Literature is full of liars. Some, like Edmund Pevensie in C. S. Lewis’s The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, lie by omission. Edmund decided not to tell his siblings about certain parts of his time in the magical kingdom of Narnia. When he accidentally meets the White Witch, he is so charmed by her false promises (and Turkish Delight), that he agrees to keep their meeting a secret and, even worse, to deceive his sisters and brother. His lie came with a steep cost.
In today’s passage, we read about Israel’s propensity for deceit. Their deception was not a singular event, but a pattern of behavior, a character issue, and an inherited trait. This time both Israel (Ephraim) and Judah were at fault. God supported this claim by highlighting the futility of their farce. They had foolishly pursued treaties with their enemies, while turning their back on their only true source of protection. This was as wise as chasing the wind (v. 1). Then, God pointed to the history of their ancestor Jacob, who grabbed his brother’s heel at birth and wrestled with the angel as a man (vv. 2–3). “Grasp his heel” is a Hebrew idiom meaning “he takes advantage or he deceives” (see Genesis 27 for Jacob’s deception). Jacob used lies and deceit to protect himself and to get ahead. God’s people had not learned from these mistakes. In Hosea’s time, Israel was doing the same thing.
The passage doesn’t end there though. God’s judgment once again is balanced by an invitation, an application, an altar call of sorts. “But you must return to your God; maintain love and justice, and wait for your God always” (v. 6).
>> Redemption is possible—even for the deceiver. Just as Jacob reconciled with God and was blessed by Him (Gen. 35:6–15), it gives us hope too. Turn to God and confess your own deceit to Him. Ask Him to keep your heart true.