In the late stages of pregnancy, women anxious for the birth of
their child often hear the advice, “The baby will come when he’s ready.”
Especially when the due date has come and gone, expectant mothers usually would
prefer to hear, “The baby’s ready now!” But no mother ever wants to hear the
message Hosea delivered to Israel.
Israel was like a baby that
didn’t have the sense to be born (v. 13). The pain they suffered as a nation
should have led them to an obvious conclusion: return to God! Nothing should
have come more instinctively, but Israel had reached the pinnacle of
Verse 14 marks another translation difficulty, and the
possible options are direct opposites. If you’re reading the NIV, it will appear
that God was promising Israel deliverance from the grave in an apparent
reference to the resurrection (“I will ransom them”). A look at the NASB would
indicate that God was promising death through a series of rhetorical questions
(“Shall I ransom them?”) that ultimately had the last phrase as their answer:
“Compassion will be hidden from My sight.” The New Living Translation takes it
one step further, interpreting the questions to death and the grave as
invocations for them to come (“O death, bring on your terrors!). Given the
context of the verses that follow, the NASB and NLT versions are probably closer
to the original text. Culminating in verse 16, this is the most violent and
disturbing description of judgment in Hosea. God wasn’t sending a message of
hope here; He was issuing Israel’s death sentence.
So why the
confusion? Because both translations have merit in Scripture. Israel did suffer
death as a nation. Their later subservience to other nations is historical fact.
But that death was not final. The resurrection of Christ and the reunification
of Israel under His reign promise to bring new life to that which has died. In
Paul’s quotation of this verse, the answer to the rhetorical questions is
completely different (1 Cor. 15:55). The following verse states that the sting
of death is sin. Christ delivers us not only from destruction, but also from the
sin that brought it on.
Apply the Word
First Corinthians 15 is the definitive passage for
explaining the doctrine of the resurrection. Spend time reading that chapter and
then think and pray through its rich, deep truth. Consider especially how the
hope of the resurrection contrasts with the hopelessness of sin. Take note of
the admonition in verse 34. Even people in the church are susceptible to being
ensnared in sin and becoming ignorant about God. Avoid that trap by heeding
Paul’s command to devote yourself fully to the work of God.