My dad tells a story that I personally find funny, although it might bother you if you are the sentimental, animal lover type. Each day, he used to walk by a house with a dog that was on a chain and lived in a dog house. A neighborhood cat would walk by and taunt the dog and the dog would chase the cat. The cat would stop and sit down at the same certain point, just beyond the point where the chain ended for the dog. The dog would run until it hit the end of that chain, which would yank the dog and choke it for a second. The dog would then start barking like crazy at that cat who sat a foot away, but the dog could not get it. The cat just sat there, all cool thinking it ran the world. One day my dad was walking by and he saw the cat sneaking up on the sleeping dog. The dog saw the cat and the routine started again, the cat agitated the dog and ran to its spot, the dog took off… But something different took place, the chain broke when the dog got to the end of it, and in one swift motion, the dog bit the head of the cat right off. Yep, you read it right. That cat had pushed the envelope one time too many.
So, I am not saying God is a dog on a chain. The reality is that God is a patient God who loves us deeply, and gives grace. But when His people constantly play religion, and then walk out the door of the church and despise God and His will, the result will eventually be very serious. God is also a God of judgement. And His judgement is swift and significant.
When Hosea lived, this had been the story of God’s people in Israel. They did the sacrifices and went to church. But they also lived any way they wanted, and actually worshiped idols and other gods. They even had found “prophets” who told them that God was cool with their lifestyle and they didn’t have anything to worry about. The entire time they did this, God kept warning that they should repent, trust Him, and turn away from all their rebellion. Hosea was a preacher with this message. But they did not listen. And now it is too late.
This chapter is a pronouncement of judgement. God is going to do some things that will devastate the people. First, they will experience a time of poor agriculture, which will leave people unfed (v. 2). Then, the very nations that they have had these alliances with will march on them and make war (v. 3). Egypt and Assyria would eventually do battle, with Assyria invading Israel, killing lots of people, and taking the rest from their homes, ripped from families, and forced to live in a distant land. The nation would eventually be devastated (See 2 Kings 17:5-6). As this happened, the people would start praying and doing the religious stuff with more passion, but it would be too late.
God’s judgement is an incredible thing. He is patient, and gracious. He gives warnings, and provides opportunities for repentance. Yet, He is faithful to uphold His glory and accomplish His purposes. We can either trust Him and love Him, or we can experience the results of His wrath.