Hosea 10 – Week Three
It’s nearly November! There is a holiday that began a couple of days ago and runs through the second day of November. It’s called The Day of the Dead. It’s considered a Mexican celebration and “is a time when families gather to honor and remember deceased loved ones. It is believed that the souls of the dead return to visit the living families in homes, businesses and cemeteries.”[i] The symbols that are used are often colorful skulls or skeletons, marigolds, or other flowers. It is a celebration of the lives of those who have passed rather than a day of mourning.
Protestants are more familiar with All Saints Day which takes place on November 1st. This is a day set aside for remembering and celebrating church saints. The day also is a day to give “God earnest gratitude for the lives and deaths of his saints, remembering those who were well-known and not.”[ii] All Saints Day is also known as All Hallows’ Day. The word “hallow” means “holy” or “sacred”. (Think of “Our Father Who art in Heaven, hallowed be Thy name”…) All Saints Day or All Hallows’ Day originated for the purpose of honoring those Christians who had been persecuted and killed by the Roman Empire simply because of their faith in God.
Back in the 10th century, a second day was added to the festivities, November 2nd is known as All Souls Day. Whereas All Saints Day was to recognize Christians or those presumed to have gone to Heaven, All Souls Day was to recognize those who were believed to have gone to purgatory.[iii]
Of course, being as smart as you are, you’ve already figured out that October 31st is the day before All Hallows’ Day (or All Saints Day); therefore, it is Hallows’ Eve or we’ve come to know it – Halloween.
When we think of Halloween, other than jack-o-lanterns, and trick or treating, we think about costumes. The idea of dressing up was rooted in superstition based on the focus of All Saints Day and All Souls Day. It was generally believed that during these days of recognizing the deceased, the separate worlds of the living and the deceased were allowed to interact which resulted in “supernatural mischief”. People would often disguise themselves to blend in with the spirits. “Hiding behind their costumes, villagers often played pranks on one another, but blamed the spirits.” “Masks and cover-ups came to be seen as means to get away with things. The whole point of dressing up was to be completely in disguise.”[iv]
“The superstitious also believed that on these two days, souls in purgatory would take the form of witches, toads, or demons and haunt persons who had wronged them during their lifetime. As happens so often in Church history, sacred Christian festivals can absorb so many pagan customs that they lose their significance as Christian holidays.”[v]
Just last weekend our church hosted a Fall Fest- a day in which pumpkins were painted, candy was given out and, of course, many costumes were worn. The day was “Halloweenish” in those respects, but the overall feel of the day was that God loves us and He desires for us to share that same love with others. People were invited to join us in worship. Adults and children were treated with respect and with kindness. The Gospel was shared in various ways throughout the day. What our church demonstrated on that day was a great example of how to live our lives.
Jesus prayed for us in John 17:15 ERV “15 “I am not asking you to take them out of the world. But I am asking that you keep them safe from the Evil One. 16 They don’t belong to the world, just as I don’t belong to the world. 17 Make them ready for your service through your truth. Your teaching is truth. 18 I have sent them into the world, just as you sent me into the world. 19 I am making myself completely ready to serve you. I do this for them, so that they also might be fully qualified for your service.”
His prayer was not that we would be taken out of the world but rather remain in the world and also protected from Satan, the father of lies. Jesus prayed that we might become as He was – completely ready to serve God.
That prayer was ideal for the time in which Jesus said it, just as it is ideal for us today. But the same prayer would have been appropriate for the Israelites during the days of Hosea. The Israelites were in the world and of the world. They had allowed the sinfulness of the world to seduce them which put a wedge between them and God.
The first several verses of Hosea 10 are another list of what the Israelites have done wrong. They had put up more and more altars to worship false gods. They had made promises but didn’t keep them. They had lied. This was on top of all the other infractions Hosea had outlined for them. There will be consequences for their sins. There will be great destruction. Their altars will be covered with thorns and thistles. They will become so despondent that they will cry out “to the mountains, ‘Cover us!’ and to the hills, ‘Fall on us!’” (Hosea 10:8b ISV) And yet, even with this warning, they didn’t change. They continued to live their lives as they chose. As we discussed last week, they did the bare minimum duties to make themselves appear to be children of God, but really, it was all a disguise.
Much like the superstitious people from years ago who would dress up to blend in with the spirits of the underworld, the Israelites would, in essence, conceal their love for worldly things by appearing to worship God. But it was a disguise and God knew it.
