In 1954, a college drop-out took a mail-room job at Philipp Brothers trading firm. For the next 19 years, Marc Rich climbed the ranks, eventually launching his own very successful firm. By 1982 he was worth $200 million. But his dishonest practices caught up with him, and a series of criminal charges landed Rich on the FBI’s Most Wanted List.
Clearly, acquiring great wealth doesn’t guarantee a happy life. In today’s passage, the theme of deceit continued, but with a more particular audience. Hosea called out the wealthy Israelite merchants, who would rig their weights in order to cheat their customers. Not only did they work dishonestly, but they loved doing so (v. 7). The act of stealing brought them pleasure. It was comfortable and familiar. But even worse, these immoral merchants boasted that they were above the law. They saw nothing wrong with their actions, and they trusted their fortune to protect them.
Notice the prideful boasting of Ephraim: “With all my wealth, they will not find in me any iniquity or sin” (v. 8). This feels like a throw-down to God. But certainly, deception is no match for a God who sees what is done in secret. In the psalms, God says, “No one who practices deceit will dwell in my house; no one who speaks falsely will stand in my presence” (Ps. 101:7). There is a strong contrast between the merchants’ braggadocio (“I am very rich”) and God’s definitive response (“I am the Lord your God”). God knocked them down a peg or two by reminding them from whence they came—out of Egypt, under His direction. His promised punishment, “I will make you live in tents again” (vv. 8–9), feels like an ancient version of “go to your room.” God had been warning them for a very long time.
>> Deceit can even creep into how we use our money. Consider what changes God might want to see in your relationship to money and wealth.