Reaping the Whirlwind
“They sow the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind” (v. 7a).- Hosea 8
Much of the old covenant prophet’s task consisted in reminding God’s people of the curses the Lord promised for flagrant, impenitent covenant violation (Lev. 26:14–39; Deut. 28:15–68). The goal was the people’s repentance, but even the prophets reached points when they knew Israel as a whole was so far gone that the majority would not see its evil. Hosea 8 records a speech that Hosea gave when he reached such a point.
Hosea announces that “One like a vulture” is “over the house of the LORD” (v. 1, ESV). Other English translations such as the NIV, NASB, and NKJV identify the bird as an eagle. In reality, this verse is exceptionally difficult to translate from the Hebrew, so let us consider what each animal signifies. A vulture appears on the scene when an animal dies. Eagles are known for their swift flight. No matter the translation we choose, the basic point is the same. Israel’s death in exile was certain and swiftly approaching.
By the time the Israelites saw the enemy at their borders, it was too late. Fervently they cried to God, claiming to know Him. These were faithless cries, for the people had shown their lack of a proper relationship with the Lord by transgressing the covenant and spurning the good (vv. 1–2). A mere profession of faith saves nobody—one must possess faith to be in a right relationship with God (Mark 7:1–13). All the enthusiastic worship in the world could not save Israel because the people had no faith in the Lord.
Hosea then lists Israel’s sins, beginning with the fact that “they made kings, but not through me” (Hos. 4:4a). The northern kingdom was conceived in sin, but God had still promised Jeroboam I, Israel’s first king, and the ten tribes of Israel who served him, a lasting kingdom if the king would serve the Lord faithfully (1 Kings 11). Among other things, this meant God was to be consulted when appointing kings in the north. But the last king in the north who had any kind of divine confirmation was Zechariah, son of Jeroboam II and the fourth generation promised to King Jehu (2 Kings 10:30; 15:8–12).
Additionally, Israel showed its failure to trust God through its idol worship and reliance on foreign powers for its security (Hos. 8:5, 8–9). Therefore, the Lord chose to give Israel what it wanted. The people had sown the wind, a metaphor for Assyria’s military might, so God would allow them to reap the whirlwind (v. 7a). The power they trusted for salvation, Assyria, would be the very means of the kingdom’s destruction.
Scripture teaches in several places that God will give people the desires of their hearts. For the Christian, this is a blessing, for as we delight ourselves in the Lord, our desires will more and more line up with God’s will. But for those in bondage to sin, receiving the desires of the heart leads only to more enslavement and, ultimately, destruction (Rom. 1:18–32). We must guard our hearts so that when their desires are granted, we enjoy what is good, noble, and beautiful.
Passages for Further Study