A brief overview for Sunday School teachers and Bible Study leaders, of Lifeway’s “Explore the Bible” lesson for Sunday, October 30, 2022. A video version of this overview is available on YouTube at:
INTRO: ??? You might ask your class something like: “Did you ever plant anything that you wished you hadn’t?” I immediately think of a wisteria plant Cheryl & I had on the side of our house in Tulsa. It had some pretty blooms, and we thought, “Oh this is nice! But that thing exploded and took over, and starting choking out power lines and cables and fences and everything in sight! I started calling it the “demon vine” — and vowed never to have one again!
Our former pastor Rod Masteller moved to our home town, Harrah, Oklahoma, as a city boy, and thought he’d like to grow some okra. But he got tired of it, because it was growing so fast, so he decided to “just plow it all under.” One of the deacons told him: “Rod, you just THOUGHT you had a lot of okra this year! Wait till next year!” He’s gonna reap what he just sowed!
Many of us have planted something we wished we hadn’t, for one reason or another. This week’s lesson in Hosea 10 speaks about sowing and reaping. Just like Galatians 6 says: “Whatever a man sows, that will he also reap.” This week’s lesson tells of how Israel sowed seeds of sin and ungodliness, and as a consequence, reaped a great judgment. But even in the midst of that, God expresses His mercy and grace, as we will see shortly.
If you’re having some difficulty with this lesson, I understand that. This is not the easiest text we’ve had! There are references to several historical people and places that most of us aren’t familiar with: “Beth-aven,” “King Jareb,”“Gibeah,” and “Shalman and Beth-arbel” that we need to know, to be able to explain and apply this lesson. We will touch on all of those in this overview.
And we’ll hit some of the highlights of the text; there are some real “gems” in this passage. Many of you have said you like to use an outline to teach from, if so, you could follow one like this:
I. The Sin Sowed
II. The Judgment Reaped
III. The Invitation Given
I. The Sin Sowed
A good portion of Hosea 10 deals with the sin that Israel (the Northern Kingdom, the 10 tribes that split away from Judah) sowed.
The first part of Chapter 10 is not in the Lifeway “focus passage,” but I would include it; as it is part of the story. It begins by saying that Israel (the Northern Kingdom) is like a “luxuriant vine,” that produced a lot of fruit — but “the more fruit, the more altars he made.” This refers to how Israel was prosperous, economically and militarily. But what did they DO with their prosperity? “The more altars he made” — they spent it on altars for false gods. “The richer his land, the better he made the sacred pillars.” (Referring to the pillars of Baal, and the Asherah poles — idols for false gods that Israel multiplied.) So the richer they got, the more sinful and further from God they fell!
Then in :5 (which begins the focus passage) he refers to how Samaria (if you remember from last week, “Samaria,” the capital often represents all Israel, kind of like someone might say: “Washington” to refer to our country.) It says “Samaria will fear for the calf of Beth-aven. “Beth-aven” is a play on words here:
— The Hebrew word for “house” is “Beth.” (For example, “Beth-lehem” means “house of bread.”)
— There was a place in Israel where Jacob committed himself to God in Genesis 28, and said “This will be God’s house”: “Beth-El”, “house of God” (El is short for “Elohim,” God.)
— But when Jeroboam split the 10 northern tribes away from Judah, he didn’t want the people to go back to Jerusalem to worship, so he set up 2 idolatrous calves to worship, and one was in Bethel. So Bethel became a center of idolatry for Israel, so here God ironically calls it: “Beth-aven. Again, “Beth” means “house,” and “aven” means means “trouble, sorrow, wickedness.” So what God is saying is: “Beth-EL,” which should have been the house of GOD has instead become “Beth-aven” — a “house of trouble” or “house of wickedness.” So you see the play on words here.
:9 “from the days of Gibeah you have sinned, O Israel”
What is “Gibeah”? Gibeah refers to a horrible sin in Judges 19, where a man’s concubine was brutalized and murdered, so he cut her in pieces and sent her body parts all over Israel to bring the people together to punish the wickedness of the men of Gibeah. Multiplied thousands were killed in the civil war. So “Gibeah” is an infamous town, where great sin was committed. God says — ever since those days of Gibeah, Israel, you haven’t changed; you have continued to sin ever since then.
— :13a “you have plowed wickedness”
— :13b they believed lies
— :13c “you have trusted in your way’
— :13d “in your numerous warriors”
— :14 “your numerous fortresses” So they trusted their military might.
So in review, Israel was condemned by God for being prosperous, but spending their money on the wrong things; for trusting in their fortresses and warriors; for going after false gods, and trusting lies instead of the truth.
Then as a teacher I might say: “Do these things sound familiar at all? A nation that is prosperous; that trusts in its military might; that has gone after false gods instead of the God of the Bible, that has trusted lies instead; and has gone after wickedness? Does all this remind you of any nations TODAY?”
(Sadly, I would say it reminds me of our country today, and you can talk about some of the parallels.)
