+27 (11) 867 3505 church@bbcmail.co.za

The Minor Prophets frequently make the case that God’s people do not need power to prosper. Habakkuk argued that even utter socioeconomic ruin would not prevent God’s faithful people from enjoying his faithfulness (Habakkuk 3:17–19). Hosea 10 highlights the other side of the coin. It shows us how we can turn God’s blessings into curses.

The setting of Hosea seems to be the Syro-Ephraimite war (2 Kings 16; 2 Chronicles 28). God had made promises of untold blessings for Israel in the Promise Land—if Israel obeyed his covenant stipulations—but, since the nation had disobeyed, he brought war and devastation instead. Within a short while, Israel would completely fall to Syria. Their prominence would be met with devastation, all because they took God’s blessings for granted.

Western-influenced Christianity has for centuries in many countries enjoyed a place of prominence. Sadly, too many Christians and churches have taken this blessing for granted and now lament what seems to be collapsing privilege. What happened? Hosea 10 offers some answers—and some warnings for us against taking God’s blessings for granted.

The historic reality is that Christianity frequently flounders when it enjoys dominance. This may seem strange, but it is so because too often the church takes God’s blessings for granted and worships the blessings rather than the one who gives the blessings.

Hosea describes Israel as “a luxuriant vine that yields its fruit” (v. 1). God promised to bless Israel to be a blessing to all nations. For a long time, Israel had enjoyed God’s blessing but that blessing was about to be stripped. Gary Smith makes the interesting observation that, while “luxurious” is not an inaccurate translation, every other use of this word in the Old Testament is in a negative context—often in the context of being laid waste. Luxury would be turned to waste; blessing to curse. The prophet lists at least two reasons for this.

The first reason for waste is that Israel used God’s blessing to further its idolatry. “The more its fruit increased, the more altars he built; as his country improved, he improved his pillars” (v. 1b). Rather than responding to God’s blessings with humble gratitude, the nation took those blessings for granted and began idolising them. Western-influenced Christianity has done much of the same. Christianity in Western-influenced nations has for so long enjoyed peace and safety and respect that we have come to idolise those gifts. The moment anything threatens that peace, safety, and respect, we complain that it’s unjust and fight for our rights in a way that very much resembles the world.

In response, God would remove their idols. “The LORD will break down their altars and destroy their pillars” (v. 2b). He would remove the very things that Israel idolised. It should not surprise us that God removes the blessings he has given to us when it becomes evident that we have idolised those blessings. God will tolerate no rivals—even among the good things that he gives to us.

The second reason for waste is that Israel failed to respond to Yahweh’s blessings with true devotion. “Their heart is false; now they must bear their guilt” (v. 2a). God’s blessings ought to have produced true, heartfelt devotion to the Lord. Instead, they produced a false heart. Israel professed to be followers of Yahweh but, in their hearts, they preferred their idols. If Yahweh’s vision of life conflicted with the blessings they had come to idolise, they wanted no part in it.

We are often confused when God allows circumstances that appear at odds with what we have come to expect. We have come to expect that our Christianity will be respected but, when it is not, we are left dazed and confused. We forget that, for most of its history, Christianity has been opposed and ridiculed. If people abused and discriminated against and killed the founder of our faith, why should we expect any different treatment?

Because the people took their blessings for granted, they would soon experience the reality of God’s anger. “Samaria’s king shall perish like a twig on the ace of the waters” (v. 7). Their idols would be demolished (v. 8). Though there was hope of forgiveness and restoration (v. 12), they would first face the consequences of their sin (vv. 13–15).

As you meditate on Hosea 10 this morning, ask God to reveal to you which of his blessings you have come to idolise. Repent. Sow righteousness and reap steadfast love. It is time to seek the LORD!