God Is Faithful.

In that day their strong cities will be like the deserted places of the wooded heights and the hilltops, which they deserted because of the children of Israel, and there will be desolation.

10 For you have forgotten the God of your salvation
    and have not remembered the Rock of your refuge;
therefore, though you plant pleasant plants
    and sow the vine-branch of a stranger,
11 though you make them grow on the day that you plant them,
    and make them blossom in the morning that you sow,
yet the harvest will flee away
    in a day of grief and incurable pain.

12 Ah, the thunder of many peoples;
    they thunder like the thundering of the sea!
Ah, the roar of nations;
    they roar like the roaring of mighty waters!
13 The nations roar like the roaring of many waters,
    but he will rebuke them, and they will flee far away,
chased like chaff on the mountains before the wind
    and whirling dust before the storm.
14 At evening time, behold, terror!
    Before morning, they are no more!
This is the portion of those who loot us,
    and the lot of those who plunder us. – Isaiah 17:9-14 ESV

Long before God gave this oracle against Israel and Syria, He had freed the people of Israel from their captivity in Egypt and led them to the land of Canaan, the land He had promised to give to Abraham and his descendants. Then, under the leadership of Joshua and with the help of God, the people had taken the land. Years later, as Joshua neared the end of his life, he had called the people together, and God reminded them of what He had done for them.

“When you crossed the Jordan River and came to Jericho, the men of Jericho fought against you, as did the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Girgashites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. But I gave you victory over them. And I sent terror ahead of you to drive out the two kings of the Amorites. It was not your swords or bows that brought you victory. – Joshua 24:11-12 NLT

God gave them victories over their enemies. This rag-tag group of people who had spent 40 years crossing the wilderness, had arrived in Canaan with little in the way of weapons and no formal military training. But, with God on their side, they were virtually invincible. Their very presence in the land terrified those who lived there. But God made it clear that it wasn’t their weapons that brought them success, it was Him. In fact, He went on to tell them:

“I gave you land you had not worked on, and I gave you towns you did not build—the towns where you are now living. I gave you vineyards and olive groves for food, though you did not plant them.” – Joshua 24:13 NLT

This statement by God is extremely crucial to understanding the oracle spoken by God through Isaiah against the people of Israel. Notice what God told their ancestors. He had literally given them entire cities and towns they had played no part in building. He had provided them with lush vineyards and orchards, fully cultivated and fruitful, that they had not tilled, planted or cared for. It had all been a gift from God.

But the people of Israel had poor memories. It had been a long time since Joshua and the people had conquered the land of Canaan. And the people had forgotten all that God had done for them. Which is exactly what God had warned them would happen before they crossed the Jordan and entered the land under the leadership of Moses.

“When you have eaten your fill, be sure to praise the Lord your God for the good land he has given you. But that is the time to be careful! Beware that in your plenty you do not forget the Lord your God and disobey his commands, regulations, and decrees that I am giving you today.” – Deuteronomy 8:10-11 NLT

God went on to warn the people not to become prideful, thinking that they had been the key to their own success. It was He who had freed them from captivity. He is the one who had led them through the wilderness, feeding and clothing them. He had provided them with water, manna and quail to eat. And Moses told them exactly why God had done all this for them.

“He did all this so you would never say to yourself, ‘I have achieved this wealth with my own strength and energy.’ Remember the Lord your God. He is the one who gives you power to be successful, in order to fulfill the covenant he confirmed to your ancestors with an oath.” – Deuteronomy 8:17-18 NLT

But even by the time Joshua was nearing the end of his life and attempting to motivate the people of Israel to keep on trusting God, he knew that they had begun to forget the one who had done so much for them. Which is why he delivered to them a stirring challenge.