Of course we need to make sure we are not personally sowing seeds similar to these:
— that there’s no wickedness in OUR life
— that we aren’t believing lies
— or trusting our own way, military might, our bank account, or putting our trust in anything other than God.
A couple of questions you could use if you want some discussion in this first point:
—“Which do you think is more likely to lead a person to sin against God: poverty, or prosperity?” (Your group can probably make a case for both sides, but often poverty/difficulty turns a person TO God; often prosperity lures us AWAY, as it did Israel.)
— AND/OR can you think of people in the Bible, our society, or that you know personally, who let prosperity lead them away from God and into temptation? (From the Bible there is King Solomon, whose riches and wives led him to false idols; others)
II. The Judgment Reaped
Galatians 6 says you will reap what you sow. We also see in this chapter the judgment that would come upon Israel for the sin that they sowed:
:6 the idolatrous calves will be taken away
He said they fear for them — because they are going to be taken away in the coming judgment. He says in :5 everyone is going to mourn over it; :6 says “the thing itself will be carried to Assyria” — the invading Assyrians that were judging Israel would carry the idol of Bethel off to captivity. It says they’ll give it as tribute to “King Jareb.” “Jareb” in Hebrew means “warrior.” So it’s talking about the “warrior king” of Assyria, who was invading them.
:7 Samaria will be cut off with her king (we see in :15 also)
:8 the high places will be destroyed. (These are the places of worship of idols that had “sprouted” all over Israel).
:14 “all your fortresses will be destroyed” (and he says: “As Shalman destroyed Beth-arbel” — scholars are not certain who “Shalman” is, but many speculate and I think it makes sense that it is referring to Shalmanezer the Assyrian king who invaded Israel in 722 B.C. “Beth-arbel” — there’s that Hebrew word “Beth” again, “House”; “arbel” means “place of God’s ambush.” It was undoubtedly a town Shalmanezer attacked in Israel.)
:14 mothers and children will be dashed in pieces
:15 the king of Israel will be cut off — which he WAS. Israel’s King Hoshea was taken into captivity into Assyria when they invaded and destroyed the land.
All this was the “crop” they reaped, from the sin they had “sowed.”
What this point really emphasizes, is the great COST of sin. You can’t “sin and win.” Sin always costs.
— One way you could emphasize/discuss this would be to ask your group: “Can you think of people in scripture, who sinned and who then paid a price for it?” (Well there are plenty of examples of that, aren’t there: Adam & Eve: cast out of the garden/saw their son killed; David lost his son/lost his kingdom for a time; was never really the same after Bathsheba; we just saw how Gehazi took some recompense from Naaman, and was stuck with leprosy; MANY examples.
— AND, sadly, you and your group could probably share some examples of people you personally who paid a great price for their sin as well.
Here’s an illustration from history you can use somewhere if you feel led to:
When Presidential Secret Service agent E.W. Starling was a younger man, he worked as a detective for the railroad, and captured a very wanted criminal, George Anderson, who had just robbed a train. Starling watched the trial. He wrote: “When the judge asked him whether he had anything to say before being sentenced, he replied, ‘No. I took the money from the express company, and now you are taking my liberty from me.’” (E.W. Starling and Thomas Sugrue, Starling of the White House, p. 26)
George Anderson knew: he was reaping what he sowed.
We ALL do. This scripture is a warning to us: you cannot sin and get away with it. Sin always has a price tag — and it’s always more than you wanted to pay. “You will reap what you sow.” So we need to be careful what we sow. As Galatians 6 says, sow the Spirit, not to the flesh. When we sow sin, we reap judgment. And like Israel and these other examples, what happens is not pretty!
So basically this lesson is on sowing and reaping — and YET, we see in :12, what I would make my final point, that even then there is a gracious invitation given:
III. The Invitation Given
Verse 12 is like a little “oasis of hope” in the midst of the sin and judgment of Hosea 10. After all that Israel has done, in sowing sin and in the midst of all the judgment they were reaping, how amazing is it that EVEN NOW, God gives them an invitation to repent in :12!
I might consider this to be THE key verse of this chapter:
“Sow with a view to righteousness; reap in accordance with kindness; BREAK UP YOUR FALLOW GROUND, for it is time to seek the LORD until He comes to rain righteousness on you.”
This is a great invitation from God, with a great promise:
— “Sow with a view to righteousness” — sow GOOD things; sow obedience to God, not sin. In other words, repent and change.
— Then He says: “Break up your fallow ground.” Maybe you have heard this expression before, but what does it really MEAN to “break up your fallow ground”? In Hebrew it’s literally, “freshly till your untilled ground.” If ground isn’t broken up, you can’t plant anything on it; the seeds would bounce off and not grow. You have to prepare it; till it up; then you can plant seeds in it.
Of course, God is not talking about agriculture here; He’s talking about your HEART; your spiritual life. He’s saying “till up” the unbroken ground in your HEART. Break up the hard places. Open up your heart to God and prepare the way for what He wants to do in your life.
