Five years after Barry Bonds retires, he’ll be eligible for the Hall of Fame. After the ongoing controversy surrounding Bonds’ alleged use of steroids, many voters have indicated that they’re reluctant to elect him. If he’s not elected, baseball’s all-time leaders in homeruns (Bonds) and hits (Pete Rose) would be left out of the Hall because of personal and professional transgressions.
Israel’s image was stained in God’s eyes by their rampant transgressions. Their sin stood in the way of God’s healing (v. 1). They were engulfed by their wickedness like the flames of a torch shining brightly for God to see (v. 2).
The fire metaphor sears throughout this passage, and it’s a fitting description of the nature of sin. Like a pre-heated oven that burns hot as dough is being prepared for baking, Israel’s sinful passions burned in anticipation of sinful acts (v. 4). Their sin was as varied as it was extreme, including adultery, violence, deceit, mockery, drunkenness, and theft. The national depravity was not a story of isolated incidents of sin; rather, it was an ongoing inferno of evil pursuits.
Even more shockingly, the sinfulness of Israel pleased its leaders (v. 3). It is bad enough that a nation’s rulers would tolerate deplorable behavior, but to actually delight in it is unforgivable! It was also their doom. The land’s kings were consumed by the flames of Israel’s sin. Facing the certain judgment of Assyrian exile, the sinfulness of the nation practically burned the kingdom to the ground. As the fire of sin burned and the nation of Israel crumbled, not one of the ruling kings had the humility or forethought to call on God for help. God wasn’t ignoring their cries—there were none to be heard. Israel should not have been surprised to hear Hosea’s report of judgment. Not only did they fail to acknowledge their sin, but their leaders failed to turn to God even as their sin destroyed them.
Apply the Word
An immature follower of Christ might turn to God only in times of trouble, but it is far worse to completely ignore God when distress does come. Our impulse might very well be to run from God when temptation comes. Or maybe we fear that God is tired of our pleas for help, as if we could wear out God’s mercy. Neither is true—we can and should run to God, when we need both His forgiveness and His rescue.