Altars And Allies

Altars And Allies

Monday’s Column: Neal At The Cross

Neal Pollard

Israel had made political and religious decisions, all of which showed they had left God for the world. Hosea addresses these in Hosea 8. Their national and spiritual interests were to make treaties “among the nations” (10) and make “idols for their own destruction” (4). God did not recognize Israel’s kings and princes (4). 

As irrational as Gomer’s decision to leave the love and provision of Hosea for lovers who used and abused her, Israel’s apostasy was self-defeating. On the surface and at the moment, it may have seemed alluring and promised satisfaction. But they were setting themselves up for hurt and failure. Look at how the inspired prophet evaluates their decisions:

  • They were carrion for the vulture (1).
  • They were incapable of innocence (5).
  • They sowed the wind, and they were going to reap the whirlwind (7).
  • They were swallowed up (8).
  • They were a useless vessel (8).
  • They were a wild donkey wandering alone (9).
  • They were going to writhe in oppression (10).
  • They had erected multiplied altars for sinning (11).
  • They regarded God’s laws as a strange thing (12).
  • They were going to return to a state of bondage (13).
  • They were going to be devoured by fire (14).

It must have pained Hosea to write those words. No doubt, it pained God to have to say them. But, Israel persisted in her unfaithfulness. What was it like for God to look down, day after day, only to see that His chosen people paid no attention to Him. He never entered their thoughts. They pursued a path He knew would only lead them to hurt and destruction. They sought protection from fallible, wicked people. They offered praise to vain, lifeless idols. All the while, their Creator and caregiver was there wanting to be their shield and salvation! 

The application may be obvious. We have the same choices today. We can put our trust in our country and we can make something (work, relationships, pleasure, etc.) the object of our affection in place of God. We may, like Israel, still come to worship (13), but spend our lives with something else laying upon the altar of our heart. That was the condition addressed by Hosea. That was what God illustrates through spiritual adultery. God is belaboring the point, but it’s an eternally important one. He wants us to get it because He loves us so much! 

Ancient altar discovered at Manoah (via Biblewalks.com)