(A brief overview for Sunday School teachers and Bible study leaders, of Lifeway’s Explore the Bible lesson of Hosea 6 & 7 for Sunday, October 23, 2022. A video version of this overview is available on YouTube at:
INTRO: (Following the American defeat in Brooklyn in 1776, Washington aide Joseph Reed wrote:) “When I look round, and see how few of the numbers who talked so largely of death and honor are around me, and that those who are there are those from whom it was least expected … I am lost in wonder and surprise…. Your noisy sons of liberty are, I find, the quietest in the Field … An engagement (in battle), or even the expectation of one, gives a wonderful insight into character.” (David McCullough, 1776, p. 204-204)
(During the Theban rebellion against the young Alexander, messengers went out to try to stir up support among other Greek city/states.)
“The messengers had no better luck at Athens, where Demosthenes—in typical fashion—led a rousing vote in support of the brave Theban rebels, then did nothing.” (Philip Freeman, Alexander the Great, p. 61)
OR you/your class could share a personal experience of when someone promised you something, but they were just empty words.
(Just for example: when I was a boy, I loved model warships. There was a young man by the name of Frankie, who my dad had taken in for a few days, and Frankie told me that he had a 3’ model aircraft carrier that he was going to give me. I was SO excited about it. I told a young man who was a friend of ours what Frankie had promised me, and this wiser, older friend said: “Shawn, Frankie is the kind of guy who makes a lot of promises, but he doesn’t keep them.” I had no idea as a young boy; but my friend could see through his empty promises.
If you share a story like that (and you’re free to share this one if you like) Then you can make the point: GOD can see through our empty promises too! And that’s what we see here in our focus passage for today in Hosea 6 & 7. Israel talked a good game about returning to God, but they didn’t live it out with genuine repentance and life change.
THE CONTEXT HERE: Hosea the prophet is continuing to preach primarily to the Northern Kingdom of Israel here, during the time of Jeroboam II, a time of military and economic prosperity, but of spiritual depravity. God’s judgment is about to come upon them, but God gives them an opportunity to repent — IF they will take it, and really MEAN it! Sadly, they didn’t.
I. ISRAEL’S CALL (TO REPENT)
Now, let me say right off, there are TWO different “spins” that Bible interpreters put on :1-3:
- Some believe :1-3 is a genuine call to repentance, perhaps from Hosea, encouraging his people to repent; or some in Israel saying to each other; let’s return to the Lord.
- Others believe this is a case of “empty words”: that Israel is saying, “Let’s return to God” — but that they don’t really mean it.
I don’t know if it really makes THAT much difference which it is; because what we see in 6:1-3 ARE GOOD WORDS. We SHOULD do what these verses say. If Hosea is saying “let’s do this” it was good. If Israel was saying it and not meaning, it, the words were still good. It IS what they should have done — they just didn’t. And in reality, we know they did NOT.
But what we see in these verses is a picture of repentance: “Come, let us return to the LORD.” (LORD here is in all capitals, which indicates that in the Hebrew it is not “Adonai,” or Lord, but “YHWH”/“Yahweh”, the personal name of the God of Israel. They had been worshiping other gods: Baal, Molech, Asherah — but let’s return to YHWH, who is supposed to be our God! So it’s a call to repentance.
In the second part of :1 we see a picture of the redemptive, rehabilitative work of God:“He has torn us, but He will heal us; He has wounded us, but He will bandage us” God sometimes allows us to be hurt, in order to lead to our repentance and long-term healing.
An illustration/discussion question here could be: can anyone share a “hurt,” that was actually helpful for your long-term good. (For example I remember one of our kids, really hurting as he got an immunization; I had to hold him down as he screamed! It hurt him then, but it was for his long-term good. Sometimes when they have to set a broken bone it can hurt, but it’s for the long-term good, and so on.)
In the same way, does God sometimes allow difficult things to happen to us, to bring us back to Him? Sure He does!
— We see an example of it with the Prodigal Son in Luke 15. He had to go the pig pen, before he would repent and return to his father.
— We see a New Testament church example of it in II Corinthians 2:6-8. Evidently a member of the church at Corinth had sinned, and they had invoked church discipline on him. But he apparently repented, so Paul says, reaffirm your love for him: he’s come back! The difficult punishment had the long-term purpose of bringing him back to God.
— +x II Cor. 7:10 says that godly sorrow leads to repentance. God uses sorrowful and difficult events in our lives to get our attention, and bring us back to Him.
Many of us have probably seen cases of this: either in our own lives, or in lives of family members, or others you know.
IF YOU KNOW OF AN EXAMPLE LIKE THIS, YOU MIGHT SHARE IT. AND/OR ASK CLASS MEMBERS IF THEY CAN SHARE AN EXAMPLE OF THIS.
God uses chastisements and difficulties to bring His people back to him.
