For the Love of God, Volume 2/November 2

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By D.A. Carson About Devotional Life
Chapter 306 of the book For the Love of God, Volume 2


2 Kings 15; Titus 1; Hosea 8; Psalms 123—125

PERHAPS THE SINGLE ELEMENT that holds together the various sins condemned in Hosea 8 is human self-reliance. The “eagle” in 8:1 is probably a vulture. A “[vulture] . . . over the house of the LORD” is a way of saying that Jerusalem is as good as dead: the carrion eaters are already gathering for their feast. The people might be living in relative prosperity and peace, but the ominous signs were there for those with eyes to see. Evidences of sinful self-sufficiency include:

(1) A hypocritical allegiance to the covenant (8:1-3). What makes it hypocritical is that Israel cries out, “O our God, we acknowledge you!” (8:2) while breaking the covenant and rebelling against God’s law (8:1). This is the rejection of what is good—and there are consequences (8:3). Cf. 1 John 2:4.

(2) Defiant alternatives to the Davidic dynasty (8:4). That is what is meant by the charge, “They set up kings without my consent; they choose princes without my approval.” The Lord set his seal on the Davidic dynasty, but to preserve their independence from Jerusalem the northern ten tribes, now constituted as Israel, opted for their own monarchs. They were not “chosen” in any democratic sense; frequently they succeeded one another in bloody coups. But they were the choice of the northern tribes nonetheless, insofar as they preferred these to allegiance to David’s line. It is always the case that unless the Lord builds the house, those who labor do so in vain (Ps. 127:1); here the sin is compounded by the alienation from the messianic line.

(3) The development of idols, of the culture’s choice of religion (8:4-6, 11-13). Initially two golden calves were set up, one in Dan and one in Bethel, to offset the draw of Jerusalem’s temple (1 Kings 12:27-30). Moreover, people in Israel would not have to travel so far. Thus, although they formally preserve the altars for sin offerings, these have become “altars for sinning” (8:11).

(4) The constant dependence on expensive and tricky allies (8:8-10). Instead of trusting the Lord, they think their clever diplomacy with regional superpowers will save the day. God is demeaned, and Israel (“Ephraim”) is further seduced by idolatry.

(5) Reliance on wealth and military strength (8:14). Israel (the north) has its palaces; Judah (the south) fortifies many towns—forty-six of them, in fact. But God will destroy them (8:14b). When Assyria vanquished Israel (722 B.C.), it also took all the walled cities of Judah except Jerusalem (2 Kings 18:13), which was spared until the rise of Nebuchadnezzar more than a century later.

What signs of self-reliance characterize our culture? What will God do about them?

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