“So fear the Lord and serve him wholeheartedly. Put away forever the idols your ancestors worshiped when they lived beyond the Euphrates River and in Egypt. Serve the Lord alone. But if you refuse to serve the Lord, then choose today whom you will serve. Would you prefer the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates? Or will it be the gods of the Amorites in whose land you now live? But as for me and my family, we will serve the Lord.” – Joshua 24:14-15 NLT

But fast-forward to the days of Isaiah. Here in the divine oracle leveled against the people of Israel, God reveals that they had long ago forgotten Him.

For you have forgotten the God of your salvation
    and have not remembered the Rock of your refuge. – Isaiah 17:10 ESV

And notice what is provided as evidence of their forgetfulness. They were planting and sowing. They were cultivating and caring for the vineyards and orchards they had created. And the text mentions them sowing “the vine-branch of a stranger.” They had been importing grape vines from outside the area. The vines God had given them were not enough. They wanted more. They were no longer relying on God for their needs. They had become self-sufficient and confident in their own ability to provide for their own needs. But God warns them:

They may sprout on the day you set them out;
    yes, they may blossom on the very morning you plant them,
but you will never pick any grapes from them.
    Your only harvest will be a load of grief and unrelieved pain. – Isaiah 17:11 NLT

Their efforts would appear to be fruitful and profitable, but they would lack long-term sustainability. The harvest they reaped would not be what they expected. Rather than plump grapes and delicious olives, they would harvest grief and pain. And it would come in the form of a mighty nation that would deluge them like a flood.

And yet, God promises that He “will silence them, and they will run away. They will flee like chaff scattered by the wind, like a tumbleweed whirling before a storm” (Isaiah 17:13 NLT). In spite of Israel’s refusal to trust God, He would spare them. Israel was guilty of forsaking God, but He woult not forsake them. Because He has plans for them.

Eventually, Israel fell to the Assyrians. God allowed them to be taken into captivity. So, it would be easy to question how tne promise found in this passage was fulfilled. Did God keep His word? Isaiah 37 lets us know that God did fulfill His promise. When Sennacherib and the Assyrians came against Jerualem, God spared the city by providing a miraculous victory over the enemy. Once again, God did for the people of Israel what they could not have done for themselves.

“And this is what the Lord says about the king of Assyria:

“‘His armies will not enter Jerusalem.
    They will not even shoot an arrow at it.
They will not march outside its gates with their shields
    nor build banks of earth against its walls.
The king will return to his own country
    by the same road on which he came.
He will not enter this city,’
    says the Lord.
‘For my own honor and for the sake of my servant David,
    I will defend this city and protect it.’” – Isaiah 37:33-35 NLT

When the Assyrians woke up the next morning, they discovered 185,000 dead comrades, killed by an angel of God. So, Sennacherib and his troops abandoned their siege and returned home, leaving Jerusalem unscathed. And it was God who provided the victory.

But there is another day coming, when God will provide an even greater victory over the enemies of Israel. It is recorded in the book of Revelation. We are told of a day when God will send His Son back to earth to defeat Satan and all those who have joined him in his ill-fated rebellion against God and the people of God. He will fail. The godless nations will fall. And God will restore His holy people, the nation of Israel.

“We give thanks to you, Lord God, the Almighty,
    the one who is and who always was,
for now you have assumed your great power
    and have begun to reign.
The nations were filled with wrath,
    but now the time of your wrath has come.
It is time to judge the dead
    and reward your servants the prophets,
    as well as your holy people,
and all who fear your name,
    from the least to the greatest.
It is time to destroy
    all who have caused destruction on the earth.” – Revelation 11:17-18 NLT

God is faithful.

English Standard Version (ESV)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)
Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

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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.

Forgetting God.

