Seeking Help in All the Wrong Places

When Ephraim saw his sickness, and Judah his wound, then Ephraim went to Assyria, and sent to the great king. But he is not able to cure you or heal your wound” (v. 13).

- Hosea 5

In our study of Hosea thus far, the prophet has spoken of the Lord marrying Israel, rejecting her for committing adultery with other gods, and wooing her back (Hos. 1:1–3:5). If we read these passages as if they are about individual redemption, we might think that we can be saved, lose our salvation, regain it, lose it again, and on and on. Yet Hosea did not speak primarily of individual redemption, though personal salvation was not off his radar. Hosea preached first to a corporate people, the mixed body of believers and unbelievers that made up the old covenant visible church. His marriage, divorce, and remarriage analogies reflected God’s relationship to the nation as a whole, which He cast off because most Israelites were uncircumcised in their hearts. In Hosea’s day, there were certainly faithful Israelites, men and women who were also part of the invisible church. These believers suffered exile alongside their faithless brethren, but the Lord never divorced them, for He is the author and finisher of true faith (Heb. 12:1–2).

God’s divorce of the visible covenant community was coming because political intrigue, like a net, entrapped Israel (Hos. 5:1–2). During Hosea’s ministry in the northern kingdom from the death of Jeroboam II (753 BC) through the fall of the capital city of Samaria (722 BC) and beyond, few locations were more dangerous than Israel’s throne room. Several kings reigned for less than six months before being assassinated (2 Kings 15:8–16). Had these rulers addressed Israel’s real problem—spiritual rot—they might have lived longer. Simply put, the northern covenant community refused to trust Yahweh alone, and the people, following their kings, served other gods. Ephraim, the leading Israelite tribe in the north, defiled the land with idolatry (Hos. 5:3–4). Spiritual failure reflected itself in Israel’s foreign policy. Instead of trusting God, Israel’s kings looked to Assyria to secure their position in that turbulent era (v. 13; see 2 Kings 15:17–22).

Yet Assyria could not help Israel because God had decreed Israel’s instability in order to judge the nation for false worship. Like a lion, the Lord wounded Israel (Hos. 5:13–14), but the kings did not seek Him for the cure. Consequently, the one to whom they turned would finally kill the patient. When Israel turned to Assyria, Assyria would finally turn on Israel, invading the Promised Land all the way down to Benjamin’s territory, which bordered Israel and remained part of Judah (v. 8; see 2 Kings 17:1–18:13).

Coram Deo

Even though we are justified by faith alone as individuals and redeemed based on our personal relationship to God, we cannot forget that the Lord also deals with the church as a corporate body. Entire denominations feel the effects of divine judgment for false teaching, not just individual congregations. We must guard against false teaching to safeguard ourselves and those around us from enduring the ramifications of judgment on false teachers.

Passages for Further Study

1 Chronicles 5:18–22
Proverbs 29:25
Isaiah 31
John 14:1–7

We Recommend

Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that you do not alter the wording in any way, you do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction, and you do not make more than 500 physical copies. For web posting, a link to this document on our website is preferred (where applicable). If no such link exists, simply link to www.ligonier.org.

Please include the following statement on any distributed copy: From Ligonier Ministries, the teaching fellowship of R.C. Sproul. All rights reserved. Website: www.ligonier.org | Phone: 1-800-435-4343