Evicted From the Land of Promise.

Rejoice not, O Israel! Exult not like the peoples; for you have played the whore, forsaking your God. You have loved a prostitute’s wages on all threshing floors. Threshing floor and wine vat shall not feed them, and the new wine shall fail them. They shall not remain in the land of the Lord, but Ephraim shall return to Egypt, and they shall eat unclean food in Assyria. They shall not pour drink offerings of wine to the Lord, and their sacrifices shall not please him. It shall be like mourners’ bread to them; all who eat of it shall be defiled; for their bread shall be for their hunger only; it shall not come to the house of the Lord. What will you do on the day of the appointed festival, and on the day of the feast of the Lord? For behold, they are going away from destruction; but Egypt shall gather them; Memphis shall bury them.

Nettles shall possess their precious things of silver; thorns shall be in their tents. The days of punishment have come; the days of recompense have come; Israel shall know it. The prophet is a fool; the man of the spirit is mad, because of your great iniquity and great hatred. The prophet is the watchman of Ephraim with my God; yet a fowler’s snare is on all his ways, and hatred in the house of his God. They have deeply corrupted themselves as in the days of Gibeah: he will remember their iniquity; he will punish their sins. – Hosea 9:1-9 ESV

The land of Canaan had been meant to be a land of promise, blessing and abundant provision. Even before they had entered it and taken possession of it, Moses had told them, “The Lord your God will soon bring you into the land he swore to give you when he made a vow to your ancestors Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. It is a land with large, prosperous cities that you did not build. The houses will be richly stocked with goods you did not produce. You will draw water from cisterns you did not dig, and you will eat from vineyards and olive trees you did not plant. When you have eaten your fill in this land, be careful not to forget the Lord, who rescued you from slavery in the land of Egypt. You must fear the Lord your God and serve him” (Deuteronomy 6:10-13 NLT). God had kept His word and had given them the land as their possession, but they had forgotten all about Him. They had failed to fear Him and serve Him. So now, God was bringing curses upon them for their disobedience. The land that had once provided them with abundant provision would no longer do so. “So now your harvests will be too small to feed you. There will be no grapes for making new wine” (Hosea 9:2 NLT). Not only that, they would no longer be able to stay in the land. They would be forcibly removed by the Assyrians and taken into captivity. They would experience the indignity of slavery in a foreign land just like their ancestors had. There in the land of Assyria, they would attempt to appease God with sacrifices and offerings, but it would do them no good. It would be too little, too late. Hosea warned them, “None of your sacrifices there will please him. They will be unclean, like food touched by a person in mourning. All who present such sacrifices will be defiled. They may eat this food themselves, but they may not offer it to the Lord{ (Hosea 9:4 NLT).

Even if they could somehow escape the Assyrians, they would suffer defeat at the hands of the Egyptians. There was no way out. Their destruction was inescapably inevitable. For years, they had rejected the warnings of God’s prophets. Men like Hosea had been pleading with them to repent and return to the Lord, but they had said, “The prophets are crazy and the inspired men are fools!” (Hosea 9:7 NLT). They could not imagine that God would actually destroy them, because they were His chosen people. They wrongly believed that they were untouchable and immune to God’s judgment. And yet, God had warned them for generations that failure to obey His commands would have dire consequences. And He had given them ample warning and more than enough opportunities to repent. But God’s sad prognosis was, “The things my people do are as depraved as what they did in Gibeah long ago. God will not forget. He will surely punish them for their sins” (Hosea 9:9 NLT). To understand just how bad God viewed their sinfulness, we have to go back and see what happened in Gibeah. A Levite and his concubine were traveling and stopped in the town of Gibeah to rest. They were greeted by an old man in the town square and he encouraged them to stay with him, but not to remain at overnight night in the open. That night, some men from the town surrounded the house.

While they were enjoying themselves, a crowd of troublemakers from the town surrounded the house. They began beating at the door and shouting to the old man, “Bring out the man who is staying with you so we can have sex with him.”  The old man stepped outside to talk to them. “No, my brothers, don’t do such an evil thing. For this man is a guest in my house, and such a thing would be shameful. Here, take my virgin daughter and this man’s concubine. I will bring them out to you, and you can abuse them and do whatever you like. But don’t do such a shameful thing to this man.” But they wouldn’t listen to him. So the Levite took hold of his concubine and pushed her out the door. The men of the town abused her all night, taking turns raping her until morning. Finally, at dawn they let her go. – Judges 19:22-25 NLT

This story is very reminiscent of what took place in Sodom and Gomorrah during the days of Abraham. Gibeah, an Israelite town, had become as immoral and corrupt as Sodom. God ended up destroying Gibeah for what had happened. And now Hosea warns that God viewed the entire nation of Israel as evil as He had the people of Gibeah.

There are times when we believe our sins are not all that bad. We somehow think that what we are doing is not offensive to God and we justify our actions as somehow acceptable and tolerable to Him. But God desires holiness and He has given us His Spirit to make the life of holiness possible. He wants to bless us and abundantly provide for us. But like the people of Israel, we can be guilty of turning our backs on Him, rejecting His will in favor of our own. We can become disobedient and stubbornly resistant to His warnings to return to Him. Yes, He is gracious and merciful. God is ready and willing to forgive. But we must always understand that God cannot tolerate sin. As believers, we will never have to suffer the penalty of sin, because of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on our behalf. But we will always have to face the consequences of our sinful behavior. We can miss out on the blessings of God and fail to enjoy the joy, peace, comfort and provision He so richly offers us. Like the Israelites being evicted from the land of promise, we can find ourselves living in exile from His blessings and suffering the consequences of our stubborn refusal to live in submission to His Spirit and according to His gracious will for our lives.