Join us as we study through Hosea verse by verse. Our discussion questions, teaching points, and applications can help you or your small group get the most out of this book as you grow in understanding and obedience.
Hosea 8 Inductive Bible Study and Questions – False Religion is Like Sowing Wind
I. Israel claimed to know God but practiced idolatry (1-6)
II. Punishment is coming (7-10)
III. The Israelites are religious sinners (11-14)
I. Israel claimed to know God but practiced idolatry (1-6)
- What does the phrase “set the trumpet to your lips” mean?
- Who is the one like a “vulture” in verse 1?
- What does verse 2 show you about the people?
- Verse 3 says, “Israel has spurned the good.” How do you see modern culture spurning good today?
- What does it mean that “they made kings, but not through me?”
- If a person wants to make a decision “through” God, what would this look like?
- What calf is referred to in verse 5?
- When did the people of Israel first worship a calf?
- Why would a people who so clearly saw God’s miracles turn to calf worship?
- What does the fact that they worshiped a calf (and retained some elements of true worship) show us about people’s religious tendencies?
Isaiah 5:20-21 – Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter! Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes, and shrewd in their own sight!
James 4:13-16 – Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”— yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.”
Isaiah 44:9-20 – In this passage Isaiah describes the foolishness of idolatry.
Exodus 32:4-5 – And he received the gold from their hand and fashioned it with a graving tool and made a golden calf. And they said, “These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!” When Aaron saw this, he built an altar before it. And Aaron made a proclamation and said, “Tomorrow shall be a feast to the Lord.”
1. Set the trumpet to your lips! – A trumpet was used to make important announcements or proclamations. Thus it means, “Pay attention. God has an important message to tell you.”
2. One like a vulture is over the house of Israel – When vultures circle in the sky it means death or very close to it. In this context the vulture likely represents Assyria. Although it hadn’t swooped in to “eat” Israel’s carcass yet, that day was not far away. Israel’s doom was near. Assyria would soon devour her like a vulture tearing into a dead animal.
3. My God, we Israel, know you – The people of Israel claimed to know God. They claimed to have a relationship with Him. After all, they were God’s chosen people and always would be. It was their birthright to receive God’s blessings. Or so they thought.
John the Baptist would later warn the Jews against this type of “take God for granted” thinking.
Matthew 3:9 – And do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father,’ for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham.
Their historical relationship with God would not save them. More than a cultural knowledge of the facts was necessary to have a relationship with God. For that relationship to be real, they had to truly confess their sins and seek Him from their hearts. Reciting dogma was not enough.
Jesus gave a similar warning.
Matthew 7:21, 23 – Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’
Saying, “we know you” is not enough. The question is does God know you. God knows your heart. He knows what you think. He knows all of your motivations for why you go to church, why you pray, why you read the Bible, or why you give. He knows His sheep and He calls them by name (John 10:3).
Food for thought: How can you be sure that God knows you? How can you make sure that your salvation is genuine and He never says to you, “depart from me?”
4. Israel has spurned the good – Israel chose to follow idols and the vile practices endorsed by those who led these cults. Spurning the goodness of God and His laws, they turned to demonic religion.
What happens here is a reminder of he depth of depravity of people. If any group of people every should have believed and followed God, it is the Jews. God chose them. He blessed them. Countless miracles were done by God on their behalf. Over and over again in their history He saved them from their enemies in supernatural ways. Many prophets were sent to them. The Scripture was entrusted to them.
And yet even with all of these blessings, they “spurned the good.” They wanted no part of God anymore. Why would they do such a thing? How could they be so foolish? So blind?
The only answer that can be given is found in Jeremiah.
Jeremiah 17:9 – The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?
The heart of man is wicked. It is this wicked heart that causes people to call good evil, and evil good (Isaiah 5:20-21). Probably in every period of history believers thought that their period was the most wicked. But the world today seems to be descending in to evil faster than ever before. In the past many sins were secret. Those who committed them were ashamed. Now these sins are committed in broad daylight. Those who do them are applauded, given special protections and privileges, and highlighted as exemplary models. And then their sins are promoted and those who disagree with these sins are vilified.
Dwight Longenecker has a very good quote on this. “First we overlook evil. Then we permit evil. Then we legalize evil. Then we promote evil. Then we celebrate evil. Then we persecute those who still call it evil.”
