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Monday, February 1, 2016

Is There Safety In Allying With Powerful Nations?

This week we'll reach the end of our trip through Hosea. I'm not even sure what happens next in the Bible Study series, but I'm looking forward to preparing next week's entry. Meanwhile, here's a man in a historical world, living in a land once famed for luxury and power. His great nation now faces threats from enemies it once imagined were weak. Leaders vie for the right to decide where the best alliances lie. Sound familiar?

(14) Hosea’s Lament

Some history to start with: Read Hosea 7:7. Do you remember what happened to Israel’s kings? When do you think Hosea was writing this – before or after the kings fell?

Read 2 Kings 15:29-30, 17:4, Hosea 5:13, 14:3. Hoshea led a pro-Assyrian rebellion, but switched his allegiance to Egypt after the death of the Assyrian king Tiglath-Pileser (727BC).

Read Hosea 7:11,16. Hosea warns this alliance won’t help either. The Assyrian king Shalmaneser V attacks, imprisons Hoshea (2 Kings 17:3-4, 18:9), and begins the process of destroying Israel and its people.

Read Hosea 11:5-6, 13:16. Do you think this is written before or after the events it describes? There’s a suggestion that Hosea’s ministry was sufficiently long, pieces of prophecy and history might well be combined in his writing. Do you think that matters when it comes to learning from what is written?

Is this a vengeful God?

1.       Read Hosea 6:4-6. Does God attack them first with armies, or with words? What does this passage tell us about God’s nature?

2.       Read Hosea 6:7-11. Verse 10 says “I have seen...” Does God see through Hosea’s eyes? Does he see through ours? How might that make us feel?

3.       Read Hosea 7:1-3. Who makes the king glad? How?

4.       Read Hosea 7:4-7. Imagine the Great Fire of London, caused by an overheated oven. How is their society overheated? How is ours? And can you think of a modern analogy to the danger of an untended oven?

5.       Read Hosea 7:8-12. What makes Israel a silly dove? Might this describe aspects of our society too? Why?

6.       Read Hosea 7:13-14. We might apply the earlier parts of the passage to society, but this part’s strictly religious. Might it describe any parts of the Christian church today?

How should we call on God’s name?

1.       Read Hosea 8:2-3. Does this remind you of a parable?

2.       Read Hosea 8:4-6. What is Samaria’s calf? What is ours?

3.       Read Hosea 8:7. What does the phrase mean when it’s used today? How does this relate to its meaning in the Bible?

4.       Read Hosea 8:13-14. There was nothing wrong with going to Egypt in Joseph’s day, or in Jesus’ day. Why is it wrong in Hosea’s day? Thinking of how the Christian church has changed over the years, what might be a modern equivalent to “returning to Egypt”?

How should we respond?
1.       Read Hosea 9:1 Why would they rejoice? When do you think this was written? When might it apply to us?
2.       Read Hosea 9:3 What is Hosea prophesying?
3.       Read Hosea 9:7 How can you tell a prophet from a fool, or a spiritual man from someone deceived? How do we know who to listen to?

How does God respond?

1.       Read Hosea 9:10 How does God sound in this verse? Loving, vengeful, sad...?

2.       Read Hosea 9:11-12 What do you think is being described here?

3.       Read Hosea 9:14. Does this remind you of a New Testament verse? (Try Luke 23:29-30. Any other verses?)

What happens next?

1.       Read Hosea 10:3. What happens (or has happened) to their king?

2.       Read Hosea 10:5-6. What happens (or has happened) to their national religion?

3.       Read Hosea 10:8. Could Hosea be talking about a distant future, or even a repeated future, as well as one soon to take place? Why might future events keep being repeated?

4.       Read Hosea 10:9. Do you remember what happened at Gibeah? Read Judges 19. It’s kind of a strange story, but can you summarize it? What happened next? And what part of the story might be relevant?

5.       Read Hosea 10:10-12 Why would this have been a powerful image? Think of a place of conflict today – can you imagine a similarly powerful image?

6.       Read Hosea 10:14. This could be an Assyrian Shalmaneser, or the Moabite Shalmanu. Does it matter which?

Does God still love his people?

1.       Read Hosea 11:1. Where have you heard this verse quoted?

2.       Read Hosea 11:3-4. Does this sound like vengeance or like love?

3.       Read Hosea 11:5. What about this? Where do natural consequences of actions fit into God’s plan or God’s punishments?

Assyria came to power under Tiglath-Pileser who conquered Damascus in 732 BC and took tribute from other Western states. The next king, Shalmaneser V, conquered Samaria in 722BC. Sargon II probably carried the Israelites into exile soon afterward, hence Hosea 11:5. The next king, Sennacherib, conquered most of Judah in 701BC and destroyed Babylon in 689BC. Babylon regained its independence when the Assyrians fell to political infighting. Nebuchadnezzar probably built the famous Hanging Gardens around 600BC. In 597BC, Babylon conquered Judah. In 539BC Persia took over under Cyrus the Great, as described in Daniel. So these terrifying Assyrians are just one more conquering and conquered nation. The nation of Israel/Judah survives under God’s providence. Does God still love his people?

The story of God’s People

1.       Read Hosea 12:2-6 Do you remember these events? What is important about them?

2.       Read Hosea 12:7-10 How might we recognize and respond to prophets, visions and symbols?

3.       Read Hosea 12:11-13 Which is more important – how we worship idols, or how we listen to prophets?

4.       Read Hosea 13:4-6 How does that indictment, “Therefore they forgot me,” strike you?

5.       Read Hosea 14:1-3 How might you rephrase their prayer for the present day?

6.       Read Hosea 14:4 How do they/how do we stop being wayward children?

7.       Read Hosea 14:9 Is this written for them or for us, or both?

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