Hosea 13:1 (HCSB)
1 When Ephraim spoke, there was trembling; he was exalted in Israel. But he incurred guilt through Baal and died.
This is an interesting passage, as it shows a contrast with what Israel was, or at least could have been, and what it had become. But, overall, as has been the general theme, Israel is condemned for its rebellion against God.
The first two verses, Hosea 12:12-13, give a very brief reminder of the history of Israel, where it had come from. From Jacob’s less than stellar choices which resulted in him fleeing to Aram, where he was tricked by Laban into tending sheep in order to earn Rachel, his wife, to Moses, who “tended” Israel as God brought them out of slavery in Egypt. I think the message here isn’t so much what sort of losers Israel were, with these two seemingly lackluster misfits in their history, it is more about the fact that God was guiding and involved. It was about how God worked through these men to achieve His purposes and rescue Israel. Yet, despite this reminder of God’s providential involvement and care for them, Ephraim, Israel, continues sins against God. And God will repay Israel for their sin.
Hosea 13:1 is a single paradoxical verse in the sense that Ephraim was “exalted”, yet died. It is the picture of one who is on top of the world, yet has nothing. Israel had everything, yet they turned their back on God and died. Baal was not the true God, nor was he able to provide life. Instead, Israel followed Baal and died. That spiritual death was not because of God, it was because of Israel and his rebellion! We ought to be very careful not to follow the same path. We ought to continually seek God, worship God, and honor God.
And it is interesting, even with Hosea’s proclamation of this news, of the death of Ephraim, Israel continues to sin! Their fate is sad: temporary and forgotten like morning dew. Rather than a change of heart, a return to God at the news, they continue their sinful ways. Again, we would do well to take heed: there can be points that our sin becomes so great that we are no longer able or willing to turn back to God. Certainly nothing is beyond the power of God, but we should be wise enough not to test Him in way that we are doomed to the same fate as Israel.
Lord, thank You for all You have done, are doing, and promise to do for us. I pray that we would avoid the same traps that Israel fell prey to, that we would always worship You alone. Help us to stay true to You. Amen.