Do Not Be Like Ephraim

Donkey

The prophet Hosea warned the people of Israel (Ephraim) about God’s judgment that was coming against them because of their sin. In the passages we will discuss in this article, he compared the people to different things – the dew, a dove, and a donkey.

These things have been “written for our instruction” (Romans 15:4; cf. 1 Corinthians 10:6, 11). The warning for us is this: Do not be like Ephraim!

Like a Morning Cloud and the Dew

What shall I do with you, O Ephraim? What shall I do with you, O Judah? For your loyalty is like a morning cloud and like the dew which goes away early” (Hosea 6:4).

The “morning cloud” and “dew” are things that do not last long – they quickly fade away. Their loyalty or goodness (KJV) was like this. That word simply means faithfulness. The point was they they were not wholly devoted to the Lord. Instead, they followed Him for a time but eventually their faith in Him disappeared.

God has always expected His people to have an enduring faithfulness. Jesus, in quoting from the Law of Moses, said that the “great commandment in the Law” is to “love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind” (Matthew 22:36-37; cf. Deuteronomy 6:5). Yet it is common for people to begin serving the Lord, only to fall away later. They are like those in Jesus’ parable of the sower who He described as “the rocky soil…who, when they hear, receive the word in joy; and these have no firm root; they believe for a while, and in time of temptation fall away” (Luke 8:13).

God wanted Ephraim to know His word and obey Him: “For I delight in loyalty rather than sacrifice, and in knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings” (Hosea 6:6). The same is true for us today. Paul wrote, “So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is” (Ephesians 5:17). After that, we need to be “doers of the word, and not merely hearers” (James 1:22).

How did they get in this condition?

  • They transgressed the covenant with God – “But like Adam they have transgressed the covenant; there they have dealt treacherously against Me” (Hosea 6:7). They had made a covenant with God – which included their commitment to obey His commandments – but they violated that covenant. When we obeyed the gospel and became a disciple, we made a commitment to follow Christ and “observe all that [He] commanded” (Matthew 28:19-20). Therefore, we are not to “continue in sin” (Romans 6:1-2).
  • They followed their poor leadership – “And as raiders wait for a man, so a band of priests murder on the way to Shechem; surely they have committed crime” (Hosea 6:9). The priests were the spiritual leaders of the people; yet they were corrupt and the people followed their influence. We are to “remember those who led” us, but we are not to follow just anything they do; we are to “imitate their faith” (Hebrews 13:7). Paul told the brethren in Philippi: “Brethren, join in following my example, and observe those who walk according to the pattern you have in us. For many walk…that they are enemies of the cross of Christ” (Philippians 3:17-18). We are only to follow those leaders that lead us in the ways of Christ.
  • They followed after other gods – “In the house of Israel I have seen a horrible thing; Ephraim’s harlotry is there, Israel has defiled itself” (Hosea 6:10). When the Lord mentioned their “harlotry,” He was referring to their idolatry. We are to “guard [ourselves] from idols” (1 John 5:21). This could be anything that takes God’s place in our lives. We must be wholly devoted to serving the Lord.

Like a Silly Dove without Sense

So Ephraim has become like a silly dove, without sense; they call to Egypt, they go to Assyria” (Hosea 7:11).

A “silly dove” is without sense or heart (KJV). This refers to the inner man – one’s mind, will, understanding, and conscience. They were not using their mind/conscience properly. In this state of poor judgment, they made allies with the world.

God wants us to have our “senses trained” by His word (Hebrews 5:13-14). When we do this, we will understand that becoming mixed with the world is contrary to God’s will for us. Paul told the brethren in Corinth, “Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness? […] ‘Therefore, come out from their midst and be separate,’ says the Lord.” (2 Corinthians 6:14-17).

When we fail to separate ourselves from the world, the result is a weakened condition to which we are often oblivious. The Lord said of Ephraim, “Strangers devour his strength, yet he does not know it” (Hosea 7:9). Paul wrote, “Do not be deceived, ‘Bad company corrupts good morals’” (1 Corinthians 15:33). We must not allow ourselves to be deceived into thinking we are right with the Lord when we have compromised our faith.

How did they become like this?