For they sow the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind. The standing grain has no heads; it shall yield no flour; if it were to yield, strangers would devour it. Israel is swallowed up; already they are among the nations as a useless vessel. For they have gone up to Assyria, a wild donkey wandering alone; Ephraim has hired lovers. Though they hire allies among the nations, I will soon gather them up. And the king and princes shall soon writhe because of the tribute. Because Ephraim has multiplied altars for sinning, they have become to him altars for sinning. Were I to write for him my laws by the ten thousands, they would be regarded as a strange thing. As for my sacrificial offerings, they sacrifice meat and eat it, but the Lord does not accept them. Now he will remember their iniquity and punish their sins; they shall return to Egypt. For Israel has forgotten his Maker and built palaces, and Judah has multiplied fortified cities; so I will send a fire upon his cities, and it shall devour her strongholds. – Hosea 8:7-14 ESV

Futility. That is the message in these verses. Sowing to the wind. Headless grain. No flour. Useless vessels. Stubborn wild donkeys. Impotent allies. Cash-strapped kings. An ungrateful, unfaithful nation.

Years of idolatry and rejection of God’s grace, goodness and mercy were going to catch up to the nation of Israel. Their stubborn unwillingness to keep their covenant with God was going to result in their own destruction. While their kings were busy building palaces and erecting idols to their false gods, God was plotting their destruction at the hands of the Assyrians. Thinking they could somehow prevent the inevitable from happening, they made alliances with other nations, like Egypt. And the irony of that should not escape us. They were turning to their former slave masters as their source of deliverance.  Little did they know that they would end up back in slavery just like they had experienced in Egypt, but this time in Assyria. Their sad, sordid history was about to come full circle.

They had had their chance. When they entered the land of Canaan after 40-plus years of wandering in the wilderness, God had commanded them:

When you drive out the nations that live there, you must destroy all the places where they worship their gods—high on the mountains, up on the hills, and under every green tree. Break down their altars and smash their sacred pillars. Burn their Asherah poles and cut down their carved idols. Completely erase the names of their gods! – Deuteronomy 12:2-3 NLT

But rather than follow God’s orders, they did things their way. They failed to rid the land of idols. They intermarried with the pagan nations, accepting their false gods as their own. They compromised their standards and treated God’s commands with contempt. Somehow they thought they knew better than God. They rationalized their behavior and justified their attempts to model their lives after the nations that occupied the land. And now they were going to have to pay for their insolence and insubordination. God’s laws had become superfluous and somehow optional. They felt no obligation to obey God. They saw no compelling reason to believe that God would keep His promise to bring curses on them if they failed to obey His commands. But they would soon discover just how wrong they were.

Sure, they were still offering sacrifices to Yahweh, but not on His terms. In fact, their offerings to God were little more than reasons to enjoy a good meal. They would sacrifice a bull or a lamb, not with a mind to receive forgiveness for their sins, but to satisfy their own sinful appetites. Feasting had taken precedence over forgiveness. Self-gratification was more important to them than God’s grace and mercy. Israel had forgotten its Maker (Hosea 8:14). They had turned their back on God. They had long ago forgotten His miraculous deliverance of them from slavery in Egypt. His provision for and protection of them during their wilderness years was a distant memory. The memories of their God-ordained conquest of the land of Canaan had faded a long time ago. The glory days of King David and the nation’s preeminence as a major power were things of the past. They had long ago become God-less and self-sufficient. They were God-followers in name only. In fact, their sinfulness had become so bad that they were actually worse than the pagan nations around them. God would later say of the southern nation of Judah, “You people have behaved worse than your neighbors and have refused to obey my decrees and regulations. You have not even lived up to the standards of the nations around you” (Ezekiel 5:7 NLT). God was appalled at the obstinate attitude of both Israel and Judah. Their unfaithfulness to Him was unprecedented. The prophet Jeremiah wrote, “Has any nation ever traded its gods for new ones, even though they are not gods at all? Yet my people have exchanged their glorious God for worthless idols!” (Jeremiah 2:11 NLT). Even the pagan nations would never have considered turning their backs on their gods. They were more faithful to their false gods than Israel and Judah had been to the one true God.

