Sometimes I think we really have lost quite a bit in our transition from a rural to an urban-based society. Only a tiny minority of people grow up on a farm, at least in America. Since the Bible was written in a mostly agricultural society, sometimes its allusions and metaphors slip past us.
One thing that we still understand, however, is the concept of sowing and reaping. You plant a seed of an apple tree, water it, weed it, make sure it gets the right nutrients, and eventually you’ll see an apple tree and hopefully you’ll have it produce apples. If I planted an apple tree seed and it sprouted up as a pear tree or a watermelon vine, what would be the reasonable conclusion? Obviously the seeds were mislabeled, or possibly someone switched the seeds after I planted them. Even I—someone raised totally in the suburbs and who's worked a grand total of one-half day on a farm—know that apple seeds don’t produce pear trees.
That brings us to today’s passage. Obviously Israel was being unfaithful to the Lord, the One who redeemed her out of slavery. He'd rescued her from Egypt, had provided for her in the desert for 40 years, and had brought her into the Promised Land. And aside from brief sparks of obedience, she'd reacted to this kindness and grace in the same way that Gomer had treated Hosea.
I don’t think it’s used as commonly now as it once was—owing to our increasing biblical illiteracy—but I have heard this phrase before: “Sowing the wind, reaping the whirlwind.” It’s one of those sayings which people use (or have used) without even knowing it comes from the Bible (like “go the extra mile” or “turn the other cheek”). What does it mean?
It means they thought they could indulge in sin without any bad consequences. Or if there were bad consequences, they could handle them. They could ignore his decrees and Law which Moses had given them. Not surprisingly, the main sin he indicts them for in this passage—a steady refrain in prophetic literature—is idolatry. Judah (the southern kingdom) was bad, and frequently had bad kings. But Israel (the northern kingdom, which Hosea’s addressing) was never faithful to the Lord, as best as we can determine from the record. All of its kings are listed as one stinker after another. And the God of Israel had just about had enough.
There are a few verses from the Bible which I call “tattoo verses.” What I mean is that I’m tempted to tattoo them on my forehead because they’re so packed with truth in just a few words. It’s almost comical how much an understatement they are. One of them is “He does not treat us as our sins deserve.” Another is “You were bought at a price.” And here’s one that’s especially relevant, one that we’ve seen fulfilled over and over and over and over: “Be sure that your sin will find you out.”
You might think that you’ve gotten away with X (whatever X is). No, you haven’t. You haven’t gotten away with squat. Sooner or later, your sin will “find you out.” No matter how you try to hide from it, it will hunt you down and find you.
Of course, there’s one exception to this, at least in one sense. If you’re a believer, then your sins are covered by the blood of the Savior, and he'll never bring them up again. Never. So in that sense, I'll never get what I really deserve from God.
But even as a believer, there are consequences in life. If I persist in rebellion, if I ignore the warnings from Scripture, from spiritual leaders and friends, and especially from the inner working of the Holy Spirit, I will face consequences. There’s no One-To-One relationship between what I do and what I get from God, but he does discipline his children; in fact, this discipline is one of the greatest hallmarks of the fact that he loves us. He doesn’t deal with me according to what I deserve, but according to what I need. And sometimes what I need is a swift kick in the seat of my pants. Paul was writing to believers when he told us “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.”
And if this is what he says to believers, think about what his message is to those outside the protection of Christ. If you happen to be reading this and haven’t received Jesus as your Savior and Boss, please don’t put it off. You can read here for more info.
We’d laugh at anyone planting apple seeds and expecting pears. But how much more foolish is anyone who thinks they can sow wind and expect anything else besides a whirlwind?
So what are you expecting?
Father God, thank you for your grace, mercy, patience, and kindness. Truly I can testify with the Psalmist that you haven’t treated me as my sins deserve. When you’re warning me, please also give me listening ears and a soft heart. Please.