This chapter starts out with God calling out all of the groups (the priests, Israelites, royal house) responsible for maintaining justice, but have miscarried it. They are caught in “a snare” keeping innocent people captive from knowing the One True God.
“Their deeds do not permit them to return to their God.” (v4) This isn’t saying that because of their sin they cannot turn to God. It is because of their persistent that makes the repentance impossible. The NKJV words it this way: “They do not direct their deeds toward turning to their God.” Nothing about their actions shows them wanting to repent.Do your actions show a heart of repentance?
“When they go with their flocks and herds to seek the Lord they will not find him.” (v6)
The Lord didn’t want their sacrifices. Those were useless. The Lord would only be found by the Israelites when she turned with a heart of integrity.
Verse 8 makes it sound like a war in coming. Maybe God’s wrath approaching to wage war on the people. “Ephraim will be laid to waste on the day of reckoning.” (v9) Ephraim is the name Hosea uses for Israel. “I will pour out my wrath on them like a flood of water. Ephraim is oppressed, trampled in judgement intent on pursuing idols. (v10-11) NKJV verse 12 reads like this: “Ephraim is oppressed and broken in judgement, because he willingly walked by human precept.” (Emphasis added) This is what happens when people live by their own rules, own morals, own made up gods: brokenness.
“I am like a moth to Ephraim, like rot to the people of Judah.” (v12) Moths and rotting consume things: they destroy, waste, and decay.
“When Ephraim saw his sickness and Judah his sores,” (v13) Israel has realized her unfaithfulness. “The Ephraim turned to Assyria, and sent to the great king for help. But he is not able to cure you, not able to heal your sores.” (v13) Israelites turned to a mere human for saving. No king can heal the sores and sickness of an unfaithful heart. Only God can cure these.
“I will be like a lion to Ephraim, like a great lion to Judah. I will tear them to pieces and go away; I will carry them off, with no one to rescue them.” (v14) Although I have never personally seen a lion in the wild, I have seen the Discovery Channel and National Geographic and watching a lion stalk and chase its prey is terrifying. They tear apart their prey, leaving little remnants. When a lion attacks, there is no other animal coming in to save the prey. They know the fate of attacked and run for their own safety. When God’s wrath comes, no one is coming to stand up and rescue the sinners from their fate.
“I will go back to my place until they admit their guilt.” (v15) God threatens to leave Israel until the people acknowledge what they have done. “And they will seek my face in their misery they will earnestly seek me.” (v15) When Israel realizes what she has done and what living without God is really like, then she will turn towards Him with a repentful heart.Sometimes you have to know what it is like to live without God to turn to Him with full repentance of your sins. Have you lived without acknowledging God? In your misery, have you turned to seek Him again?