  • They were arrogant – “Though the pride of Israel testifies against him, yet they have not returned to the Lord their God, nor have they sought Him, for all this” (Hosea 7:10). Pride leads to destruction. The wise man said, “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before stumbling” (Proverbs 16:18). Yet too many follow the “way which seems right” to them (Proverbs 16:25).
  • They spoke lies against God – “Woe to them, for they have strayed from Me! Destruction is theirs, for they have rebelled against Me! I would redeem them, but they speak lies against Me” (Hosea 7:13). Many believe that God will overlook sin (Romans 6:1-2). Yet Paul wrote, “If we deny Him, He also will deny us; if we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself” (2 Timothy 2:12-13). Because God “cannot deny Himself,” He cannot withhold punishment from those He promised to punish – those who “deny Him” and are “faithless.
  • They forgot that God was their source of strength – “Although I trained and strengthened their arms, yet they devise evil against Me” (Hosea 7:15). Paul said, “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13). This means that the Lord has equipped us to do everything He has called us to do. Jesus said, “He who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing” (John 15:5).

Like a Wild Donkey All Alone

For they have gone up to Assyria, like a wild donkey all alone; Ephraim has hired lovers” (Hosea 8:9).

A “wild donkey” has no master or has forgotten who its master is. This was the condition of the people – they had forgotten that God was their master. Since they forgot this, they sought other “masters.”

We belong to God (1 Peter 2:9-10) and must never forget that fact. If we forget this, we will seek after another “master” – sin (Romans 6:16). Being like the world in this way is not as good as it seems at first. Ephraim was warned about this: “Israel is swallowed up; they are now among the nations like a vessel in which no one delights” (Hosea 8:8). They end result was the opposite of what they wanted when they went after the other nations – their acceptance and approval. Judas found this out as well. He agreed with the chief priests to betray Jesus for thirty pieces of silver (Matthew 26:14-16). Yet when he “felt remorse,” he found no support from his new allies and “went away and hanged himself” (Matthew 27:3-5). No matter how appealing it might seem to follow after the world, no one will ever care for us the way that God will.

Furthermore, when we depart from God for the world, that “partnership” (2 Corinthians 6:14) will not save us from God’s judgment. God said of Ephraim, “Even though they hire allies among the nations, now I will gather them up; and they will begin to diminish” (Hosea 8:10). This is why, when Christians were warned about the destruction that was coming against “Babylon,” they were told, “Come out of her, my people, so that you will not participate in her sins and receive of her plagues; for her sins have piled up as high as heaven, and God has remembered her iniquities” (Revelation 18:4-5). If they refused to be separated from the world, they would be punished along with them.

How did Ephraim get to be like this?

  • They multiplied altars for sin – “Since Ephraim has multiplied altars for sin, they have become altars of sinning for him” (Hosea 8:11). Sin is progressive. Paul told Timothy, “But evil men and impostors will proceed from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived” (2 Timothy 3:13). When we allow sin to continue, it will multiply (cf. James 5:20).
  • They regarded God’s law as a strange thing – “Though I wrote for him ten thousand precepts of My law, they are regarded as a strange thing” (Hosea 8:12). This can happen to us if we neglect to study God’s word (2 Timothy 2:15) – we will “drift away from it” (Hebrews 2:1).
  • They changed the focus of their worship to themselves – “As for My sacrificial gifts, they sacrifice the flesh and eat it, but the Lord has taken no delight in them. Now He will remember their iniquity, and punish them for their sins; they will return to Egypt” (Hosea 8:13). Jesus said, “God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth” (John 4:24). Our worship services are to be for God, not to entertain us.
  • They worshiped idols rather than God – “For Israel has forgotten his Maker and built palaces…but I will send a fire on its cities that it may consume its palatial dwellings” (Hosea 8:14). The palaces or temples (KJV) were connected with the worship of idols. We discussed this point already (Hosea 6:10; 1 John 5:21). There is a danger of forgetting our Creator and devoting ourselves to material things instead (Romans 1:21-25).

Conclusion

Let us learn these lessons from the sins of Ephraim. We are God’s people, so let us humbly submit to Him and remain faithful until the end.


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