How do we do the same thing? It’s more than likely different for each of us, isn’t it? We’ve talked about how we fall prey to having false idols in our life. “An idol is anything more important to you than God, anything that absorbs your heart and imagination more than God, and anything that you seek to give you what only God can give.”[vi]
Modern-day idols can range from money or financial status to our phones or other technology avenues to our job titles to being comfortable to even our family and friends. The quickest way to identify your idol is to ask yourself: What do you think of most often? Most likely, that thing or person is what you consider to be the most important piece of your life. Last week, we talked about the two greatest commandments that we should follow, and then everything else would fall into place. Love God with all of our heart, soul, and mind, and love our neighbor as we love ourselves. But do we really? Or do we just trick ourselves into believing that we do?
Twenty years ago, in 2002, Rick Warren’s book, The Purpose Driven Life, was published. It remained on the New York Times Bestseller List for 90 weeks. [vii] The fact that it’s estimated that more than 60 million copies of the book have sold in the past twenty years is a clear indication that a lot of people are searching for their purpose in life. Do you ever question what your purpose is?
Rick Warren gives 5 foundational purposes that God has for each of us. 1. Give God pleasure. 2. Be a member of God’s family. 3. Become Christ-like. 4. Fulfill your ministry. 5. Fulfill your mission.[viii]
I asked last week how many of your hours and minutes each week are spent glorifying God by living our lives in the manner He designed for us. Every minute of our lives is spent either serving God or not serving God. Do we genuinely serve Him or do we just disguise ourselves as people who serve Him?
Galatians 6:7 GNT “7 Do not deceive yourselves; no one makes a fool of God. You will reap exactly what you plant. 8 If you plant in the field of your natural desires, from it you will gather the harvest of death; if you plant in the field of the Spirit, from the Spirit you will gather the harvest of eternal life. 9 So let us not become tired of doing good; for if we do not give up, the time will come when we will reap the harvest. 10 So then, as often as we have the chance, we should do good to everyone, and especially to those who belong to our family in the faith.”
The analogy of sowing and reaping is used all throughout the Bible. Even those of us who aren’t professional, or career farmers understand the cause and effect of getting back what you plant. Hosea used this same illustration when delivering God’s message to the Israelites.
Hosea 10:12 ERV “12 If you plant goodness, you will harvest faithful love. Plow your ground, and you will harvest with the Lord. He will come, and he will make goodness fall on you like rain.”
Does everyone remember what a verb is? A verb is an action word. There are five verbs in this translation. Plant. Harvest. Plow. Come. Make.
Who is supposed to plant? We are.
Who is supposed to plow? We are.
Who is supposed to harvest? We are.
Then Who will come? God.
And Who will make goodness fall? God
God gives us a gracious invitation to work with Him. But that’s just it. We have responsibilities. We have duties. We have chores. And honestly, it’s not easy work.
We are to plant and not plant just anything. We are to plant seeds of goodness, righteousness, and justice. Planting is not an easy task. Especially if you do it right.
Verse 12 tells us to “plow our ground” or “break up our fallow ground”. If you’ve ever gardened before, you know that getting the ground ready is the first step. We cheated this past year with our garden. We bought containers and used potting soil. It’s a lot easier than trying to break through clumps of Georgia red clay and adding in rich, fertile potting soil. Because plowing the ground can be a backbreaking, sweat-producing, and arduous task. But it’s important. In the farming world, plowing is “considered a very important technique for the seedbed preparation.” The ideal structure of the soil is restored. The new field will be rich in oxygen. And there is a strict control on weeds.[ix]
In essence, God’s message to the Israelites was that they needed to break through the hardness of their hearts. They needed to rid their lives of the weeds of idolatry, promiscuity, untruthfulness, and any other sinful behavior that was robbing their lives of righteousness. They needed to prepare their lives much like a farmer prepares the soil in order to make it ripe for planting. The same is true for us. Is there a portion of your life in which the weeds have taken over? The soil is hardened and unable to receive, much less, nurture any seeds. In real-life farming, plowing restores the soil to its ideal state. When we do spiritual plowing, it restores US to our ideal state of where God wants us to be.
Hosea 10:12 is an “if, then” statement. If we plow up the hardened and stubborn areas of our lives, and if we plant seeds of goodness, righteousness, and justice, then God will join us and will bring forth a rain of blessings. Then a harvest of faithful love will be ready for gathering. We can’t harvest until God makes it rain. God won’t make it rain until we’ve prepared a healthy environment and sown good seeds. So, how do we do that? We first must search our hearts and our lives to identify any masks or disguises that we’ve put on in order to “blend” in with the world.