The Israelites were guilty of forgetting God. It had begun with them taking Him for granted. He was their God and they were His people. They felt a certain sense of security and smug superiority. They somehow believed God was obligated to care for them and to continue to forgive them, no matter what they did. The sacrifical system had become little more than a get-out-of-jail free card, requiring God to forgive them whether they were repentant or not. They thought nothing of offending God by their actions. Worshiping false gods just seemed to make common sense. Putting their trust in foreign governments for protection was just good governmental policy. Intermarrying with the pagan nations around them was profitable and preferable to God’s unrealistic policy of isolation. They had become wiser than God. And in time, God’s goodness, holiness, love, power and mercy faded from their memories. They forgot God. And it’s a lot easier to do than we might think. Because God is invisible, He can easily become indiscernible. Since we can’t see Him, we can easily forget about Him. We forget about His love. His holiness becomes a faded memory. His promises of future blessings become overshadowed by present pleasures and the pressing problems of the day. When we forget our Maker, we lose sight of our purpose in life. We end up seeking fulfillment from the things of this world. We begin to live by sight instead of by faith. The desire for worldliness replaces the pursuit of holiness. But we can rest assured that while we may occasionally forget God, He never forgets us.

A Spirit of Whoredom.

My people inquire of a piece of wood, and their walking staff gives them oracles. For a spirit of whoredom has led them astray, and they have left their God to play the whore. They sacrifice on the tops of the mountains and burn offerings on the hills, under oak, poplar, and terebinth, because their shade is good. Therefore your daughters play the whore, and your brides commit adultery. I will not punish your daughters when they play the whore, nor your brides when they commit adultery; for the men themselves go aside with prostitutes and sacrifice with cult prostitutes, and a people without understanding shall come to ruin. – Hosea 4:12-14 ESV

Idolatry should seem like a not-so-subtle form of idiocy to us. The idea of taking a piece of wood and carving an image out of it and bowing down before it as some kind of god should come across as utterly ridiculous. The prophet, Isaiah, provides us with God’s very comical description of just how silly idol worship should be to us.

“the wood-carver measures a block of wood and draws a pattern on it. He works with chisel and plane and carves it into a human figure. He gives it human beauty and puts it in a little shrine. He cuts down cedars; he selects the cypress and the oak; he plants the pine in the forest to be nourished by the rain. Then he uses part of the wood to make a fire. With it he warms himself and bakes his bread. Then—yes, it’s true—he takes the rest of it and makes himself a god to worship! He makes an idol and bows down in front of it!” – Isaiah 44:13-15 NLT

Regarding idols, God pulls no punches. “How foolish are those who manufacture idols. These prized objects are really worthless. The people who worship idols don’t know this, so they are all put to shame” (Isaiah 44:9 NLT).  And as sophisticated, modern believers, we would probably agree with His assessment. The thought of bowing down before a block of wood or some kind of man-make object sounds ridiculous to us. But for the people of Israel, idol worship was a part of the daily fabric of life. It was a common practice among all the nations surrounding them. Idol worship was socially acceptable. But the real issue behind all idol worship is the rejection of the one true God. God calls it a “spirit of whoredom.” What drives it is a desire for something other than God. It is built on dissatisfaction, distrust, and a belief that God is not enough. Rather than trust God and His promises, the people of Israel hedged their bets and turned to the gods of other nations in a hope that they would have all their bases covered. It God didn’t come through, maybe one of the other gods would. Some of their unfaithfulness to God was also driven by mere peer pressure, the desire to fit in with the nations around them. One of the reasons God had demanded that the people of Israel destroy all the nations living in the land of promise was so that they would not be tempted to worship their gods. But Israel failed to keep God’s command and soon found themselves intermarrying with those nations and worshiping their false gods.

