Hosea 14:9 – Whoever is wise, let him understand these things; whoever is discerning, let him know them; for the ways of the Lord are right, and the upright walk in them, but transgressors stumble in them.
Hosea calls for the people to return to the LORD their God, ‘for you have stumbled because of your iniquity.’ Sin is like broken paving on the footpath, causing us to trip up and fall. It can be subtle at times and often we don’t see it until it’s too late. When Jeroboam made the golden calves, he didn’t actually think that he was doing anything wrong. King Rehoboam had divided Israel by his treacherous ways and he was left to rule Judah and Benjamin only, while the rest of the tribes chose Jeroboam. Jerusalem was in Judah and that is where the ark of the covenant had been brought to by Solomon. Jeroboam was afraid that if the people went up to Jerusalem to worship at the temple, they would turn their allegiance back to Rehoboam. So, he made the calves and he said to the people, “You have gone up to Jerusalem long enough. Behold your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt.” Jeroboam’s fear had caused him to lose sight of God’s promise. He didn’t need to entice the people with idols, he just needed to trust the word of the LORD:
“And I will take you, and you shall reign over all that your soul desires, and you shall be king over Israel. And if you will listen to all that I command you, and will walk in my ways, and do what is right in my eyes by keeping my statutes and my commandments, as David my servant did, I will be with you and will build you a sure house, as I built for David, and I will give Israel to you.” (1Kings11)
They say that power corrupts and that is what happened with Jeroboam. He strayed from the path of the Lord and forgot to walk in His ways. Instead, he took his own path and led the people away from the Lord and into sin and that sin continued through the generations. Israel had been in the pit of sin for so long now that their eyes had adjusted to the darkness and they could no longer see the error of their ways. They stumbled along oblivious to the fact that they were completely lost, trusting idols that could not help and heading for disaster.
The voice of the Lord came and as always, they had a choice – turn back to God or turn their back on God.
“I will heal their apostasy; I will love them freely, for my anger has turned from them. I will be like the dew to Israel; he shall blossom like the lily; he shall take root like the trees of Lebanon; his shoots shall spread out; his beauty shall be like the olive, and his fragrance like Lebanon… they shall flourish like the grain; they shall blossom like the vine” (14:4-7).
Idols give nothing, do nothing, say nothing! How can this even be a contest? For me, I can hear the sadness in God’s voice as he says, “O Ephraim, what have I to do with idols? It is I who answer and look after you” (14:8). Still, he lets them choose. Will they be wise and understand these things that the Lord has said? Do they have the ability to discern what is right and to walk in the ways of the LORD?