Psalm 129:23-24 GW “Examine me, O God, and know my mind.
Test me, and know my thoughts.
24 See whether I am on an evil path.
Then lead me on the everlasting path.”
When our lives are plowed and ready for planting, that’s when it’s time to plant the seeds of goodness. But sometimes we grow impatient because God doesn’t send the rain of blessings when we expect. Or the harvest isn’t as plentiful as we had hoped. That’s when we should go back to our plowing and see if we did a thorough job or did we just break up the surface so that it appeared we had plowed deep within.
This was the message for the Israelites. They were doing just enough to make it appear as if they were in sync with God’s purposes for their lives. But the fruit wasn’t there. The harvest was pitiful, not plentiful. Can the same be said for your life? Are you experiencing parts of your life where nothing is growing? No fruit is being produced? Are you merely surviving rather than thriving?
If any part of your life is in a dormant state, it could be that way for a few reasons.
- Maybe you’re living the Israelites and you’ve failed to properly plow deep down to break up the hardness of unwillingness, unforgiveness, disappointment, or hurtfulness. Perhaps you’ve not gotten the weeds of anger, revenge, gossip, lustfulness, jealousy, or simply not caring under control. Or it could be that you’re not fertilizing the potting soil with the right amount of God’s rich and healthy nutrients. (Prayer, daily and consistent study of God’s Word.)
- If fruit is not coming from your life, it could be that you’re not qualified to plant the seeds you’re sowing. 1 Peter 4:10 CEV “Each of you has been blessed with one of God’s many wonderful gifts to be used in the service of others. So use your gift well.” Too often we try so hard to do the right things but with the wrong intentions. If God didn’t gift you with the talent to sing, don’t ask to sing a solo. If God didn’t see fit to give you the gift of leadership, then maybe don’t sign up to be a leader. Instead, use what God gave you and use it well.
- Or fruit may be still in the process because God hasn’t sent the rain. We will sometimes have to act in obedience first and then wait patiently on God. God wants to send us showers of blessings but He’s not going to do that until we’ve acted in obedience and not before He determines the right time. See God knows that when we’ve prepared our hearts to receive His rain of blessings, not only are we blessed, but others are also blessed and He is glorified, but it’s in His timing- not ours! Isaiah 55:10 BSB “For just as rain and snow fall from heaven and do not return without watering the earth, making it bud and sprout, and providing seed to sow and food to eat,”
The sad thing for the Israelites was that they had gone too far away from God. Hosea, Amos, and other prophets tried to tell them and warn them, but the Israelites had worn the masks and the costumes for so long, they had lost their identity in God. They continued their dance with God and the world, taking turns going back and forth. But their disloyalty to God and their pretend worship of Him brought about no fruit. They sought to trick God with their faithless and loveless actions rather than treat God with their obedience and earnest love.
Hosea 10:12 ICB “I said, ‘Break new ground.
Plant what is right.
Then you will harvest good things
from your loyalty to me.
It is time for you to turn back to me, the Lord.
Do it until I come and pour out my goodness on you.’
13 But you have planted evil.
So you have harvested trouble.
You have trusted in your own power
and your many soldiers.
Now you must live with the result of your lies.
14 So your armies will hear the noise of battle.
And all your strong, walled cities will be destroyed.”
Individually and as a nation, they had let God down. Individually and as a nation, they had lived lives of disobedience, and Hosea was sent by God to remind them you reap what you sow. You harvest what you plant. Satan was the one whispering in their ear, “Go ahead and worship other gods just in case.” “Do whatever makes you feel good. God doesn’t really care what you do. You’re His chosen people. You can’t do anything wrong.” Satan, the father of lies continues with us today individually and as a nation. “Go ahead and get revenge. It’ll make you feel better.” Or “It’s okay to do what you want. No one will ever know.” Or “God’s not being fair to you and not blessing you as He promised. You’ll just need to get what you want on your own.”
Our daily purposes stem from those five that Rick Warren wrote about and from those, our purpose is individualized based on what gift(s) God has given to us. 1. Give God pleasure. 2. Be a member of God’s family. 3. Become Christ-like. 4. Fulfill your ministry. 5. Fulfill your mission.[x]
When you do that, look to the skies because I can guarantee you’ll see some rain clouds forming.
[vi] Tim Keller, Counterfeit Gods