By the time we get to the period in which Hosea prophesied, things had digressed to a dangerous point. Israel had actually manufactured their own idols – two golden calves – to replace the worship of Yahweh. They had set up their own priesthood and sacrificial system to replace that which God had instituted in Jerusalem. Their unfaithfulness had reached epic proportions and God had had enough. The “spirit of whoredom” was rampant. It even led their daughters to become actual prostitutes. The marriages of the people of Israel were marked by adultery and unfaithfulness. God declared, “your men are doing the same thing, sinning with whores and shrine prostitutes” (Hosea 4:14 NLT).

Unfaithfulness to God stems from an ignorance of God. If the Israelites had really known and understood just how great their God was, they would never have considered turning their back on Him. But over time, they had grown foolish in their understanding. They had lost their intimacy with God and had no real personal relationship with Him. God had become little more than a concept to them, an impersonal, distant deity whom they couldn’t see and with whom they had little or no interaction. The spirit of whoredom creeps in when we stray from God. The less time we spend with Him, reading His Word, sharing with Him our wants and needs, listening to His direction and hearing of His love for us, the more we will tend to stray from Him. They say distance makes the heart grow fonder, but distance from God is dangerous. It can lead to disinterest and, ultimately, unfaithfulness. Like the people of Israel, we will find ourselves turning to something other than God in order to have our needs met. And while we may not have wooden idols in our homes or shrines located under trees or on top of hills. we will find ourselves worshiping false gods. The spirit of whoredom will creep in, tempting us to seek out something other than God to bring us satisfaction, contentment, joy, pleasure, hope, peace, or fulfillment. Anything we turn to other than God is an idol in our lives. Anything we fear losing has become an idol in our lives. Anything we wake up at night worrying about has become an idol in our lives. If sleeping in means more to us than seeking God, sleep has become an idol. If watching TV brings us more joy than reading God’s Word, then TV has become an idol. If becoming successful is more appealing to us than becoming holy, then our job has become an idol to us. If we place more trust in our money than we do God, then money has become an idol to us. And we are suffering from the spirit of whoredom.

God is not enough for us. His love is insufficient for us. We need more. We demand more. When He doesn’t give us what we think we need, we turn to something else. When we think we deserve more or better, we seek what we’re looking for elsewhere. And when we do, we shouldn’t be surprised when our children end up seeking their hope, help, fulfillment and satisfaction from the things of this world. The spirit of whoredom is contagious. It can spread through a family, a church and a generation. In a very short time, we can find ourselves in the same predicament that Israel was in – unfaithful to God,  spiritually adulterous and facing God’s wrath for their infidelity and insubordination. But God would have us return to Him, placing our faith and trust in Him. He wants to love us, bless us and fulfill His will in us.

No Knowledge of God.

Hear the word of the Lord, O children of Israel, for the Lord has a controversy with the inhabitants of the land. There is no faithfulness or steadfast love, and no knowledge of God in the land; there is swearing, lying, murder, stealing, and committing adultery; they break all bounds, and bloodshed follows bloodshed. Therefore the land mourns, and all who dwell in it languish, and also the beasts of the field and the birds of the heavens, and even the fish of the sea are taken away. – Hosea 4:1-3 ESV

God now begins to list His accusations against Israel. The remaining chapters will contain messages containing clear indications of Israel’s guilt and God’s coming judgment. But they will also be mixed with messages concerning God’s hope and Israel’s future restoration. The judgment Israel faced was a result of the sins of the people. God was not being unfair or capricious. They were only getting what they justly deserved. But their future restoration would be totally undeserved, a result of God’s mercy and grace.

As if in a courtroom setting, God begins to list out all the offenses for which the nation Israel was guilty. In this case, He will list out the overall charges and then expand on them in later chapters. All of the charges leveled against Israel by God have to do with breaking their covenant with Him. He first accuses the Israelites of faithlessness. When God made His covenant with Israel through Moses, He had clearly told them, “Therefore, be careful to obey every command I am giving you today, so you may have strength to go in and take over the land you are about to enter. If you obey, you will enjoy a long life in the land the Lord swore to give to your ancestors and to you, their descendants—a land flowing with milk and honey!” (Deuteronomy 11:8-9 NLT). Obedience would bring God’s blessings.

