Hosea is one of those difficult books with a difficult image. It is not that the image is difficult to understand, but it is tough to look at. It is an ugly image, an emotionally disturbing image.
When God speaks to the people of Israel, he draws a parallel between the nation and an unfaithful wife. As the people forsake the Lord, God uses very strong language to describe their spiritual adultery.
What I notice as I read through this passage is what it was that Israel seemed to be drawn after. This is important, as it catches people still today.
For their mother has played the whore;
she who conceived them has acted shamefully.
For she said, ‘I will go after my lovers,
who give me my bread and my water,
my wool and my flax, my oil and my drink.’
Without thinking too deeply about why God uses this image for Israel, notice what the six things are that draw Israel, as an adulterous wife, away from the Lord. They are seeking bread and water, wool and flax, oil and drink. These are simple items for living with perhaps a luxury thrown in. These are people who are forsaking God as they chase after basic, material wealth.
Interestingly for the Old Testament culture, God had promised his people all of those things in abundance if they would merely keep his law. But the people would not believe God enough to obey. They preferred to ignore the law of God and seek their material prosperity on their own.
But how might this apply to us today? Are we willing to turn from the Lord for material blessing? Be careful. If you answer this question from a position of security, consider how you would answer that question during a time of want and of persecution.
Friends, we need to understand that it is a common human temptation to turn away from the Lord in order to gain material security or safety. But those who love the Lord determine that we will be faithful to the Lord in times of plenty or want. Paul said that he had learned to be content in wealth or poverty. We must learn the same. We must not be willing to turn from the Lord for physical comforts. And we must not underestimate the temptation that this presents, as people have shown us in the past how easily they fail.
When we are not careful, when we are not faithful, we find ourselves tempted by small things. Bread and water, wool and flax, oil and drink, these should not be major temptations. But in hard times, we can find ourselves tempted by far less than we might think would tempt us at present. May we love our Lord so much that we are ready and faithful regardless of how hard times get.