Hosea 13:1 (NIV) 1 When Ephraim spoke, men trembled; he was exalted in Israel. But he became guilty of Baal worship and died.
Hosea 13:6 (NIV) 6 When I fed them, they were satisfied; when they were satisfied, they became proud; then they forgot me.
On verses 1-12: At one time Israel (also called Ephraim) had a close relationship with God and stood strong with Him — so much so that “when Ephraim spoke men trembled” (v1). But this close relationship with God did not last. Eventually Israel fell headlong into idol worship (v1b-2). Israel’s love for God was like the morning mist (v3, see also Hosea 6:4), here one day and gone the next, and this too would be the fate of the Israelites in Hosea’s time (v3).
What can we learn from this? How we respond to our victories is just as important as how we respond to our defeats. When you’re standing strong with God, or when you experience victories with Him, watch out that you don’t get distracted, self-satisfied and prideful. Don’t be like the Israelites who, after being fed by God, became satisfied and proud, and eventually were defeated (v6-9). Instead, when you experience victories with God, stay hungry and stay humble. Remember that pride precedes a downfall, but humility comes before honour. As Paul would write centuries later, “So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!” (1 Corinthians 10:12)
Hosea 13:14 (NIV) 14 “I will ransom them from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death. Where, O death, are your plagues? Where, O grave, is your destruction? “I will have no compassion,
On verses 14-16: Here God promises to redeem His people from death. God would fulfill this promise by the death and resurrection of His Son Jesus Christ, through Him we have life even after we die. Thus, as Christians, we need not fear or be defeated by death.
Like Hosea writes in verse 14, and like Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 15:55, because of Jesus we can say “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” For when we die, we don’t leave home; we go home to be with the Lord, who makes all things beautiful in His time.
Now why, after promising in verse 14 that He would redeem His people from the grave, would God follow that up in verses 15-16 with the shocking and disturbing promise that the people of Israel, even pregnant women and infants, would perish? It’s likely because God was warning His people of an upcoming time when the Assyrian empire would invade Israel and cause great destruction. Knowing that great difficulties lie ahead of Israel, God reminds His people in verse 14 of the hope we have in Him that goes beyond the grave.
What can we learn from this? When difficult challenges are ahead of you, hang onto God’s promises and remember that in Christ we have a hope that is stronger than death and bigger than any difficulty we will ever face. Use God’s past promises to prepare you today for the challenges you face tomorrow.
Heavenly Father, it is only because of You that I can stand firm and be strong. So no matter how many victories I have experienced in the recent past, I look to You and ask You for help again today. May I stay hungry and humble toward You. And thank You that whatever challenge I face today, in Christ we have Your great promises to hang onto and a hope that is stronger than death. In Jesus’ name, AMEN!