The following word came to me on the heels of a 40-day fast that concluded just weeks ago. Father gave me Hosea 13:13 as I sought Him early one morning. During this fast, there was a strange lull of revelation. Holy Spirit was present watchfully and protectively, but not necessarily conversantly. Since Father wasn’t saying much during my fast, surely He would order an epiphany for my first Saturday afterwards! With coffee in hand and MacBook on lap, I was ready for THE Word. In the deafening silence of that morning, I turned to Hosea 13. These words greeted me like the toll of a cathedral bell.
Hosea 13:12-13, “The guilt of Ephraim is stored up, his sins are kept on record. Pains as of a woman in childbirth come to him, but he is a child without wisdom; when the time arrives, he does not come to the opening of the womb.”
More than just a little perplexed, I turned quickly to my study aids for understanding. Because of idolatry, Ephraim (not just the name of a tribe, but a name representative of the entire Northern Kingdom) stood at the seat of judgment. The predominant sin of Ephraim, or the Northern Kingdom, was instituting Golden Calf worship. In 1 Kings 12, Jeroboam sought to keep the Israelites of the Northern Kingdom from visiting their temple in Judah. To keep hearts and loyalties, he built two different temples of worship – one in Dan and the other in Bethel. Within each of these temples, Jeroboam erected a golden calf as a symbol of Jehovah. Levites were fired and new priests were hired to serve the calves.
Interestingly, the name Dan means “a judge” while Bethel means “the house of God.” Certainly we have entertained idols that have affected our ability to rightly judge and discern a matter. Idolatry blinds the idolater and keeps him from seeing the truth. That there are idols in “the house of God” is no longer in question. Where idols are tolerated, the manifest presence of God is not. Both the temples of Dan and Bethel were constructed at strategic places for the convenience of Ephraim’s worshipers. No longer would they have to make the long trek to Judah! They could travel much shorter distances to pay homage to the misnomered calves. Our modern Christianity is packaged in convenience, making it much more tolerable to be a worshiper of “Jehovah.”
But God did not accept the new priesthood, nor the symbols of His deity. He counted all this as sin that must be purged before Ephraim could enter his destiny.
With this back story, the words of Hosea 13:12-13 carry poignancy. Let us read them again from the New Living Translation.
“Ephraim’s guilt has been collected, and his sin has been stored up for punishment. Pain has come to the people like the pain of childbirth, but they are like a child who resists being born. The moment of birth has arrived, but they stay in the womb!”
Ephraim is at the same time a travailing mother unable to give birth, and an unborn child unwilling to come to the birth canal. Ephraim is both at risk of dying while giving birth and dying in the womb. Just as Hosea melds two metaphors, so must we to glean the prophetic implications of this word. For the purpose of exhortation, let us assume the identity of Ephraim. Let us admit that we have tolerated idolatry in our worship and in our “righteous” judgments. The Invisible God of the Mercy Seat in Judah has been replaced by the glitz and gold of a tangible symbol. It no longer requires faith to please Him, but a token sacrifice of convenience. Comfort and locality dictates where we will associate with Jehovah. Politics have ousted God’s power, leaving us to consult our deaf and dumb calves for help in the day of trouble. The risk is…
1. We are at the point of giving birth to the greatest move the earth has ever seen… yet we might die on this birthing table. Either we repent of idolatry, or remain unable to give birth.
2. We have come to full-term, fully matured in our purpose and destiny. Our idolatry, however, keeps us retreating to the recesses of the womb. Unless we forsake comfort, convenience, and tangible confirmations of what is “God” in our lives… we’ll be still-born.
Hosea doesn’t leave Ephraim hopeless in labor. He makes this promise in verse 14 NIV, “I will ransom them from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death.” If we are penitent and willing, He will mercifully spare us from the horrors of premature death.
The decision is ours.
Will we confront our idols?
Will we continue in blind denial and forfeit our journey?
Wake up, friend. Your calling and election is not sure. You must make it so. Peter writes in 2 Peter 1:10 NIV, “Therefore, my brothers, be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure. For if you do these things, you will never fall.” At this point in the game, there are no more time outs to call. It is not the time for vacation or retreat. Likewise, it is not the time to backslide. Just yesterday, my husband and I were talking about how many seasoned Christians had backslid in our circle of acquaintances over the past couple of years. These weren’t young and volatile believers, but once committed servants of the gospel. Friend, they died on the table in childbirth. We cannot let this be our story.
Let us repent, arise and gain the wisdom and strength to give the final few pushes!