— and “Seek the LORD.” We seek Him by turning from sin — there is no good seeking God if you don’t turn from sin. Sin is what is keeping us from Him. There is no seeking God without repentance from sin. So turn from known sin; seek Him in His word, and DO what He tells you to do.
In our sin, we don’t deserve for God to give us a chance to repent and return to Him. But amazingly, He loves us, and He gives us a gracious opportunity to repent and return to Him.
This is where you could share the gospel in your class this week.
Just like Israel here, we have all sinned and “sown” thoughts, words, and deeds we shouldn’t have. And like Israel, we all deserve God’s punishment for our sins. But just like :12 here, God is gracious. Even in our sin, He offers us an opportunity to repent, like He offered Israel here. Jesus came and died on the cross and paid for our sins, so that if we would “break up our fallow ground,” and “seek the Lord,” like it says here; He will “rain righteousness on us” — He will GIVE us the very righteousness o Christ as a gift, which will qualify us for heaven. But we do have to personally RESPOND like God says here, to receive that gift. God offered it to Israel — but they didn’t take it. They didn’t turn from their sins; they didn’t turn back to Him. And Assyria came and destroyed everything they had, and took them into captivity.
And if we don’t repent and return to God, we too will face His judgment. But He does give us this amazingly gracious opportunity to respond to Him, and be saved.
When Alexander the Great first ruled Greece, the city of Thebes revolted. Alexander wanted to make peace. He said if they would hand over the two leaders of the revolt, and re-affirm their loyalty to him, they would be forgiven. But if they wouldn’t, he would devastate the city. The Thebans did not accept; in fact their assembly passed a resolution to fight. Then Alexander arrived with his great army and surrounded the city. Even then, he offered them an olive branch. He would rather have peace than destroy them. But they refused his offer. So Alexander’s judgment came upon them. Thousands of Thebans were killed in the assault, the walls of the city were razed to their foundation, and everyone who was left was sold into slavery. The king made them a gracious offer, but they foolishly refused to accept it.
In the same way, God offered to Israel an amazing offer of grace here in :12, but they wouldn’t accept it. May we learn from their lesson, and repent and “break up our fallow ground” and return to Him.
With that, I would close my class with a time of prayer, and pray for several things:
— I might pray for our country as a whole, that we would not follow in Israel’s steps
— I would pray for US personally, that we would turn from our sins that are like Israel’s; that we would “break up any fallow ground” in our life, and seek the Lord.
— and I would pray for anyone in our group, or people we know, who need to respond and accept God’s gracious invitation to be saved.
I hope this will help you with this lesson for your group this week. If you write something in the Comments on the blog, I’ll be sure to pray for your and your group by name this week.
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.
– Lifeway resources are available at: goExploretheBible.com and: goexplorethebible.com/adults-training
– If you have questions about Explore the Bible resources you may send emails to firstname.lastname@example.org
shawn, i have followed your overviews for several months and always found them interesting, though I didnt always use them . this week i would have been lost without your input . so much good info and an ability to apply it to life that is hard to come by with some of these old prophets. I teach in byars ok. and live west of ada, so were almost old nieghbors. thanks again.
Honestly Bill I think this was a particularly difficult lesson. I’m grateful the overview was helpful to you. Thank you for letting me know. And YES that’s not too far from some of our old Norman/Paul’s Valley stomping grounds! Love on Oklahoma some for us this week! I’ll be praying for you this weekend.
I was struggling with my lesson preparation efforts until I read this. You really helped me understand what the Lord is conveying to us in this passage. I’m now looking forward to teaching Sunday. Thank you!
Amen Jerry; that’s what we want: teachers who are really looking forward to sharing the message. I appreciate you letting me know the overview was helpful – and I’ll sure be praying for you!
You have provided extremely helpful notes. I have been struggling with this week’s upcoming lesson, and I came across your overview and explanation this evening. I will definitely use this guide to help me with my lesson preparations. Thanks for sharing.
I’m so glad the notes are helpful to you, Michelle! Thank you for letting me know. That IS a hard lesson! I was praying for you and your group this weekend!
Thank you so much for the insights shared. They were very helpful.
I’m so glad, La Celia. I was praying for you this weekend; I hope you had a great class!
Thank you for your faithfulness in sharing your insights into these sometimes-difficult lessons. I have included Matthew 9:36-38, which we think of Jesus calling us out to the harvest, but He’s actually asking us to go to the lost and sow God’s Word – which never returns void.
Amen Tom. And thank you. I’ve been praying for you this weekend!
I listen to your lesson every week at least twice and then print out a hard copy. Your outlines and also examples are so very helpful. I love teaching and I teach seniors which makes it interesting because they are all seasoned Christians now waiting for God to take them home. Most are over 80. I am 71, the baby of the group. I love them and I learn from then each week but trying to make these lessons applicable to their state in life is difficult. Your teaching gives me a few more tools to help make the class interesting and different for them. Blessings upon you.
Pat I’m so grateful that the lesson overviews are helpful to you; thank you for letting me know; it is an encouragement to me. I was praying for you last weekend!