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. — Hosea 10:12
I enjoy driving through farmland in the springtime and viewing the fields plowed in perfect rows. Seeing the green blades shooting up through the ground always makes me comment on their beauty, and I love to look across fields of grain that are nearly ready for harvest. We subscribe to a magazine designed especially “for those who long for the country.” Obviously, I love the country . . . driving through the country, that is. Being a farmer has never been one of my desires. Why? Because every drive in the country spells one word to me — WORK!
Have you considered what farmers do? They are up early and toil until late. The ground must be tilled and fertilized before anything can be planted, and specific nutrients need to be added to the soil from time to time. Seeds must be planted, and faithful watering is a necessity. Land that has been left uncultivated for a long period of time becomes fallow — hard and full of weeds — and has to be broken up. Machinery must be maintained. The to-do list must be endless!
Keeping our hearts right before God can be much like farming. Hosea urged the people of Israel to break up the fallow ground of their hearts and repent. He said that if they would prepare their hearts and sow seeds of righteousness, they would reap God’s mercy and He would teach them His righteousness. Even though God had abundantly blessed Israel and planted the people in the land of Canaan, they chose instead to follow the false gods of their neighbors, and they no longer bore the fruit of righteousness that God desired from them. Their hearts had become hardened to the point where God’s threat of judgment did not cause them to change their idolatrous ways.
If we desire to be fruit-bearing Christians, we must keep our hearts pliable and open to God’s Word. It takes a daily examining of our souls to make sure there is no hardness that needs to be broken up or “weeds” that need to be removed. We must also add such necessary nutrients as prayer, Bible reading, church attendance, love, forgiveness, willingness, and obedience. It takes work to produce a plentiful harvest in our spiritual lives, but God will make it worth every effort.
This chapter reiterates Hosea’s two burdens: Israel’s sin and its punishment. Israel had prospered in Canaan, and the more the people prospered the more altars they built to honor their idols instead of giving God the credit for the many blessings He had bestowed on them. They could not decide whether to serve God or their idols, and God said He would destroy their altars and idols.
In verses 3 and 4, Hosea referred to the day when the Assyrian army would take away Israel’s king, and the people would realize that even a king could not save them from God’s judgment. Even though Israel had entered into covenants with other nations, those agreements would prove to be false. Hosea compared God’s judgment to hemlock, a bitter, poisonous plant.
The “calves of Beth-aven” referred to the calf-gods that Israel had worshiped since the days of King Jeroboam, when the Northern Kingdom had split from the Southern Kingdom. Hosea said the people would mourn because these idols would be unable to save them from the Assyrian army that would carry them away. Samaria, where the king resided, was the chief city in the Northern Kingdom, but the king would be cut off and taken captive along with the rest of Israel. The people would call for the mountains to fall on them rather than repent and turn back to God.
In verse 9, Hosea referred to the battle of Gibeah (recorded in Judges 19 and 20), when God used Israel to punish the tribe of Benjamin for its dreadful sin. God protected Israel at that time because they were right, but by this point they had committed their own sin of idolatry and would face God’s judgment.
Treading out the corn was the most pleasant task an animal could do because it was allowed to eat all it wanted while working. Hosea referred to the fact that Israel had it easy up until this time and had enjoyed the blessings and prosperity that God had given to them. However, the time was coming when Ephraim (Israel) would be taken into captivity to serve its Assyrian taskmaster. Judah would also suffer the same fate, although not for another 130 to 150 years.
The only thing that would save Israel from the judgment of Assyrian captivity was repentance. Hosea reminded the people that they were about to reap what they had sown. Israel continued to sow wickedness, and God’s judgment came just as He said it would. Nothing is known about either Shalman or Beth-arbel, but this reference was apparently to a battle that was well known to Israel in the days of Hosea.
(Hannah’s Bible Outlines - Used by permission per WORDsearch)
II. The prophet’s message
B. Jehovah’s retribution upon Israel
2. The cause of judgment
b. False alliances (10:3-15)
(1) The cause: worthless covenants (10:3-4)
(2) The result: judgment (10:5-15)
Let us challenge ourselves to be certain we are good “farmers” of our spiritual ground. We want our hearts to be ready to receive God’s righteousness, and we want to produce good spiritual fruit.