1. The House of Wickedness
In the book of Hosea, Judah somewhat gets the “little brother” treatment in relation to Israel. One place this particularly stands out is chapter 4, verse 15:
"“Though you, Israel, commit adultery,
do not let Judah become guilty.
“Do not go to Gilgal;
do not go up to Beth Aven.
And do not swear, ‘As surely as the LORD lives.”
In this verse, God commands Judah to not go to Gilgal, Beth Aven and to not swear “As surely as the LORD live.” When we dig deeper, these three specific commands give us a greater insight into the time Hosea was speaking in.
First, God names Gilgal. This is noteworthy because originally, Gilgal was a sacred place where prophets would train under two of the greatest prophets of all time: Elijah and Elisha. However, in the time since then, Gilgal had been transformed into a central place of false worship. It had such a reputation for this, that it was brought up four different times in scripture (Hosea 9:15, 12:11, and Amos 4:4 and 4:5).
Next, God specifically names “Beth Aven”. When speaking of Beth Aven, the first thing people should know is that there is no such place at all. When God says Beth Aven, He is actually referring to Bethel. So why did He change the name? Look at the meanings. Bethel means “House of God”. Beth Aven on the other hand means “House of Deceit”. By comparing these, we see that Bethel had fallen so deeply into sin that God himself changed its name from His house to “House of Deceit.”
The final thing God specifically states for Judah to not do is swear “As surely as the LORD lives.” This reminded me of a talk I heard at a conference a couple years ago. The individual was from an organization called Open Doors and made this video expressing what’s wrong with using God’s name too casually. https://youtu.be/WqipNKbxq64
2. Where is your king?
Have you ever come to God in prayer and asked Him for something, only to realize later on that you would have been better off without it? Israel made this same mistake when they begged God to give them a king. Now, after the fact, and after they have faced all of this turmoil related to that demand, God brings the reality of their request to light:
"Where is your king, that he may save you?
Where are your rulers in all your towns,
of whom you said,
‘Give me a king and princes’? So in my anger I gave you a king,
and in my wrath I took him away." -Hosea 13:10-11
God is good and righteous and listens to us when we tell him what’s on our hearts. But this situation shows the importance of why we need our hearts focused on him. This also sends out a dire warning to everyone who follows: be careful what you ask for, because you just might get it.
3. Simple Good News
The third item we’ll address this week does not require much explanation. It is very simple good news.
"“Even now,” declares the LORD,
“return to me with all your heart,
with fasting and weeping and mourning.”" -Joel 2:12
God wants us to know, that even when we are drowning in sin, He is still pursuing us, asking us to truly repent and ask for forgiveness. You are never too far gone. And there is no more true or simple message than that.