But if they failed to keep God’s covenant by obeying His commands, they would experience cursings. “But be careful. Don’t let your heart be deceived so that you turn away from the Lord and serve and worship other gods. If you do, the Lord’s anger will burn against you. He will shut up the sky and hold back the rain, and the ground will fail to produce its harvests. Then you will quickly die in that good land the Lord is giving you” (Deuteronomy 11:16-17 NLT). At this point in Israel’s history, their rebellion against Him had reached an unacceptable level. They had proven themselves completely unfaithful and unwilling to obey the commands of God as outlined in the Mosaic covenant. As a result, they faced His judgment, just as He had warned.

But if you refuse to listen to the Lord your God and do not obey all the commands and decrees I am giving you today, all these curses will come and overwhelm you: Your towns and your fields will be cursed. Your fruit baskets and breadboards will be cursed. Your children and your crops will be cursed. The offspring of your herds and flocks will be cursed. Wherever you go and whatever you do, you will be cursed. The Lord himself will send on you curses, confusion, and frustration in everything you do, until at last you are completely destroyed for doing evil and abandoning me. – Deuteronomy 28:15-20 NLT

God had given them fair warning, now He was going to fulfill His promise of coming curses. The most telling accusation against the Israelites was that God claimed there was no knowledge of Him in the land. They had forgotten all about Yahweh, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Instead, they had turned to false gods, including the two golden calves that Jeroboam had ordered to be made. They had also turned to Baal, the god of the Canaanites. But God, the only true god was a distant memory to them. But they were not only guilty of failing to love God, they had broken God’s command to love one another. They had disobeyed the greatest commandment: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 22:37-40 ESV).

God accused them of “swearing, lying, murder, stealing, and committing adultery” (Hosea 4:2a ESV). These are relational sins committed against one another. God went on to say, “they break all bounds, and bloodshed follows bloodshed” (Hosea 4:2b ESV). Failure to love God is always accompanied by an inability to express love to one another, because God is love. His laws were designed to motivate the Israelites to defer to one another in love. But if you choose to disobey God, you will end up turning inward, focusing all your attention on yourself in an attempt to fulfill your own selfish passions and desires.

Their rejection of God was going to cause the land to reject them. The land of milk and honey would become unyielding and unproductive. Just as God had warned them:

Your towns and your fields will be cursed. Your fruit baskets and breadboards will be cursed. Your children and your crops will be cursed. The offspring of your herds and flocks will be cursed. Wherever you go and whatever you do, you will be cursed. – Deuteronomy 28:16-19 NLT

The blessings of the land would be turned to cursings. They would learn that rejection of God always has consequences, especially for the people of God. Of all people, we should know better. Having experienced His love, redemption, provision, blessings and unmerited favor, we should have a desire to express gratitude through willing obedience. When we have enjoyed the benefits of His love, why would we ever choose to turn our backs on Him and risk undergoing the removal of His blessings? But that is exactly what Israel had done and what so many of us as Christians do each and every day. Obedience always brings blessings. We enjoy His favor and rest in His love. Not because of our obedience, but as a result of how God has designed our relationship with Him. Obedience is a sign of trust. It reveals that we believe Him for who He is and what He has promised to us. We trust in His promises, so we willingly obey His commands. Obedience does not make us righteous before God, but it is a response to our having been declared righteous by Him. When we forget all that God has done for us, we run the risk of forgetting God. God had warned the Israelites that this could and would happen.

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

Forgetting God is dangerous and always a distinct possibility for each and every one of us.

Self-glorification.