And If we WILL repent, Hosea 6:1 says, the punishments God has promised will be reversed:
— :1 = “For He has torn us, but He will heal us.” In 5:15 God had said that He would be like a lion and “tear to pieces.” But now He will “heal” them if turn back to Him.
— :1b says “He has wounded us but He will bandage us” In 5:13 Judah had a “wound” from God — but now He will “heal” that wound if they repent!
So the message here is that God will reverse the punishments He’s promised, IF they repent.
This is just what we saw with Jonah and Nineveh last week, isn’t it? God had said in 40 days Nineveh will perish. But they repented. And so God reverses that punishment. “He did not do it” Jonah 3 says.
Then, at the end of :2, is an interesting verse. Throughout the Old Testament, there are verses that have an “immediate”meaning, but also a “bigger picture” meaning, as a prophecy of Christ. One of these is found here: “He will revive us after two days; He will raise us up on the third day that we may live before Him.”
You might read this verse and ask your group: ??? “What does this verse remind you of?”??? (The obvious answer is: the resurrection of Jesus on the 3rd day!)
The New Testament does not explicitly quote this verse, but I Corinthians 15:4 says that Christ “rose from the dead on the 3rd day ACCORDING TO THE SCRIPTURES.” Nowhere else that we know of in the Old Testament, specifically talks about rising from the dead on the 3rd day. Hosea 6 does! So it may be that this is the “scripture” that I Corinthians 15 is referring to.
(Another might be Jonah 2, that we just looked at a couple of weeks ago, where Jonah was in the belly of the fish for 3 days, and then came out to new life. SOME scholars believe Jonah died in the fish and God resurrected him. I tend to believe that what happened to Jonah is a PICTURE of what Jesus did — symbolically Jonah was “as good as dead” and God brought him out alive from the fish on the 3rd day. Either way, Jonah is another good Old Testament picture of the burial and resurrection of Jesus. In Matthew 12:40, Jesus says just as Jonah was in the fish for 3 days and 3 nights, so He would be in the heart of the earth for 3 days and 3 nights, so Jesus made that link between Himself and Jonah also.)
So it’s a very interesting verse that foreshadows the resurrection of Christ.
BECAUSE of God’s promises to relent His judgment if they repent of their sins, Verse 3 encourages them: “So let us know; let us press on to know the LORD. His going forth is as certain as the dawn; and He will come to us like rain, like the spring rain watering the earth.”
He’s saying: IF you’ll do this; IF you’ll return to the LORD, He WILL do what He said. He WILL heal you. He WILL raise you up. It’s as certain as the sun coming up in the morning. It’s as certain as the rain that always comes every spring. God WILL do it! So let’s do our part: “let’s press on to know the LORD. Let’s repent and return to Him.”
This could be where you share the gospel this week. You could say, this is just like us with the Lord today. Just as Israel & Judah had sinned against God, so the Bible says “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” But :2 prophesies how God sent Jesus for us: to die on the cross for our sins, and to rise again on the 3rd day. He did this FOR US! So that whoever repents of their sins like God says here, would be forgiven and raised up to new life. “We may live before Him” as this verse says — with eternal life — if we will respond to His call to return to Him through Jesus.
So that was Israel’s call to repent — but what was their response?
II. GOD’S CONDEMNATION (OF THEIR HYPOCRISY)
Israel either heard the right words and didn’t respond, or said them but didn’t mean them. Again, either way you interpret this, the outcome was the same: in the end, they did NOT respond to God’s call from their heart and change their ways and return to Him. So God addresses them in :4 and following through the rest of our focus passage:
First of all, notice in. :4 The DEPTH of God’s feeling here. “What shall I do with you, O Ephraim? What shall I do with you, O Judah?” You can just “FEEL” God’s passion in these lines. I think this is important, because somehow many seem to have the impression of God as a “stoic” kind of God — kind of like Vulcan “Mr. Spock” — who has no emotions, who doesn’t “feel” anything. But this is not the description the Bible gives of Him is it?
??? You could ask your group at this point: “Can you think of scriptures where God/Jesus show emotions?”
(Of course there are many: Jesus angrily turning over the tables of the money changers is one; He showed a furious righteous anger. Or when He wept at the tomb of Lazarus. Also at Gethsemane. Even in the Old Testament, in Psalm 95 God says “I loathed that generation.” That’s a strong feeling. In Numbers 11 God’s anger was kindled towards the Israelites who’d complained for meat. Look at Hosea 11:8 later in this book, where God says: “How can I give you up, O Ephraim. How can I surrender you, O Israel … all My compassions are kindled.”
So we see in scripture that our God is no “impassive, uncaring” God. He feels deeply towards and about us. This is one of those places: “What shall I do with you …?” God feels for us and with us.
WHAT DiD GOD SEE IN THEM THAT BROUGHT ABOUT THIS FEELING?
:4b “For your loyalty is like a morning cloud, and the dew which goes away early.”