Application: Do not join the world to call good evil and evil good. Stand up for what is right. Stand up for the truth. And teach your children the same thing. Here is one way to do this. Choose one current event or current trend in society each week and have a discussion with your family about how to view this in light of Scripture. Your children will likely face an even more twisted world than you so prepare them!
5. They made kings but not through me – Israel history in that time period is full of examples of treachery, assassinations, and coups. Entire families were wiped out over and over as ambitious people took the kingdom by force. Kings were anointed and kings were toppled, but not through consulting God.
Saul was the first king over Israel. God told Samuel to anoint him as king. So Samuel obeyed. And all the people recognized that this was of God. The same was true when David was chosen to replace Saul. God gave clear instructions to Samuel, who followed them and anointed David. It was clear that God established these kings. And it made for a peaceful kingdom. Common people respected and obeyed God’s chosen leaders.
But in later years, Israel abandoned this concept of God anointing chosen kings. The prophets were not considered. It is in fact the expected result of tossing aside God’s authority. It is also not surprising that these kings were not blessed by God. Being a king of Israel in those days was one of the most dangerous jobs in the world!
Application: Whatever we do, we must seek God’s will (James 4:13-16). Whenever we make a plan we should say “if it is God’s will, we will do this or that.” God blesses those who sincerely seek Him.
6. The calf of Samaria – Israel first worshiped a golden calf when Moses was on the mountain after the Exodus from Egypt. Jeroboam later had two golden calves caste when the Northern Kingdom split from Judah.
1 Kings 12:28-30 – So the king took counsel and made two calves of gold. And he said to the people, “You have gone up to Jerusalem long enough. Behold your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt.” And he set one in Bethel, and the other he put in Dan. Then this thing became a sin, for the people went as far as Dan to be before one.
These calves were originally made so that the people of the Northern Kingdom could worship in their own lands without returning to Jerusalem. In essence, these calves were their national religion.
What is the fascination of calves? Why would someone think that the baby of a cow is a good god to worship?
We do not have good answers these questions.
Paul discusses it in Romans 1:21-23 – For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.
In the end it is a form of rebellion against God. Many people simply do not want to follow God or obey His commands. A calf is easy to follow because a calf will never require you to do anything you don’t want to do. If you worship a calf, you are in reality the master of your religion. Since the calf has no conscious thought, you can assign it any teachings or ways and it will never argue with you. It will never discipline you. It is a religion of license, allowing you do to whatever you like, and all the while feel spiritual.
Such false religions are inevitably a way to enslave people. Satan uses these religions to enslave. But people do as well. The priests, leaders, or political leaders use such deaf and mute idols as surrogates to pass on whatever teachings they want their followers to do.
God is going to break the calf into pieces. Ever single man made religion will suffer the same fate.
II. Punishment is coming (7-10)
- What does it mean that they “sow the wind?”
- What does it mean to “reap the whirlwind?”
- What other punishment is mentioned in these verses?
- Why is Israel described as a useless vessel (8)? What kind of vessel were they supposed to be?
- What does verse 10 show us about the folly of trusting in people?
Galatians 6:7-8 – Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.
1 Peter 2:9 – But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.
Hebrews 4:16 – Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
1. They “sow the wind and shall reap the whirlwind.” – What does this mean? At first glance, it is a bit confusing. How can someone reap a whirlwind? Yet if you think about it, it is not that complicated after all. Normally people sow seeds. A person who sows the wind is sowing nothing. If you observed a farmer walking around with noting in his hand repeating a sowing motion you would think he was crazy. It would be even more crazy to expect that this farmer would reap anything. Of course, he would not. He would reap a “whirlwind.” In other words, he would reap nothing. One could even say he would something worse than what he sowed, something destructive.
The principle of “you reap what you sow” is found throughout Scripture (Galatians 6:7-8). The Jews were chasing after false religion and deaf, mute idols. There is not much that is more of a nothing than an idol. These cannot talk or move. They are not capable of thought or response. Following after these idols would get them nowhere. It was pointless. It was just as pointless as walking around and sowing wind.
2. The standing grain has no heads and shall yield no flour – Hosea goes on to describe their harvest as barren. God would smite the Israelites with punishment by causing crop failure and famine.
Haggai 1:5-6 – Now, therefore, thus says the Lord of hosts: Consider your ways. You have sown much, and harvested little. You eat, but you never have enough; you drink, but you never have your fill. You clothe yourselves, but no one is warm. And he who earns wages does so to put them into a bag with holes.