For the world offers only a craving for physical pleasure, a craving for everything we see, and pride in our achievements and possessions. These are not from the Father, but are from this world. – 1 John 2:16 NLT

John provides us with a third and final symptom of someone who is having a love affair with the world or, better yet, a love affair with self. Each of the three reflect an unhealthy infatuation with self that simply uses the world as a means to feed our sin nature. The world, while more than willing to accommodate our self-infatuation, doesn’t do so because it loves us, but because it hates us. In this case, it willingly feeds our ego and helps create in us a false sense of inflated self-worth and pride based on what we own or what we have accomplished. What we have achieved or accumulated in life become the measuring rods of our success. The old adage, “clothes make the man” becomes true in our life. The cars we drive becomes a symbols of our success. Our homes become not just places of shelter, but visible representations of our status in society. As with the second one, the desires of the eyes, this one can be subtle because God does not forbid us from having nice things. He does not say, “You shalt not buy a new car.” He has not made material possessions off limits. But the issue here is pride or self-glorification. It is about making much of self. And when we begin to use position or possessions to determine our self-worth, we are treading on dangerous ground. Self-glorification is a subtle, yet dangerous pursuit, and the enemy has been feeding man’s built-in tendency towards it since the beginning. When Satan tempted Adam and Eve in the garden, he used the phrase, “you will be like God.” The fruit wasn’t the real temptation. It was the possibility of possessing what God possessed. He was tempting them to become their own gods. At the heart of John’s warning regarding the pride of life is self-glorification – wanting what only God should have. It is about seeking glory for yourself. It is about seeing yourself as the center of your own universe. And Satan feeds this desire by telling us lies about ourselves. His goal is our independence from God. Self-sufficiency is his objective. He wants us to live as if we don’t need God. And he uses the things of this world to convince us that we are something special. We end up wanting what only God should have: glory. And Satan whispers in our ears that we deserve it. We have earned it.

It is interesting to note that King Solomon took seven years to build the Temple, the house of God. But he took 13 years to build his own palace. Some time later, when he was visited by the Queen of Sheba, she was blown away by all that she saw. “And when the queen of Sheba had seen all the wisdom of Solomon, the house that he had built, the food of his table, the seating of his officials, and the attendance of his servants, their clothing, his cupbearers, and his burnt offerings that he offered at the house of the Lord, there was no more breath in her. And she said to the king, ‘The report was true that I heard in my own land of your words and of your wisdom, but I did not believe the reports until I came and my own eyes had seen it. And behold, the half was not told me. Your wisdom and prosperity surpass the report that I heard. Happy are your men! Happy are your servants, who continually stand before you and hear your wisdom! Blessed be the Lord your God, who has delighted in you and set you on the throne of Israel! Because the Lord loved Israel forever, he has made you king, that you may execute justice and righteousness’” (1 Kings 10:4-9 ESV). Do you notice that the queen seems to be worshiping Solomon and not God? She is blown away by Solomon, not Solomon’s God. She is impressed with Solomon’s wisdom and wealth. In reality, she seems to saying that God was fortunate to have someone like Solomon to lead His people.

When the people of Israel were getting ready to enter into the land of Canaan, God gave them a warning. He had already promised that He would give them the land, but He wanted them to be extremely careful. So He said, “when the Lord your God brings you into the land that he swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give you – with great and good cities that you did not build, and houses full of all good things that you did not fill, and cisterns that you did not dig, and vineyards and olive trees that you did not plant—and when you eat and are full, then take care lest you forget the Lord…” (Deuteronomy 6:10-12 ESV). Interestingly enough, God’s warning ultimately had to do with worshiping false gods. And it would begin as soon as they began to forget the Lord their God. When they began to believe that their houses, vineyards, cities, and material possessions were their own doing and had not been provided by God, they would forget Him. Self-worship always leads to false worship. We end up making much of the things God has provided rather than making much of Him. The glorification of self is a dangerous pursuit. Our confidence is to be in God, not self. Our hope is to be in God, not things. Our sense of worth is to be found in God, not material possessions. May we share the perspective of the apostle Paul: “I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:12-13 ESV).