The word translated “loyalty” here is the Hebrew word “chesed,” which is one of the most-used words in the OT; but it has such a rich meaning, it is difficult to translate with any one English word. It is translated: “faithful love,” “covenant love,” “mercy”, Martin Luther said it was an Old Testament word for “grace.” It’s God’s undeserved, faithful love towards us.
So how significant is it that God tells Israel here: “Your ‘chesed,’ Your “faithful love” (or mercy, or grace, etc.) is “like a morning cloud.” It’s like the dew which goes away early. I went out to play golf with some of our deacons early this morning, and it was so foggy I almost couldn’t see to make the turn into the golf course. But in a couple of hours, the fog was gone. God’s saying to them: your “faithfulness” is like that. You are NOT faithful. You are NOT loyal.
— These people were not loyal to God. They were supposed to worship Yahweh, but they continually worshiped other gods instead, as we saw all through Kings and in the prophets.
— And they were not loyal to each other (Jeremiah 34 tells how the people told the Lord they’d set their Hebrew slaves free after 6 years like God commanded in the Law — but they turned around and didn’t do it! They SAID they would, but they DIDN’T! This is just the kind of thing God is talking about here. We see repeatedly in the prophets that they didn’t deal justly with each other in business, they took advantage of widows and orphans, and so on. They were not faithful to God, or to each other.
They say one thing and do another.
???DOES GOD SEE THIS IN US??? How “loyal” are we to God?
??? You might ask your group: “What are some ways that we could show our loyalty or faithfulness to God?”
(Some answers could include: being faithful to church. Spending time with Him every day in His word & prayer. Being faithful to give. Being faithful to obey when He asks us to do something. Standing up for Him in front of others is a big one! You & your group can think of many answers.)
:6 says THIS what God wants: “For I delight in loyalty rather than sacrifice; and in the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.” In other words, God doesn’t just want “religious stuff” from us. He wants us to be loyal to Him and others. He wants us to have a hunger for knowledge of Him.
??? You might discuss: “What are some ‘religious things’ we might be tempted to do, to ‘make up’ for not really loving God, and being loyal to Him?”
(Giving money instead of obeying Him in a particular area of our life; “checking off the box” of our daily Bible reading instead of really hungering for Him and seeking Him; etc.)
Then in 6:7-7:2 God goes through a whole list of the sins Israel was involved in:
6:7 they’ve broken His covenant
6:8 Gilead (one of the cities of Israel) is a city of wrongdoers
6:9 talks about their murder of others
6:10 harlotry (possibly literal prostitution, which was a ritual in many kinds of idol worship, but also probably “symbolic” harlotry: they were unfaithful to God by worshiping other idols instead)
God says in 7:1 I wanted to heal you — but your sin has been uncovered.
He say in 7:2 your sins are before My face.
(Now, one thing you’ll want to notice here is how “Israel”and “Ephraim” and “Samaria” are all 3 used interchangeably here in 7:1. These are all referring to the same group of people: “Israel” was the 10 Northern tribes that split from Judah; Ephraim is one of those tribes that split off, and it was one of the major tribes, so “Ephraim” became another name for “Israel;” and “Samaria” was the capital city of the Northern Kingdom of Israel. So they are all used interchangeably, as they are here, to refer to the Northern Kingdom of Israel, which God was about to judge.
But basically God is saying here: I can’t deliver you when you have not changed, and you are continuing to commit all these sins. You haven’t repented. You haven’t changed. And because you haven’t, My judgment WILL upon you. This is a strong word.
And of course it’s a word many people today need to hear too, isn’t it?
— Our country needs to hear it, doesn’t it? We say “God bless America,” but if America continues to sin and does not repent, God will not be able to bless America. Just like Israel, He cannot bless us if we don’t turn from our sins.
— And many of us as individuals need to hear this message as well. You can’t just “SAY”: “I’m coming back to God; He’s going to help me.” You have to show it in your life; you have to repent of your sin. God will NOT help you and bless you while you just continue in your same sins.
??? Ask your group as you near the end of this lesson: Is there anything in your life, that God has repeatedly spoken to you about changing, that you have not? Maybe you’ve even said, “God I am going to stop _____” — but the truth is, you haven’t! It’s just been empty words on your part. And you want God to bless you, and maybe you’re even doing some “good religious things” and you’re hoping that God will bless you for it — but God’s saying here, NO! I don’t just want your “religious stuff;” I want you to OBEY Me in that area I’m talking to you about! I want you to stop that sin that I’ve convicted you about. And If you don’t, then My consequences WILL come on you, just like they did upon Israel.
Ok, I hope that will give you some ideas for sharing this week’s lesson.
If you’ll write something in the Comments below, I’ll be sure to pray for your and your group by name this week.
God bless you as you share His word Sunday!
Per my licensing agreement with Lifeway:
– These weekly lessons are based on content from Explore the Bible Adult Resources. The presentation is my own and has not been reviewed by Lifeway.
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