From Hosea Part 2 Solomon’s Porch Sunday Evening Sermon Series
In Part 1 of this series we pointed out that the words of judgment that surrounded the birth and names of Hosea’s children in chapter 1 of the book bearing his name, were essentially all saying the same thing. I am going to bring an end to Israel. I am going to show no mercy to Israel. Israel is not my people and I am not their God. The key events that fulfilled those words of judgment were, first, the assassination of Zechariah great grandson of Jehu, for the blood of David’s house, unjustly shed by Jehu in Jezreel. (see 2 Kings 9,10 Ahaziah’s death) Zechariah’s death brought an end to the legitimate Kingdom of Israel. Second, and more specifically, the Assyrian captivity of the Kingdom of Israel that was to come around forty years after his assassination.
Inlaid within these words of judgment to Israel were words of mercy to Judah, the Southern Kingdom, ruled by David’s house and populated mainly by only two of the twelve tribes, Judah and Benjamin. In Hosea 1:7 we read,
But I will have mercy on the house of Judah, and I will save them by the LORD their God. I will not save them by bow or by sword or by war or by horses or by horsemen.”
We noted these words of kindness to Judah because one hundred and thirty years after the fall of Israel to Assyria, Judah itself would be taken captive by the Babylonians. Further, when we read the Biblical accounts of both these tragic events, Judah’s captivity by far appeared to be the more vicious. How then does one explain Israel being brought to an end and Judah receiving mercy in light of what the Scriptures teach us? Well, here in brief is, as Paul Harvey used to state on his daily radio spot, “the rest of the story.”
Israel’s captivity was different from Judah’s captivity in that the Assyrian’s removed all the people of the land of Israel and resettled them as far north in the Assyrian Kingdom as they possibly could and still be in Assyria. Then, not leaving the land bereft of a population, Assyria brought people from other places in their kingdom giving them the land to cultivate, and so resettled the land with foreigners. Israel, having no sacred memory, being stripped of the worship of the true God from it’s inception under Jeroboam the son of Nebat, began inter-marrying with the Assyrian people in the north of Assyria where they were resettled as captives. This same scenario played out with the stragglers that were left in the repopulated land as well. Another name for Israel, the Northern Kingdom, was Samaria. It was still called that in Jesus’ day. Samaritans were seen as traitors to the truth, apostates. They were a people that had once been Jews but instead chose to follow the gods of the land and did not guard their heritage. They were unclean. When the Jews from Judah return from Babylon to rebuild the Temple, City, and wall in Jerusalem, many of these people re-migrated from northern Assyria. The tragedy is that many could not give a clear lineage from one of the twelve tribes and so they were omitted entrance as Jews. That’s why when Jesus’ disciples see Him talking to the Samaritan woman at the well they are shocked. Heck, she’s shocked Jesus spoke a word to her. (see John 4) So while Samaria had some things in common with Judah (or Judea in Jesus’ day) they were never again seen as part of God’s people. There were some obvious exceptions to the rule. Anna, the prophetess that famously prophecies over Jesus as an infant in Luke 2 was from the tribe of Asher, one of the tribes of the Northern Kingdom. The question is not, “Were their any people from the tribes of the Northern Kingdom in the return under Ezra and Nehemiah?” The point is that there were incredibly few and their land never again comes under complete Jewish control.
Judah on the other hand, even with the extreme judgment meted out to them at the hands of Babylon remained an intact worship community, with God ordained and protected leaders even in captivity. Many date the beginning of the use of the synagogue to this period. Think abut Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, three young men that would not bow down to the image. These men were willing to die rather than give themselves to idolatry. Daniel, a powerful prophet, had some of the most amazing prophetic visions in all the Scripture revealed to him while in captivity. So faithful, his enemies knew where to find him to arrest him based on his prayer practices. Protected in the lions den and delivered from death. Joseph like in his rise to prominence and ability to interpret dreams. Remember Ezra, the great priest and scribe of the return. He was instrumental in the recovery of the worship practices of the Kingdom of Judah. Nehemiah, cupbearer and well trusted official in the reign of Artaxerxes, who wept, fasted, and helped secure, by God’s kind providence the decree to re-start the rebuilding of the temple, city, and wall. These men all bear testimony to the existence of a sacred memory among the people of Judah, who, for the most part remained separate from their captors and did not intermarry with them. Among these men, and others that remain unnamed in Holy Writ I am sure, were stored images of the Temple, copies of the Law, genealogies of the King, as well as the priests. Smuggled out even with the fear of death in their heart and the smell of smoke on their clothes. Why? Why were these things kept and not allowed to burn in the scourge and judgment of Zion? I’ll tell you why, it was faith……. faith in “things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1) Faith in the words of a prophet like Hosea that though God was bringing an end to Israel, yet He was going to “have mercy on the house of Judah, and” they would be saved “by the LORD their God.” (Hosea 1:7a) They were looking for a day when they would be set free, much like their Father’s were set free in Egypt by the miraculous and mighty hand of God. “I will not save them by bow or by sword or by war or by horses or by horsemen.” (Hosea 1:7b) So rather than staging protests and arming for rebellion, they sought the good of the nation and city where they were held captive in obedience to the Lord’s word found in Jeremiah 29,
“Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce. Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.
Judah believed God, and it was accounted to them as righteousness. By faith they received deliverance and mercy. Where are all the faithful men in Israel during this period? Where are the prophetic books that emanate from them during their captivity? There are none to my knowledge. It was unbelief that drove them to idolatry and it was for unbelief that they were cut-off. Judah, for all her idolatry, for all her harlotry, was in the vine, part of the olive tree, to use another Biblical analogy. She was being pruned, so she might bring forth fruit, more fruit, greater fruit, than she ever had before. What fruit would she bear? Jesus, the Lion of the tribe of Judah would come and bear the sins of many on the tree as the Scripture and the old songs go. Judah would bear the fruit of the Gospel, and it was for the sake of the Gospel that all those previously mentioned men of Judah were raised up and preserved. So that in the final reading, Judah, indeed all of us who name the name of Christ can say,
“Blessed be the name of the LORD from this time forth and forevermore”
“It is he who remembered us in our low estate, for his steadfast love endures forever; and rescued us from our foes, for his steadfast love endures forever;
Soli Deo Gloria