Today: [Hosea 10] Breaking Up Your Fallow Ground. In chapter 10 of Hosea the prophet warns of an invasion from Assyria that will destroy the northern kingdom. Assyria represents the anti-Christ influence in our lives. The anti-Christ is not just something that will come in the end times, but a spirit that works all around us. The need we have is to identify it and deliver ourselves from its influence, lest we suffer the same destruction that the northern kingdom now faces.
[Hos 10:1-15 KJV] 1 Israel [is] an empty vine, he bringeth forth fruit unto himself: according to the multitude of his fruit he hath increased the altars; according to the goodness of his land they have made goodly images. 2 Their heart is divided; now shall they be found faulty: he shall break down their altars, he shall spoil their images. 3 For now they shall say, We have no king, because we feared not the LORD; what then should a king do to us? 4 They have spoken words, swearing falsely in making a covenant: thus judgment springeth up as hemlock in the furrows of the field. 5 The inhabitants of Samaria shall fear because of the calves of Bethaven: for the people thereof shall mourn over it, and the priests thereof [that] rejoiced on it, for the glory thereof, because it is departed from it. 6 It shall be also carried unto Assyria [for] a present to king Jareb: Ephraim shall receive shame, and Israel shall be ashamed of his own counsel. 7 [As for] Samaria, her king is cut off as the foam upon the water. 8 The high places also of Aven, the sin of Israel, shall be destroyed: the thorn and the thistle shall come up on their altars; and they shall say to the mountains, Cover us; and to the hills, Fall on us. 9 O Israel, thou hast sinned from the days of Gibeah: there they stood: the battle in Gibeah against the children of iniquity did not overtake them. 10 [It is] in my desire that I should chastise them; and the people shall be gathered against them, when they shall bind themselves in their two furrows. 11 And Ephraim [is as] an heifer [that is] taught, [and] loveth to tread out [the corn]; but I passed over upon her fair neck: I will make Ephraim to ride; Judah shall plow, [and] Jacob shall break his clods. 12 Sow to yourselves in righteousness, reap in mercy; break up your fallow ground: for [it is] time to seek the LORD, till he come and rain righteousness upon you. 13 Ye have plowed wickedness, ye have reaped iniquity; ye have eaten the fruit of lies: because thou didst trust in thy way, in the multitude of thy mighty men. 14 Therefore shall a tumult arise among thy people, and all thy fortresses shall be spoiled, as Shalman spoiled Betharbel in the day of battle: the mother was dashed in pieces upon [her] children. 15 So shall Bethel do unto you because of your great wickedness: in a morning shall the king of Israel utterly be cut off.
As in Isaiah chapter 5, Hosea begins this passage comparing Israel to a vine that has disappointed its vinedresser. The king of Samaria during this time was Jeroboam II. The kingdom is seen as prospering, but her prosperity is being squandered in the raising up and establishing of pagan altars throughout her borders. V. 2 describes the heart of the nation as divided and because of this the nation shall lose her king and her idols shall be broken down. This in fact comes to pass when the nation is destroyed in the Assyrian invasion. What the prophet is saying is that even though the altar at Bethel will be destroyed and the line of the kings of Israel ended, it will only serve to worsen the heart of the people and cause them to be further bent on idolatry and destruction.
Verse 3 reveals the consensus of the people who seeing their king deposed only see it as a further opportunity to do their own will. The absence of the fear of God fosters anarchy and self-will, bringing about their own destruction. We see this in the secularization of our culture. In the exclusion of God from the public square there is nothing sacred, and the people defy any boundary set before them that would impede them from whatever iniquity they might choose to give themselves over to. V. 4 says that the people when they take an oath or make a covenant are only speaking false words because an oath or covenant is based on accountability to a higher power. When a people come to the point that they see no higher power or purpose in life other than to serve themselves, then the very institutions of civilization are severely weakened, as we see in the day we live in.
In verses 5-6 the prophet declares that the altar at Bethel will be taken into captivity and the nation will be brought to shame. This is referring to the idol that the first Jeroboam set up as an alternative place of worship. This very idol according to Hosea will be taken to the king of Assyria (a type of the anti-Christ) as a captive prize and presented to him as tribute. What does this speak to us? When we reject convention, and fashion our lives and our walk with God after our own convenient and expediency, the end result is to give ourselves over to an anti-Christ spirit.
When we read of references to Assyria we are reminded that this is a reference to the spirit of anti-Christ. Micah 5:5 and Isaiah chs. 7-14 make a strong case for Assyria as being a type of the anti-Christ spirit that John said was already in the world in his day:
[1Jo 2:18 KJV] 18 Little children, it is the last time: and as ye have heard that antichrist shall come, even now are there many antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last time.
We can understand from this that there will be an ultimate anti-Christ but there are also and in fact have been “many anti-Christs” throughout history. John goes on to speak not only about an individual anti-Christ, but also a “spirit of anti-Christ”. How might we identify this:
[1Jo 4:3 KJV] 3 And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that [spirit] of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world.
If someone states that they do not believe that Jesus is God or that He came in the flesh, that is easily identified as an anti-Christ doctrine. Is there any further understanding of this? What if we deny that Jesus dwells in another people or group that does not believe the way we do? What if we functionally deny that Jesus lives in another people or group by marginalizing them and not having anything to do with them? Is that not the spirit of anti-Christ? We can see then that the anti-Christ is at work in Christianity between churches, groups and denominations to the degree they work in opposition of each other and independent of each other with no sense of need that they be one even as Christ is one.
Hosea goes on the v. 7 to declare that the king sitting so securely it seems in Samaria will be cut off and the high places will be destroyed and overrun by thorns and thistles. Thorns and thistles in the parable of the sower Matt. 13:22 represent the cares of life and the deceitfulness of riches. For all the advancement and financial enrichment in the world that we live in, two of the greatest distractions to be found include the fear of a financial crash and some new terrorist threat. These are the concerns of heart that flourish where the word is being choked out by lesser concerns in our life.
Hosea goes on to state that the people are headed for times of instability as it was in the days of Gibeah when war not only threatened from without but also the tribes warring against each other even to the point of extinction. Even though God has dealt positively with the nations of Judah and Israel up to know v. 11 says that they shall now be made to deal with the implications of the rebellion against God that both kingdoms have sown from many decades.
The admonition is, that when difficulties come, to use them as a motivation to seek the Lord, and break up the neglected ground of our heart to serve Him in righteousness, so that mercy might be reaped into our lives rather than judgment. If we embrace the righteousness of God (and Jesus is our righteousness according to 1 Cor. 1:30); then we will reap His mercy and He will send the rains of His blessing upon us. If however (v. 13) we plow in wickedness, we will reap iniquity and the result will be tumult among the people and devastating defeat.
In these final verses of the chapter we see the consensus regarding the impending fall of Samaria to the Assyrians is brought upon them because they have forsaken God and worshipped the idol of the golden calf at Bethel. God had indeed sanctioned the establishment of the northern kingdom, but He commanded the people to still return to Jerusalem to worship at the temple. Because they put their own concerns first, they were led by expediency in their own situation and sense of self-preservation to give themselves over to false worship that provoked the jealousy of God over them. For us in our personal lives we should take away from this chapter a caution about our justification for doing things we know are contrary to God’s word, because of extenuating circumstances. How many times do we get under pressure and make decisions that are not godly but we feel we have no other choice? This is exactly what brought the northern kingdom to ruin. Therefore, the admonition to them and to us still rings true in the command of v. 12:
Sow to yourselves in righteousness,
reap in mercy;
break up your fallow ground:
for it is time to seek the Lord,
till he come and rain righteousness upon you.
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