“Hear and testify against the house of Jacob,” says the Lord GOD, the God of hosts, “That in the day I punish Israel for their transgressions, I will also visit destruction on the altars of Bethel; and the horns of the altar shall be cut off and fall to the ground. I will destroy the winter house along with the summer house; the houses of ivory shall perish, and the great houses shall have an end,” says the LORD.
Hear this word, you cows of Bashan, who are on the mountain of Samaria, who oppress the poor, who crush the needy, who say to your husbands, “Bring wine, let us drink!” The Lord GOD has sworn by His holiness: “Behold, the days shall come upon you when He will take you away with fishhooks, and your posterity with fishhooks. You will go out through broken walls, each one straight ahead of her, and you will be cast into Harmon,” Says the LORD.
“Come to Bethel and transgress, at Gilgal multiply transgression; bring your sacrifices every morning, your tithes every three days. Offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving with leaven, proclaim and announce the freewill offerings; for this you love, you children of Israel!” says the Lord GOD.
Israel was self-satisfied; her churches were full; her people were religious; there was a great deal of good singing and giving of tithes in her midst; and she presented her material prosperity as evidence of God’s favor upon her people. But in fact, God and His Word had been forgotten, His law forsaken, and His loving grace taken for granted. Instead of the name of the Lord, Israel had two towers to which they ran – their homes and their temples – prosperity and religion – and God promised to destroy both (1 Kings 13:2-5, Isaiah 5:8-9, Amos 5:22-24). They went merrily on their way, climbing the heights of prosperity, never imagining that the end of all that they had attained was just around the corner, as they would be hopelessly dragged off through the unrelenting desert sun to serve as slaves of the Assyrian empire. God was not mocked, what Israel sowed they would reap.
Once any people begin to amass expensive homes, power over other people, and large incomes, it is easy for them to find their identity in these things. There is a natural tendency for people to consider their security to be in their stuff. They will go to great extremes to protect that which they imagine themselves to have gained by right – and anything that would threaten their power or their status or their revenue – they will act even in immoral ways to maintain what they presume to be rightfully their own. Examples of this in Scripture abound – from Cain to Lot, Balaam and Aichan, to Judas, Ananias and Sapphira and Demas. Certainly the love of money, Scripture warns, is the root of all evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows (1 Tim 6:10, cf Jude 11, Prov 1:19)
The obvious dilemma in Israel 28 centuries ago was the sin of materialism. Do we not face this same problem today? The Israelites compromised God’s Word in order to achieve what they deemed to be success. Are we not falling into the same trap? In addition to living the “high life,” the Israelites abused people in need. How concerned are we for the poor? What are we doing for them? Are we ignoring them or ministering to them? We’re often quick to criticize big government, but do we depend on them to do what the church ought to be doing? Israel’s theology taught that prosperity was a sign of spirituality. Is the church of our day’s theology such that we assume the poor to be ungodly?
We must face reality. Why should God not sweep away our western materialistic culture with our western materialistic churches? Why should our pseudo-Christian culture with its mindless worship at the altar of materialism and endless obsession with sensuality, be any more durable that ancient Israel was?
The prophet Hosea has been called “the death bed prophet” of Israel, as he was the last to prophesy before they fell to Assyria in 722 B.C. Read the oracles of Hosea from 2:7-13, 4:4-10 and 10:5-15 and identify what sins of the nation of Israel have been repeated in our nation and the churches in our own nation.
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