike giving birth, which brings forth a newborn, worth all the pain, Israel does not come to the opening of the womb. There is no reward for the pain. 
But God’s redemptive power is greater than the sin and judgment of Israel. God is able to redeem from death! Death and the grave are mocked as defeated foes. 

Paul quotes the Septuagint translation of Hosea 13:14 in describing our triumph over death in our sharing of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, 1 Corinthians 15:55,
“Where, O death, is your victory?
    Where, O death, is your sting?”

I don’t know that humans will ever learn. Hosea goes on to tell us that the Israelites were held guilty and chastened for their rebellion against God. And because God is the same, today, yesterday and forever, we too can expect to be reproved for our rebellion. That is justice and God is a just God. But hallelujah God has shown us His glory, John 1:14,
“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.”

We may never learn from our mistakes, but unlike the Israelites, may we learn of God’s redemptive power over sin and death, accept that power for our sins and death, and receive eternal life. 
My hope is that we choose to turn to God sooner rather than later. 
Let’s pray.