A similar thing happened during the time of Haggai. God punished their disobedience by in essence cursing their work. They did not receive the expected return on their labor. So they are warned to “consider your ways.”
But in the book of Hosea it could be said that the time to consider their ways is past. Judgment is coming and their minds were already made up.
Application: God can and does discipline people. Sometimes he uses natural means. If you think you might be facing God’s discipline then “consider you ways!”
3. Israel is swallowed up – Here is the key message for much of the book of Hosea. God is going to punish Israel.
4. They are… a useless vessel – What is a useless vessel good for? Nothing. God wanted to use His chosen people as a light to the nations. But they did not keep their part of it. On the contrary, they repelled people from God because of their bad testimony and rebellion.
God has an intended use for every believer. To fulfill God’s purpose for our lives, we need to be holy vessels, set apart for Him to use as He pleases.
2 Timothy 2:21 – Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from what is dishonorable, he will be a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work.
Application: Let us be useful to the Master. What do you think that God wants to use you to do? How can you prepare yourself for this task?
III. The Israelites are religious sinners (11-14)
- What kind of altars might be referred to in verse 11?
- How did the people use these altars?
- How did Israel respond to God’s Word?
- How should we respond to God’s Word?
- What are some ways you can treasure the privilege of access to Scripture?
- What do you see about the Israelite’s religion in these verses?
- Were they religious?
- Why is false religion so rampant?
- What are some ways people practice false religion today? How can we guard against this?
- In verse 14, what do you see Israel trusting in?
- What is something that you may trust in instead of God?
Psalm 119:14-16 – In the way of your testimonies I delight as much as in all riches. I will meditate on your precepts and fix my eyes on your ways. I will delight in your statutes; I will not forget your word.
Psalm 119:18 – Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law.
Psalm 119:20 – My soul is consumed with longing for your rules at all times.
Genesis 4:3-5 – In the course of time Cain brought to the Lord an offering of the fruit of the ground, and Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat portions. And the Lord had regard for Abel and his offering, 5 but for Cain and his offering he had no regard.
Psalm 118:8 – It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in man.
Micah 7:5-6 – Put no trust in a neighbor; have no confidence in a friend; guard the doors of your mouth from her who lies in your arms; for the son treats the father with contempt, the daughter rises up against her mother, the daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; a man’s enemies are the men of his own house.
1. Ephraim has multiplied altars for sinning – Note that the people of Israel were still very religious. They did not abandon religion. But they replaced true and pure worship of God with false religion. The altars were then not used to cleanse their sin, but became places where sin was multiplied even more.
The world may say, “Every religion is equal. As long as you are sincere, everybody will end up at the same place.” God does not agree. Truth is by its very nature exclusive. There is one way to God and every other way leads to hell.
God created spiritual people. Every person is spiritual. It is this nature that causes so many people to seek to fill the empty cavities of their soul by performing various religious rituals. But these empty rituals cannot fill and they cannot substitute for the truth from God.
2. If I wrote my laws by the ten thousand it would be a strange thing to them (12) – When the God of the universe writes a letter to you, you should pay attention. But the people had no desire to read or to heed God’s Word. It was “strange” to them.
God’s Word is not strange to those who seek Him. His Word is a treasure. It is precious. It is sweeter than the honeycomb. It is worth studying. It is worth memorizing. It should be ever in our thoughts as we meditate on it and seek to obey it.
Application: What are some ways you can treasure God’s Word this week? If a favorite actor, sports star, or politician wrote you a personal letter, you would probably treasure this letter. Certainly you would read. Likely you would tell others about this letter you received. Can you do less for a message from the Most High?
3. They continued offering sacrifices but God did not accept them (13-14) – Again, we see they still held to a form of belief in God, but it was empty and mixed with syncretism. God did not like being called a calf very much! So He did not accept their sacrifices. Neither did He accept Cain’s sacrifice. Neither does he accept any worship that is not in spirit and in truth.
God cares both about your motivation in worshiping Him and the substance of the worship itself. It must be for the right reason. And it must follow His prescribed method.
4. He will remember their iniquity and punish their sins – In chapter 7:2 we saw that God promised to remember “all their evil.” It is a terrible thing to fall into the hands of an angry God. It is a terrible thing to face God knowing the debt of your sin is still outstanding.
The only solution is to come to Him, confess your sin, and believe in Jesus. Then He will wash your sins away and remember them no more.
Application: What is one thing you need to obey from the passage this week?
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