Hosea 13:6 (HCSB)
6 When they had pasture, they became satisfied; they were satisfied, and their hearts became proud. Therefore they forgot Me.
This pericope is interesting in that it continues on the motif of Israel’s rebellion against God, but at the same time it contains what appears to be a beautiful promise. There is a more graphic image of the coming punishment, and this sense of heightened tension. And the passage, despite a brief suggestion that things will be “ok”, seems to end very grimly for Israel’s prospects.
The passage starts out again with a reminder of Israel’s past, and how there was a relationship between them and God. Take note how Hosea 13:4 is in the present tense: “you (Israel) know no God but Me.” We might expect this to be in the past tense, that Israel used to know God. But even though Israel has sinned against God, and turned to the false god Baal, God discounts that as idol worship, because after all, He is the only real and true God!
Hosea 13:6 is sort of the “pivot” verse, everything sort of turns here. We go from Israel knowing God, and God knowing Israel, this apparently positive relationship, which leads to satisfaction, to this ugly, vain attitude on the part of Israel. And once Israel was proud, they forget about God. One has to wonder how close to home this attitude is in our nation.
The next part of the pericope outlines, in a graphic way, the punishment that is inevitable for Israel. I found Hosea 13:9 very interesting. We generally do not think of God in a destructive way, yet He clearly says here that He, Himself, will destroy Israel. And although it goes against the popular, lovey-dovey God that gets peddled, it only makes sense that the all-powerful Creator, the One who abhors sin and evil, the One that reserves judgement for Himself, also wields the power to destroy. And this fact, these attributes, along with His grace, mercy, and love, are the exact reasons why He tells Israel that He is, at the same time, their only help!
But as the pericope closes we are seemingly rejuvenated. It would seem that God is not going to allow the story to end with the death of His people. In Hosea 13:14 we seem to see a change on God’s ultimate plan here as He suggests He will ransom His people and rescue them from death. And although we certainly know that Christ has done exactly that, the final line, “Compassion is hidden from My eyes,” suggests otherwise. A more appropriate translation, one that seems to be more comprehensible with the final line, can be found in the NET translation:
Hosea 13:14 (NET)
14 Will I deliver them from the power of Sheol? No, I will not! Will I redeem them from death? No, I will not! O Death, bring on your plagues! O Sheol, bring on your destruction! My eyes will not show any compassion!
But, we do know from Paul, in 1 Corinthians, that death in fact has been defeated: “Death, where is your victory? Death, where is your sting?” So, although we have been redeemed, we do have the promise of eternal life with Jesus, Israel’s punishment here seems to be sealed. A stark reminder that although God has redeemed His people, we are not free from consequences in this imperfect, sin-laden world and life.
Lord, thank You for redemption and eternal life through Your death and resurrection! We stand in a similar place that Israel did, help us to turn back to You. Help Your people be like Hosea, conveying your truth among a people that are self-assured, and have forgotten about You. I pray for the courage, will, and words for us to do so. Amen.